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Rajpal's Column

28th February 1999

Hearts, matches and easy money

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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The idle prattle over some of the new fangled radio waves hit an absolute nadir around two weeks back when Sinhala announcers decided to go mushy over "Valentine ge dinaya" English language announcers did no better, but at least the poor blokes seemed to have been compelled to pay at least an iota of attention to the Day, because this "Valentine business" had already become popular with their audiences.

For Sinhala language announcers pushing Valentine's Day down the throats of young gullible and impressionable listeners was not by any reckoning easy stuff. They obviously betrayed the fact that they were alien to this concept of lovers being made suckers, because even in America that's what Valentine's Day really is all about".

Though this is a free country and though whipping up an artificial Valentine's fever is not a criminal act, the intellectual violence that is committed on a listnership by pumping up the Valentine concept is not meager by any yardstick. But Valentine's Day promotions are only a precursor as far as most media and commercial organizations are concerned.

The next thing that will hit unsuspecting listeners would be Mother's Day and Father's Day, both being calendar dates that rake in a lot of buckshee for card , flower and cake manufacturers in the United States and the Western world.

Now, society doesn't exactly need an Anagarika Dharmapala to make the point that Valentine's Day and Mother's Day and Father's Day are not events that should be foisted on a Sri Lankan culture that has the anangaya to look after lovers and an abundance of common good sense to look after parents.

But the commercial behemoth is powerful; even those who want to drive beer down the drainpipe do not so much as raise a whimper about the highway robbery that goes on in the guise of Valentine's and all kinds of other Days that are being introduced to Sri Lankan calendars.

This highway robbery is accomplished in making young and impressionable sections of society inculcate certain 'felt needs,' to use the marketing lingo back on the marketeers themselves.

For example, a Sinhala radio station aired a phone in on the last Mother's Day, whatever Day that was. In the course of the program youthful listeners were asked what they think about Mother's Day and Father's Day and their introduction to our scheme of things.

The programme didn't entertain, by its design any dissenting answers. But the answers gave a good indication of how fast a target group can be indoctrinated. One girl who phoned in said for example that Mother's Day and Father's Day are positive developments because there are no such days in the Sri Lankan culture to spare a thought for parents.

There is no need for a sermon here about essentially Buddhist and Christian Sri Lankan cultural values that placed a social premium on attitudes such as respecting elders. But, the inanity of the notion that we need a parents' Day to remember fathers and mothers is self evident.

The Western value system has anointed two Days of the calendar Mother's and Father's Day partly because within the Western value system there is no time and space to think about parents on other Days of the calendar year (Only Mother's and Father's Day are for parents; in the general scheme of things they are kaputs on the rest of the years three hundred and sixty three Days [and sixty four in a leap year])

Though it doesn't merit wasting ink on spurious events such as Valentine's Day Mothers and Fathers Day which are being shoved down peoples throats for purely commercial purposes, there is some relevance in saying that it must be a thoroughly beaten down and busted culture that seeks to replace its own values with transparently perverse imported concepts.

If the percolation of such things are inevitable at least what's disastrous is the servile and spineless way these cultural invasions are being received.

Even the vociferous sections of society which are given to grandiose concepts such as creating a Buddhist state are not sensitive to these subtle invasions because they are busy keeping their minds on more monumental things.

In the meantime college kids are being sold down the drain, their identity being traded for the exorbitant price of a rose or a musical greeting card that says "I Love You Papa."

Tailpiece:.....Since we are done with the downside maybe there is time to spare a thought for more sanguine matters.

There has been a great effort among many old boys of two better known educational institutions to get the President of the country to sit at the inter school big match. They have argued unsuccessfully so far, that the inter school big match between the two schools has hitherto been distinguished by the presence of the country's head of state even if the incumbent head of state didn't belong to any of these schools.

But getting a lady to be present at a boys school big match has been a tall order even for these consummate lobbyists because this lady doesn't believe in big matches, which in any event would seem to go against her politically left leaning grain.

But not having the President between the heads of the two schools has created a kind of a vacuum that is heartrending to the power elite in these two hoary old educational institutions.

A big match without a head of state to grace the occasion, they lament, is something like a plate of rice without parripu and pol kudu sambol to go with it.

But a lady can be wooed, and so what's good with a bunch of big boys who can't put their money where there mouths are, to try and convince a sitting President to come sit with them and break a little bread at the big match?


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