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‘Humbugstota’ and more humbling happenings: Moral fable sans morale

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 13 January 2017 00:00


37The sun rises in the south. While Colombo sleeps peacefully and the rest of Sri Lanka slumbers fitfully. Many times before, the first stirrings of dissent have been felt south of the border between patrician illusion and plebeian reality. In time still not out of mind, the proletarian sons of the south rose against the rest of the island with Marxist sulphur in their voices and Socialist brimstone in their speech. These autochthonous rebels were greeted with returning fire by the equally doctrinaire ideological offspring of the northern peninsula. That war was over long ago. But new battle lines for internecine socio-political conflagration are being drawn again in the traditional heartland of our beloved isle’s troubles. An irate polity is beginning to beleaguer their national leaders at their erstwhile political masters’ request. It means that the cost of development which the coalition is keen for global powers to underwrite will be paid for by a polity perhaps more unwilling than ever to foot the bill for successive governments’ “growth”-oriented follies at the price of good sense.


It means that rebellion is brewing in the hinterland of a restive breast with good reasons as well as bad. It means that an ugly unsustainable revolutionary fervour is being fomented among the feelings of a fearful set of souls captive to colonial mentalities and cunning masters willing to make a payment for riotous services rendered with a buth packet and a bottle. It means that the egregious rioting which we saw recently in what was once a brackish backwater indicates that Hambantota and all that it has stood for in the public imagination will be the Ragnarok where the battle at the end of our world will be fought. It means that the portents for the coalition are that the people they seek to serve will resist their development strategies to the hilt.

For the forces of the fickle frost giants have stirred. They have poked the slumbering bear-like beast of brainless serfdom to authority in its belly and filled it with an unholy fire against a more mindful yet no less treasonous agenda of progress. These southern agents provocateurs have filled the stomachs of a provoked people with false promises, inflamed self-righteousness, and a taste for punching the powers that be in the nose. Namal and his Neanderthals are about as nuanced about making a nuisance of themselves for all the wrong reasons as their paterfamilias the Father of the War Victory was subtle about building a family empire under a fallen nation’s noses. It is a burgeoning movement that has so far seen a debilitating port strike on a false premise; demoralising stone throwing against a real threat; dangerously strong protests on the grounds of perceived compromise of national sovereignty that may strike closer home than the incumbent administration would be willing to admit in public.

Pity that it is the worst who are full of this passionate intensity!


The best lack all conviction. They are too busy getting and spending to be bothered with the storm that is brewing in a traditionally bothersome backyard. There are more pressing concerns to occupy their chauffeur-driven convoy-escorted cosy cushioned comfortable comforting caviar- and champagne-sodden corporate corridors of power and peace with plenty and prosperity for those with whom Good Government is pleased. We all need a break from the niggling issues of governance: these worrisome economic woes of the hoi polloi! those pressing problems we won’t give ear to unless it will win us the local government election first and those other persistent concerns we don’t have a clue how to solve and can’t be bothered thinking about much less doing anything about until it is too late! Let’s all take a break, please? A chill pill for chronic procrastinators still on seasonal vacation and cynical manipulators scratching around in hock for the next opportunity to mock the meat it feeds on.38


Never mind for the moment that the troublemakers in the south are protesting against terms and conditions that they once sought, laid a firm foundation for, and embraced with open arms. To say nothing of enforcing with a violent show of arms against the very people who had elected them. The Young Hun who was once Heir Apparent to a huge and corrupt empire and who still harbours (no pun intended) ambitions to wear the Crown Prince’s coronet is the most vociferous agitator against a governmental contract between sovereign states which the paterfamilias of a previous personal fortune-minting machine mooted and consolidated. That the Old Fox has hardly retired from his pressing aspiration to don the purple again is becoming evidently manifest from arrogant sabre-rattling as much as from Machiavellian machinations to upset the applecart of a coalition apparently composed of ancient oranges pared of their presidential patina and sour old fruit peeled of their premier sheen or former glory if such a fairy tale was ever true at all. In fact the supreme irony may be that although the Crown Prince is now protesting at what was once his pater’s fond dream of making our Emerald Domain the umpteenth province in an Eastern Dragon’s “String of Pearls” strategy, the original idea may have been conjured in the then clear sharper locale of a former Prime Minister’s previous tenure. A fact that the other Old Fox, one in the GOP, has kept under lock and key in the face of a parliamentary fracas that has sought to deny him a “Super Minister’s” powers to expedite GDP (Growth, Development, Progress.). 


In the meantime, while mere anarchy is loosed upon the world in the Fire-Corner (‘gini-kona’) of our land, the grand panjandrums of the GOP-led government are apparently trying to ensure that the centre holds. In the Sinking-Sun (‘basna-hira’) of our geopolitical west, the sun is always rising. It is a half truth repeated often enough by media and men of goodwill so as to become a lie to the opposition and a useless fact to the led. Around the second anniversary of its ascendance, the supernova of Good Government has appeared to shine with some special scintillation. Hark, hark, the dogs do bark… the beggars – sorry: the butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers and carmakers and tyre manufacturers and western commercial interests of the most worthy and noble stripes are coming to town… to honour the twin pillars of the second anniversary of the present administration’s incumbency: peace and prosperity. Whether the sunshine stories are entirely true – or slightly doctored by masters of spinmeistering – is of little import. What matters most in the western world of western thinking is that captains of commerce and industry are convinced that capital is flowing into the country and a long warm summer of making capital out of the western inflows means there is enough and more to go around for me and you and Uncle John and all the young guns knocking on the old ’uns’ doors demanding their share of the plenty-pie.


In the political south however, where the nature of the beast is to be innately suspicious of western-thinking, the canny savage and native wit knows that the danger comes from selling one’s soul to the east. Of course, such knowledge is poked and stoked by helping hands in Hambantota who once would – and would once again – help themselves to what belongs to the very protestors who have now become willing agitators in a conspiracy that flows not so far beneath the surface as to be subterranean. If China has her coy way with us, submarines with nuclear capacity knocking on India’s southern portals will be the least of our problems. Ceylon was once the Granary of the East in its own right. Sri Lanka might well become the Armoury of the East at someone else’s behest if we go on like this, going on to find ourselves in the gun-sights of more contending nation-states than it is healthy for a small but sovereign desperately in need of a helping hand to be in for the foreseeable future.


Meanwhile, one can only hope that it is slowly dawning on the champions of just-government (yaha-pālanaya) that as far as governments go, this is just another one like any other. Worryingly, apart from the more horrifying cupidity of previous incumbents and their terrifying propensity to crush any opposition in its path to gold and glory, this government has shown itself to be alarmingly excruciatingly willing to demonstrate that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Apart from murder in the high street or mayhem in the high court, this government has shown that it is – under the skin – as alike as peas and pears are to each other to that other government we all (well, half of us) invited to cease and desist not so many moons ago.

Seemingly the idea of a political siege-engine back in the day when the authoritarian despots still ruled the roost with an iron first, Good Governance today has revealed itself to be no more than a spark in the soul of a few great souls. Some of them have since then departed this vale of tears to voyage the seas of Samsara in search of a distant haven. While others who sensed and strongly suggested to us that Nirvana was around the corner from us have now retired into a heaven of silence. Only the voice of the wicked remains. Clear strident insistent. A beast slouching towards Colombo from the deep south to be born again in a cataclysm of blood and guts… if only metaphorical this time… save the revenge against their naysayers and deniers which must surely come… as surely as a dying sun rises in the south-east.

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