By Jagath Asoka –
Who is worthy of admiration and accolades, soft-spoken Sirisena or iron-pumping Percy Mahinda? It seems like that most of us have a distorted notion of heroes; for example, recently, someone compared Palitha Kohona to Puran Appu. Is Palitha the latest incarnation of Puran Appu? If he is, from now on, he should be known as Palitha Puran Appu. The Puran Appus that I revere are buried, not basking in braggadocio of some bootlicking braggarts. Of course, the stories of heroes are worth writing about, because a hero or heroine is a person who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself, or who has found or done something beyond the ordinary range of achievement. A hero’s sphere of action is here and now. There are two kinds of heroic deeds: physical or spiritual. Had it consciously undertaken, everyone would be considered as a hero because everyone has to undergo a tremendous physical and psychological transformation when one enters this world from the condition of being a little water-creature to air-breathing mammal. What action has Sirisena or Mahinda taken consciously in order for you to think of them as heroes?
I know that nature is very aristocratic because one person of value outweighs a thousand lesser ones. Who is the carrier of culture, politics, virtue, or the blackest villainies, individual or the inert mass? If joys of personality are the highest bliss on earth, who is your hero, the Iron-pumping Percy or the Soft-spoken Sirisena?
Even our pseudo political pundits bragged openly with gusto that Sri Lanka should be governed by a tough guy, a macho guy, someone who pumps iron, and a braggart: Percy Mahinda.
Instead, a mild mannered, soft-spoken, yet firm and confident, visionary emerged and won, leaving iron-pumping Percy and his pompous pundits totally disillusioned, still trying to figure out what really went wrong. How can we explain this totally unexpected result? In a nutshell, here is what we know about Sirisena and Mahinda.
Sirisena was willing to sacrifice not only his own life but the lives of his wife and children because he made it his life’s goal to challenge Percy Mahinda, because Sirisena firmly believed that Mahinda was a dictator-thug who ruined our country, committed and abetted crimes with impunity, and squandered our national wealth. Sirisena modelled himself on the examples of real heroes because he showed that virtue was better revealed in heroic actions than in empty words. He used his modest lifestyle and exemplary behavior to criticize not only Percy’s distorted vision and belligerent braggadocio but also the corrupt masses of our confused, bigoted nation. Sirisena’s message was very simple: Mahinda, you cannot bully me anymore! The truth is, had Sirisena lost, Mahinda would have impaled, crucified, and buried Sirisena alive, while celebrating Sirisena’s demise having kiribath over his grave. Where Mahinda would have found abomination and enmity, Sirisena found amity and equanimity. Mahinda is the living poster child for the anti-Tamil and Muslim movement in Sri Lanka, who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices and use divisive rhetoric rather than by using rational argument and promoting harmonious existence.
Why are we interested in Sirisena? We are social animals, and most of us are content to live in accordance with the social conventions of our time. But Sirisena is one of those exceptional individuals whose own nature compelled him to reject conventional ways and discover his own path, a dangerous path indeed, like the edge of a razor which he had to cross with his bare hands and feet. This path had only two outcomes: to die or to serve. The end of the real hero’s path is not aggrandizement or ecstasy for oneself, but gaining the wisdom and power to serve others. Instead of controlling and overcoming his irrational savage within him, Percy Mahinda nourished his carnivorous, lecherous, and vindictive desires and ended up being a neurotic: a journey from narcissism to neuroticism. On the other hand, Sirisena gave up his job which would have protected him and had the nerve to face Mahinda courageously and decently—not in the way of personal rancor and revenge—and brought a whole new era of possibilities for Sri Lankans. One of the many distinctions between Mahinda and Sirisena is that Mahinda lives only for aggrandizement and ecstasy, while Sirisena acts to redeem and transform our morally corrupt and beleaguered nation. Sri Lanka seemed like a wasteland under Mahinda: a land where people were living morally corrupt lives, without courage. In a wasteland, outward appearances do not represent actuality. Just as the influence of a corrupt leader corrupts the entire nation, the influence of a vital person vitalizes, and there is no doubt about it. Sirisena epitomizes what Sri Lankans are craving for: authentic leaders, not divisive demagogues and bigots. As one of my colleagues put it, “the latest incarnations of the Three Stooges—Buruwansa, Gonmanpila, and Pissudeva—are roaming all over the island trying to resurrect the castrated-pseudo-Castro of Sri Lanka. These Three Stooges are the pawns of Machiavellian Mahinda. Recently, Mangala Samaraweera said, “We have located a few billion already but it’s not as easy to get to those through an internal mechanism.” This is the quintessential problem in Sri Lanka: a teenage girl was taken to police custody for stealing a few coconuts in order to pay for her school whereas Percy Mahinda and his family keep mocking the new government: “Catch us if you Can.” I would say to Mangala Samaraweera, if you cannot take any action, just shut up. People are getting tired of empty rhetoric. Forget about locating billions, just find some coconuts stolen by them and then prosecute them.
By the way, Puran Appu was captured by the British after the failure of Matale Rebellion and was executed by a firing squad on 08 August 1848. Here are the last words of Puran Appu: “if there had been just half a dozen of men like me to lead this nation, there would not be a single white man living in the Kandyan Province.”
I wonder what would have happened to Sri Lanka if there had been another man like Sirisena. We all know that people like Mahinda are a dime a dozen in Sri Lanka.
Most people judge others by their outward appearances, but only our actions reveal our true inner nature and strength. Be careful, the one who looks meek and weak can be mighty and magnificent!