22 October, 2017

Our Collective Conscience Is Lost; People’s Lives Are Pawns On A Political Chessboard

By Vishwamithra1984

There is no witness so terrible and accuser so powerful than conscience which dwells within us.”~ Sophocles (496 BC – 406 BC)

The manner in which the world media is covering significant events, the twists and turns it renders to the core substance of a major event and the preordained definitions it ascribes to the personalities and communities who generate these events are a way beyond comprehension. Whether it’s the so-called ‘free media’ of the West or state-controlled media in closed societies such as the Middle-East, North Korea and Cuba or even an open society like India, the story is the same. Sensationalism is substituting for authenticity; commercialism has invaded the minds of those who control the machinery of the media, both print and electronic, and in order to obtain maximum ratings or readership, newspapers have fallen to the level of tabloids and television and social media have fallen to the level of downright nihilism.Lasantha 2015

For example, the coverage the latest airline debacle, the missing EgyptAir Plane Flight 804, received on worldwide television screens was pure sensationalism and they did not even begin to talk about those 66 people who were aboard the flight until the next morning. Each and every person on that flight, including the crew, had a family. They were fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons or daughters of somebody. The loss of each one of them is being mourned by his or her family. The coverage of the human angle of the story was subordinated to ratings; the anguish and despair caused to those families took a back seat while sensationalized tidbits such as the location of the Black Box- of course, its critical discovery would be immensely helpful in finding out what took place immediately prior to the disappearance of the plane- and the political shades that were painted to suit the particular network that covered the event hit the headlines. No argument is made here to belittle the enormous validity and relevance of incidental facts and figures regarding the actual crash or disappearance of Flight 804. But the absence or lack of arresting attention to the human side of the story is glaring and cannot be understated.

The same story is germane to Sri Lanka and in some cases such coverage of news-worthy events is deplorably deficient. Politics and coverage of politicos have overshadowed the human tragedy that runs behind each and every sensationalized story. The haste that journalists of electronic and print media adopt in these peculiar scenarios has surpassed all decent precincts to convert a human tragedy into a ‘news story’. To win viewers and readers over their competition, the networks bigwigs and print media barons direct their subordinates, news directors etc. to attain ratings goals. And they resort to sensationalism. The human tragedy that surrounds the particular event recedes into the background and political and other considerations take precedent in the minds and mechanisms of the media. And that is a real tragedy.

Two conspicuous cases in point are the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, two well-known journalists of the last few decades. Volumes have been written and dozens of hours have been telecast on the political perspectives on these two tragic occurrences, allegedly at the behest of the last regime and its major stakeholders. But the real tragedy of the families affected, relatives’ yearnings and colleagues’ agonies are sparsely referred to even among those who discuss these life-changing events with a glass of single malt whisky in hand and puffing in and out the aromatic smoke of an expensive cigar.

How many words have been penned on the circumstances under which Lasantha’s widow left the country? How many columns were written on the unspeakable harassment meted out to her when she was living in exile? These are human beings too; they too have families of their own and livelihoods to protect; they too have feelings and emotions; they too cry and weep at their losses. The unfolding human drama about them is even more moving and touching than what political consequences would entail these unholy crimes.

In the case of Prageeth Ekneligoda and his forlorn wife, the sad saga is heart wrenching- a tragedy of ancient Greek proportions. The melancholy drama that is being played out in open, a betrayed mother’s lament over her missing husband, the desperation and misery that has been brought upon the children have not been chronicled with any degree of fairness and profundity. Such human stories are many and each of them is part of the moving drama of man, enacted in public on the outrages committed against him in private. In a market-driven economy, in a country waking up from a ten-year slumber in the outreaches of corruption and nepotism, one might not have time nor the resources to muster even to pay lip service to a languishing mother or a mournful widow, but a modicum of empathy is what is necessary and needed.

The greatest sin of man is abstinence from empathy. No man, ruler or leader can claim greatness if he shows no empathy towards his fellow beings. We, as a civilized society, are committing that sin not only as a collective body; we are continuing to commit it individually. Our worthiness as one human family, breathing the same air and sharing the immensity of natural resources on earth will be questioned by history itself one day and the legacy we are leaving behind is not a very readable one.

Drapes of prejudice may conceal our nudity; melodies of yesteryear may enchant the souls of a lost generation, but truth and truth alone will help open our eyes and ears. No man is worthy of his existence if he abdicates his fundamental human quality of being empathetic to his fellowmen. The fountain of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha’s elementary teaching of four sublime states of mind, Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (sympathetic joy) and Upekkha (equanimity) is empathy. Whether one is a Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or Muslim, one simply cannot argue against the validity and universality of empathy. Man today is confronted with an uncommon existential crisis, a crisis in which the very existence is being challenged on the one hand by exceedingly vulgar material wealth and pitifully barren mindlessness on the other.

Long before Sigmund Freud, Buddha, the first existentialist in known history, opened our eyes to the naked truth of existence, its vitality and validity to society as well as to individual man; Buddha’s deafening silence on deities and one single creator has been abandoned by those who profess to be teaching his Dharma today. Religion in all forms has been desecrated and soiled; it has been used as a tool to invigorate the uneducated to irreligious goals. Clergy brocaded in saffron robes, cloaks and yellow threads are roaming the wilderness of society with new pseudo-visions of salvation, easy and unencumbered paths to moksha are being preached in the name of the founders of all religions and in these modern sermons, these frauds find ‘God’ an easy product to sell to a frightened and despaired man. Man, as he did in the ancient days, finds solace in the notion of ‘God’, for belief in an unknown and abstract ‘God’ offers him easy escape from the material and psychological deficiencies he experiences.

Allow me to paraphrase what Pundit Nehru, the great intellectual politician of the 20th Century wrote: “I cannot believe in a notion of an all-powerful god because such a belief belittles the spirit of man that is the central driving force behind all civilization”. One can hardly find truer words. The psychic swindlers who pose as great spiritual leaders today are indeed belittled by such enlightening thoughts so humbly expressed in elegant words with such consummate skill. Yet savants argue that the world has to go on; great scientific discoveries and stupendous feats have been consummated with human hands and with diligent work of the human mind. Man has no time for super- mundane, religious endeavors.

This buttresses my argument that education and learnedness are quintessential elements of those who should be vested with political power. It should not be taken in exclusion of other characters and qualities of power holders, but absence or lack of learnedness and education would ultimately catch on as they did during the last regime in our country. There are a few corrupt and murderous leaders who possessed very creditable credentials in education in the past but the all-corrupting quality of power consumed them totally.

As Plato said in, Plato’s Republic, “The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers become rulers in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands.” It might well be a fantasy to imagine such a world where philosophers become rulers. But there is no law against dreaming such sublime thoughts.

*The writer can be contacted on vishwamithra1984@gmail.com

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  • 4
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    An American, friend of mine, who spent four years and got the degree in Journalism from a top university, at last he quit the profession. The reason, the bosses in the news outlet where worked wanted him to write absolutes blind lies, half truths, fabrications, sensationalize stories – making mountain out of a mole hill. All due to their greed to earn money by selling more copies, and go up in the readership ranking to get more ad revenue. This is the sad plight, they have forgotten the scared duty to the society of saying the absolute truth and informing them well about whats going on in the world.

    • 2
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      This is the issue with writing for money or as job!! I have written a few times to CT and many times to newspapers as a professional. People like myself write out of conviction and/or covering the topics we genuinely passionate about. :)

      • 2
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        Sadly the culture is introduced by Rajakashe adminitration. What was not offered to journalists to keep them close to MR. Those with him are well aware of the facts – the way it moved. See how Malin Seneviratne or others continue their carriers. Not just poor folks, but those men that with earned degrees to continue like ignorants have paid the way others to follow them. They should have been offered big sums for their work. Not in Italy, lanken paparozzos are the ones who earn lot for their pieces of writings. What we need you the like professionals to rise up and create a resistance to those work for money. Alone that was no secret Asian tribune or other tabloids were paid huge sums to Rajaakshe propaganda. But from where the money came in was the question ? Now looking back the size of the harm left by MR et al, no wonder those funds should be part of tax payers.

      • 3
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        Ravindra Galhena, John,

        “”conviction and/or covering the topics we genuinely passionate about. :) “”

        Height of passion!!

        Only idiots prefer truth to make them feel great while the famous make truth look great.

        Have the 2 of you heard of `The Banner` American philosophy??

    • 1
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      Yes this may be right when looking at the way it moves forward. I have the feeling – had Journlists made GENUINE efforts PAInting the picture being unbiased, the tangible would be gone to village level. Those outsiders see it that journos are remote controlled by their bosses so that they are to sow the seeds of all harms. Plan is to allow the continuation of hatreds. Instead of talkign more about political revenge or investigations, why cant they discuss the devleopment projects. I heard VW is going to start in SL already in September. That should be a great news to lankens

      Leaving Rajakashes to face the investigations as they have taken the chain reactions, all other active politciians should continue their tasks shold be what we the general public should see, but what is seen is,all illful performances. Media menlive up on devious sets of news – are the worst right at the moment.
      If not by govt, why Sirasa is compelled to do that program – Gamin gamata… asking Yalith hithannna.. who has been behind all these sabotage processes of the current rulers. Why sirasa has taken the role of politicians ? Not giving them enough time they are entitlled to… why was the same media institutiion stayed mum during the high days of all thuggish culture inthe country. Most that point the finger at currentrulers are no sensitive about buring issues of the day, but about their easy preys.

    • 0
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      Mischievous behaviour of lanken media men – being close to former politicians are the reasons as to why we dont get to read more abot the devleopment and the tangible changes of current rulers.

      Be it in the areas of brining investors or external affairs, there are big changes that the journos are some how not explaining yet adequately.

      lIKE for example the big work site VOLKSWAGEN COMPANY which will be started in srilanken SOIL soon are no good news for those devious media men.

      • 2
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        Because Volkswagen has never had any discussions with the Sri Lankan Gvernment or UNP never mind committing itself to a motor vehicle factory in Sri Lanka. This company along with other motor vehicle companies in the west are struggling with over capacity.
        Ranil and his cahoots told blatant lies to deceive the public. Volkswagen cannot compete with Japanese and Korean manufactureres on cost .
        Mr Samuel Jayaweera should be well aware of the Yahapalana porkies.
        Pigs will fly if Voksagen installs a factory in Sri Lanka.

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      Opinion making machinery or media ownership is now in the hands of a very few. They can make or break a government whether in Africa or Europe at will. Political and business leaders fall one on top of the other to pay obeisance to powerful men who own media. On the world stage media moguls can take full credit for causing global hysteria against the communists, against Saddam Hussein, against Osama Bin Laden and now a wholesale hysteria against the Muslims. Vishwamitra, if you hope that the tables will be turned and opinion making machines can be wrested off the hands of the powerful and world media off personalities such as Murdoch, you are hoping in vein. And John your friend who gave up a career in favour of morality issues also did so in vein. The iron grip on world opinion that media moguls hold is not going to be loosened in the foreseeable future. And in Sri Lanka we follow the same path. Basically the selling of our souls to the devil is now complete – thanks to the cacophonous avalanche of fine tuned media.

  • 0
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    Human misery is universal in varying degrees in most nations, and makes good ‘copy’ for the media only if the matter involves ‘important, and/or well known people’.

    Long standing misery of people imprisoned for decades without trial, is not good ‘copy’ if they belong to despised elements of society.
    Nor is, the plight of widows & orphans, ever mentioned, for same reason.

    Clergy have invented ritual for their survival, as it pleases the ‘devout’ laity – of all religions.
    Fringe ‘practitioners’ like astrologers, anjanam karayas, thovil specialists, dehi cutters, bali specialists, palm readers, ‘rishi vakkiyam’ purveyers etc., too, thus survive.

    “Dharma” has many forms and variations.
    What is Dharma for one is Adharma for another – like animal sacrifice in temples.

    The proposal that a degree of learnedness should be essential to enter elective office is reasonable, but this is not yet a requirement in democracies.

    This lamentation will touch only reasonable citizens.

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    The new found technology of the internet ,emails and mobile phones have recurcuited our brains to take away the emotional elements in our inter human relationships. This is aided by the new world economy of markets and money economics and corruption that has dehumanised humanity. the greed of the political class and the business class continues to blindly encourage the process. To this present society whether it is killing by drones, immoral wars created in iraq ,Libya , Syria where millions are killed is no different to them than killing a dog. This is the present state of the world.
    Look at Sri Lanka immorality pervades the whole of society from top to bottom. An eye wash of a 19th amendment has created a Police Commission, Judiciary commission and Human Rights commission that are also ineffective because the immorality of the society has permeated into these institutions. The high ideals are nothing more than the immorality of the system to fool the people
    In short people have been dehumanised . The morality that is inbuilt in every human being which Buddhism and other religeons tries to extract suffer from cancer. The cure can only come from the ruling classes who have to be made accountable and prevented from destroying the environment and morality of society. The intelligentsia will have to rise up if not violence will overcome us all. That is pretty evident in the whole world.

  • 2
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    BBS, aka. Bodu Balu Senawa is the Conscience of Gotabaya:

    Noise to hide the Truth of Murder and Mayham let lose by Gotabaya Jarapassa the White Van man, in the name of saving the SInhala nation, Sinhala Nationalism.

    Sinhala nationalism, the Jarapassa version of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, is an insult to What the Buddha Taught.

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      This should be the reason why BBS was not targeted by MR criticism. He deliberately stays away from criticising the thugish movement. Suspicions are there that it should be due to the direct mediation of his powerful brother -Gotabaya. Gotabaya…. would always leave ” hi hi huh huh whenever whatever being questioned on the issue”: No journos have guts either to cross question him adequately, since the message woudl have been passed that sacred but man is being harmed by rulers.

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    “There is no witness so terrible and accuser so powerful than conscience which dwells within us.”~ Sophocles (496 BC – 406 BC)
    Sophocles belonged to the era of Buddha’s enlightenment. Since then “conscience” was on the decline and now humans do not have this elusive commodity – except as a concept. Did the gas chamber operators have any?

    “Our Collective Conscience Is Lost; People’s Lives Are Pawns On A Political Chessboard”.
    Collective conscience is the average of individual conscience. This is close to zero worldwide. The Sri Lankan predicament is because of the lack of collective conscience.

    “It might well be a fantasy to imagine such a world where philosophers become rulers”
    Rulers have become philosophers – Siddhartha and Asoka. Philosophers have not become rulers.

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    With the man responsible for ordering the assassination of Lasantha and abduction and torture of Noyahr in the UNP government as a cabinet minister now, good luck with Yahapalanya justice.

  • 0
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    I would say, don’t shoot the messenger, but we often do. As the consumer, we tend to buy into the outlet that tells me what I want to hear. Else, I would shoot down the messenger with a click. Filth and gossip is my thing. Facebook and Twitter is quicker. This creates my conscience, I’m sure I’m a member of a collective.

  • 0
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    We need more and more brave men like Vishwamitra to enlighten the people on topical matters like omnipotent gods and journalists taking us for a ride. I continue to cry for Lasantha and Ekneligoda.

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