05 May 2020

The dignity of a kos kola otunna

‘Api okkoma rajavaru’ (we are all kings) is one of the more popular songs of Victor Ratnayake. An idealistic song obviously, for the assertion that we are all kings and queens, all equal citizens, is not affirmed on the ground. 

Now it is fashionable to rubbish the idea of monarchy, Well, monarchies do play their part in demanding rubbishing too, we should not forget. On the other hand we go easy on other forms of rule. Let me get to that later. 

Dineth Mallikarachchi recently lamented the absence of a monarch. This was his argument.

‘It’s been a century at most since the democracy that we know became dominant (correct me if I am wrong). In contrast, monarchies have stood the test of time for millennia. The world, in fact, has barely emerged from monarchical rule. These despicable republics will undoubtedly be defeated before long and monarchies reestablished. Unfortunately at each cycle of breathing I am sad that I was born and have to live in these dark and foreboding king-less two centuries.’ 

It’s not all dark. It’s not all bad. Neither is the era of democracy one of sunshine, smiles and overflowing goodness.  Dhammika Amarakoon, a keen student of political science, responded to Dineth. ‘In a democracy everyone is a king. But no one wears the crown. Didn't know you are a monarchist Dineth.’

This was what reminded me of the Victor Ratnayake song. It also reminded me of the caption of a cartoon in the New Internationalist: democracy is where we choose the sauce with which we are to be eaten.’ Malcolm X was right when he said ‘The American Dream is actually a nightmare’ and ‘democracy is hypocrisy.’

If in a democracy we don’t have a say, if we have no control over our lives, if others set agenda and if we are forced to inhabit someone else’s version of our reality, then monarchy seems like an option we ought to consider. If not for anything, because it is clear, honest and reflective of reality. What has happened in fact is that the monarch has been beheaded, so to speak. We are told we are kings and queens. We are made to understand that crowns are outdated. And they laugh all the way from the high seats of power and all the way to the bank.

I am not a monarchist. At least not in the way Dineth is one. I am not excited by any pretend-democracy that does little more than sweetening the bitter poisons thrust down our civic throats.  I am not big on frills and therefore crowns are not my thing. 

I do believe, however, that there are territories we can inhabit regally, as individuals and collectives.  There are swathes of land, metaphorically speaking, over which we can exercise authority in that we decide, by ourselves and for ourselves. There are countries where citizenship means something.
Which republic is that? On which continent is this Kethumathi located? Do resources abound? Are the people kindhearted? Is there crop insurance? Do they give low-interest loans? How about markets? Is there free WiFi? 

Well, think of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon. You are in a house that’s burning. Are you saying that leaving the house is preconditioned by solid answers to questions such as the above? It is prudent to leave the burning house as quickly as you can. That’s about all there is to it.

Think of the dangers associated with driving a car. You know something about the car but it can surprise you. You know less of the environment. Road conditions have caused accidents. You don’t know if the person driving the car ahead of you or the one coming in the opposite direction is sober or drunk. You know yourself best. That’s where you are mostly in control. And that, ladies and gentlemen, could be the key to the city and the citizenship we are talking about.

Be. Just be. In that act of ‘being’ let us resolve not to be agitated by things beyond our control. We may never find citizenship in the republics of our dreams, but then we don’t have to go there. The moment we tag ourselves tor allow ourselves to be tagged by anything that relieves us of the power to demand or supply, we get enslaved. Focus on the little things and we would be citizens. Well, we could even wear a kos kola otunna. A crown made of jak fruit leaves might look funny, but certainly not as grotesque as the specter of believing we are wearing a crown that simply does not exist.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Let's not stop singing in the lifeboats
When the Welikada Prison was razed to the ground 

Looking for the idyllic in dismal times    
Water the gardens with the liquid magic of simple ideas, right now    
There's canvas and brush to paint the portraits of love    
We might as well arrest the house!
The 'village' in the 'city' has more heart than concrete
Vo, Italy: the village that stopped the Coronavirus    

We need 'no-charge' humanity 
The unaffordable, as defined by Nihal Fernando
Heroes of our times Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds
Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays   
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry
Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer



Anonymous said...

Monarchy or Republic Oliver Goldsmith’s lament lingers on
“ I ll fares the land
To hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates
And men decay”
And Lord Acton’s observation
“ Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
We have to strive for balance of power and people must be made aware of their rights.
Fritz Kodagoda