BY Priyan Rajapaksa

“Servitude debases men so much they begin to love it,” observed French writer and moralist Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues. Arise, slaves – people’s power has deposed a would-be king!

Diary of the Dark Years, 1940:1944; Collaboration, Resistance, and Daily Life in Occupied Paris by Jean Guéhenno is a good read for all Sri Lankans. It was written in secret between 1940 and 1944 when the Nazis occupied Paris.

It had to be written in secret since the Nazis too had ‘magic white vans.’ Guéhenno quotes Vauvenargues: “Servitude debases men so much they begin to love it.”

To me, that quote epitomises the Sri Lankan mindset. We don’t seem to want new ideas, and are scavenging the dustbins of history and unearthing septuagenarians who were discarded oh so recently!

Guéhenno’s entry on 24 May 1943 reads: “There are only two systems of government in the world. One plays on the courage and intelligence of men, and exalts them. The other plays on their cowardice and exploits them. One is democracy, the other tyranny. Since foolishness is quick and intelligence is slow, the tyrant can always win at first but he always loses in the long run. So let us have confidence.”

I ask again: when are we going to stand straight? Is the country’s spine like mine… tending to curve with old age? Thankfully, no! Our youth showed the way with the aragalaya and immigration officers said ‘no’ to someone fleeing the country –  ironically, from the VIP lounge.

Rs. 17 million must have been petty cash for it to be abandoned along with the owner’s underpants. A collector’s item, surely? Hitler’s wristlet was auctioned recently for US$ 1 million.

But how about the rest of the population? When will they stand straight? Luckily, the youth dared to hold on for over 100 days, and the terminator self-terminated.

“Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan,” noted former US president John F. Kennedy.

The terminator is an abandoned orphan that no one wants and vultures at the ‘house by the lake’ are making use of the fleeing, and sharpening their talons and beaks for the largest bite of the rotten pie.

Don’t you puke when you see those at the trough? A casino owner; a person charged with obtaining a diplomatic passport for his wife using a falsified birth certificate; a person on a suspended sentence for fraud; and three people whose passports have been impounded.

Is this an ‘august assembly’? My concern is not that these guys are deciding our future but that we voted them in and have continued to vote for people of low calibre for a long time.

If we time travel back to childhood lessons and Aesop – who was a slave, ironically – we will remember his reference to the bundle of sticks and division.

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons to give them some parting advice. He ordered them to bring in a bundle of sticks, and asked each of them to try and break it. None were able to. Then he told them to untie the bundle and asked each to take a stick. Then they were able to break the single sticks easily. We know the rest…

It also teaches us that slaves too can think. Remember Spartacus, who rebelled against Rome?

Are Sri Lankans ready for democracy? We vote in blocs. Hence the saying that we do not ‘cast our votes but vote our castes.’

Democracy in New Zealand works differently. Our political leaders have publicly stated that they don’t believe in the afterlife. So religion, which is a major point of division and manipulation, has been removed from politics.

Along comes the new conservative party leader Christopher Luxon. He has a fresh face, is the former CEO of Air New Zealand and seems to have the savvy to get the economy going after the pandemic. Luxon’s an evangelical Christian and was recently doing well in the polls in the race against Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the US forced him to make a statement. He says that he keeps politics away from religion but the population is sceptical and his ratings have plummeted. How can a man seem OK with abortion six days the week and be pro-life on Sunday? He may have to give up his beliefs – or politics!

Abortion is available almost on demand in New Zealand and emergency contraceptive pills are on sale at chemists without prescription – so abortion and religion are not even debatable. But the devil himself will plague the Sri Lankan politician who does not rush to Kandy before an important event!

Kings have connived with religious leaders to control populations – they pull our purse strings while the clergy manipulates our minds. Now, when we have rid ourselves of a would-be king, shouldn’t we go the whole hog and dismantle the other aspect of control too?

Don’t we like to be free to think for ourselves and control our destinies? Or are we destined to be slaves to political and religious leaders – like in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan – who are constantly at war with themselves?