STATE OF THE NATION
PLAY UP, PLAY UP AND PLAY THE GAME!
Wijith DeChickera had tickets to the ‘Great Game’ but tore them up upon realising that from political chicanery to trite satire, it’s an act – curtains?
It takes sincere intentionto transform simple politics into good governance. There’s an art or science, or an elusive alchemy of the two, which has escaped our elected representatives for many moons. Should any political party show signs of suddenly stumbling on the secret, rest assured it is a sham… polls!
We have only a substitute for sincerity that has deceived, deluded and – through Wilpattu, Sinharaja and Hambantota’s scorched-earth policy – denuded our nation. We’re naked, yet not ashamed. Not at election time!
Par for the course?
These are. A boatload of corrupt politicos on the slow boat to China. Plus taxes, money laundering refineries and a head of state inhaling toxic fumes on the never-never. And as ever, the wolf of past misdemeanours at the gate…
It takes a lot to transmute the base metal of rotten ambition into real achievement. The two paradigms do not necessarily conflate.
Politics is the art of the possible while good governance is a science that has proven impossible in our late great experiment with democratic republicanism. Good governance could have been Sri Lanka’s lasting salvation. But the politics of three ageing – maybe even senile – men has damned us: that’s the conventional wisdom.
There must be a vision for our isle on the stage of the world that transcends the finite bounds of Sri Lanka.
One of the geriatrics once looked East and allowed a deceptively easygoing dragon to enter our shores. That creature now guards our gold and hoards the island’s future security. Another looked West but failed to see that his own star had set a long time ago. Yet he can’t let go, leave alone take a golden opportunity given. The third has looked everywhere but in the mirror.
Indubitably, there must be sterling qualities such as honesty, integrity and transparency to guide or drive our politics beyond the realm of realpolitik into statesmanship. When you recover from your conniption fit, please do consider that these qualities still do exist! There are stalwarts still quietly serving the state: backbenchers et al doing their duty by the nation, unnoticed by the madding crowd; and others hidden away who love their country.
So when the vision of our faux leaders fails and those who ostensibly undertook the herculean task to attempt a sea change fall, it is a fall and a failure indeed. Which has all and sundry shaking their heads, and muttering without a shade of sympathy: ‘How fallen are the mighty!’
Where once we would have defended a ‘Mr Clean’ (RW) or the saviour of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty (MR), today we see only a bunch of like-minded rogues and scoundrels. Con artists, cheating us and our children!
A born-again democrat (GR) has appeared on the list of late. We expected him to be locked away by a regime thumping the tub on transparency and accountability. Now it looks like the plum of the highest office is well within his reach.
Good thing – in a sense – that there are other rotten statesmen (MS) grasping the same prize. At least it will be a hotly contested competition for the flower of our liberty, even if we citizens get only power outage thorns and cost of living nettles.
In such a milieu, to attempt political satire on stage where politics has become a byword for – let us not beat about the bush – ‘prostitution’ (on a national scale) is something of a herculean task in itself. In the case of certain theatre and light entertainment companies attempting satire, through ‘speaking truth to power’ but winding down to amusing parody and hysterical caricature, it has become a rather foolhardy and fruitless one of late. Satire must bite, not stroke or soothe.
With that said, it was an enterprise that harboured much potential. Titled ‘The Greatest Rugby Game,’ the concept was ambitious. To tell – or retell – using the metaphor of that quite physical contact sport how parliamentary politics had descended to the level of a rather ugly scrum at best, a schoolboy brawl at worst. Critics sat up and said ‘ha!’ like the biblical horse among the trumpets. And they might have thought that here at last were interesting days?
There was great opportunity to critically engage the powers that be, critique the praxis of a president and his unruly members of parliament, and hold up a censorious mirror to the shenanigans of our little island’s small-minded elected representatives. Sadly – as it transpired for theatre audiences – such an ambition could or should be made of sterner stuff.
Eventually, the game wasn’t on; not even in Arsikland – which, though humorous, lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.
Art imitates life. Even on social media, the erstwhile cocktail circuit, and coffee morning ‘mourning and grumbling’ is gamely reproduced. It only serves to relieve cafe society of existential angst. In the real world, our political caravan moves on.
Where theatre in auditorium and recording studio fails, biz chambers must now step up to the plate. For far too long has business played along, holding its peace and paying the piper. With them this buck must stop.