THE ACID TESTS – Not tried and found hard. But found hard. And not tried.
Our planet is in peril perhaps like never before. On the one hand, there’s a coronavirus running amok. On the other, viral political cultures are using the opportunity to unleash mayhem and madness under cover of COVID-19.
Many masks have fallen worldwide and humans everywhere are being tested in all manner of ways. And the current pandemic is only part of the problem. Only poets and philosophers would utterly embrace the truism that Earth is where “every prospect pleases but only Man is vile.”
There is value in recognising the fallenness of the face in the mirror. Take the acid tests below to see if you recognise who’s who, what’s what and where we’re heading.
Hands thoroughly washed? Face comfortingly masked? And yet, that strangely discomfiting feeling that something evil this way comes? Okay, you’re ready! Go.
2. TICK THE BOXES. Which of the following statements are true?
(If you’re apolitical or an ordinary human being hard-pressed by politics, a simple tick will do. If the political animal in you is rearing its ugly head, you may mark the preferred option with a thick black cross. If you think that the statement is wrong, place a cross there anyway – it’ll be good practice now that you know what is going to happen sooner than later.)
a. An arrested development is the root cause of arresting developments. (#JusticeForThariq …you’re allowed to check this out on Twitter)
b. Being ‘antisocial’ means hobnobbing only with your favourite aunties while overseas. (#PatriotismRedux …which some are calling the all-new ‘PR’)
c. Curfew comes from the Old French word for ‘cover-fire’. (Check your dic.)
d. Donald put the ‘dic’ back in ‘dictator’ and he isn’t the only one contending for that title, all-new PR or no PR at all.
e. In developed countries, #BlackLivesMatter. In older civilisations, you’d like to think we’d have learned by now that #AllLivesMatter but you may be let down.
3. MCQ. Pick the idea from the options below that sounds most right.
[Do note that there may be more than one right response buried there – like treasure (or unexploded ordnance) on sacred grounds. So look before you leap. Or refer it to a special task force for correction or clarification because that’s de rigueur now.]
A. “All animals are created equal…”
i. And some animals are created more equal than others.
ii. But black lives matter more than some other lives – especially, back home; where we can turn a blind eye on the blatant racism that’s been going on for eons.
iii. Can you clarify the question or address your issue to the correct task force?
B. “Be aware. Be alert.”
i. Because Sri Lanka needs more ‘wares’ and ‘lerts’.
ii. How about ‘loofs’, ‘parts’, ‘sides’, ‘boves’, ‘kimbos’ and ‘sunders’?
iii. A plot is afoot to stamp out pedestrian sensibilities such as pluralism.
C. Checks and balances between branches of government means:
i. I don’t know.
ii. I drink and I still don’t know, unlike the smart short character in GOT.
iii. I don’t drink and I still don’t know, because GOT – ah. – got game.
4. PICK THE RIGHT ’UN. Choose the disciplined, virtuous, lawful, etc. from among the statements given below.
A. A need of the hour is a society that is:
B. So how will we know which is which?
i. Ask and you shall receive a thundering slap administered military-style.
ii. Best not ask.
iii. Could you check with your friendly neighbourhood task force, please!
C. Can you give one example of a ‘disciplined, virtuous, lawful’ society?
i. Animal Farm.
ii. Before the riots, the Untied (sic) States of America. After the looting, the shooting (sick).
iii. Colombo’s café society and coffee klatches as well as cocktail circuits under curfew, COVID-19 and commissioned and non-commissioned acts of GOT.
D. What is the primary need of a ‘secure country’?
i. A strongman.
ii. Two strongmen.
iii. There to be no viable political opposition a.k.a. ‘mission accomplished’.
5. A. ESSAY I. “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” Critically analyse this Marxist statement. Falsely attribute it to Karl; but then realise that actually, it’s Groucho – and that he hit the nail on the head… (For extra Marx, translate ‘rem acu tetigisti’ from Latin into English – or if you’re Sajith, from English into English.)
B. ESSAY II. “Politics is the art of the possible.” Because we need two strongmen where one would do, attribute this concurrently and simultaneously to Bismarck as well as to Butler. Prove that this art is now impossible, or at best a forlorn hope or foregone conclusion. Better still, count discretion the better part of valour – do NOT translate GOT or ‘honi soit qui mal y pense’ – and be silent. Quick – send someone out to find Sajith so he can tell us what ‘concurrently and simultaneously’ means.
6. SHORT ANSWERS.
A. Archaeological artefacts are an aspect of ammunition under arrested development or arresting developments. Explode this ethno-religious myth while summarily dismantling the pluralistic nature of an entire province.
B. Be silent for a while and consider why no women or minorities are allowed on certain task forces. Do you know? Good… Now keep it to yourself.
C. Catch-2020 states that under cover of fire (Fr. ‘couvre-feu’), curfew or COVID-19, civilians must bow and scrape before disciplined strongmen; virtuous military officials; and awful, sorry lawful, political appointees to the bureaucracy – in that order. (Be disciplined, virtuous, lawful, etc. in your response here…)
D. Do you stand by the sovereignty of the people, the independence of the judiciary and the impartiality of law enforcement in the face of political opportunism? (Be seated.)
E. There is no point taking a stand on anything these days… be seated, I tell you – unless you’re out there on social media proving that George Floyd is not just another brick in the wall… or being equally outstanding back home… agitating for #JusticeForThariq!
7. FILL IN THE BLANK. Pick the best fit from the tips in parentheses. (NOTE… all definitions are translated from Newspeak.)
a. A ‘brighter future’ awaits _____ (me/he/we).
b. i. My country is ‘secure’ if and when those primarily responsible for 4-21 are _____ (arrested/developed/made party chairman). ii. My country is doubly ‘secure’ when a _____ (strongman/strongman) heads it. [Trick question, so think carefully.]
c. The best example of a ‘disciplined, virtuous, lawful’ society is _____ (military/bureaucracy/militarised bureaucracy/whatever they say it is).
d. Good task forces perform the following function best: _____ (be good/use force/take charge/avail themselves of the opportunity afforded to whitewash any cashiered cadre/brush aside any disturbance with brute force/check civilian insubordination to strongmen).
Well, how did you fare on the acid tests above? Where do you think we’re going and will we recognise the state of the nation under the present dispensation of civics and governance when we get there? Why do I – oh, you too! – feel like we’re all on an Animal Farm… suddenly equally vulnerable.
[Journalist (“I know nothing.”) | Editor-at-Large of LMD | Writer on viral political cultures | Student of satire as a strategy]