I don't pretend to understand what happens in the stellar realms to make the traditional old year new. But I know it has to do with the sun moving from the House of Meena (Pisces) to the House of Mesha (Aries). Sometimes one tends to reject all things astrological as being bunkum. And in a rational and scientific age we feel we can prove that it is. But sometimes I stop to consider that philosopher-kings such as the Magi mentioned in a certain Nativity did not know the difference between their arcane mysteries and what we today would call astronomy.
For the purposes of this piece, I simply want to adopt the hypothesis that something does indeed happen in the zodiac. Somewhere out there in the dark cold void of interstellar space, where our star is speeding at millions of miles per hour through a silent vault in its timeless orbit around the centre of the galaxy. That something is: that around this time every year, our sun literally shows a new face. My question is, as we celebrate the 'Aluth Avurudda' of 2012, can we?
On the face of it, the prognosis is not good. Despite externalities, we may still be a nation deeply cleft and riven. Certainly we find common ground - cricket, patriotic protests, the cost of living, quality of life, death the great democratic leveller. Underneath the veneer of simulated unity lurk the disturbing divisions of race as it is perceived, caste as it is practised, religious and political-economical creeds which corrupt faiths and family values alike, and the application of language to bifurcate one country into three. Not even the assurances of peace and harmony and general goodwill by wishful-thinking benevolent tyrants or the remonstrance of more malevolent political and military messiahs who subscribe to the "we are all one because we are good patriots" ethic can convince us that all is well in the realm of national unity.
But beneath the placid surface of cultural and sociopolitical complacency in the House of Maya (Illusion), there may be some cause for hope. It was seen in its most positive form when an ethos of oneness descended on all and sundry throughout the land during the Cricket World Cup. It is best not seen in its most negative form when the people take the law into their hands for the common good… when the police, for example, fail to do so. There is a sense of unity that surpasses socio-political and cultural norms - and perhaps this is the national identity which will help us transcend all that is ill under the sun. Even our authoritarian political masters may not be able to resist the movement of this bright star into the House of Moksha (Liberation).
This lends itself to a sunnier diagnosis for what may well lie on the road ahead for Sri Lanka. Two considerations strengthen my resolve in this regard. The first of these is the ultimate comfort best expressed in the tonic realization that "and this, yes this too and even that also, shall pass". The second is a growing suspicion that - in the same manner which the body of the nation is speeding up to a frenzy, slowing down to a crawl, coming to a standstill, and gathering momentum once again - the soul of the nation too is taking a step back in order to take a leap forward.
It is in this spirit that we propose the shaping and formation of an all-new national identity. One that will eschew the traditional ethno-linguistic markers that serve no purpose other than to point out our differences. This new ethic may be based on three aspects of our existent island psyche: those traits we already own, others which we sorely lack, a few which presently lie dormant and we would do well to revive. The initials of these characters begin with the corresponding letters, so I call it my 'PHD thesis'.
This politeness of princes we may lack in interpersonal affairs, but there is a demonstrable tendency towards its observation in matters official and auspicious. Building on this potential to note, commit to, and keep to time, we yearn for a day when promises made are kept, pledges are honoured in the observance than the breach, accuracy and veracity go hand in hand with the honour our shame-oriented society craves, and the trains (as well as everything else) run on time… without the benefit of a dictatorship to ensure it, as the saying has it.
The queen of graces we already possess in good measure. Pity is that it is directed towards strangers in lonely mercantile arenas like tourism. Think what a wonderful reputation for generosity and graciousness we could enjoy if the tendency to please, entertain, and benefit some other wayfarer along life's path was turned on its axis… towards our neighbour, our immediate community, our foe.
A kingly virtue which lies dormant, we need a philosopher-king to stir us up again to revive an idea which we can become best known for as a nation. In simple terms, it means courtesy, kindness, honesty, integrity, doing the highest good one knows. The Golden Rule sums it up. Only do unto others as you would have done to yourself.
One last thing: if our leaders model this, the nation will follow. But if they won't, or don't, or can't, we the people will have to set them an example worth emulating.
A happy un-traditional new identity to us all!