21 May 2023

Unities, freakish and endearing

More than ten years ago my friend Lasitha Yasanga Herath offered the following observation on unity: Unity = kneeling down ‘together’ in front of freaks, trying to intimidate others who have different views ‘together,’ and waiting ‘together’ silently until perverts shit on their heads.

Political ‘unities’ tend to be just as Lasitha describes them above. Yes, even those unities that have left/socialist pretensions of equal, fraternal embrace, decision and execution. There’s comfort in numbers when threatened or for whatever reason wishing ill on other collectives.

The problem is the facts of freaks and freaking. Demagogues and demagoguery. It has as much to do with freaks as with the tendency of the ‘freaked,’ if you will, to be slothful and servile. After all, birds of a feather do flock together. It is not unnatural to feel even slightly more comfortable among those who speak one’s language, share one’s faith, are born in the same geography or identify with the same political cause.  One should add the caveat, ‘at certain moments, certain times of the day, certain periods in one’s life etc.’

And another note of caution: not all individuals who attract or gather a flock are freaks although certain elements of the following could very well be freakish and although the churches come up and the priests who run them in the name of the very same individuals can be freaking and freaks respectively.

In tense times, especially when sensing threat, we tend to forget that we are not who we were and will not be who we are. That’s the hour of the freak, clearly. It is also the hour of the inspired, benevolent and strident voice that understands the moment, the role, the community, the deeper truths of the particular doctrine and does not compromise relevant tenets, is sensitive to the larger realities, and more importantly, knows when end-point arrives and has the wisdom to retire. The world is made grotesque and broken again and again by the former kind, the freaks. It is mended and healed by the latter.

Let’s get back to ‘at certain moments, certain times of the day, certain periods in one's life.’ We are one with someone but not all the time, for we (and they) are made of multiple identities. We recognise a particular signifier at a particular time in one another. To put it simply, ‘we go home and we are no longer that which united us with a collective; we are someone’s loved one and we are with ones we love.’

Not just at home. Even in the battlefield, at the frontlines of engagement and heated debate, we are ‘one’ in one sense, but we are ‘many others’ too. We don’t completely retire those other identity-elements that make us. So, theoretically, even as we kneel down before freaks, even as we are not exactly ‘one’ with our fellow-kneelers. And, theoretically also, we could be one on many counts with those who are kneeling before freaks we intend to intimidate. These ‘onenesses’ we suppress, deferring to ‘the need of the moment.’

That’s the problem. The need of the moment. The heat of the moment. These things outlast ‘the moment’ and the onenesses we shelved remain untouched, unnoticed and even disavowed. The freaks prevail. They will, as they always have, focus on the limited and limiting unities, ridicule and vilify those other identifiers shared by all kneelers before any and every freak. The freaks will thunder from the podium and the kneelers will say ‘amen,’ they will cry out in chorus ‘I hear you prophet’. The prophets, for their part, as they always have, will profit.

Somewhere in a less corporeal universe those abandoned unities must be having conversations. Maybe they are still perfecting the communication devices that will give kneelers eyes and voice. Somewhere, as I write and as you read, there are millions kneeling before freaks. Somehow the sore knees aren’t relaying to the brain the hurt, the manipulation and the idiocy.

Somewhere, someone may be kneeling before a freakish idea: I am many and therefore I am one with many; the many may or may not recognise me, but I will refuse to spurn my brother of many unities.

And when that someone becomes 'some people' and these 'some people' forge unities different to those peddled by freaks, the perverts will not have a chance in hell to shit on us. Sometimes we make the earth bleed in our ignorance but at times we make the desert bloom in our awakenings and purities of intention. And one day my friend Lasitha Yasanga may very well write new observations on how things have changed and unities have become more logical and civilised. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!"

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis

The revolution is the song

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins

The day I won a Pulitzer


Ella Deloria's silences

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable 


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan

Enlightening geometries

Let's meet at 'The Commons'

It all begins with a dot

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone

On sweeping close to one's feet

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts...

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm

Who really wrote 'Mother'?

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember

On loving, always

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday 

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart