09 September 2012

The end of woo and the beginning of rape

Sunday is when I post my editorial and other articles I may have written for 'The Nation'.  Today, though, I want to post something I wrote more than 10 years ago.  That too, on a day following an election.  The 2001 General Election, like elections before and elections since, followed hard campaigning, genuflection before voters, mutual vilification and violence.  Yesterday elections were held to the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provincial Councils.  Less violence than usual, but there was little lack in the rest of the ingredients.  The votes have been counted and the apportionment of seats done.  Chief Ministers are yet to be appointed.  The season of solicitation has ended.  It looks like nothing has changed in 11 years.  

We have had our day in the sun. For the past two months, we have had countless politicians and their help-karayas hounding us with love letters, their ugly mug shots adorned with silly grins beseeching us from newspapers, TV channels and posters. They have wooed us no end, serenaded us with song and dance and cajoled us with terms of endearment. That intense, frenetic and all too brief courtship is over. Today, now that December 5th is history, it is once again time to say bye-bye. Those who called us sahodaraya, sohodari, amme, thaththe, akke, ayye, malliye, nangiye, will now move on to look after their real families and lovers. So long, farewell, auf wiedersen, goodbye....we all know that sweet song from the film Sound of Music. 

We, the perennial suckers who are called voters, can now take a rest for we are not going to be part of the caravan. Of that we can be sure.

It is never easy to say definitive things, to "conclude", to draw hard lines around concepts, to connect event and metaphor with metal clamps, and to capture the social all in a flurry of interconnected double-directional, steel-tipped arrows. All I can say at this point about this election with any degree of certainty is that the time of entreating is over.

Once the votes are counted and the victors announced, promises are stripped of their finery, the flesh of election manifestos starts decomposing, and the complicating and ambiguous sinews of proclamaitions dry up, what is left is the skeletal remains of political reality: expediency and profit-making. And we all know that "politics" and politicians thrive by chewing on such bones.
Reflecting on the lie that is party politics, the falsehood of elections and electoral victories, I was reminded of some lines from a Turkish song. This is what Fikret Kizilok has to say:

It’s a lie, always a lie
the galaxies and the nights, always a lie.
Two fear flowers bloom in your eyes,
But that look,
why, a lie!
The evening comes and
you become damp, frosty.
If I reach out my hand, it’s also a lie.
Night envelops me
It doesn’t understand this mood of mine.
I become suspicious of my pillow.
That also is a lie, a lie.
Like a thief I fall in love,
in secrecy, in my dreams.
I hold on to myself
that’s also a lie.
One thing that I do know, is who I still love.
A rooster crows and my inside becomes silent.
It’s morning for you and midnight for me.
I forgot...it was a lie.
It is only you who knows, and I
if I tell this to others,
that is also a lie.

My dreams and your dreams, our nightmares, the alleyways of our conscience, the coarse sand that comes in between the clasping of hands, the smoke that wafts into the air and disappears, the conversations that attracted heat, simple words softly tossed from heart to heart, silent journeys and soliloquies, the singing of birds, and even the untrammeled flow of tears at the funerals of all those sacrificed on the altar of power politics, all this, all this, in the final analysis, is a lie.

There are countless people among us who believe that elections are harbingers of wonderful social transformations. In reality, nothing radical happens and if at all things change only in directions that are harmful. In this context, all we can do (in the before, while and after of an election) is to live a responsible life in terms of the truths we believe in. Among them, the following might prove to be useful in terms of checking arrogance and self-importance: impermanence, sorrow, and illusion.

If the only trace that is left of the bouquets left on our doorsteps by thieves and murders who commit these crimes in our name is despair, then in that vast reservoir of individual and collective disillusionment, everything I’ve said here and everything unsaid too, naturally, must dissolve and disappear. I am not willing to concede such defeat if only because there are vast and fertile regions outside the narrow and violent cage called parliamentary politics. If we are capable of feeling deeply injustice, of giving freely of time and energy to anyone who so desires these things and of taking the time to reflect on the eternal verities of life, then we would be intellectually and politically equipped to dissect the lie. It is only in this necessary undressing of the superficial, that regeneration can be imagined.

The whole charade of promising undying love now and forever is over. Thinking about the nuisance of repulsive suitors refusing to leave us alone, I was reminded of something that one-time heart-throb of impressionable teenage girls, Leonardo di Caprio said. He was also talking about this kind of relentless pursuit, not by politicians, but the paparazzi. "We actually started to follow the paparazzi after a while. It’s an actual science. If you follow them, they get paranoid. You flip the script on them."

Just imagine, paranoid candidates and their henchmen running away from an alert public. What beautiful poetry would ensue, how much more humility would be scripted into this thing called the political process! We could go further. Just think of Edouard Munch’s famous painting titled "The Scream". Now imagine a horde of MPs, Prime Minister-hopefuls, pradeshiya sabhikas, provincial councillors, the PSD, MSD and other gangsters enjoying state patronage, with their faces adorned with that same look of terror running away from ordinary citizens who are roaring with laughter and chasing them. I am willing to wager that all the hidden transcripts of political and ideological pretension will out immediately.

We have to realise that the label "voter" signifies only a fragment of our identity, and that this indentification sliver "bothers" the politician only once in a while. It is only when we refuse to cultivate and strengthen the other political facets of our identity that voter-lovers are able woo us during elections and rape us afterwards. Politicians plan for the next election. Let us plan for the next generation.



Anonymous said...

you sound as pessimistic as the rest of us!