By Sharmini Serasinghe –
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest” – Confucius
As I rapidly approach the half-a-century mark on my birthday calendar I have a choice of three ways to sum up my life; so I opt for the third “… and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Like those of my generation thirty of fifty years I have known only war, bloodshed and communal hatred. Shortly before that my school classmates and I were ripped apart and shoved into compartments labeled the Sinhala, Tamil and English stream. Somewhere during this time my mother kept complaining about bread queues, kerosene smelling fabric and everything being rationed. I also recall my parents having to pull strings, grease palms and creep through back doors to obtain the requirements of my annual school book-lists. I had no toys (I still envy those kids today) so I ended up loving books instead, which was a good thing; but I still would have loved to have had a few toys.
That more or less sums up my fifty years as a Sri Lankan and I’m still looking for the much-trumpeted but evasive Miracle Sri Lanka! I envy those who lived before me in the not-so-miraculous days of our country. It had to be better than this. So in my eternal quest to discover the miracle I have returned to fables that I loved so much as a child!
Once upon a time there was a God called Democracy who also overlooked our country. This was a time when we were governed by Men and Women of Letters who ruled according to the teachings of God Democracy. These rulers had one powerful weapon to govern with- the common ‘Word’. Word was understood and respected by all, not only the rulers. For Word had the power to reward as well as to punish or correct with no bloodletting or broken bones. Law and order prevailed as all feared and revered Word.
This was a time when Word also entertained, intoxicated, enlightened, educated etc., and God Democracy had given us the freedom of expression to use Word be it written or spoken without fear, whatever one’s views. This was also a time when guns were used, but for sport and at ceremonial events. And Kelaniya was a sacred city to which people flocked in large numbers, and not the Capital of the underworld where drug dealers, murders, rapists et al are manufactured in large numbers.
Under Word, were ‘Siblings Language’ named Sinhala and Tamil who got along well, worshipped God Democracy and respected Word. Of course Siblings Language had minor skirmishes from time to time like in any healthy family with one feeling superior to the other.
Somewhere down the line Men and Women of Letters got their letters in a twist resulting in Siblings Language taking precedence over Word. Men and Women of Letters then made the first faux pas by taking sides. Thereafter came the expected polarization with Word in the minority understood and regarded by few and Siblings Language at opposite ends.
By now God Democracy was beginning to look more and more like a wallflower displayed whenever required for International Consumption and thereafter shoved back out of sight. Mayhem was now tapping on the door of the land God Democracy was supposed to overlook. Word had lost power it once enjoyed and Siblings Language were preaching to their followers in their vernacular not understood by the other, save a few.
Into this tragic sequence along came ‘Satan Racism’ smelling blood! He had come to stay put and the peaceful country that God Democracy had once overseen was soon to become a lost civilization. With the destruction of the country as a peaceful one foremost in his mind, Satan Racism’s master plan was to eliminate all Men and Women of Letters who posed a threat to his objective – to create a breed of blundering idiots in the country who would finally destroy each other.
With both camps of Siblings Language now being educated in their vernacular and following ideologies detrimental to each other Satan Racism’s master plan was further boosted and took root in the land.
To jazz up the scene with fireworks, Satan Racism then created an army of buffoons to abide by his laws. This army came in all shapes, colours and sizes belonging to both camps of Siblings Language. The gun was no longer used only for sport and at ceremonial events but to maim and kill one’s opponent. The once mighty ‘Word’ was replaced by the gun!
With God Democracy now relegated to the Outhouse there entered on the scene ‘Clown Idiocracy’!
Before long the dregs of society embracing Clown Idiocracy entered the once sacred precincts of politics. This was obviously to result in a government of idiots, by the idiots, for the idiots such as what is felt and seen today.
However it appears that Men and Women of Letters are not a totally extinct species although in the minority. Word is still their master and God Democracy is still worshiped by some. Through such columns such as these and others, we see and hear such men and women rumbling, grumbling and complaining to each other with views and opinions thrown in for good measure. But then for whose benefit?
If it is meant to stir the conscience of the Idiocracy which has no understanding of Word it would be akin to casting pearls before swine.
Would then these Men and Women of Letters and remote-control intellectuals be willing to come forward and take on the system of Idiocracy presently running/ruining the country? Do they think that by writing columns the system will fall? Or do they think by writing columns others might take note and do something about it? I really wonder.
So I believe the sole purpose these columns serve is to provide a platform to vent frustrations as we stick our heads in the sand and make ourselves believe our hands are tied.
Find a way Oh Men and Women of Letters and remote-control intellectuals and we shall follow you!
*Sharmini Serasinghe was Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) under Secretary Generals Jayantha Dhanapala and Dr. John Gooneratne. She counts over thirty years in journalism in both the print and electronic media.