I didn’t wish him a happy new year. How rude of me. In Sri Lankan culture, every mess and mishap is someone else’s fault. The natural thing to do is blame the culprit. Sneer and yell at their face. It feels good. So here goes.
He failed to persuade people around me to stop repeatedly voting for corrupt politicians. He could not show how each election cycle made corruption worse convincingly. I see him in the mirror every morning. Older but the same hapless look.
It’s no different from failing to stop toxic habits – smoking, alcohol, drugs. The longer the habit persists, the harder it is to change and the outcome worse.
Sri Lanka’s current predicament results from at least half a century of bad political habits. The embrace of ethnic supremacy as an ideology is the most toxic. That embrace meant voting for people who relied on it at every election. It remains a way of feeling good without having to do anything.
Worse, it drew public attention away from how the government used public resources. That is the primary purpose of an elected government – for the people to be aware of how THEIR money was spent. Instead, the process was outsourced out of sight. In any organisation, that creates the condition for corruption.
We are living the consequences of that behaviour.
Many people died trying to warn us. Their message was ignored. Others were shouted down because it felt good to shout down people who said unpopular things.
By that point, I had absorbed the idea that you cannot change people by talking to them or writing. Not in this country anyway. All it led to were pointless shouting matches at family gatherings. So the timid (I among them) did nothing – blog posts count as nothing.
Now it’s all about shouting down the latest version of the corrupt politicians. Even if they were kicked out tomorrow, this hell wouldn’t end. The long climb out to the hole will be hard. But, will it teach people something about preventing this from happening again?
I have my doubts.
Changing toxic habits requires replacing them with positive habits. In terms of politics, it starts learning to discuss how the government spends our money without having a brawl. Seeing people beyond their ethnic, religious and other labels. Meditating instead of muttering Pali while unloading flowers in front of statues. Things that are alien to the culture of people around me.
I wish I could say something positive to end this post. Perhaps you do. If so, you know where the comment box is.