Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Patriot: My take

Word of warning: Long and pointless post ahead.

Let's begin with definitions first.

Patriotism is love of country; devotion to the welfare of one's country; the virtues and actions of a patriot; the passion which inspires one to serve one's country.

Political freedom is the absence of interference with the sovereignty of an individual by the use of coercion or aggression. Freedom is commonly known as a state of being free from government oppression.

"L'Etat, c'est moi." (I am the state.)    – Louis XIV, King of France

First things first, country ≠ the government or the ruler. Loyalty to your country does not mean you should be loyal to your leader. In [an ideal] democracy, the government really has no say in what an individual can do with his life (as long as it's within the laws of the land) and cannot force him to do something that he refuses to do. This is a fundamental human right guaranteed by our constitution and this is why there are Fundamental Rights Petitions in the supreme court. That being said, Sri Lanka is not an ideal democracy. Not really because the paperwork isn't there (we might complain loudly against this 'bahubootha wywastawa' of ours, but really it's positively heavenly compared to, for example, what the Chinese have) but because there are thuggish ministers who are 'above' the law and can mess your life up pretty bad. Ministers with firm handshakes and funny laughs, actually.

So imagine you're Mr. David Senanayaka. You're the son of a famous General Abhaya Senanayaka, who gave his life serving the country. You're quite a hot commodity in the advertising world. You've got a nice wife who's expecting your first child, a mother-in-law who knits stuff for you and friends who talk of our glorious 'Hela Sinhala Buddhist nation' while sipping 800 Rupee lattes in posh Colombo coffee shops. Oh and you hate the government. Not 'hate' as in bitching at the dinner table 'hate', but hate as in "To hell with them, I will not work for them even if it gets me, my wife and unborn child killed." hate.

The reasons for this hatred is not really explained, but thanks to snippets of dialogue I theorise it's because:

a) He believes the government (of the time?) bled his father dry and left his carcass for his mother and him.
b) The severance payment wasn't enough to support them.
c) He believes the government is not doing a good job with post war reconstruction. ("The north got completely demolished by the war. Then why is so much money being spent on the south?")
d) He's wary of the 18th amendment.

So when your bitchy boss sets you up with a government propaganda contract which promises rewards limited only by the star at the centre of our solar system, you pick a fight with your boss, get drunk, badmouth the president of the country in front of his loyal coffeehouse electorate, and get whacked by the minister's thugs. The interventionists offered two plausible alternate endings:

a) Tell the minister to go shove it and leave country fast. Ironic since David is a 'patriot'.
b) Swallow your pride, shut the eff up and work for the government. You're in advertising for heaven's sake, you DON'T HAVE IDEALS! (What sort of messed up moral compass lets people make ads for 'fairness creams'?)

Okay, so final thoughts: You might think you love your country, but that doesn't make you a better person. (Example: me) You might think you're right and the government is wrong, that doesn't make you a patriot and them oppressors. It just means you have political and ideological differences. For all you know, the laughing foetus-murdering minister might 'love the country' as much as you do. There's no definite way of saying that you love your country more than someone else.

But in conclusion, in this country, loyalty to the head of state is more important than loyalty to the state itself. (Example: Compare Sarath Fonseka's present situation to that of Karuna Amman.) In this country, we shut up and keep our heads low, for love of everything we hold dear, and wait for the next election and hope the government doesn't rig its outcome. If you don't like the system David, you might as well a) cut the patriotic crap and leave b) enter politics and attempt to shake things up. Sorry for being blunt, but that's how 'we' roll.

I hear you asking, what's the point of this long and wandering post? My point is that the title of the play should've been "Political Freedom" and not "Patriot". Yes, I'm pointless like that.