18 November, 2017

The Disappearance Of Morality In Our Politics And The Crisis Of The State

 By R.M.B Senanayake

R.M.B. Senanayake

The disease in our society today stems from the fact that our politics and governance are carried out without any moral standards. We have come to accept that politicians and politics can be carried on without any reference to moral values. Our politicians who were elected from the Opposition crossed over to the ruling party for very base motives. They were either bought over with perks to be funded by the people such as duty free permits to import vehicles- the most expensive ones too. Some others crossed over to avoid being prosecuted for violating the criminal law. What does this mean – the misuse of power for base motives.

The Government carries on flaunting religion but actually violating all moral principles and following only the Machiavellian ethics of politics which boil down to no ethics at all. Long before Machiavelli there was Kautilya in India and Sun Tzu in China. Machiavelli argued that it was better for a Prince to be feared rather than loved. He also argued that morality does not apply in politics. He said prudent rulers should shed moral principles adopting whatever means are necessary to preserve his power. Critics have pointed out that Machiavelli defended the evil methods of tyrants. But some have said that he exposed the deceit or lies that rulers resort to hoodwink the people so that the people would learn to be on their guard against tyranny. Would the people learn? Depends on the people. If the people themselves are dishonest liars and deceivers they will see no difference. But what about all the ‘bana’ preaching from morning to evening exhorting people to follow the principles enunciated by the Buddha? They don’t seem to amount to anything judging from the state of evil in our society. Now the monks themselves are setting a fine example in propagating hatred and violence.

Here is what a Chinese scholar, Chang Hsin-hai, wrote recently in his article on “The Moral Basis of World Peace,” He asserts that this disease of our society stems from a double standard of morals.  He says that the root of our troubles, both national and international, lies in the acceptance of moral standards in government totally different from those accepted and demonstrated as necessary for a good society so far as individual conduct is concerned.  If a politician, either national or international, engages in practices and policies which in individual conduct would be considered as most contemptible, he is commonly honored for his “progressiveness and farsightedness, and for the great service he is rendering to the citizens of his country.  He is elected again and again to public office, even though the same practices by the operator of a private grocery store or a farm would lead to his being all but run out of town’.

Now we find some Buddhist monks who have organized themselves into organizations resorting to hate speech directed at the Muslims and Christians. What they are campaigning for are political goals and have nothing to do with Buddhism as preached by the Buddha . But they spring from hatred. Such hatred may lead to violence against these minorities. Are these radicalized monks resorting to terror to frighten the minorities. Will they be frightened and give up their religious convictions? What is their ultimate aim? Do they want to prevent the practice of other religions in the country? They don’t seem to believe in the ethics and values taught by the Buddha- certainly not by the Buddha who was born in India. We are told that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka. What do we make of all this distortion of history? How can we account for the treasure hunting among Buddhist shrines by Buddhists who display so much piety in the temples? Are the Sinhala Buddhists reneging on Buddhism? Are they becoming racists and hate mongers?  Will their actions be accompanied by more and more violence? In Egypt we see today Muslims who love the democratic values opposing the Muslim Brotherhood. When good men are silent evil men triumph.

Will the majority of Buddhists who do not associate themselves with these hate mongers keep silent? That would be a tragedy for it would lead to disaster as we witness today in the Muslim countries. Recent study on why nations fail by two American economists Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane argue that countries decline when they fail to adapt to changing economic forces. The decline of the Roman Empire is ascribed to the growth of a welfare state and centralized governance. We are suffering from the same evils, unable to carry on the welfare state owing to fiscal bankruptcy and unwilling to devolve power.  Earlier we did not have the tyranny of the Roman Empire. Now we have it too. So there is the collapse of several state functions including that of maintaining law and order.  We are heading for a failed state and these are manifestations of it. What it will mean is that a new form of radical Buddhism will emerge similar to the fundamentalism in the Muslim countries.

The new Buddhist doctrine of hatred was authored by Anagarika Dharmapala and developed by Dr Nalin De Silva and Dr Gunadasa Amerasekera among several others. Now Buddhist monks are expressing such hatred in action. After 1956 the hatred was first directed against the Tamils but now that India seems to be a defender of Tamil rights they have turned to the old pet hatred- the Christians with Muslims added to the menu.

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Latest comments

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    The majority live in the villages. They are trying to make ends meet. Trying to get their children into school. Hoping they won’t fall ill for they cannot afford a doctor. Separation of powers, human rights and judicial independence are matters which they cannot afford to concern themselves with. They have more immediate concerns.

    And yet, pushed to the limit, they will revolt. All three uprisings were started by angry and frustrated youth.

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      Hats off to Taraki.

      Water, Food, Health,Education and Shelter are basic needs common to all Sri Lankans. We do not need politicians or NGOs to spell this out to us and we do not need sub-national governments to make provisions to solve the problem of satisfying the basic needs. The problem lies in the management of distribution of resources for improving the infrastructure required for satisfying the needs and the maintenance of the same.

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    A sad indictment of successive governments that they have not solved even one of these basic needs.

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    In fact, the basic problems are really due to a lack of political will. There was political will to defeat the Tigers and the they were destroyed. There is political will to clean up Colombo and to build highways and railway tracks and the results can be seen.

    But there has been no political will to meet the basic needs of the people. If the Government wants to be re-elected time and time again all it has to do is to turn its attention to one or more of these basic needs and show some real improvement.

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    Children’s minds are like new slates. When they read the National Institute of Education’s history, literature and religion-text books they are permanently soiled. This willful indoctrination by visibly angry and bigoted minds at the NIE, generation after generation, has overpowered the teachings of the Buddha and has harmed the people of Sri Lanka. Morality, not the relative type, should first be taught to the NIE textbook writers, Sir.
    A religion sponsored by a temporal power is an anomaly, and does more harm than good to its followers, as is now evident. Any loud-mouthed person with a desire for power and ego-clinging is no follower of the great one. Unless a monk carries the begging bowl and renounces worldly attachments, he should not teach young minds or be spoilt by the tax payer.

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