POWER – people’s – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
Tomorrow, you could be able to shape destiny. Not your fated lives alone. But those of your children, loved ones, and unborn generations of Sri Lankans, as well as others whom we blessed islanders may influence… should we get the electoral equation right! And I – for one (and I know I’m not alone) – would like to stop leaning on the karma of custom, rationalising a convention lack of wisdom, and eschewing this present political thinking.
Today, it’s time for a new paradigm to capture our imagination. We – the people – are masters and commanders of our country’s present and future direction. And notwithstanding the formation of yet another task force, we must not let our politicians hijack the nation-state.
Yesterday, patriotism – together with nationalism etc – were the first or last refuges of the scoundrel. That can change. If we’re able to rewrite the history-books right, as a true patriot (Kumar Sangakkara) recently recommended. If we’re ready to stand together as a citizenry to save our polity from its governors! If we’re willing to accept that we as an electorate have the power to transform our beloved homeland from an imaginary utopia in which things are topsy-turvy into a dream that has been in the making too long…
If you agree that the first duty of the true patriot and real nationalist is to rescue the realm from its tyrants… If you aspire to live in a country where all beings are equal and no being is more equal than others… If you believe that those who voted for corrupt or criminal politicos are not victims but accomplices…
Take. The. Tests. Below.
Are you happy not to have been infected by a novel coronavirus? First, spare a thought for those known and unknown who’ve been touched by the dread hand of COVID-10 here and there. Then, thank your deity, lucky stars or whatever divinity you believe shapes your end for grace or good luck or fortune that favours the few but fells the many with SARS-CoV-2. And finally, take courage in the resilience of our island race… even though that ‘race is not to the swift, nor riches to the wise, nor bread to the hungry; but time and chance happen to us all’. Dizzy reading that…
2.Tick the boxes below.
Which of the following statements are true for you?
a.I identify principally as a Sri Lankan.
b.My race is ‘human’ (though often/sometimes barely!).
c.Sri Lanka is my forever-(island)-home…
d.That we still don’t have a pluralistic inclusive national identity constantly bothers me.
e.There are many cultures, ethnic groups, et al. who have a right to live and be at liberty and pursue their inimical happiness here.
f.Plural means all identities are equal in stature and significance and must be treated so under the supreme – and subsequently arising – laws of the land.
g.Good if our new national identity can embrace a larger vision of Sri Lanka than a mere melting-pot of tribes and tongues. Great if such an emerging trans-national identity can aspire to individual and collective markers that eschew race, caste, tongue, tribalism, etc., and embrace the ethos (e.g. hospitality) that our islanders have been reputed to possess and renowned to practise for centuries. Better yet if we can – someday, somehow. – come to be identified at least in the region as a Punctual, Courteous, Responsible island-race… that’s a PCR test devoutly to be wished!
h.Equality must trump equity. Equity is when all are treated the same irrespective of their individual needs. Equality is when all are treated appropriately well according to their wishes and desires that are not inimical to the individuality of the Other. (*You may take a breather to let the difference sink in…)
i.Integrity in character is greater than importance in reputation – for all citizens alike
j.Just do it. Well, did you tick all nine above? So welcome – to the super-human race… we can do it – together.
3.MCQ. Pick one that fits you the best.
Loving your country without being so ardent about it that you alienate anyone.
Being at peace with yourself and your neighbour in a pluralistic and inclusive society.
Not minding how different – or why – the Other who shares the Blessed Isle with you is… culturally, socially, ethnically, linguistically, personally, interpersonally, etc.
All of what is above.
Believing your nation-state has the potential to be the best in the world… even if it is not quite there yet.
Becoming the best that you can be as a citizen so that your country can be the best nation-state that it could become.
Being at peace with how well or worse other countries around you are faring and becoming an agent for their transformation too at your hands.
All of what is above.
A deep-seated anxiety about yourself and your place in the universe such that you feel the urgent need to act in a way to threaten, intimidate, marginalise, etc. others.
It is the first refuge of unscrupulous politicos down the centuries and in every power stratum since our Independence.
The last bastion of divisive hatred that must be challenged, stormed, and made to crumble into the ashes of our history-books if Sri Lanka is to have any hope of regaining its rightful place in the sun.
All of what is above.
4.Fill in the blank. (Feel free to be honest to yourself.)
I primarily identify as ___ .
My idea of ‘One Country, One Law’ is ___ .
The purpose of a ‘Disciplined, Virtuous, Lawful’ society is ___ .
Only way to avoid another ‘CBSL Bond Scam’ is ___ .
An event like 21 April 2019 won’t happen ever again in Sri Lanka if ___ .
What would you do to prevent rape/child prostitution/public sexual harassment? ___ .
State the three most pressing issues faced by the economy? ___ . Give up? ___ . To whom would you hand the helm of the ship of state to see that it is done safely and securely, with due cares to sovereignty, sustainability etc? ___ .
How would you overcome the burning issues of poverty, crime, garbage-disposal if you were elected to office? ___ (Failing which, who do you trust to do the same?) ___
A. Essay I. I love Sri Lanka?
B. Essay II. My trust is hereby placed in ye elected representatives to serve the country’s best national interests, and that is why I will vote for whom I will vote for tomorrow. (Pl also tick the box I WILL VOTE TOMORROW ___.)
6. Short answers.
A. Who do I trust most to guide the destiny of my country? Whom the least?
B. Which actions – from hate speech on public forums to violence in the ‘august (ahem) assembly’ – will I not tolerate or ignore or condone, but vehemently oppose and deny a chance for activation again – from among the candidates that the respective parties have seen fit (though many of them are blatantly unfit) to nominate as parliamentary candidates?
C. Why do I vote once in 5-6 years, and then abdicate my duty as a responsible citizen to coax, check, cajole, correct, champion, critique and convince my member of parliament to do his or her duty as pledged and solemnly promised?
D. What strategies and tactics – including humdrum ones such as writing a letter to the editor, as well as larger activities: from group-interest watchdogs to shepherding social media at my disposal – can must or shall I employ from the time of this election, throughout this House’s tenure, to the next?
E. Where is my polling centre? How early do I plan on getting there? What safety precautions am I planning to take?
I took the tests myself and must admit at being in bondage to conventional thinking about power, governance, civics and citizenship. As well as my thought-to-be limited role in it!
But there is still today – for the sake of all our shared sufferings in yesterdays past – to make amends for all our tomorrows to come…
Shall spend a quiet day reflecting on the shape of things to be! Would you also?
There is a sense (more than ever before perhaps) that Sri Lanka the Resplendent Isle is on the shore of some sea-change into something rich and strange. It is a signature tune I’ve sung many times before but gone unheard.
However much we may have lamented in private or pointed fingers in our comfort zones or lamentably posted on social media, the real game-changer – like the truth – is out there.
Therefore… Go. Do. – Be the change you want to see. Vote. Vote well! Vote wisely, wonderfully, well…
(Journalist | Editor-at-Large of LMD | Writer on the poll | Student of the acid test)