By Vishwamithra –
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining” ~ Anne Lamott
The lighthouse has lost its glimmer. It’s not guiding ships anymore. The green, though dust-laden, seems swept by a million feet, nevertheless is missing its green. A great many number of protesters have gone home; they are more preoccupied with their homely chores. Stalls have been torn down paving the way for pedestrians who find a fresh yet battered green to walk on. The total landscape has changed and its transformation is visible and ominous on another front. While all on land seems to be undergoing a sweeping change, the waves and foam of the mighty Indian Ocean have remained unchanged; roaring ashore many items of debris and hugging the coast with the same old ferocity and aggression. The friendly squeaking of the seagulls is still continuing their melodious singing, sometimes calming and sometimes irritating to the ears.
All may not be lost, after all. Not because Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Pohottuwa collaborators are capable or equipped to navigate the oncoming stormy weather, but because the people of the land may decide that they also have a decisive role to play to save the nation and land that they claim theirs. Our people might still be determined and defiant to tread a different path when everything seems to have gone astray, when everything seems to have reached a dreaded stagnancy and when everything is rotting and nauseating to the skies. They will seek to move forward, not in search of a paradise but a place that promises room and space for just a little improvement and progress.
Such is the story of human progress; such is the complexion of the complexity of civilization. No man has progressed by himself. But if and when he makes up his mind that human development is not one man’s sad tale but a glorious march of the many, they shall remain bonded together, keeping faith in that indomitable spirit of man.
All talk about support from the International Monitory Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, every discussion about bilateral assistance and multilateral aid will bear fruit, but at a cost, at a cost to the spot where it hurts most- the belly. When that materializes, then only shall that spirit need to be awakened and stand up as real men and women. The weak may still choose to stay still and go back to slumber. The wicked and cruel may yet pick up their threads and recommence their habitual enterprise of maddening exploitation. The apathetic will carry on with their usual chores as if nothing has changed and nothing could be changed.
But a select few, a resolute and unwavering few would resort to some measured action; that measured activity would not constitute in protests or demonstration. It shall constitute in planning, it shall be made up of strategizing and being tactical and certainly not doing nothing. Such strategic action might not manifest itself on the streets nor in classrooms in a few mnths. But the people will see it when it does come about, when it appears, not on the horizon, but in front of their faces, in their front and backyards.
Forget about the Wickremesinghes and Rajapaksas. Forget about the Sajiths and Champikas and Fonsekas and AKDs. They are all men of straw. A long-term endurance of hardships, withstanding insurmountable adversities is not alien to man, wherever he is born, whether in Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Panama, Venezuela, Sri Lanka or Timbuktu. The oppressed by the state machinery, downtrodden by a few who govern, elected of selected, must rise one day against all odds and against all misfortunes.
Sri Lanka must get ready for that day when the call is recognized by a scarce few and the expectations are for a massive disapproval of the status quo. Is it a dream? Yes it is yet a dream; but not a hallucination. The humiliating fleeing of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was voted in by six point nine (6.9) million votes was no accident and nor was it a hallucination of the masses. Nor did it occur in a vacuum. But opposition to his successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe should not be founded on personal or subjective reasons. Ranil Wickremesinghe may not be our legitimate President but his ascension to the throne is legal and constitutional. He must be tested at every turn and every corner with no compromise but totally and absolutely without resort to arms or violence. In all sense of the current context, absolute non-violence and peacefulness is a must, if the purpose and objectives of the mass of people are to be realized.
Even if such a long-drawn-out struggle is being or to be launched, out in the open or inside dark and ill-lit shack-houses or on rural culverts, those who are fully or partially engaged in such a movement must realize that endurance of hardships and embracing sufferance of scarcities and lack of comforts are integral parts of mass movements. Sacrifice of time, energy and inner self are indispensible ingredients of such ventures and if you’re not ready for such discomforts, get the heck out, don’t stand in the way.
That may be why the Colombo-elite protesters have now decided to give Ranil and his Pohottuwa collaborators a chance to right the wrongs they have imposed upon an unsuspecting citizenry. Even that could be forgiven and even forgotten. But accommodation of known convicts and known merchants of corruption cannot be stomached. Nor should it be. That, in fact, is the terrible dilemma we all face. That is precisely why Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Pohottuwa-Mafia cannot be trusted; that is why, given the massive majority they enjoy inside Parliament, a carefully strategized action-plan needs to be engineered and executed.
In most mass movements, the greatest enemy is found to be impatience on the part of the participants and planners and its leaders. The tragic character of the current movement, Aragalaya, is the absence of a clear-cut leadership or leader. The government led by Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot go on arresting one recognizable leader after another. They can imprison ten, twenty or even fifty, but certainly not hundreds or thousands.
Unlike in 1971 or ’87-’89 era, there is no declared violence; the Aragalakaruwos are not armed; they did not attack police stations and they did not kill their own brothers and sisters. Those who attacked MPs’ houses have not been identified as yet. In the absence of such civilized law enforcement, Ranil or his Pohottuwa simply cannot choose to finger-point and engage in selective arrests. That is illegal, illegitimate, undemocratic and plain wrong.
Clairvoyance at a stage like this is utterly futile and childish. When people ask as to when we would come out of this mess, my frank answer is ‘I don’t know’. Predicting that it’ll be two months or six months or three years is an utter lie.
“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings”, Kate Chopin wrote in ‘The Awakening’ which shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. An honest leader would do the same: let his followers soar above tradition and convention. We might not see that leader today; even if such a leader exists, he’s invisible as at present. In the meantime what is left for us to do? Receding into a comfort zone and regretting about what could’ve, should’ve or would’ve been is futile and such desolate corners are not the retreats we should be looking for. One cannot build strength when cornered in a suffocating cocoon.
Therefore, allow Ranil and his collaborators to ride a few more miles, surely we should be able recognize the point of no return whet it starts appearing, even in a haze, even in the distance. There is a limit to all suffering; there is a limit to all deception and cruel exploitation. That limit, in some cases, may be greater than others, but there shall be a limit and there shall be an end. But when that end comes, our wings must be stronger and they should not remain clipped.
While Ranil and his cohorts are basking in the (non)glory of deception and impotence and decadence, those who are keen and conscious of what follows must be ready and willing to strike, not in a physical way, but in a very tangible psychological and mental fashion with all our strength and vigor, unmercifully and ruthlessly.
The lighthouse may be losing its glimmer and the singing of the seagulls may yet be annoying and cantankerous. The sea is signaling an unusual calm and serenity which soon might end and turn everything and everyone upside down and inside out. Beholding a glimmer of hope in despair is no sin; man’s struggle will not end, never, yet he must move forward, step by step, stride by stride. A cascade of events will form itself into an uncontrollable sociopolitical tide that might eventually provide an answer to our economic misfortune.
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org