By Vishwamithra –
“The market came with the dawn of civilization and it is not an invention of capitalism. If it leads to improving the well-being of the people there is no contradiction with socialism.” ~ Mikhail Gorbachev
Nishantha is a typical rural-educated, yet sufficiently bright to gain University entrance from the Central School he attended. Located in the picturesque valley in the hill-country where his parents owned many pieces of land which was cultivated by many for its main product which was pepper and other random spices attracted a ready buyer’s market in Colombo and other big cities. Yet that luxury also made life of Nishantha and his wife more desirable to tolerate than an average village family who crowded the village and its vicinity.
Availability of drugs amongst his son’s friends has made Anusha’s case more difficult for the parents to bear. Attending the same Central School, Anusha, Nishantha’s eldest son, was more attracted to a drug that was in fast and lucrative circulation amongst his friends in school. That was indeed a terrible tragedy. What made the tragedy even more acute was the fact that the drug dealer was a close henchman of the district’s parliamentarian whose son was also rumored to be an avid drug user. Unlike in the big cities, drug use is a dynamic social phenomenon than a fashionable pastime for these village youth.
Bereft of more amenable pastimes, village youth are drawn towards an occasional puff of cannabis or marijuana (ganja as locally called), firstly as an unusual indulgence in getting a ‘high’ and an escape from the daily drab and unadventurous life; secondly it becomes an inescapable addiction. The gruesome and utterly sad practice then sets in to lead the user to most dangerous and pitiful indulgences as doctors say. The user becomes a slave to the practice and a ‘graduation’ from ganja to more lethal and deadly forms of modern drugs not only becomes a part of daily lifestyle, it may lead to violent expressions of the user’s own hallucinations. The most unfortunate consequence of such repeated practices would be even murder, rape and distorted versions of life, its thuggish perpetuation of warped behavior on the part of the abuser. An innocent experimentation of a slight puff and the enjoyment of the temporary relief it affords its user has become a society-killing activity and generation-eliminating habituation.
Yet there does not seem to be any way out for the user. Unlike in the so-called advanced West, institutional arrangements available for the control and eradication of drug-dependency are not commonly available to our village youth. Especially in the context of political intervention when the dealers and traffickers are caught and released for absurd technical reasons, the real victims not only of drug use and abuse, but eventual recipients of the bad side of law and order. The only law is that of the jungle and order is disorderly demands of the marketplace.
Up in the north, alcohol dependency rules the youth and down south, it’s the more life-threatening variety of drugs that has crept its way into the adolescent lives of rural schoolboys and girls. It is also alleged that some of the traffickers and dealers are in Parliament, the main legislative body in the country. They would not care if their own children seek indulgence in such drugs as they seem to have tons of cash and other resources which they could use in the event a more drastic consequence is caused by their own children becoming a victim of an overdose of these lethal drugs.
As in everything else, money and access to power that be would facilitate remedies for the well-to-do traffickers and their political masters. Men like Nishantha would fall by the wayside when crises of graver consequences occur. Being parents of a drug-addicted son or daughter is no way to lead a peaceful and contented life for our rural folks, wealthy or otherwise. Vagaries of modern day life and the wicked ill-effects of the twenty first century’s unbelievable advance in technology, the ready availability of Smartphones, and most of all, lack of modern health facilities in countries such as Sri Lanka have bared open the vulnerabilities they have to contend with in personal situations.
The other day Nishantha was informed by one of the henchmen of the local parliamentarian who also happens to be a State Minister in the current government that the own son of the State Minister had fallen victim to an overdose of one of those deadly drugs, but due to the fact that the said Minister being extraordinarily wealthy (he was a bus conductor before he entered parliament and nobody knows how he managed to amass so much of wealth after becoming a politician), was rushed to Singapore for treatment at a posh facility specifically specialized in treatment for drug addiction and aftercare.
Nishantha cannot afford such luxuries. If he were to send his son to Singapore, he would be bankrupt overnight. This is sadly the most lamentable part of his story. Having studied hard, leaving no midnight lamp extinguished, in order to study and enter the University and graduate with first-class honors, has not prepped him for such exigencies as sending his son to Singapore for drug addiction. It is not a story he would enjoy telling his grandchildren before bedtime.
The country’s sociopolitical landscape has changed beyond recognition. Honesty, truth, faith and honor have all become meaningless and altogether irrelevant in the unruly and chaotic circumstances of entry into a hitherto peaceful lives of ordinary men and women. While they, men and women of Nishantha’s genre, alone consist of the backbone of a country struggle to rise against all odds, yesterday’s heroes such as his local politicians, have been dictating the terms and conditions of living and livelihoods of the rest of the population.
Nishantha came home today after a hard day’s work; his mental disposition, albeit the given current circumstances at home, has been calm and collected. His education and natural make-up have readied him for even greater calamities, personal or otherwise. When the system fails, he knows that staying without resorting to action and leaving the problems to be solved by the hated politicians is no answer. His veranda was bereft of any movement or occupants. His wife was in the kitchen, making dinner for the family. His son, Anusha is in bed, battling his demons of drug addiction and attendant hallucinations. The front-yard is already moist with the dusk’s dew. The grass under his feet may be wet yet enchantingly luxurious and calming to the troubled mind; lifelong practice of being stoical and determined under any and all circumstances has taught Nishantha that anything is possible provided he applied his heart and mind to a given situation in life.
What can he do? Approach to politicians, as explained above, is redundant; lecturing to his son has proven to be of no value. He has kept this unfortunate circumstance of his family’s life from all his personal friends. But the village is already talking about Anusha’s daily whereabouts and his day-to-day habits. Nishantha would not be worried about what others would say. He has already gone beyond social inhibitions. Application to the issue of his son’s addiction problem cannot be retarded in any way, shape of fashion.
Blaming all politicians would not bring about peace to the mind nor a solution to Anusha’s current personal addiction to drugs and its killing after-effects. Yet he has realized that his son’s problem has taken its toll on him too. Countless sleepless nights, his wife’s silent sighs at night and sense of resignation to ‘come what may’ attitude is worrying him too.
Approaching twilight has darkened the skies; chirping of cricket in the woody surroundings is disturbing his meditative posture. Since it is the end of the month, the moon is almost at its full splendor; shedding its reflected light on a dark landscape. A breathtaking vista is visible if one has the patience and insight to behold. A more scientific and logical approach to the resolution of all issues of life has been taught by Buddha, a long time ago; two thousand five hundred years have gone by since then; yet man does not seem to have learnt anything from Siddhartha Gautama’s unmatched brilliance and infinite wisdom.
A nation that is boasting everyday that Lanka is Buddha’s land; but has succumbed to the cruel effects of modern day alterations; open market economy, marketplace demands, stock market postulations, prostitution, gambling, being advertised in the West as a paradise for child abuse, politics whose primary DNA is corruption coupled with thuggery, has turned out to be a sad child begging for handouts from international lending agencies. The story is being drastically and radically altered. Its beginning and the middle do not seem to have any relation or connection to the fast-approaching end. The prologue is filled with fairy-taleish embellishments and down right lies. The epilogue that is yet to be written does not portend to be sweet at all. Historians and social scientists will struggle with their own narrative; they would pen something complicated and convoluted, for the glorious and despicable cannot be living together at the same time, at the same place.
In dialectical materialism, contradiction, as derived by Karl Marx, usually refers to an opposition of social forces. This concept is one of the three main points of Marxism. Marxist fundamentalists will be in their own euphoric state when such contradictory forces of our history have been able to shape and define our nature and its dynamic evolution. Nishantha and his son Anusha have to grapple with their own contradictions and the battle is hard as much as the conflict sharp. The current crop of politicians in Sri Lanka cannot comprehend these social forces. While being oblivious to the latent social forces working against their own inner desires and ambitions, the very imagination of a way out is becoming increasingly difficult due to the negation of the fact that they simply ‘don’t know’. That social dynamic is working against a small country like Sri Lanka and that ‘smallness’ itself is part of the basic contradictions our body politic is enduring today.
Yet, politicians such as Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa did not create the drug problem as it prevails today. But they certainly have nurtured, nourished and empowered it for their own cash and power. Basic human desire has overtaken any sense of social justice. They are two contradicting factors in any society- desire and justice.
*The Writer can be contacted at email@example.com