I had been penning long pieces using what the subeditors at your favourite daily are pleased to call ‘dictionary words’, the idiots – all such words are in a dic!
But the error of my ways has been pointed out to me, thank you so much. And I thought of repenting for a change, which is more than one can expect of politicos who can’t remember or sportspersons who don’t recall because they were drunk.
Sorry to start off on the wrong foot, as it were, as the bishop said to the actress. However, I thought given the nature of the column, it was necessary to clear the air with a prayer, some confession and a few Hail Mary’s thrown in for good measure. If the latter fails, I can switch to the bloody version of it.
So here I am: a not-so-old man in a not-so-dry month not waiting for rain…
A friend of mine once warned me not to jump to conclusions as concerns the methods and motives of our elected and appointed mandarins. There is, he said, as the actress said to the bishop, much more than meets the eye. He’s a former journalist and presently a high-flying partner in a law firm; I’m not sure I can take his word for it at face value. But one suspects there’s some sense in the suspicion only wastepaper adorns the tip of the political iceberg as revealed in media, press conferences, Hansard, etc.
The real garbage lies beneath the surface, despite the tawdry coughing up of politicos who unashamedly/shamefacedly (mask on/off) confess to being in the pay of perpetual or temporary supporters in business – and never mind the stakeholders whose agenda they should be executing, anyway.
So pardon me for being cynical about even such confessions. Forgive me if I say just about everybody has the right to be blasé about the bottom falling out of honesty and integrity in island politics. Excuse me while I puke… more in protest, than the severe revulsion I feel whenever such an exposé hits the scandal-sheets – from central bank governors being campaign financiers to the powers that be, to mayoral reputations literally flushed down the toilet.
On balance, the incumbents can’t be as bad as we like to think they are. At least, they are cannon fodder to the machine-gun of our cocktail circuit and champagne suite malice. No need to fear a midnight visit by masked men or the dread sight of a white van with tinted glasses shadowing you across town.
But beyond the absence of the abject terror that the state once visited upon its citizens who had the temerity to dissent, what salutary achievement has the government of the day to celebrate, bar peace sans justice? If one gives them credit where it is due – 19A, RTI, OMP (and all that jazz, for there is more) – I’d be hard-pressed to discern a real change. The new political culture is simply the usual suspects but of a different party, playing musical chairs and silly buggers at the same time… And the taxpayer – to say nothing of future generations indebted to other countries – is footing the bill for the party while we pretend parts of Sri Lanka still are and/or not any longer a sovereign state.
From the sublime to the ridiculous… In the midst of a lack of forward momentum, there are the mediocrities who help us middle-class misfits muddle through. For who can deny the premier vision of a would-be statesman who issues instructions from on high to cinema-hall owners requiring them to hand out 3D glasses to the hoi polloi and state the new price of inclusion on the stub?
There are perhaps a few charitable ways to salvage the technocratic reputation of our champion of the masses. However I’m not about to waste precious column inches essaying a defence of the indefensible. Except to say one has albeit reluctantly to admire a politician who doesn’t mind been regarded as a duffer as long as he can get on with the business of subverting the popular will with his castle-in-the-air ideas.
And there are less salutary charges one could lay at his exalted feet. But I’m not going there. Because one must retain a sense of proportion, after all, even in the throes of a fit of pique at the pettiness of it all. For while the grand larcenists of the late great regime are still at large – and threatening the return of the Sith with the revenge of the Dark Lord himself thrown in to boot – there are greater issues to keep awake at night over than the fumbling bumbling of even a Machiavellian Mr. Bean.
In all of this, I am acutely aware as a citizen that polities can be ungrateful as much as elected parties can be faithless when confronted with pragmatic necessities. To stay in power as long as possible and safeguard one’s future potential to drive the reforms agenda is the lie that even the best of a mediocre lot seem to have sold themselves. It is the prerogative of priests, psychologists and prostitutes to believe that they have the panacea if only the people they serve would realign their potential to powerful political ambitions. So Do It My Way, they say in dulcet tones – while the country goes to watery limbo in a borrow-boat.
At least the goons aren’t out to get you any longer. So be grateful for small mercies. If you see one rattling sabre on the horizon, pass him by on the other side with a polite nod for old time’s sake and that walk in the park you enjoyed while he dealt with a nasty nuisance in the north.
As for me, I’m turning over a new leaf. Less fuss; no storm and stress; few expectations. Let the small number of straight folks left in civil society – after that devastating revelation that academics and professionals are no less susceptible to the perpetual corrupter: money in the bank – continue to critically engage government for all the good it will do. We are better off lending a helping hand where flood and fever desolate, and leaving realpolitik in the grubby paws of not-so-perpetual politicos.
(Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower)
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