23 June, 2024


Stagnation & Decline Of Our Culture

By Vishwamithra

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”  ~Arthur Miller

I look out the window. The sun, already below the horizon, having left its day’s legacy of tireless yet unkind assault on mother earth, with the darkening western sky, is behaving in her usual splendor, creating a riot of colors; a magnificent departure of the day is being greeted by the ascending tapestry of millions of stars; another day of the nation in twilight pacing her way into the waiting millions of villagers and city dwellers. It’s raining in the distance. A hazy drape of heavenly waters has fallen across the Indian Ocean. Yet the sea, as it always does, rolls and roars its mighty way, blissfully tolerant of the wetness on itself with candor and gratitude. This glorious play of coming dusk is totally oblivious to the color of skin of the folks who populate our island; it’s apathy towards the language one spoke is in a way a rare blessing while those who labored to rule by division between the colors of skin and lingo they spoke have now fallen by the wayside.

A nation whose history books are abundant in the glories of military conquests to go with some of the most stupendous architectural creations and awesome sculpture and paintings, is attempting to grapple with herself. A culture that was founded on the serene teachings of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha- who claimed to be a common man although born to royalty- is being defaced and debased. That culture was not perfect. No culture is perfect. But when founded on positive, firm and utterly realistic analysis of life and living, when such a set of teachings, as a religion or a philosophy,  is as the unseen driving force behind a people whose recorded beginnings as a nation or as a cohesive community of human beings are centered on betrayal of one community and importing a new bride from South India to create a brand new nation as ‘Sinhala’ or ‘Hela’, whichever name one calls it. Leave it to social scientists and historians to argue the case for or against such a radical view. But one simply cannot take one piece of our chronicle and discard another. The chronicle is the great Mahawansa. Whoever wrote the first few chapters of Mahawansa, especially the ones that deal with Price Vijaya and Kuweni and the very establishment of our nation, had been quite stringent in the description of the great betrayal of Kuweni by Vijaya while at the same time very matter-of-fact about the importation of a South Indian woman. That act alone is a very crucial part that tells a whole lot about the mindset of the one who founded a nation that was later named as the custodian-nation of Buddhism, a philosophy that is founded on very radical and liberal set of values and scientific explanation of the universe and life itself.

Another remarkable oxymoron is the rejection of Prince Saliya by his father-King Dutugemunu for marrying a woman from a so-called low caste. Buddha, on the contrary decried the very existence of caste concept which was and still is a destructive social malady. Then what part of Buddhism did King Dutugemunu accept and what part did he discard. Yet he built Ruwanveliseya, a monumental architectural tribute to his faith in the religion. Mahawansa is replete with many contradictions. Such contradictions are not limited to our Great Chronicle. Every nation’s history books abound in exaggerations, half-truths and in some cases, plain fabrications. A  certain amount of writer’s license might be tolerable. But to portray a King as a spearhead of the forefront of custodians of a religion that is later admittedly the governing force of a nation is self-deceiving and self-destructive.

All throughout our storied history, a remarkable culture of tolerance, religious obedience, values beyond question and of great resilience in times of crisis has been a dynamic force, not only in driving that nation to great heights of achievement but also to sublime plateaus of meditation. A great religious luminary such as Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maithri Thero is one such rare example. The same nation produced on the other side of the religious coin, Reverend Marceline Jayakody of the contemporary times led a marvelously simple life while contributing to Sinhalese literature in his magical lyrical renditions. That culture seemed to have nurtured a nation, yet sustained a monarchical rule of governance until she was invaded, first by the Portuguese then succeeded by the Dutch and the British.

The colonial era spanning nearly half a millennium may have had the most unkind effects a suppressed people go through. But that culture, which was independent of the oppressive rule of a colonial power, did not die. It was strong and sturdy enough to withstand the mighty guns and sharp daggers of the oppressors.

People at large always look to their political leaders to be their role-models. They also have the lazy habit of depending on their political leaders for their salvage. Overdependence on government is a unique characteristic of the Indian subcontinent. Both India and Sri Lanka belong in that lot. There resides a dangerous and malefic symptom of a more malignant ailment. The more one depends of government, the more the powerful government becomes. The more powerful it becomes, all avenues are open for corruption and unreasonable exercise of power. What happened during the last regime of the Rajapaksas is only one Act of the whole Play. Every government before the Rajapaksas, including the ones that preceded gaining of Independence, had its own share of corruption; it’s only the degree that changed. That corruption reached its zenith during the Rajapaksas’ time.

That culture which embraced all communities in Sri Lanka, Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burger alike, has engineered a marvelous product. It produced and embraced what is good in the people and also paved the way for its own self-destructive process. Plato in The Republic observed thus: “The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture. At the beginning of the journey to the next world, one’s education and culture can either provide the greatest assistance, or else act as the greatest burden, to the person who has just died.” The twin character of culture is amply portrayed in this simple quotation. The burden of culture weighs quite heavy on the shoulders of the weak. The weak will eventually waver and buckle down. The strong will carry the burden with pride and walk on. The culture that nourished him and rendered intellectual security and inner discipline is unequal and enormous in value. Whether it’s in its last stages of the decline process is one great question. We might not find an answer to that in our lifetime.

From D S Senanayake to Maithripala Sirisena, our political leaders have tried to grapple with our problems, mainly in the sphere of the economy. Unless the masses are fed, clothed and housed properly, any cultural input is totally irrelevant and could be even burdensome. In that rush to get things done on the economy of the country, many corners were cut and many a toe was trampled. That is the burden of a leader. But what is visibly apparent today is not only the corruption of politicos, it is also being proven each passing day that those who were considered above board, civil servants whose function it is to implement the decisions taken by the Executive, in today’s context, the Cabinet of Ministers, are more corrupt than the politicians. That corruption, like water, has found its own level.

Parents who religiously follow the daily routine of bathing their children early morning, clothing them and feeding a meager breakfast and trekking a dusty gravel road to the school of three hundred students and one teacher, themselves are clothed in that garb of ancient culture. They may have their own battles to fight, just to put food on the table. Yet they will resist any desecration of that culture by unqualified politicians. The rustic ripeness of our villagers is far too valuable to be taken for granted. Daily chores of the rural mother might have made her stoop in physical stature, stoop she would not at the feet of a politician who attempts to rape her adolescent daughter; stoop she would not to beg at the doorstep of an avaricious landlord who tries to bleed her white with excessive interests for a borrowed sum of cash; their pride and faith in their inner values are too great to sacrifice.

Yet the painting is bleak; its corner lines are too abstract and the canvass is too wide and long. In this land of ours the setting of sun is not for the weary and tired eyes of a working mother; it’s glamour and brilliance is beyond one’s horizon. The rain has stopped but darkness surrounds my apartment. It’s time to light a lamp and finish my column.  Penning one’s own thoughts could be easy when one wants to. Thank goodness for our newspapers.

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

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Latest comments

  • 3

    You are talking about culture this time. Othetimes you talk about upanishad and independant ekkeya rajayaas for Tamils, christians and muslims. You are silent about the Grand robbery and the heavy bleeding of Central bank, state banks and the employee provident funds. thieves are dancing in front of the Camara. What a coward you are.

    • 14

      Srilanken culture has been diverted to a culture of MR during the previous govt.
      It consists of thugism, hooliganism, crime promotion, white vanning, revenges, but label on the drama has always been sinhala buddhism.

      Astrogloers and sorcery men and women have taken ground since the leader was beyond all Yanthra manthra which then caused him being chased away by 6.2 voters by 2015.

      Pvt MEDIA men (Dherana; Hiru or the like minded) worked and working for him painted or painting the picture in favour of MR men. No matter even if any high profile crimes would have been the reality., people would have captured by hoodwinking. All these are for their politcial affinity. .

      • 5

        This is how his men worked during last govt

        Former Presidential secretariat chief of staff Gamini Sedara Senarath and two others who are named as suspects in a case of misusing Rs 4 billion government funds were issued orders by the Colombo Fort Magistrate and District Judge Ms Lanka Jayarathne, today banning them from leaving the country.

        They have been accused of misusing government funds by illegally investing Rs 4 billion from the Rs 18.5 billion approved by the Cabinet in 2012 as allocation for the Kollupitiya Grand Hyatt Regency Hotel to be constructed by a company affiliated to the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, in the Hambantota Hyatt Regency Hotel project.

        The Magistrate made this order following a request made by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID).

        Submitting to courts that the extracts relating to this incident had been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Department after investigations, the FCID stated that on the instructions of the Attorney General these three have been named as suspects.

        It was further stated that they have been named as suspects taking into consideration the fact that their action comes under the Public Property Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

        On the request of the FCID, in addition to Gamini Senarath, the former Managing Director of of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation Piyadasa Balage and Former Commissioner of Samurdhi Neil Bandara Hapuwinna were banned from travelling abroad by the court.

        The FCID informed court that in 2012 with the approval of the Cabinet, the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation, Employees Provident Fund and Litro Gas Company have set apart Rs 18.5 billion for the Kollupitiya Grand Hyatt Regency Hotel. Out of this sum the suspects had in an illegal manner had invested Rs 4 billion for the Hambantota Hyatt Regency Hotel and committed an act of misusing government funds, and by investing in the Hambantota hotel project, a shortage of funds had been created for the Kollupitiya hotel project, the FCID stated further. (Sumiththa Jayawickrama)

        • 1

          I think Ranil is waiting until Arjun aloysius and the gang leave the country in a boat. they are only asked not to leave the country.

      • 1

        ” stoop she would not at the feet of a politician who attempts to rape her adolescent daughter; stoop she would not to beg at the doorstep of an avaricious landlord who tries to bleed her white with excessive interests for a borrowed sum of cash; their pride and faith in their inner values are too great to sacrifice. “
        I don’t think village culture is all that the author makes it out to be.
        It is basically feudal. Obedience to authority is integral, in the shape of the local monk or politician. Both warrant worshipping, even though the monk lives off the community and the politician is not handing out goodies from his own money.
        Our culture depends far too much on Astrology and mumbo-jumbo. MR did it publicly, but Ranil is just as bad in private.
        “their pride and faith in their inner values are too great to sacrifice. ” Sinhala peasants could do with a lot less pride when it comes to employment. We have shortages of builders and other blue-collar workers and an over-supply of accountants. But there is no shortage of well- dressed beggars in buses and fat ladies in Samurdhi queues.

  • 1

    I was told Rajitha Senarathne also was walking wearing discoloures trousers with his better half or some other welamba (intergovermental memo).

  • 8

    What about those who wear the tie and coat and worship money and all things western ?
    Even in the writers apartment he had to light a lamp? Confusion or just meaningless verbiage ?

    Or is this the part of the deceit , to appear deep and melancholic ?

    • 1

      I think he is trying to be a writer. but, he is very young in the mental department.

  • 4

    Vishwamithra ,

    RE: Stagnation & Decline Of Our Culture

    The Stagnation & Decline Of Para-Culture, in the Lnd of Native Veddah Aethho, illegally occupied by the Paras from India.

    The Paras should get back to their homeland, India, Bharat, Damba-Diva.

    “A culture that was founded on the serene teachings of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha- who claimed to be a common man although born to royalty- is being defaced and debased.”

    Para-Sinhala Buddhism , is not Buddhism/

    Mahawamsa is an insult to the Buddha.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa, MaRa , is an insult to the Paras with common sense, not to the idiots.

    MaRa MaRa ChaTu MaRa
    MaRa MaRa AmaNa MaRa
    MaRa MaRa HoRa MaRa
    MaRa MaRa DhuShaNa MaRa

  • 5

    Vishwa: All this culture talk is a distraction, like the non-existent new constitution debate that has wasted much public space and time to give vent to racism and SInhala Buddhist nationalism on all sides.
    It is only good POLICIES and Political will that will being peace to Sri lanka.
    What Sri Lanka needs today is:
    1.An end to CORRUPTION and money politics and Social and Economic Justice for the poor and marginalized in all communities
    2. Multiculturalism Policies and an educational framework to promote and mainstream multi-culturalism and multi-religion at all levels of society.

    As long as the corrupt political culture and Bond Scam Ranil Wickramasinghe who has promoted a Culture of Immunity and Impunity for Corrupt Politicians is in office, the most perfect God-given constitution will be useless. The New Constitution is “war by other mean”s to distract the masses from the CULTURE OF CORRUPTION.

  • 0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2

    The helping Hambantota filth are still free?

  • 3

    Who is Mahinda Rajapakse MP? Well he contradicts himself every time there is a progressive proposal to improve the lives of Sri Lankans. He is today opposing what he stated in his last Presidential manifesto. How can the people of SL consider him to be a HONEST person? Mahinda even as an MP does not attend Parliament on the dates when extremely important discussions takes place. Every time there is an important discussion such as Budget, Constitutional Assembly etc he runs away to another country. May be he thinks he is a citizen of a foreign country. JO members are the only ones who keep him on their heads as they are all bankrupt politicians who do not have a voter base unless they hang on to the sarong pote of Mahinda.

  • 1

    Not very long ago, “culture” applied to the fine arts. Other “cultures” have gotten added like sports culture, religious culture, the infamous culture of impunity and so on.
    Vishwamithra ~ “Stagnation & Decline Of Our Culture” quotes Arthur Miller
    “A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
    So Vishwamitra: Is culture an aspect of society talking to itself?
    Vishwamitra points out ~ “The colonial era spanning nearly half a millennium may have had the most unkind effects a suppressed people go through. But that culture, which was independent of the oppressive rule of a colonial power, did not die. It was strong and sturdy enough to withstand the mighty guns and sharp daggers of the oppressors.”
    The ‘indestructible culture’ drifted towards a west oriented culture of unethical quest for power. The indestructible culture may be destroyed from within and replaced with a casino/drug culture.
    To cut a long story short: The definition of culture is evasive
    Post 1956 Ape Anduwa era, ‘Thupahi culture’ was a derogatory term but today it is the in thing.
    So: Culture is dynamic, changeable.

  • 0

    Sri Lanka started to decline after your stupid Ranil took over

  • 0

    1948 to 2009 DS to MR that just as much confusion around the nation of Sri Lankan state revival was uncertainness that an around by political-economic-social order of the democracy……

    The emerging nations of Indian, China, South Africa, Russia and Brazil has new concept these countries path and model development their own logic. Not that imperialist-colonial path of they did not believed is ‘truth”.
    The 9/11 attack of World Trade Center of New York by Islam terrorist ; USA and UK per-empty strike that unilaterally launch war against Iraq ,it destroy because it does not like it, the world would become a lawless place, in which nations have NO RULES to rely upon.
    By and large 2008 Wall Street Financial market crisis and collapse of Stock Market has weaken whole USA-Economy, it(US) has turn into Global largest Debt Nation, that is USA?

    In need Western truth of democracy is become dangerous, because emerging countries an escaped from York of Neo-Colonialism and its dominating in a growing new numbers of Markets ,but not the price factor or competitive advantage, is challenges for USA, EU, UK and Japan centered Globalization.

    The 30 years of War ended in 2009 May ,that against Tamil terrorism of LTTE was defeated by that
    Sri Lankan security forces. Back to peace was shifted into bread and butter of Island political stability has emerge after long vacuum in the peace an Island.
    Therefor that Sri Lanka join club of emerging nation is one of growing number of small state out of orbit of Non Western nation state.
    In an ideologically war conflicts is ONE of the ultimate measures for the State of any system of democracy! The question we might asked ask ourselves time of MR alliance end of war really bring at peace? It was beginning of peace foundation.
    The people has not given another chance for MR and alliance that act politically in a flexible manner of democratic?
    Year 2015 January people make great error by wrong mandate given to UNP-political power by different form of New Regime?

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