16 April, 2024

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Poverty Of Wisdom

By Vishwamithra

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” ~ Antonio Gramsci

One is not born with wisdom. He or she might be born with talent that needs to be sharpened and refined. One could be born with uncommon personality and charisma; yet personality and charisma need to be developed and shaped in accordance with identified qualities and nuanced aspects of other characteristics. Skill is a totally different story altogether. Skills have to be learnt and acquired. These qualities with which almost each and every human is associated with the ‘growing’ process and developmental evolution, have been enunciated in varied text books; they have been promoted as uncommon and rare qualities each person needs to develop within oneself and gradually grow into near-perfection. But wisdom is altogether a distinct and distinguishable  facet of human development, the possessor of which, more often than not, stands alone in the presence of ordinary men and women. Wisdom dawns at the cessation of foolishness and apathy; it is acquired through a rigorous and painstaking voyage of discovery and rediscovery of elemental values that differentiate man from  the animal.

We as ordinary men and women yearn for those fundamental skills; talents, we assume would help us achieve our goals and targets we set for our lives; for such attainment we would be better prepared and ready, for instance, for obtaining better results at our job interviews so that we could secure employment defeating our closest competitors. Such material and mundane pursuits are indeed necessary; they serve an unequivocal role in our lives. Yet, when confronted by an unknown phenomenon, either natural or man-made, we pause and hesitate to deviate from our conventional path. Taking a fresh path, opting to tread along a new road might be more tempting because everything else has taken us to unfriendly and unnerving  ends.

Today, Sri Lanka has arrived at such an unenviable juncture. We do realize the futility of our previous efforts. All our endeavours in the past have led to this undignified end. An end that does look, sound and manifest itself like a perfect goal; but when those who arrived at this end look deep inside the end, when we examine the core of the end after stripping the outer layers, we behold the same old rotting middle; a nauseatingly abysmal nucleus that has been alluring our shortsighted journeys and travels is still attracting us. It is indeed a tragic end of a journey. Surely, we do not want to venture into such an empty and hollow odyssey?

The political domain since our ‘Independence’ in 1948 has been dominated by two families and their related cohorts. It is so sad and lamentable to admit that neither of those families have produced a wise man or woman to govern us. We have had leaders of conventionally distinguishable men and women. They are D S Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, Sir John Kotelawala, SWRD Bandaranaike, W Dahanayake, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, JR Jayewardene, R Premadasa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe. The only exception to the accepted elite of the country is R Premadasa and he ruled only for four years. He was assassinated by the ‘Tigers’.

From amongst those above, seven (7) were educated at either St Thomas’ College or Royal College, Colombo. Both women heads, mother and daughter were educated at St’ Bridgette’s College Colombo. Of the other three, the Rajapaksa brothers were educated at Richmond College, Galle, Nalanda College and Ananda College, Colombo and the lone outsider R Premadasa too was educated at St. Lawrence School, Maradana, one of the main inner cities in Colombo.

Sixty eight years have passed since the Swabhasha policy of the Bandaranaike-transformation; we are yet to produce either a President or a Prime Minister who was educated at one of the rural schools in the heartland of the country. Whose fault and whose fortune or misfortune it is due to, I do not want speculate now. But a major portion of the blame rests fairly and squarely, in addition to the failure of successive governments to establish rural schools that had sufficient numbers of English teachers, with those who cast their votes at the polling booth at each of the elections held up to the present day. People get the government they deserve, period.

Our people, willy nilly, meandered with the same flow of rotting and murky events. When clear water was visible and ready to be drunk, they chose to indulge in their rush to consume the debris and trash.

There is nothing wrong or untoward with the so-called elite schools in Colombo. Royal, St Tomas’, Ananda and Nalanda are great educational institutions. But one simply cannot understate the the cultural and socioeconomic elitism associated with any so-called ‘big’ school situated in the Colombo-based big cities. The facilities available in these big schools were an enviable factor for those who did not have the same wherewithal in their rural schools. Thanks mainly to the establishment of Central School system by CWW Kannangara in the late nineteen forties, we saw some great schools springing up such as Poramadulla, Tholangamuwa, Maliyadeva, Ibbagamuwa and Galahitiyawa Central Schools.

This phenomenon was not limited to the South of Ceylon. Even in the North, schools such as St John’s, Jaffna Central, St Patrick’s and Heartly were considered elitist as compared to schools located in non-Jaffna proper, Thelippalai, Velanai and other rural regions in the peninsula. In the same vane, education received at the rural school is no exclusive qualification to be ruled as a President or Prime Minister of the country. But one cannot disregard the rural and rustic context within which a student is growing up while attending such a school and the enormous relevance of that context when pressed with other geopolitical and domestic pressures one has to withstand and endure when governing a nation in crisis times.

A value system one grows up with and the significance of that value system in rural Ceylon as contrasted with the pukka sahib-values one naturally acquires and becomes comfortable with when growing up in big cities do matter; availability of material conditions, wherewithal that one could use when confronted with unusual situations could be of decisive measure. A rustic base cannot be just ignored because such a rustic-based person cannot communicate well in English.

Eventually what does matter is the totality of the education one has been accustomed to; not only the number of basic degrees and Masters and doctorates one has received, but the readiness and suppleness of his mind and his willingness to discard what is unnecessary and embrace what is new in the current sociopolitical marketplace shall play a vital part in the complex process of decision-making. Above all, empathy and authenticity of the character cannot be taught in school. Such substantial qualities are invariably associated with the homely upbringing which could be directly attributed to a rural upbringing solely due to the fact that parental attention is more keenly practiced in the rural social atmosphere; that instills a genuine and sincere authenticity that is not uncommon in such environments.

Wisdom, the poverty or abundance of which, is our central theme. From the experience we have had up to now does not speak well for its abundance. For that matter, its total absence has been, is and will be the main obstacle we have to overcome as a single collective nation. The national dialogue has deviated from this central theme and in fact, taken for granted that all our leaders are wiser than the rest. On the contrary, it’s the opposite that is true and prevalent. When faced with each and every crisis situation, our leaders have responded with a stark absence of wisdom and intelligence. One is not expecting our leaders to be even remotely close to such savants as Buddha, Swami Vivekananda or Gandhi. Such greatness is limited to super-mundane minds. Yet an expectation of a modicum of commonsense and elementary rationality should not be much to ask for.       

Anura Kumara Dissanayake has shown some remarkable oratorical skills; his empathetic delivery and the vernacular so sharp and rustic pronunciation, his criticisms of his adversaries so disciplined and sustained cannot be ignored. We did have such sharp mob orators in the past. R Premadasa and Rohana Wijeweera are two examples who could mesmerize an audience on any given day, before any setting. But the people have been awakened to a new reality. That awakening has been enriched and made more imminent by the Aragalaya-22. A near total collapse of the economy accompanied by the intolerance of the past seventy six years, unity amongst all ethnic groups without a hint of narrow racial chauvinism, especially our youth succeeded in convincing their older generation that there could be another way out.

That way might not have been seen yet; that new way, new path and new horizon may not have presented itself yet. But that fact alone, the very freshness of the new, the very fact that it is totally a new experience and new and untested and untraveled road is certainly more alluring and inviting in its enigmatic appeal.      

AKD did not attend a Colombo-based or any other known big school; he had his secondary education at Thambuthegama Central School. His beginnings have been very humble and not so appealing to the pukka sahibs of Colombo or any other big cities in the country. His childhood has seen the aridity of the dry zone and its main staple contribution to the country-rice. He does not need to be ashamed of that beginning. He does not have recreate his own humble history and recreate an ornamental veneer. His village upbringing is his strength; not his weakness. Men and women who attend his rallies could not care whether he attended Thambuthegama Central or Kekirawa Central. They recognize his as one of ‘them’ not the ‘other’. There is unique and unparalleled advantage in that very distinction. He must put it to good use.

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

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Latest comments

  • 16
    6

    Any sensible Sri Lankan’s fervent prayer should now be that the NPP achieve a governance role at the earliest opportunity. The herds have been fooled over and over again by the parasitic cabal of scumbags who have shared the bounty of poor people’s money every four or five years. AKD is just one of a committed network of activists who genuinely and sincerely wish to change the destructive course that our poor country had traversed on for so long. It should be a bonus that many in that network came from the rural villages, and who know what poverty and injustice are like.

    • 9
      5

      “The herds “
      If they are the herds, there can be no salvation even with the best alternative government.

      • 9
        2

        “If they are the herds, there can be no salvation even with the best alternative government.”

        Is there anyone who is willing to raise the late
        Tony Benn MP’s five questions at leaders:

        1.what power do you have;
        2.where did you get it;
        3.in whose interests do you exercise it;
        4.to whom are you accountable;
        and,
        5.how can we get rid of you?


        My favourite is the last one.
        Sadly we are not allowed raise such questions nor are we allowed to approach him.

        Gota maybe in a credible position to answer the last question, actually from his own experience.

        If Voters are not the herds then what is.

      • 4
        1

        Also, if the people are “herds,” what is the guarantee that their choice this time will be the right one?

  • 9
    8

    Vishwamithra
    .

    1) Due to the ‘Poverty of Credible Candidates’ let us AVOID past mistakes of deifying another imagined MESSIAH in the form of NPP/JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
    .

    2) On the crucial subject of ‘CAMPAIGN FINANCE’ even the AKD led NPP/JVP does not have a credible proposal for TRANSPARENCY in ‘campaign finance’ to address private sector ‘corruption’ responsible for most of the corruption in this country. It must be emphasized that the private sector is in partnership with corrupt professionals (mainly accountants & lawyers) and politicians. It must also be noted that the mainstream media owned by corporate honchos only refer to corrupt politicians.
    .

    3) ‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’ which is a major cause of corruption is not even on the radar of the NPP/JVP. For example, Duminda Hulangamuwa – Managing Partner of Ernst & Young in Sri Lanka is also the Chairman of the country’s premier business chamber – Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. Why is no one (even IMF) questioning how an auditor could be ‘INDEPENDENT’ when coalescing with business chambers? This must be a first in the world?
    .

    4) Did not the ‘Yahapalana’ government which the AKD led JVP supported in effect facilitate MONEY LAUNDERING when it repealed the Exchange Control Act No. 24 of 1953 and brought into law the new Foreign Exchange Act No. 12 of 2017?
    .

    Amrit Muttukumaru

    • 11
      2

      Sri Lankans imagined all the other politicians with a far greater illusory mode …..that, and/or the greater possibility of rigged elections. Motherland needs a fresh start.

      Corrupt officials and politicians will be replaced with diligent NPP-JVP intelligentsia. Greater taxation of corporations and businesses and those earning over US$100,000 a year will create the avenues for better analysis of corrupt situations, better placement of professionals, and continuous job training towards procedural safeguards.

      NPP-JVP are the only ones who have laid out all their assets. But if any “corrupt” ones are sponsoring them, these ones are doing what all the others are doing in lobbying for those favored candidates, but at a far lesser degree. These ones are utilizing only what they are trapped in, and are the ones who deeply desire systems change.

      As per the Foreign Exchange Act No. 12 of 2017 of the Yahapalanaya, who knew that the Ranil part of Yahapalanaya would do money laundering with it? And it only came out far later. Anyway, the Acts were the same, with different names. Rajapaksas were busy with it with the old Act.

      Guess Duminda Hulangamuwa is Ranil- Rajapaksas’ deal……nothing to do with NPP-JVP.

      • 0
        1

        ramona therese fernando
        ”Corrupt officials and politicians will be replaced with diligent NPP-JVP intelligentsia. Greater taxation of corporations and businesses….”
        Is it wishful thinking? So far, as far as I am aware, th NPP seems to be cagy about naming their key people who will be responsible for the important Ministries. They don’t have a ‘shadow cabinet’ as the opposition Labour party in UK who have their objectives & strategy all costed & laid out for public scrutiny. Why can’t the NPP disclose their donors, which is law in UK, & donations from dodgy donors publicly rejected?
        Voters had a lot of faith in GR & his Viyathmaga intellectuals but what a farce it turned out to be. So, why doesn’t the NPP reveal all that information & clear any assumptions & ambiguity?

        • 2
          2

          Raj-UK,

          Well…I mean they can’t stand right now and name their cabinet, can they? They can only name them by agreed consensus when they come into power. UK’s labour party have already been in power , so they will have their shadow cabinet. Right now there are number of eligible candidates for the different ministries that are all known.

          Guess if they laid out their donors, Ranil and Pohottuwa would torture, cripple,and kill them. Quite different from merry England who do not torture and kill dissenting formations.

        • 2
          0

          Raj UK,
          .
          Not sure if you understand Sinhalese but here’s an interview given by AKD to BBC Sinhala channel. He doesn’t mention a shadow cabinet but does mention about the individuals that lead different subjects and it is frim these individuals they will choose their ministers.
          .
          Here’s the link to the interview:
          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSe_tl0cGNk

    • 9
      8

      Vishwamithra
      .

      5) My take is that although the AKD led NPP/JVP appears to be the best out of a questionable lot, the AGONY of this country will continue with some degree of moderation. The NPP/JVP is also bereft of a credible response to crucial MINORITY issues.
      .

      AM

      • 7
        1

        Dear Amrit Muttukumaru,
        I speak as a citizen, not as a fellow Tamil.
        The point that NPP/JVP is bereft of a credible response to the minority issue is dear to my heart.
        I have, as a child, attended Independence Day celebrations at the esplanade in Jaffna, courtesy of my father.
        I lament that my children could not be brought up in that atmosphere.
        Thank you for the opportunity for me to shed some nostalgic tears!

    • 8
      4

      Dear Mr Amrit,
      Why you keep bringing up this Duminda Hulangamuwa? Is he also one of your relative like that Cargills guy Page?

  • 8
    1

    Now the PRIORITY and the accompanied WISDOM of the people is to chase away these criminals who have ruined the country and bankrupted it deceiving the voters for the last decades. The people are waiting to express their verdict to make a complete change. They too are well aware that the large majority of those claiming to be the “Messiahs” are the worst crooks and criminals. The people are not going to forgive them.

    Now the priority and the prevailing wisdom is to hand over to a team whom they have recently found and trusted and that team is none other than NPP – a people-friendly political organization that has an unblemished record of words and action. The people need a “Cultural Revolution” in the political, economic, and social spheres. It is the wisdom now in play.

  • 6
    1

    Douglas, we have seen their armed revolution twice that led to severe destruction only, in the past. Can you explain how your ‘Cultural revolution’ is going to take place in the political, economical and social spheres as we have not heard any policies of NPP in this regard, including that on the intractable ethnic issue? Of-course, I agree with Vishwamithra, that the Tie- Coat rogues of elite schools, in-fact had failed in building an inclusive nation by their divisive policies with the sole aim of ‘power to plunder’. This led to ruination by the day and people woke up when their beloved country was declared bankrupt- the first in Asian region. Can Thambuthegama Central school pass out, do it the right way? Last time based on rhetoric, people voted in a novice who was called ‘our task oriented warrior’ ( Wada Karanne ape Veeraiya)! Are the herds going to take another chance to vote in another novice with Marxist policies that have failed elsewhere in the world? SJV Chelvanayagam once said that ‘God only can save Tamils in this country’, though ironically it has turned out that God only can save the whole country.

    • 3
      0

      Wiraj: Those who live in the past have never contributed to the improvement of the human being and the world. Remember what Munidasa Kumaratunga said?

      You could choose to live in that history and continue to suffer in the hands of the rouges and criminals allowing them to decide and run the Governing function of our country. That will be your fate. But, we will forge ahead to usher in a better world for future generations. That is our mission.

  • 3
    0

    AKD’s this picture is the latest I think . At some point in Kurunegala rally he as
    usual lashed out at seven decades old stale politics for the gradual degradation of
    cultural values in the country to such an extent that” people on the streets have lost
    their habitual happiness on their faces . No more usual smiles . Looks are vulgar .
    And we have to bring back that smile once again ! ” Showing off your 32 white
    ivories all the time is , not a sign of any happiness Comrade , it is Naivety . Harin
    Fernando is being bombarded with criticism for his same kind of Naivety on his
    recent visit to India and Comrade Nalinda Jayatissa described it as Cheap . The
    country is already very cheap , you want to offer more discounts ?

  • 7
    2

    Unfortunate that this article should be replaced so quickly. Most favour Anura because he is an alternative to the usual corrupt politician. But, we do not pause to question the consequences. What we are convinced about is the need for a “system change” from corrupt, killers who ruled and are ruling us. What is the system change? New personnel, relatively uncorrupted, who had supported Mahinda in an earlier government and are consequently tainted. Also, their past sins have not been washed and they have not apologised for them yet. They are still anti-Tamil. Their economic programme has not been fleshed out. Some caution is necessary yet.

  • 4
    1

    Vishwamithra

    You have not mentioned Sirisena. I don’t think he attended any ‘prestigious’ school & I thought Premadasa snr claimed to be an old Joe. Oxford educated aristocrat SWRD exchanged his tail coat & top hat to national dress, as did JR, even changed their religion, to be seen as with the common folk. On the other hand, Premadasa snr., although associating himself with the average man, if I am not mistaken, claimed to be from ‘affluent’ Keselwatta in Maradana. He had a chip on his shoulder & his lack of education was apparent & so was Sirisena, who was totally out of his depth. Mrs B may have been a Brigertien but that was insignificant & was a puppet in the hands of Felix Dias. As for CBK, she may have ‘been’ to Sorbonne but it was also immaterial, only the hype, just as Premadasa jnr ‘been’ at LSE & his apparent internship at the Whitehouse. So, whether AKD is from the rural backdrops or not, is immaterial, as long as he has the education, intelligence & the integrity to govern the country. State leaders speak in their mother tongue at international forums & have interpreters, therefore, competence in English is no big deal any more. I am sure the average voter is not concerned about a person’s humble beginnings, just the capability, but glorifying it for political gain, as you do, probably makes AKD blush.

    • 0
      1

      “even changed their religion, to be seen as with the common folk.”
      Any idea of what the common folk looked like when they change costume?

      • 0
        1

        …when they changed costume?

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