Alternatives, what do they mirror..?

-By Virgil

(Lanka-e-News -29.March.2024, 5.25 PM) “To grow up requires a whole life but to become old one night is enough” ~Ignazio Silone

Sri Lankan voter has many alternatives; his allegiance to the status quo seems to be fading away; his new loyalties are being built but have not reached the desired level. His analyses, his scrutiny, his industrious pursuit of basic happiness in life and his tireless demands to educate his children have not been satisfied. His curiosities have not been quenched. What else, other than pursuing his life-goals, could he have done? His dependence on government has increased, yet he knows that it's futile to place more and more faith in that too. When the element of faith breaks down, when desperation creeps in, his desire to pursue other avenues takes a new dimension and he starts communicating those options, firstly with his family and secondly with his friends and associates. The life he had known from his childhood becomes increasingly blurry; the mist of helplessness shrouds his judgment and search for fresh answers and newer horizons reaches a point of despair and desperation.

At this juncture the voter, whether he is gainfully employed or not, begins an unsophisticated search for more radical truths. Demagogues become heroes and crafty strategists tend to shape his opinions and even his random comments. A conundrum of debate and discussion sometimes turn into vociferous arguments. Patience becomes a luxury and listening to other points of view shorter by the day.

Our voter has become a pathetic victim of his environment, both objective and subjective. What was learnt decades ago is a weakening haze; shadows of the past follow him wherever he ventures into. A maddening rush to rectify what was judged as right in the past takes over the whole process. Then he begins another new search. That search is not at the end of a strategic venture he has planned and plotted with his friends and family. He has not consciously sat down and drawn the designs of a sophisticated architecture. He is not a formally qualified person to do such deep studies and erudite expositions. His is a natural response to the compelling issues that continue to thrash him daily. His wife has started complaining about the shortages of household items that are being purchased now on a day-to-day basis.

The very existence has come down to filling the stomach with whatever is available at home as a frugal meal. His only child, a son studying at the village school too is suffering, though he is not complaining for he does not want to drive his loving father to more radical ends. Village life has become unbearably hard; its demands have been lessened but even those meager wants have had a immoderate change in the behavior of the father, mother and the child. These deep physical and psychological scars are now exposing the frail and weak men, women and children in the remote hamlets in the land.

President Wickremasinghe's proclamations about development and the statistical garbage emitted by those IMF pundits do not penetrate the ordinary minds of the ordinary folks of the land. For them, three square meals and availability of medicines at the village hospital and inexpensive maintenance of the child's education and the quality of that education matter most. Political theories and expression of daily issues in dialectical context go a way over the heads of rural men and women. The only solace of the average rural man is a visit to the illegitimate drinking spot located far inside the hamlet, almost on the border of the woods that surround this sleepy village in the heartland of the country.

That is not the way to live one's life in the twenty first century. He begins to hate those who led this nation to such lamentable economic realities; his rage may reach the intolerable level one of these days and yet, if he does not exercise patience in the coming months, all what the other side, especially AKD and his NPP, say will have gone wasted. Consequently, the burden on those who clamor for a 'system change' would have to practice even greater degree of patience and withstanding power to prevent an immature implosion on the side of those who have been the subjects of the mass meeting-attendance.

Alternatives may exist, but realization of the aims and desired goals of those alternatives is far from being a reality. Educated men and women are very conscientiously raising their doubts about the ways and fashions in which the NPP is pronouncing their solutions to the burning issues of the country. What's their concrete plan to alleviate the heavy economic weight that is literally placed on the rural families? Do they have a solution that can be immediately implemented after coming to power?  Do they have the inner strength and determination to contain post-election violence which is bound to erupt if and when they win? AKD and the NPP simply cannot ignore this phenomenon which has become almost a vicious tradition in Sri Lanka's post-election sociopolitical playbook.

However much the Rajapaksas and Wickremasinghes are held in utter contempt and hatred, there should be no space or room for them to be contemptible victims of post-election violence and mayhem. If the NPP is serious about governing, they have to show their commitment to 'good governance' from the first hour onward, from the time the new President is sworn in. Governance, if the NPP is contemplating to be good, fair and balanced, carries within itself a very acute sense of responsibility, accountability and transparency. None of these qualities are present in the current administration; nor were they in the previous administrations ever since 1948. Seventy six years of political expediency, governing inefficiencies, economic mismanagement and cultural corruption is enough. There is no way in which could we advance as a culturally mature nation and an exemplary people if we resort to the same old practices of petty and thuggish fury.

Alternatives to the NPP will get together before the next Presidential elections. The people will be offered a binary choice: Us or the other (NPP). The status quo cannot be bargained away, they (in this case us) will say. They have been running this country for three quarters of a century and more. They are very well and deeply entrenched in our soil and that experience alone is what the National People's Power (NPP) should be concerned about when they sit down to plan the rest of their journey. The slightest move towards a centralized governing mechanism such as what exists in Russia and Hungary today will send a totally dicey signal to the educated and intelligent segment of the country in particular and the masses in general. You might not attain perfection; yet an attempt to be perfect is no sin, nor is it a lonesome, unachievable feat. If you want the general masses to endure adversity and hardship, at least for another year or two, you must show it to them by suffering with them at every nook and corner. The NPP cannot throw this chance away like a drunken sailor having reached a port after long months in high and stormy seas.

The cruel ground realities will hit your face; they will continue to torment your body and torture your mind. What you will ascend to is not a political platform. The whole government machinery is now in your charge and the slightest mistake in the navigational skill would be multiplied and correspond to the suspicions and doubts raised on the political platform by your political adversaries. There will not be time to pontificate from atop the political stage. The people have listened to you and lent their faith and trust to you and you alone for a prescribed period of time. If you choose to forget that, then you will do it at your own peril. Such is the burden of power; such is the weight of responsibility and such is the load of duty.

Training your political speakers is not enough. Such training programs should be expanded from politics to governance. All signs are that the NPP is having a well oiled political machine; if so, allow the platform speakers to graduate from politics to good governance; from sloganeering to hard work in harsher conditions; from eight hours to sixteen to eighteen hours a day. None of your achievements in the field of politics would be judged lightly. The average voter, the average citizen is far more critical and unmerciful than one would think.

-By Virgil

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Virgil's Collection

by     (2024-03-29 11:59:50)

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