Come let us build a new CLUB for us

I’m constantly amused by the sheer number of historical quotes that can be adapted and re-presented in such a way so as to take the mickey out of our elected representatives. For example, there’s the chief executive who gave orders that in case of an emergency, he was to be woken up no matter where he was – even if it was at a cabinet meeting! And then again, one wag recently quipped that political leadership is about getting people to do what you wanted them to do – with the trick being to make them think now that they, too, wanted to do it!

Not that there’s anything intrinsically funny about political leaders who sleep while the country goes to hell in a handcart. Just that too many of our politicos may be tempted these days to focus on building bridges over rivers, constructing cricket stadiums, and erecting iconic places of religious worship to symbolize peace. These cannot take the place of building bridges between people, demolishing walls that separate and fences that hedge in, and reconstructing peace with justice in such a manner that symbols are replaced by concrete accomplishments. Trust our elected representatives will see the point (read that last sentence again, dears… slowly) – even if they are not amused?

In similar vein, it costs nothing except to cause no little tears and laughter when I juggle nation-building slogans in one hand and make rude gestures with the other – like a politico with a hot potato that he can’t let go of. Some of the recent maxims and mottos of the upwardly mobile ‘patriotic’ people who run the show and ruin the scenery do not bear closer inspection. For instance, the blasé one about a prosperous future for us all reads more like a cool little ice cube of a political promise that evaporates under the eye of the noonday sun. Of course, political agendas and nation-rebuilding projects are de rigueur these days… There is still such a thing as winning the local government election – we do live in a democracy, dears. No, really.

The point is more what the priorities of our political leadership are. No genuinely nationalistic brown-skinned native can carp and cavil too much about ports for the profit of an emerging regional superpower, or international stadia to which it takes the locals many hours to travel. But this holds true only if you’re not standing ankle-deep in the mud and slime from the recent rains which serve as a bed, road, and grave in your friendly neighbourhood refugee camp. Also, it would be easier for you to see the brighter side of a cabinet whose numbers need to be counted on both hands of ten people – if the work of your hands had not been washed away before it could be harvested. Else, the middlemen allegedly close to some members of that cabinet could grow fat on the labour of your thinning arms.

Such a state of affairs has many evils at its root. Cabals, corruption, cronyism, and capitalism no doubt play a major part in keeping the farce of subsistence farmers and factory workers in a presentable state for the census and other statistics. But the bottom line is that whatever is rotten in the status quo of the masses will not come close to being eradicated if the politically savvy minority from whose ranks our leaders come don’t wise up and humble down soon enough.

The stark reality is that the grim picture you see being painted before your eyes is the abject failure of generations of Sri Lankan leaders to look hard enough at the issues, long enough for a lasting solution, and honestly enough at themselves.

So, sorry; we may have to hold the applause for development in the south until the dilapidated east and north are sorted. We will thank you, in the meantime, to focus more on making good on your promises, rather than making your promises look good. Please excuse us from your revels while we slip away from the party to lend a helping hand to the poor, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, widows and orphans, the sick, the suffering, beggars, the blind, and our ignored neighbours who bleed into the gutter. They, by far, are the largest membership of this land… And we must build a place for them to live…

Will you join our CLUB? Come. Let. Us. Build. Sri Lanka has need, now more than ever, of those who will invest much in bringing others into our circle of prosperity (like a family of chickens), than those who will waste their time talking about serving the nation while feathering their own nests (like a family of cuckoos).

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