19 December 2015

There are some Marxisms that I missed

No, this is not about nostalgia for a more tender, innocent and, yes, ignorant time.  I’ve been convinced, questioned, shown flaw and abandoned. No aftereffects.  This merely refers to something I wrote a couple of days ago (‘On Marxism and Maskism, Marxists and Maskists andunbecoming skins,’ Daily News of December 14, 2010).  It generated some responses, among which were two that pointed to certain omissions on my part. Innocent ones, I might add.  There’s a third, which I shall mention to start with.

The article in question referred to a poster that played with the term ‘Marxism’, positing a (yes, ‘a’, since there are many versions) Marxism that was proposed as counter to what was called, impishly, ‘Maskism’.  There was a ‘Marxism’ that I ought to have mentioned.  It is spelled differently and was first articulated, to my knowledge, by Prof. Sasanka Perera of the University of Colombo.    

Marksism, according to Sasanka, is an ideology that has won over many academics.  It is a clear and simple doctrine. It refers to a new ‘marks’ scheme according to which academics attached to universities are conferred the title ‘professor’.  It is so loose and so un-academic that it amounts to a system whereby mediocrity is rewarded.  Publications considered in assessing suitability for such title are no longer limited to academic treatise in the form of books or refereed articles in journals of quality, but could include articles in newspapers for example.  Even appreciations and obituaries can ‘count’. 

There’s been some objection from the academic community but the voices have been weak and/or isolated.  The vast majority of our ‘scholars’ have happily embraced this scheme. This not only indicts them on their scholarly worth but makes me (and I am sure others) think ‘spoilt and undeserving brats’ when they clamour for salary hikes, perks and academic freedom and brings down the value of their objections to injustice.  They are by and large Marksists and that, dear friends, is not a salutary identifier.    

Professor S.N. Arseculeratne, Uncle Chubby to me, had a different take on the said article. He repeated something he had written in an article: ‘I am a better sort of Marxist; my guru is Groucho and not Karl (the confused confuser of the confused)!’ He’s got a point.  I am not denying that Karl Marx contributed much to social theory, not in the manner of constructing it as by writing the politics was logical in terms of the intersection of his intellect and things as they were.  His premises were erroneous, his model tragically flawed. As such he was bound to reach untenable conclusions. He got some things right but subject to a lot of caveats.  The confused, who embraced his as some kind of all-knowing creature, went berserk, quote in and out of context, extrapolating beyond logic and doing much violent to themselves and the world. 

My friend Harith Gunawardena, author of the incomparable column in the Irida Divaina, ‘King Barnet,’ called me and said that I had missed the fact that Sri Lanka is the last bastion of Marxism, sorry Marksism.  That was exaggeration of course, for the Marksism of the kind he was talking about is prevalent across the world, has been with us for centuries and will outlast memory of these words that I write now and all words written before in all languages.  

The Sinhala equivalent is ‘lakunu damaa geneema’ or ‘getting points’ and making sure they are noted.  It is a bottom up phenomenon that cuts across all sectors of the economy, and all levels of social activity.  We could call it ‘salaaming’.  The person at the bottom of the rung needs to please the person just above and be duly acknowledged. 

The acknowledger of ‘marks’ in turn has to please the person above him and so on it goes until citizen pleases official pleases local politician pleases district-level party boss pleases regional big-name pleases deputy minister pleases minister pleases big-name minister pleases President.  It is not exactly linear of course.  Certain levels can be by-passed and it is no small victory is marks can be got if levels can be skipped.  The logic remains, though.  

Get mark, expect reward.  Rewards may or may not arrive, but the marks-seekers will continue to seek and out-jump in career development he/she who likes to indulge in the meritocracy-myth or at least abide by relevant principles for reasons of ethic or to keep hope alive for a different ‘ism’ that is mark-less. 

Yes, I missed some Marxisms, sorry some Marksisms and a Marxism.  Sorry.  

This was first published on December 17, 2010 in the 'Daily News'.