By Emil van der Poorten –
While the in-box on my laptop seems to overflow with Donald Trump jokes and comment of a more serious nature about the implications of the election of an amoral and totally unprincipled man to head the most powerful nation in the world, little attention appears to have been paid to what effect this aberration in democratic practice in the USA will have on our little “land like no other.”
What follows is not intended to fill that void but would be, essentially, random musings of a Sri Lankan who lived in North America for more than three decades, fortunately, only adjacent to what one Canadian magazine columnist named Allan Fotheringham described as the “Excited States of Amnesia.” Given, what has transpired recently in the land of the Stars and Stripes, that might well serve as an accurate description of the US now, if not also in the recent past, given the fact that the “bastion of democracy” did, before Trump, elect Bedtime with Bonzo Reagan and “Dubya” Bush!
That Donald Trump’s election is going to be (another) “shot heard around the world” is beyond argument. That it might lead to another world war is a fearsome possibility. If there is a “meantime” what is the likely response of a small nation like ours going to be and, more important yet, what should and could we do given that reality?
Not so long ago, we had a dictator demonstrating in our own bailiwick the most reprehensible traits that “the Donald” is expected to (if he hasn’t already) show in ample measure. Among these is to fill every lucrative nook and cranny with toadies to whom he could dictate terms and who would display nothing short of craven obedience to him, upto and including sharing their ill-gotten gains. What is more significant than the mayhem of the Rajapaksa years is the fact that we did succeed in ridding ourselves of that pestilence. In other words, unlike the vast majority of citizens of the USA (and other democratic countries), we have the advantage (?) of having previous experience to apply to a similar fate. The single most important difference being that the US is “big brother” to most of the rest of the world.
Before the Iron Curtain came down nations with the level of power and influence that we possess, in the ‘fifties and ’sixties, had another super-power to turn to for, at least, moral support. Why? The USSR and its satellite nations such as those in Eastern Europe would invest in industrial development projects in what was then Ceylon, as witness our first tire factory and the huge, though technologically prehistoric, monstrous cloth mill at Thulhiriya. Now “the Donald” and Mr. Vladimir Putin appear to be “on the same page,” are “two birds of the same feather,” pick your analogy!
Beginning with what has been increasingly confirmed as the more-than-tacit support of the new Czar of Russia to “You’re Fired” Trump during the campaign leading up to the most recent US Presidential Election, Trump it is evident that simply intends to follow the precedents set by the leader of the other super-power, “modern” Russia. By a variety of means, beginning with making the Supreme Court of the USA a creature of the President he will, in all but name, become the supreme potentate of the US.
Obviously, there is not a great deal that a country as small and as insignificant as we are can do about turning what seems like the tide of world history.
However, with a modicum of good sense and wisdom and the experience of navigating the shoals of democracy over the past five, going on six, decades we can contribute to making some difference to the way that things unfold internationally. After all, the Scandinavian countries have had, given their skimpy populations, a seemingly disproportionate positive impact on the recent history of the world. Also, the contribution of post-war Germany, recovering from a total devastation of its economy and a terrible heritage of “super race” disease and anti-Semitism should not be overlooked as an example of a nation able to make a 180 degree change of course becoming the most open of the European countries to refugees from countries considered to be beyond the pale in the matter of “racial purity” is, to me at least, an example of a nation that can change course very dramatically.
I would even go to the extent of saying that we had, in the recent past, and, still have, politicians demonstrating the best in statesmanship, honour, skill and dignity, not simply those with seemingly bottomless pockets, as was best demonstrated, with Royal Assent it were, during the Rajapaksa years.
If ever there was a time that such people need to emerge from the shadows of the thieves and thug that we have only recently ridden ourselves, this is it!
We can kill two birds with one stone as it were: demonstrate to the world that economic progress does not have to be divorced from considerations of decency and justice and, as a concomitant, ensure the return of our people to a life of dignity, both financial and otherwise.
Apart from the example of the Scandinavian countries, inclusive of the much –reviled (in Sinhala chauvinist circles at least) Norway, there are places such as the otherwise-inconsequential Bhutan that have chosen the humanist road for their people, measuring progress by “An index or happiness” rather than the malevolent Gross National Product.
The examples are there. It is up to the people and government of this nation to choose the appropriate part rather than continue to spout empty platitudes!