Since recently, I have been encountering people who seem to share one common feeling towards the current situation of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean – Sri Lanka. Among them are highly learned personnel, university professors, senior lecturers, administrators, teachers, religious leaders, social analysts, thinkers, friends and colleagues. All of them seem to be hinting quite overtly at one and the same thing: ‘This country is gone to the dogs. There is no way out. They ruin it and eat it up, the dirty pigs.’ It is this common opinion that reminds me of the proverb, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine” which has its origin from the Gospel of Mathew in the New Testament of the Bible, “Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine…” (Mathew 7:6, KJV).
Even though such a gem of wisdom has been passed on to us since 2000 odd years, one could possibly argue that the truth of this wise saying is more justified today especially when it is seen against Sri Lanka in the current geo-political contextual backdrop, than whatever may have been its original cause in history. It is needless, however, to cite examples here to substantiate this claim for two reasons: Firstly, because they are being rigorously and vehemently exposed and analysed by the country’s popular media 24 X 7; secondly, because any such effort to replicate them here could and would definitely be looked at through coloured glasses as catering (kade yanawa) to some vested interest or other. For better or for worse, it is, in fact, the bitter truth that almost all the news providers in the country today, be it TV Channels, Print Media or Social Media, have their own agendas.
The points of this essay, therefore, are the following four assumptions which are taken for granted as factual. 1) There is a famous country known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. 2) It is thrown. 3) It is thrown to the pigs. 4)It is gone to the dogs. What shall we do, then? It is indeed the main purpose of this essay. What shall we do with Sri Lanka, the Peal of the Indian Ocean, thrown to the pigs and gone to the dogs? This is perhaps the question that practically every intelligent Sri Lankan living in this country or outside it is asking at this moment in history.
Answering this question needs an explanation and it could be done better by understanding the following scenario. One day a motivational speaker asks the audience the following question after showing them a five-thousand-rupee note. Who wants this? Understandably, all the hands show up. Then, for the second time, he crunches the note in his hand and asked the same question again. Who wants this note, now? Once again, all the hands show up as quickly as possible. Then, for the third time, he tramples the note under his foot and asks the same question once again. Now, who wants this note? Still, almost all the hands show up except for a few indecisive ones raised reluctantly halfway through. Then, for the last time, the speaker shreds the note into pieces and asks the same question again. Well, who wants it, now? All the hands which were very enthusiastic till that moment drop lifeless as the audience sinks back in their seats in dismay. While many start murmuring against the speaker, a courageous few vent their frustration out aloud spontaneously. Is it not the fate of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean thrown to the pigs and gone to the dogs at this moment in its history?
It is commonly known that pearls, as they are precious, should be given to those who know their worth and appreciate their beauty. By throwing them to the pigs instead, we not only devalue the pearls but we neither enhance the value of the pigs. For the pigs do not use them for the right purpose they are meant to be used for. However, there is something more here which we often miss as in the case of the five thousand rupee note of the motivational speaker. That is, no matter whether it is thrown to the pigs or trampled upon or muddied with dirt, the pearls always remain pearls until their pearliness is ruined and robbed. Imagine for a second; supposing actually you see a pearl thrown to the pigs. Do you not pick it up even if it happens to be in the dirtiest place of the piggery? Likewise, it should be kept in mind that no matter how precious are the pearls that are thrown to the pigs, the pigs always remain pigs. Think for a second again; if you find a pearl under the foot of a pig, do you carry that pig in your arms, pet it, and put it on your pillow? I am afraid, not! Rather, one would perhaps barbeque the pig to celebrate the joy of finding a pearl.
There is another aspect here we often tend to overlook. I believe a better understanding of it would definitely lead people towards certain progressive measures needed to be taken concerning two areas: Thorough cleansing of the pearls found in the piggery to re-establish their original beauty, and dealing with the pigs as pigs. It is important therefore to understand that neither the pearls nor the pigs change their nature from being pearls and pigs as the giving-up on them would result in them ceasing to be the pears and the pigs. What is needed therefore is to understand that none of them, neither the pearls nor the pigs, are the doers of the action of throwing. Rather, the decision lies on a responsible third party who has the democratic power to decide either to throw the pearls to the pigs or to make a necklace out of them; Or having the pearls found under the feet of the pigs, either to leave them there or to pick them up for through cleansing; Or having them found with the pigs, either to pet the beasts in the bedroom or to have them barbequed in the celebration of the pearls found. It is the same when it comes to the Pearl of the Indian Ocean – the mother nation of Sri Lanka.
Therefore, my dear citizens, unless we make our decision about the Pearl wisely, correctly and urgently, the Pearl risks being shifted from ‘thrown to the pigs’ to ‘gone to the dogs’. Either way, the Pearl will always remain a pearl but in a place where it does not belong, in the piggery or in the kennel.
*Fr. Rashmi Madusanka Fernando, SJ is a Jesuit Priest in the Society of Jesus, Sri Lanka, and the present director of Satyodaya Centre for Social Research and Encounter, 30, Pushpadana Mawatha, Kandy 20000, Sri Lanka. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org