By Vishwamithra –
“It is not inequality which is the real misfortune, it is dependence.” ~Voltaire
Resentful dependency, a human condition that is borne out of an amalgam of conditions producing resentment of the ultimate product, yet creates an unmistakable and consistent dependency on that resultant condition. It is cruel in inherent nature and the results it produces. It kills man’s free will; it destroys his free movement in the realm of ideas; it deadens intellectual curiosity and it leads to a dull and obsequious existence. That is not a very promising way of living. But that is the way our people have chosen to spend their lives in.
That resentful dependency has taken over the former lackeys and henchmen of the Rajapaksas. The so-called Joint Opposition is made up of all those lackeys and henchmen. These dregs of political landscape of Sri Lanka are hanging on to the one clear master they had during those dark and deeply diabolical days. Being fully entrenched in a corrupt society which was a creation of their own cabal-driven machinery of state, they were compelled to stay close to their ‘boss’. In the hope that they would be the recipients of the deliberately-thrown residue of ill-gotten wealth, the henchmen and lackeys had one single function. It was to buttress the position of their master. A culture that was so created by this closely-knit society was a clear deviation from the traditional rituals and practices of a historically rich but emotionally not-yet-charged people. That culture was first embraced by the immediate cohorts of the Rajapaksas. Then it dribbled down the societal ladder, convincing the lower rungs that it was the new reality.
Politicians who were invigorated by a dense dose of political Viagra resorted to any and every means to lure the gullible mass of supporters to this new culture and the supporters became willing victims to this magical and nameless lust. That culture consumed a value system that had been based on mutual trust, selfless parental love, ungarnished simplicity and unhesitant sacrifice. In its place is now an unreservedly false system of destructive lifestyle, mistakenly called ‘practical living’. Resentful dependency is cultivating and nurturing this new system everywhere. And the so-called efficient private sector, which should be the driving force of the economy which is reasonably free of stifling regulations and fear of confiscation cum nationalization, is even worse affected by the vagaries of this resentful dependency.
Under the new government of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe, mere pretense of possessing free will and see-through postures have come to stay. But economic development has been stalled. The harshest critics of the present government are the senior level executives in the private sector who were the recipients of various bones and partially-consumed financial carcasses. The salivating pukka sahibs of this sector of our economic drivers cannot simply do away with the extra cash that came with the debris of resentful dependency. Their allegiance to the former regime had tangible rewards. Invitations to cocktail parties, vining and dining with visiting foreign dignitaries and being seen with the first family, mattered particularly to the faire spouses of the leaders of the private sector. That is merely an extension of that political allegiance they had for the ruling cabal.
A structure that was based on political allegiance and personal relationship and loyalty began to manifest itself. This structure was more of an emotional and psychological one than a real and physical one. Its existence was more noticeable in the way in which various deals and businesses were consummated. Unsolicited contracts with huge profit margins ascribed to the contractor became the order of the day, especially amongst the Ministers who were eagerly looking forward to a portion of these large profits collected by the contractors. When government contracts were unsolicited, the final prices were invariably inflated and way over and above the estimated prices for such contracts. A portion of these profits is given to those Ministers who were primarily responsible for the work involved in those contracts. For instance, a project that would cost, according to engineer’s estimates, Rs. X, an enormous amount is added far above the usual margins to the costs. That extra amount is distributed among the politicos and officials who are intricately engaged in the workings of those costs and estimates. The tax payer is bearing the burden of those additional costs by way of increased prices on essential items such as food, transport and other facilities that are provided by the government. Costs are added but no real value is ascribed to the projects. Augmented costs are shrouded in in largely inflated prices and articulated by the politicos as a ‘value addition’!
These contractors were seen with their spouses at cocktail parties and banquets hosted by the then President and his relations who were in the same Cabinet. That was considered by these private sector-business vultures as a great benefit that comes their way. It gave them a sense of recognition which they could brag about in the elite gatherings. The spouses went to town on their jewelry and clothing. A vulgar display of wealth and power was visible; an unequivocal expression of political power and proximity to the powers that be gave them an artificial elevation to the elites in our society that has already been polluted by deal-makers and merchants of the flesh and other nefarious deeds. Resentful dependency had already been built into these henchmen and cohorts of the Rajapaksas. It was a sign of a decadent culture whose beginnings were more destructive than the middle and the end, if they materialize.
When Sinhalese scholars and pundits write about the emergence of a dynamic and vibrant brand of an elite in society, they ignore these morbid groups of political vultures whose money is ‘new’ and ill-gotten. But when one finds, among these new elites, some usual suspects whose monies could be traced back to a couple of generations prior to them, one wonders where the system failed to and being responsible for making these reasonable businessmen into blind and greedy traders of allegiances and relationships. The system has caught them and entranced them into practices which were once tabooed from their forefathers’ operational demeanors. The new leaders of new elites are now the leaders of our society. They advised the politicos as what project to undertake and what not to. After being hosted to half a bottle of whiskey and roast chicken by the head of the land, they forget their beginnings that were bred and born in mediocrity and below average education and learning.
The image of victory over the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Elam (LTTE) has faded. Patriotism has receded to a back seat. National security and empty sloganeering around national security are no longer taken as serious attempts at offering of realistic solutions for real problems the country faces. The Foreign Service which was at the service of an uneducated political ruffian during last regime regained its rightful place and status under Mangala Samaraweera who, according to our own overseas Civil Servants, as the best Foreign Minister Sri Lanka had. I have no doubt he will do and equally effective job as new Finance Minister. A man, whatever his personal likes and dislikes are, driven by idealism and goal oriented personal philosophy, Mangala Samaraweera is one member of the current Cabinet of Ministers who could deliver the goods.
On one end of the political spectrum are these new elite of culture vultures and on the other are the politicos who are owned by these culture vultures. In the middle are the mass of people whose ideas and ideals have been destroyed by this double-edged culture. The people have been steadily watching this spectacle played out behind the curtains of slogans and pseudo-patriotic rhetoric. They waited for ten years to oust that clan and their indefensible greedy acts. Now the eyes and ears are in the duo of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Corruption and misdeeds are being exposed and some have been convicted, whatever the judicial findings and verdict would be, by the public court of opinion. Such openness was not in existence in the realm of government during the last regime.
Yet the tragic feature of the system is, it is increasingly becoming susceptible to the offerings of the new elite whose greed is beyond any limits. Indulgences in extra-civil activities, spending funded by casino-winnings and unsolicited contract profits, the new leaders of resentful dependency culture are oriented towards digging further down into the pit. The system has become more corrupting than corrupt. In such a tortuous context how can the masses extricate themselves from the system? The answer is evasive and not yet apparent on the horizon. A resentful people have become victims of their own making and neglect. Utterly unaware of the consequences, their plea of ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org