The tableau depicting “See no evil”, “Hear no evil” and “Speak no evil” has, without exception and throughout the years, featured three monkeys depicting each of those human behavioural choices. I believe this is apt because humans, politicians in particular, have displayed a monumental capacity to display all the symptoms of denial in the matter of speaking to matters of evil, listening to evidence of evil or accepting the existence of evil when it is right before their eyes.
I have often described macaques (Rilawas) and the unparalleled devastation they continue to visit on the economy of the peasant society in our neck of the woods. I do believe that they typify behaviour without the restrictions of conscience. Sound familiar when viewing the conduct of politicians?
As time goes by and my irritation with the havoc the monkeys wreak on the countryside in which I live threatens to reach stratospheric levels, I have been forced into considering some comparisons and contrasts of our politicians and their simian cousins in this “land like no other”. I am reluctantly compelled to come to the conclusion that monkey conduct is a most apt metaphor for what our politicians, in particular, visit upon us.
What follows is a very amateurish attempt to view the behaviour of monkeys and the vast majority of politicians, exceptions being treated as proving the rule.
I must warn any reader who chooses to go beyond this point of my diatribe that, as will be most evident, I don’t bring a great deal of objectivity to the attempt to observe and analyse our closest relations in the animal kingdom nor to that most reprehensible category of humans in society, politicians. For this I make no apology because those feelings are honestly arrived at on the basis of many years of experience.
To begin, rilawas appear, consistently, to display what, in human terms, is described as “mob psychology” – if the alpha male in the gang does something, the rest of the troop follows suit with little hesitation. This is particularly so in the matter of destructive behaviour such as invading people’s houses and proceeding to lay waste to all they can lay their hands on. The human equivalent would be not simple destruction but vandalism, something hugely common both in the so-called developed, developing and undeveloped countries, Sri Lanka providing no exception to this rule.
In the matter of sexual conduct, the alpha males in the monkey kingdom proceed to force their attentions on females of the troop whether those females welcome or reject such attention. Sound familiar in the context of many of our Sri Lankan politicians being charged with sexual assault or rape?
Monkeys are thieves, committing “crimes of opportunity” rather than “crimes of necessity”. Here again, one cannot but be struck by the similarity rather than the dissimilarity between the norms of monkeyland and our politicians. After all, politicians, by virtue of the privileges and perquisites that come with the territory, should really have no compulsion to engage in illegal activity, not for purposes of survival anyway.
I don’t know whether familial connections mean anything in monkeyland but, given the size of macaque troops, I think it would be a safe bet to assume that they are all blood relations and, therefore, that members of the clan share the spoils of conquest and theft as is so obviously the case among the political clans.
In the matter of exhibitionist behaviour, it’s a toss-up who comes out ahead. Our rilawa relations are, perhaps, more uninhibited in the matter of overtly sexual behaviour in public, but one runs the risk of being proved dead wrong if the suggestion is made that our politicos don’t display similar tendencies when offered the security of cars, vans, SUVs or hotels and motels that rent by the hour!
Our macaque cousins do also resist, very vehemently, any attempts by their simian cousins of the Sri Lankan low lands, the Langurs (wanduras), to invade or infringe on their territory. The latter, being less given to violence, are known to back off more often than not. However, in jurisdictions across the Palk Strait the opposite appears to be the case with langurs being trained to drive off the macaques in places such as New Delhi. Such a scenario, alas, appears to be alien to the Sri Lankan experience and likely to continue so unless some greater force intervenes. In the meantime, the greybeards of the political opposition will, I suppose continue to look for tender greenery to assuage their hunger for power and authority.
An area of dissimilarity between the two – macaques and politicians – is in the matter of defence of the troop/party. Alpha male monkeys will descend to the lower levels of the arboreal canopy to defend their smaller and weaker clansmen when threatened by dogs and other predators, humans included, while the preference of the Sri Lankan politician is to scuttle away into the highest branches of the trees in which they dwell, leaving it to their less important foot-soldiers (often the security forces) to defend them and their turf if they feel there is any risk from outside their own little circle.
If the foregoing attempt at analysis and arriving at a clear definition of the two elements appears to have failed, I can only apologise to the reader.
The obvious question that arises consequent on any attempt at analysis such as this is: how does one contribute in at least some small way to bring about much needed change in the animal and human kingdoms in our particular jurisdiction so that everyone may benefit from such change?
While I can share the hope that, by some miracle, we would be rid of the twin scourges of the macaque in rural (and urban) Sri Lanka and the politicians infesting every nook and cranny of this country who effectively blight every aspect of our existence in Sri Lanka, I cannot at this time give you any kind of a road map or guide book as to how this can be affected. I can only hope that before that great scorer comes to tot up my contributions to making this a better place for us to inhabit, I would have discovered at least one little clue as to how this might be brought about.
In the meantime, dear reader, join me in living in hope!