- Seniority is power
- Unaccountable brutality is the true measure of “real” power
- Power must be demonstrated often – by sudden acts of physical and mental cruelty
- The prospect of random cruelty is an essential ingredient of fear
- Fear is the only true form of respect
- Servility and obedience are the only possible expressions of respect
- Kindness: occasional minor acts of mercy by the powerful to prove their confidence. Too many acts of kindness is proof of dimming strength/power
- Equality is an illusion created by the dominating few for the dominated many
- Among the powerful there are no peers. Only snarling rivals
- The powerful are infallible. Specially when they are wrong
- Highlighting the mistakes of the powerful (however minor) is an unforgivable insult
- In such matters a powerless one is brutalised to save face, increase fear (and thus power)
- Brutal public physical and/or verbal humiliation enforces fear (respect)
- Discipline is word for brutality used by the powerful
- Disobedience is the failure of lessers to meet contradictory rules of their betters
- Rules are to be obeyed or not understood
- The individual has no rights. Only a duty to obey his betters
- Punishments are for getting caught
- Smallest infractions are harshly punished to maintain discipline (fear) and face
- Rules create a market for exemptions.
- Servility is the currency for buying exemptions
- Patronage is developed through servility. It is key to survival and becoming powerful
- Tradition is the repetition of meaningless rituals over time
- The purpose of tradition is to numb and groom lessers for greater servility
- The rituals of tradition creates a language and opportunities to negotiate patronage deals between lessers and their betters
- Ideals are for sermons, institutional songs and justifying traditions entombed in silly Pali/Latin mottos
- The school song is the ultimate meaningless ritual and symbol of hypocrisy
The list goes on. I’m sure some of you old boys you are already hot under the collar.
Yes yes it is very wrong, long and horrible. But you get the drift. With enough good single malts I’ll bang out a longer list. I prefer not to. Feel free to contribute. I went to an all boys school. Perhaps the girls had it different.
My childhood in Sri Lanka’s free colonial eduction system gave me many gifts. A refined sense of cynicism. An appreciation for the absurd brutality of life. I learned to become invisible in the plain sight of authority. Mastered the masks for appearing bland, conformist, compliant, obedient. A good boy they patted. Not a trouble maker. They never knew of the books I read. Or what I thought.
I could have scrawled something subversive on the walls. Shocked them all and faced the caning in stoic defiance. I was too dim for such bravery. It would not have mattered anyway. I should have departed but didn’t think it was an option. I learned the rules to survive. Yet refused to thrive from that learning. I could have paid a worse price.
This learning saved me from being disappointed by the world. The shock at its natural evil. The inevitable human failures. Yes yes it is all very shocking and appalling they say looking at the news. Then go back to their breakfasts. Turning the page. Change the channel. What do they know of history? It could be worse.
I like to think I have a healthy skepticism of my cynicism. It lets me appreciate the ultimate works of art – acts of kindness, however small. Preserves my emotional energy for positive things. For the bad stuff, a cold and calculating approach. When I read 1984 I pitied Winston Smith for lacking my education.
Sri Lanka is approaching another turning point in its history. I feel oddly calm about the approaching train. The only fear I have is for the personal dangers people face. Specially during times of uncertainty. When the powerful will do any cruelty to preserve themselves. I hope we all make it through this round of history without sorrow.
Be well, do good work and keep in touch 1. May you be happy and free of suffering.
This post was written before the famous What Your Schools Didn’t Teach You word grenade was hurled by Thisuri Wanniarachchi. Certainly before Rothbourne’s response. Another good contribution to the discussion is Shailendree’s “What schools should teach us” .
Thisuri’s post was published in the mainstream media. It triggered quite a storm in the tea cup of the Sri Lankan Internet. All of it got washed away in the next week’s online outburst. At least the “What Your Schools Did/Didn’t Teach Ye” exchange jolted some interesting discussions. My post had nothing to do with any of it.