“Psst… have you heard the latest?” That’s the sly refrain I hear on every street corner these days. On the cocktail circuit, too, and certainly in our sitting and living rooms – not to mention sundry media and social networks. Virtually everywhere, there are ‘wars’ and ‘rumours of wars’ to entertain and amuse the idle classes (you, too, dears?). And suspicions and speculations and conspiracy theories. All of which are being flaunted, bandied about, and generally shown off. We are, it appears, a society with secrets to keep. And we are also a singular community with a plethora of secrets to share!
Pity, then, that some of the most shameful secrets in our society are not brought out into the open early enough to make a change for the better. Take the case of the star performer in the boxing ring who brought a smile to many patriotic faces. He floated like a butterfly, he would sting like a bee.
No one minded much what he did in his spare time. As it turned out, though, his lift and all-round oomph was helped in no little measure by an iffy little substance called nandrolone. The sting was in the tail. Today, all the one-time punters and supporters of our wunderkind have gone into hiding. Take a performance-enhancing drug in private, and you’re everyone’s golden boy; get caught out and you’re nobody’s child after the bust! Whatever happened to the maxim of the old schools – share the guts and the glory, share the agony and the shame?
Possibly on a larger scale than the sporting arena is the national playing field. In an age where the ‘Pax Sri Lankana’ has brought peace and plenty and progress and prosperity to putatively all our people, nobody wants to reopen the can of worms that is conveniently labelled as the past and placed on a high shelf out of reach. Live and let die was our motto then, way back when… and live and let live is our motto today – and for as long as the bubble lasts. As a loyal sports fan, no one likes to be the one to blow the whistle when the game is on and the pack is on the move forward, but there are lessons to be learned and reconciliations to be made before we can proceed without danger of the past repeating itself anytime in the future.
Present company must take stock of the fact that we have to share and sort out the sordid secrets of our recent past – if we are to move ahead to a sustainable future with a reasonable measure of security. This type of peace which passes all understanding also supersedes any sense of well-being that checkpoints and security zones – or the removal thereof – can bring.
Probably by this time in the piece there will be many of you out there, gentle readers, who are ready to turn the page. Believe me, I’m with you. Humankind cannot bear too much reality. But are we judging the book by its cover? Are there secrets worth sharing before we can flip forward to the next chapter? Perhaps these are more to do with present concerns than past issues and problems – but they must be tackled nonetheless.
Personally, there a panoply of these. For one, the true state of the economy (what is it, if you eschew the flattery of spinmeisters, the food of fools?). For another, the real state of affairs vis-à-vis our relationships with India and China respectively (what does our head say, where does our heart lie?). Then again, the nature, condition, and degree of our people’s welfare – with this column being especially concerned with the woes of women workers in our apparel sector, on our plantations, and overseas in what are effectively ‘slave markets’.
And also, never out of mind although never plainly in sight – the plight of the myriads affected by our erstwhile protracted conflict: men who bore arms and lost their limbs and much more as a result; children and orphans in camps tucked away for the sake of so-called courtesy by our citizenry who would otherwise be upset by the hard facts; a lost generation of infantry who were used and abused in the propaganda wars and as human shields. By the way, lest the nationalists and chauvinists and pseudo-patriots take umbrage, there is much good about the way our nation-state is guiding the destiny of the country. Be that as it may, there are promises to keep… and miles to go before they sleep.
Praise the powers that be who are wise enough, brave and bold enough, cool and calm and courageous enough, and last but not least responsible enough, to take a dekko at this. Take a gander, government – reconnoitre the ground, do.
Perhaps the beginning of wisdom in this matter is that we will never be perfect as a society. But a first step in getting as close as is reasonable in this present dispensation is more openness, honesty, and perseverance in confessing the bad, confirming the good, pre-empting the ugly. Shalom be to the society that has the guts to do this… and the good fortune to have a government that will take action to ensure it happens under their watch.