No abject humility, no prideful posturing, only human dignity


President Sirisena with the new Army Commander

Cassandra was tossing around on her reclining sopawa, where her brain works best, scrabbling around for subjects to vent her venom on, this week. She is sick to her gills of the self-promotion of Sajith P and the turmoil (apparent though not advertised) within the green human elephant party (not all rogue elephants though, it must be acknowledged) and physically and mentally fatigued viewing the budding presidential hopeful of the Pohottu Party being toted from temple to temple, lauded by Buddhist monks as the saviour then and of future Mother Lanka. So, as Cass was bemoaning, dried of inspiration and material to wreath her wrath around, she suddenly watches a video sent by a friend. My word! What truths were told by veteran actor, Buddhadasa Vithanachchi, on the current situation and how we ordinary persons should think and act. So, thank you very much Buddhadasa and my friend who sent the video zooming to Cass across the ether.

You may well demand, sick by now of Cass’ verbal perambulations, to come to the point. So here I come to the subject of my Friday penmanship. The subject thereof is how we ordinary human beings, Sri Lankans here and more so Sinhalese persons, should think and behave in this time of elections.

Subservient Us

Buddhadasa, not indicating he was reading a script or was repeating what he had committed to memory, very conversationally told us his listeners to remember us as humans had innate dignity which we should uphold. He mentioned that we had been too used to being subservient, first to our own rulers, then the radala aristocrats and near aristocrats and next to our colonial rulers, such that subservience was ingrained in us. How true that is. See how people bend backwards to their politicians; bend in lowliness to those in authority. Buddhadasa cited how we address everyone as Sir. Not at all necessary, he pronounced, as from the Prez down to the MP or Pradeshiya position holder, WE elected them, thus they had to serve us and show us courtesy. Government servants are paid by us through taxes we cough up, he added. So they needed to serve us. Also from the highest to the lowest job holder, they were all meant to do essential service, some with more responsibility but not necessarily on a higher status level.

How true, which facts we forget. He said WE suffer Heenamanaya - abject lowering of our position, subsuming our inherent dignity to someone cloaked in temporary power. Never to forget that!

The puffed up politician

Buddhadasa, the actor, puffed himself up and mimicked the present politician who pushes his chest forward and struts around with pride. Politicians have power, all so temporary, because we give them power through our votes. All so true, though we seem to forget this. Cass remembers, however. At a recent event, every time a politician – and they were there from the highest – left the hall at the BMICH – people stood up. Cass did not as she stands up for only those she respects wholeheartedly like a teacher of hers or a good friend or elder relative of hers – getting fewer as the years roll by.

The video pointed out that the politicians who ride in convoys were taught their first lesson with a recent tooting of horns down Diyawanne way by motorists stopped to allow a VIP to proceed unhindered by others driving. Buddhadasa said that JR did not have this even during very tumultuous times. Yes, so true. These security vehicles zooming past with others stopped must cease. Cass remembers a time she was asked to get down into a drain as either MR or his Defence Secretary was due to whizz past that road. She said she would look the other way but that was not sufficient; she had to scramble down to a drain. Later, a man stuck till the motorcade passed asked her: "Which idiotic brother drove that way?" So no need at all, no place in the future for Adimanaya – self importance; assumed superiority.

The human being with

innate dignity

We tend to forget the fact, mentioned in many Constitutions, that we are all born equal. Also the fact of the dignity of labour. Thus, we tend to bow and some even scrape to those who suddenly get power. How much sickening sycophancy there is in supposedly Free Sri Lanka. See the crowds that press round Gotabhaya – pohottus, a shame to the real lotus bud! Give him air, Cass shouts.

The video Cass quotes today said that it was true there were very many poor people – otherwise why the necessity for Samurdhi aid. But being a human being we all are heir to human dignity and must maintain our Abhimanaya – self-respect.

Which reminds Cass of a time she was at a summer course of training in a University in Wales, wonderful Wales, poor then, but prosperous now. A maid cleaned the rooms and would chat to Cass who was often homesick. This woman would drive herself to work in a posh car, get into an apron and go on her knees cleaning the stairway and toilets. Dignity of labour was hers. And in our country with a 2500 year old cultural heritage and all that, women proceed to Arab new-rich countries to wear head gear and slave for uncultured men and women. Worse – ask them to work in a Sri Lankan home. No, they would say and proceed westwards to be really and truly menial.

Two Presidents and their latest

Whatever patriots may say and nationalists, Cass feels the Prez was foolhardy in his appointment of the controversial war winning hero as Head of the Army succeeding a very much approved of Army Commander. Shavendra Silva was controversial and the Prez continues being strongheaded in the face of sure fire reduction of foreign aid and such like. GSP+ was saved by a delay in implementing capital punishment. Now, we risk losing much for the general public and the working less privileged by the stubborn appointment of one person. True, maybe deserving and all that but we have to keep in mind we are a small, poor nation. International relations are of vital importance to us. We need America as much as we cosy up to China. Being cognizant of our true position in the world is not being subservient or losing our country’s dignity. Pragmatism comes first.

The American Prez is of course behaving true to nature – peeved that his country could not buy Greenland and thus piqued against Denmark, shown by withdrawing a promised visit. Much the better for Denmark!

Cass leaves you with the thought needed by all us Sri Lankans. Never lower the human dignity we are entitled to as a birthright whether born in a remote village hut or a posh Colombo nursing home!


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