The dignity of a kos kola otunna | Daily News


In Passing…

The dignity of a kos kola otunna

‘Api okkoma rajavaru’ (we are all kings) is one of the more popular songs of Victor Ratnayake. An idealistic song obviously, for the assertion that we are all kings and queens, all equal citizens, is not affirmed on the ground.

Now it is fashionable to rubbish the idea of monarchy, Well, monarchies do play their part in demanding rubbishing too, we should not forget. On the other hand we go easy on other forms of rule. Let me get to that later.

Dineth Mallikarachchi recently lamented the absence of a monarch. This was his argument.

‘It’s been a century at most since the democracy that we know became dominant (correct me if I am wrong). In contrast, monarchies have stood the test of time for millennia. The world, in fact, has barely emerged from monarchical rule. These despicable republics will undoubtedly be defeated before long and monarchies reestablished. Unfortunately at each cycle of breathing I am sad that I was born and have to live in these dark and foreboding king-less two centuries.’

It’s not all dark. It’s not all bad. Neither is the era of democracy one of sunshine, smiles and overflowing goodness. Dhammika Amarakoon, a keen student of political science, responded to Dineth. ‘In a democracy everyone is a king. But no one wears the crown. Didn’t know you are a monarchist Dineth.’

This was what reminded me of the Victor Ratnayake song. It also reminded me of the caption of a cartoon in the New Internationalist: democracy is where we choose the sauce with which we are to be eaten.’ Malcolm X was right when he said ‘The American Dream is actually a nightmare’ and ‘democracy is hypocrisy.’

If in a democracy we don’t have a say, if we have no control over our lives, if others set agenda and if we are forced to inhabit someone else’s version of our reality, then monarchy seems like an option we ought to consider. If not for anything, because it is clear, honest and reflective of reality. What has happened in fact is that the monarch has been beheaded, so to speak. We are told we are kings and queens. We are made to understand that crowns are outdated. And they laugh all the way from the high seats of power and all the way to the bank.

I am not a monarchist. At least not in the way Dineth is one. I am not excited by any pretend-democracy that does little more than sweetening the bitter poisons thrust down our civic throats. I am not big on frills and therefore crowns are not my thing.

I do believe, however, that there are territories we can inhabit regally, as individuals and collectives. There are swathes of land, metaphorically speaking, over which we can exercise authority in that we decide, by ourselves and for ourselves. There are countries where citizenship means something.

Which republic is that? On which continent is this Kethumathi located? Do resources abound? Are the people kindhearted? Is there crop insurance? Do they give low-interest loans? How about markets? Is there free WiFi?

Well, think of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon. You are in a house that’s burning. Are you saying that leaving the house is preconditioned by solid answers to questions such as the above? It is prudent to leave the burning house as quickly as you can. That’s about all there is to it.

Think of the dangers associated with driving a car. You know something about the car but it can surprise you. You know less of the environment. Road conditions have caused accidents. You don’t know if the person driving the car ahead of you or the one coming in the opposite direction is sober or drunk. You know yourself best. That’s where you are mostly in control. And that, ladies and gentlemen, could be the key to the city and the citizenship we are talking about.

Be. Just be. In that act of ‘being’ let us resolve not to be agitated by things beyond our control. We may never find citizenship in the republics of our dreams, but then we don’t have to go there. The moment we tag ourselves to allow ourselves to be tagged by anything that relieves us of the power to demand or supply, we get enslaved. Focus on the little things and we would be citizens. Well, we could even wear a kos kola otunna. A crown made of jak fruit leaves might look funny, but certainly not as grotesque as the spectre of believing we are wearing a crown that simply does not exist.

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