By Tharaka Kodippili –
If self-interest were an export commodity, it would do to Sri Lanka what petroleum has done to oil exporting Middle East countries would have made Sri Lanka exceedingly wealthy. Petroleum, also known as black gold, has done wonders to the economies and ruling classes (monarchs) of some aforementioned countries (not to forget its byproduct – funding Wahhabism the world over). However, unlike petroleum- which is a finite commodity, self-interest has to be cultivated- has been, and is here to last in Sri Lanka, as long as its citizens pay servitude to it.
Self-interest on overdrive
Self-interest has become the de facto moral compass of many Sri Lankans. It gradually began as an “I don’t care for others but my own best interests” routine. Practised by a few feckless individuals – over the past few decades – has now spread like rampant wildfire and has internalized throughout most Sri Lankan individuals and communities in the country.
In the wake of our recent national disaster, which was avoidable at all costs (as per reports circulated so far), all (so-called) accountable heads (I’m reluctant to use the word “leaders” here, as this country has a dearth of such men and women) have sought permanent refuge under the facade of “blame that guy, but not me” shtick.
None of these men cares an ounce for “service to thy nation” and “accountability for thy actions” in them. This directly results from deep-seated “self-interest” taking control of their moral compasses. Then recalibrating all ethical-behaviors to what other civilized societies consider as downright “despicable behavior.”
Being a leader, let alone being somebody who adds value to society is hard. Neither comes naturally. It needs constant work and a lifetime of commitment. However, what comes naturally to many Sri Lankan political aspirants is to seek positions of leadership, thanks to a completely immoral and broken-down (top to bottom) system, and then do nothing (service) in return. That inaction comes naturally, especially to scheming third world political leaders–as proven by nearly a century of political, party-based evidence, especially here in Sri Lanka.
Add to that, another asinine quality the Sri Lankan politician has mastered–the Ostrich-like way of solving problems. Hide your head in (quick) sand, while your gluttonous rear-end sticks out in all its shiny glory.
The Ostrich is an outlier in the bird kingdom, which as a group of species draws its lineage all the way back to the dinosaurs. These birds make their lives harder yet by sticking their entire head in the sand while shit hits the fan around them- akin to a Sri Lankan politician/leader. As much as the Ostrich lives its life ass-first- time to time- amidst the chaos, Sri Lankan political toadeaters are all about saving their own asses all the time while the country burns around them to ashes.
Take the template of how an average Sri Lankan Joe Siripala carries on with his daily life – with the guile of a Skunk and the suave or a Hyena, all the while running to Facebook to propagate whatever ill-gotten ideas/thoughts/feelings, minus a (moral) filter. Then forgetting all of it a month or two later will (and has) cause long term (unsolvable and irreparable) problems to him and his nation. This quality has internalized within the entire country – to pandemic proportions. The country’s populace is a witless army of zombies walking down a winding black-forest, fueled on selective memory, mistrust, and prejudice towards one another.
The recent Easter Sunday attacks, its immediate aftermath, the response (not responding is also a form of responding), blaming all but yourself and hightailing from any leadership activities are just a few examples of self-interest, an Ostrich and a Sri Lankan.
Low hanging fruit
Sri Lankans hold their political leaders to the lowest of low standards. Standards, Americans came to adopt recently that we Sri Lankans have experienced for nearly four decades after they elected Donald Trump. He is the new type of first world leader – the junk food eating, TV binging, Twitter-loving, single digit IQ’d buffoon, who stumbles on everything – just like his (shorter) brown cousins from half a world away. Yet, Sri Lankans would be so lucky to elect such a leader- again, a leader in the sense of being the first citizen- nothing more.
However, Sri Lankans, have instead reverted to picking the lowest hanging fruits, so low that they scrape the barren earth and is rife with worms, bacteria and the works. Self-interest is rampant within our culture and society- down to an individual. When such individuals vote, they vote for people whom they share their values with. Therefore, we get elected officials who lack every conceivable leadership attribute.
Therefore, from a logical (and practical) standpoint, it is unfair to expect anything other than what we have witnessed over the past few weeks from our dimwitted leaders. Our political heads – on all sides, from national level to the municipal council level, are a spitting image of us – the people.
Asking them to behave better, shed their self-interest for the greater good, and to work cohesively towards progressive common goals is like asking our own shadow to stop following us. Neither is practical.
Therefore, what gives? How can we solve these problems? Each passing generation adds more (unsolvable) problems to our society than the other did.
Where does this end?