Wijith DeChickera turns insular in the face of movements against corruption being cosmetic and examines the nature of a genuine desire to change

All revolutions only serve to undermine the movements that generated them, and often only undergird the very realities they sought to critically engage and change. This is because while voters tend to be gullible about new political cultures, human nature per se rarely if ever changes.

That politicians, propagandists and so-called social prophets know this redounds to both their credit and condemnation. There have been visionary thinkers who have capitalised on this chink in our psyches to revolutionise. Others have simply proven their ideas revolting.

Think ‘revolution’ and some historic examples come to mind. These prove the point that revolutions recycle ideas.

The big picture of the American Revolution was to challenge the idea of taxation without representation. Today, the marginalised underrepresented in the US still pay a heavy price for ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ so that ‘the one percent’ can pursue it. Where once the British Crown was the villain of the piece, taxing WASPs still reign on Capitol Hill.

Naïve? Not nuanced enough? But true.

Take the French Revolution, which sought to end the divine right of kings to rule… or do so diabolically. Manning the barricades and storming the Bastille were undertaken so that those who did not have cake could at least come to enjoy bread. The guillotine abruptly severed the heads
of those who would see no separation of church and state, and whose earthly excesses made a hell for the hoi polloi.

However, after over two centuries of a new social contract, France’s red stained flags have only been replaced by the ‘hungry’ in yellow jackets and those ‘thirsty’ for low price fuel.

If you’re not sentimental about the patina of improved appearances, you’d be able to strip off the thin veneer over every revolution in history.

Russia has replaced the tsars with a powerful new czar in Vladimir Putin. China once threw out Western empires only to build a great wall of neo-imperialism. A Caliphate of yore is alive too. The illusion of progressive advancement is a deceptive one for those who won’t, don’t, can’t, bear too much reality.

This is essentially all of humanity. It has happened to a once happy set of islanders as well…

A little over four years ago, Sri Lanka embraced what seemed like a new incarnation of Lady Liberty. Since then, a majority of true patriots have been left at the altar of expediency like some jilted lover. True, there were some gifts that the political marriage of essentially incompatible partners brought us – and we’ll always be grateful for little mercies like 19A, RTI, OMP and ridding us of a corrupt regime.

But coalition politics in the guise of national unity governments only undergirds corruption.

It is a cancer that shows up in many symptoms that seem to stand alone but are actually deeply rooted in a carcinogenic core. Wars are started by it. Flames of ethno-centric chauvinism are fuelled by it. Egos of power hungry politicos are fed by it. Folks on the periphery of society are further marginalised by it. Hideous excesses of our egregious elected representatives and their outrageous behaviour is exacerbated by it.

Its cancerous roots have by no means been radically challenged by any number of social revolutions.

So why do we persist in rallying to the standard of this, that and the next revolution?

First, it’s an idea. Then, a feeling bolstered by hope and driven by a genuine desire for change. And the human heart has a great capacity for self-deception.

From Dharmishta Samaajaya to democratic socialism, we have been taken up – and then taken in – by every radical idea under the sun leading to revolution. Our blood has run in the streets because of a Marxist revolution as much as Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Jaathika Chinthana.

Yet, we must persist in rallying to the standard of the radical ideas behind some genuine desire for change. Only, like the proverbial hare who beat the legendary Achilles in an engineered race, we must hasten slowly. Because the change we want is incremental.

Our Achilles’ heel is that we belong to an instant generation of cosmetic changes glorified on social media. Social revolutions – if they work at all – don’t work like that. The point is not to spin the wheel but throw the cart off balance. Its axle should break.

That is a revolution indeed, which will not be televised. It starts in the hearts of a few visionary souls and gathers momentum in the minds of an equally small number of likeminded followers. And already, in the dusty sockets of eyes grown dry over tears wept for democracy’s derailment by its engineers, there is a new hope.

There is faith in a perhaps perennial movement that describes a perfect parabola between a genuine desire for change, and the realisation that begins in one’s own heart and mind.

It is called honesty to self… a revolution that hastens slowly. For if we are corrupt ourselves, how can the revolution in aid of a free, fair and just society ever hope to succeed?