Social price of Sri Lanka | Daily News

Social price of Sri Lanka

Human beings in the process of getting civilized and cultured through education, get enlightened; and in addition to being lawful in public conduct also become urbane, refined, formal, gracious, cordial, suave, sober and self-denying for the sake of others. Yet life in the context of modern society is made miserable by ‘public servants’ among whom are politicians, who abuse their position. They twist the truth of many a situation to create problems for citizens and thereby make unlawful gains. They try to be on the safe side even while contravening the law.

Rulers sometimes resort to legal amendments to satisfy their inordinate desires. Those in elevated authority, resort to bending the law or stretch the law to extremities to suit their ends and pretend to be socially and legally correct. And those in authority, to suit their fancy have so bent the law in ages past and they do so now.

However, Sri Lanka does not lack men and women who stand sturdily for human dignity, justice and truth even after having suffered in silence under tyranny. Those who voluntarily risk their lives come to the help of others in distress. They range from humble three-wheeler drivers, devoted teachers who give of themselves to students, impartial judges to ordinary citizens who spontaneously and courageously act to uphold rectitude. They go beyond the law to adhere to a spirit of justice and decency.

A bystander comes to the rescue of another person fallen victim to an unexpected disaster or perhaps intimidated and unnerved by a gold-chain snatching lawbreaker. Though they do not proclaim themselves to be so, these are the humanly refined, gracious, cordial, sober and self-denying men and women who uplift the civilized standards of our society. Their sense of honour stresses them to limits ordinarily beyond other human beings. They show a high human quality and an inimitable and admirable sense of human goodness. They uphold human courtesies and obey the laws of the land even when no one watches.

Public minded officers

Law is the minimum standard of social conduct expected from all the citizens. But if workers as a group limited themselves to ‘work to rule’ as it happens even among the so-called educated, the civilized behaviour will break down and society would begin to creak if not come to a grim standstill. One does not go to one’s workplace, factory, office, law court or parliament to socialize or to be entertained. One goes there to attend to specific duties for which a remuneration is given. Yet how many are conscious of their duty or the implicit responsibilities?

Something akin to ‘work to rule’ obtains in many government offices where individuals do the minimum required and apart from their salary always expect a gratification even for the services they are duty-bound to render to the public. This rampant mean practice is administrative leprosy and incurable cancer maintained by the degenerate in our society.

Yet conscientious and public-minded officers are not altogether absent. Due to them, a modicum of civilization survives in public administration. There are some instances in public life when in attending to their official duties highly placed officials responsibly exercised the duties of their office without fear or favour and suffered physical harm or even paid for it with their lives. They had a self-respect and self-esteem that valued the rights of other citizens.

On the other hand many public officials do not care for the law, so much so that to get something done even according to the law, one has to offer a bribe which needs to be a fat one ‘proportionate’ to the estimates in the application/project to carry out which government authorities’ permission is needed! In Sri Lanka, the permitting authority turns out to be a blackmailer.

If no bribe is given, the project is delayed under one pretext or other. Often a bribe is solicited through someone closely connected to the blackmailer. That is how the system operates in Sri Lanka today. So disgraceful. When a head of state advises his henchmen to be cautious so as not to get caught, one can imagine the level of the qualities of the man, the chief executor of the law of the Land and the qualities of his henchmen!

Living should be upright

In any case, many Sri Lankans, even highly placed, do not seem to understand what life is for and what values they should live by, even while they live in the glare of light shed by religions. Rejecting light they stumble and totter in darkness! They do not understand that life is not about the ephemeral prestige of a job that one does or the high salary earned. Life is not about the kind of house one lives in luxury or the kind of vehicle one travels in or the company one keeps. Life is not about status, race, caste or political ideology. But, not seldom, these become the priorities of the decadent at the summits of power and position. How many members of governments, without a conscience, have dragged the people to misery!

Life is more than law or legality. Life is not about how cleverly you stay within the law or circumvent it and help others, at a price, to circumvent the law and grab as much as possible. Life is about what values you hold as important, what high ideals you follow, how sublime what you love and strive after. Life is about how you value your life and the lives of others and live in a community. Life is about how you persevere, grow and mature in your life and contribute to the preservation and progress of others. Life is about the service you render to others and to society to enhance and improve the well-being of many. Life is about the substance and excellence of those values by which you live, spend and sacrifice your life.

Life is about living freely, honourably, truthfully, justly and fraternally in peaceful solidarity in reconciliation with others without causing them any harm but bringing to others’ lives a measure of happiness. Life is not about living in self-satisfied isolation and degenerating corruption but about embodying a noble spirit, living out your life for others, being in empathy with others and mutually enriching interiorly one another. Life becomes abundantly rich when it is lived for others, saving and enhancing the lives of others; it is above and beyond any man-made law. It is living out in the pure fragranced air of love and graciousness. All the people of Sri Lanka should live out this life and abandon every selfishness and discrimination.

Politicians ignorant of values

From 1972 with the adoption of the Republican Constitution there has been a downward trend in the Sri Lankan political culture and social discipline and decency in life. As a result of today, there is an evident dearth of honest public-spirited men and women in the field of politics, law and public service and administration which are the most extensive fields, besides religion, where just one individual could give of his service to so many.

In Sri Lanka, there is a notable disregard for merit. Why should anyone, least of all a legal luminary, canvass politicians in support of an appointment to office? Many an important matter get knotted when most politicians in power and top rung administrators and officials do not have the interior strength, that moral stamina required for their tasks. The political parties and the existing political culture and party system have not only not equipped them either intellectually or morally for it but corrupted them abysmally. The content and level of public political discourse are weighed more towards the undercurrents of the personal advantage than the common good.

Nevertheless, politicians also could turn round, improved. None of us is perfect. In the process of growing, we could have let ourselves be undeveloped, under-developed, insufficiently formed or deformed in our character in many a way. Yet as our sense of responsibility should match the work we have to do or the position we hold, we should face the challenge of changing, improving and reforming ourselves. In the Sri Lankan scenario, a person of integrity should give leadership to that.

All of us have the capacity to honestly look within ourselves, detect what is wrong, adopt more genuine values and set aright matters within ourselves. We could adjust our relationships. We should shed our deformities, become more consistent and perfect ourselves as we age and mature. We could not only restore ourselves, we could re-create ourselves anew and enhance the lives of others. In fact, becoming a better person could be an on-going process and a challenge to others as well.

As long as the politicians are individually and collectively ignorant of or ignore life’s true values and are mired and bogged down in social depravity and corrupt political hell holes, they have not grasped the basic meaning of life or of law-making over which they are spending a lot of parliamentary time and a high proportion of the peoples’ hard-earned money. They are indeed traitors to the country. Though many politicians are incapable of giving of their services in the manner they should, the sane majority of the people who strive to hold on to civilized values should get further organised and coordinated.

In spite of the contemptible leadership of politicians many ordinary people in the face of the burdens they bear, live in solidarity and peace. Thoughtful leaders and the honest intelligentsia should be supportive of them. And the people need to elect altogether new legislators more representative of their culture and fraternity than the brawling scoundrels, some of whom are now ensconced in power or trying to come to power.

Sri Lanka has to begin to venture in new yet unexplored directions to modernize Sri Lanka in hitherto uncharted ways to become an enlightened democracy with reaffirmed individual and group rights and responsibilities. For that, we need new people who are true patriots instead of the thieving politicians who take turns accusing one another while boasting of their jingoism. 


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