The Heart Of The Matter Is A Matter Of The Heart
“Exterminate the brutes!” prescribes Kurtz, “the flower of European Civilization,” writing to fellow colonizers after having stayed amidst “savages” in a remote outpost of the African interior. (Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness)
The same greed for wealth and power, the same moral bankruptcy, the same hollowness: this three-pronged devil’s fork has seized our State and taken a toll on its soul and sanity. So, in a frenzied panic the State persecutes, harasses, intimidates and arrests unarmed student activists and would fain be rid of them with Kurtz’s merciless words of denunciation. Serious concern is expressed by pro-activist lobbies that the life of Wasantha Mudalige, the Convener of the Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF) and a prominent leader of the present people’s struggle, is under threat since, while he is in police custody, he is taken to suspicious venues for interrogation. Such fiascos invariably end with the shooting of the convict or suspect, under some wild pretext of unidentified gunmen appearing from nowhere for the purpose. It is an outrage that this young man demanding student rights and social justice in general, together with his fellow activist students, are arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), when they have been exemplary exponents of non-violence. The arrest of thousands of such youth must be stopped immediately, while all innocent victims must be released. It is imperative that injustice is discontinued. Else, this may provoke thunderous retaliation which the State may not be able to contain any more.
As the State’s iron fist of tyranny tightens, and its knuckles whiten with rage, as it bares its teeth in a fierce snarl and salivates for delicacies amidst a starving people, as it strides blindly on, as it plunges headlong into imminent ignominy, incognizant of the chaos it has caused, do we dare look on in passive horror, in helpless resignation, in selfish indifference, in insipid apathy? If this is not the time to rise up, to raise our voices, then, when is? Let us roar in unison with the heart of a lion to rid our land of this rabid beast!
The worms that, for a time, hid in their cocoons are now strutting with new wings, not knowing that they will lose them faster than flying-termites. No matter what fortresses of refuge they build manipulating the Law which they have made as malleable as playdough, their castles in the air will all be razed to the ground by the stronghold of democracy where right-thinking legal professionals and citizens fight the relentless foe. There is an attempt to replace the Rule of Law with the law of the ruler, but no loopholes in the Law can overcome the true Spirit of the Law. The hallowed creed of the Law is to safeguard the sovereignty and welfare of the people. Learn, O State! How sternly the bastions of Justice and Human Rights, activism and opposition politics, a responsible media and an alert public denounced alike the issuing of an extraordinary gazette declaring High-Security Zones (HSZ) without even having consulted the Attorney General, and how finally there was no option but to revoke the notification. The fleshy, wingless termites have no mounds to crawl into and are asking to be pecked at! Similarly, the signature hunt for “Repeal Prevention of Terrorism Act” is going full steam. It is bound to flatten you if you dare obstruct its track. Learn from the Fall of Bastille. For hunger is a slumbering ogre. Tickle it awake, at your peril, and it will gulp you down into its belching belly darker than that of Jonah’s whale. You dream of repressing a dormant volcano under your iron-shod foot. Its hungry rumbles will lead to angry eruption and fossilize you in thick folds of fiery lava.
And now, rehabilitation of dissenters has become a pet concept of the State. The impertinence! Having robbed the people of their rights, freedom, and livelihood, having committed the worst possible blunders and crimes against the nation, having plundered its wealth and tarnished its good name, now, they have the audacity to “correct” innocent civilians who have suffered immeasurably already. Besides, what is the assurance that these centres of rehabilitation would not turn into something gruesome such as torture chambers? A state that is in the habit of unleashing terror upon its people, youth and journalists is capable of bigger atrocities. One of the latest ploys to curb criticism and exposure is to silence the government servants and high officials by denying them the right to speak out. Thus, Freedom of Speech and the Right to Information, both fundamental components of a democracy, are viciously violated. The ongoing demonstration, now exceeding two thousand successive days, by the families of the victims of enforced disappearances in the North, with no justice in sight yet except for mere eyewash, is a living example of how ruthless and sadistic the state can be.
The lotus, once fresh, is now foul and floundering. The crow has deserted its flock in characteristic abandon. Having fled, from afar it attempts to stage-manage the crude drama at home. This glossy cravat or the rich red shawl does not belong in the sick bed, where you are, sick at heart. Rather, it may turn out to be the noose of Nemesis around your neck which you caress fondly in the bliss of ignorance. Wake up to take in the bleak vista that you dragged our Motherland along, traversing ragged rocks till now, only to look down from the edge of a precipice. She is in no mood for such a cliffhanger.
When the cauldron was bubbling merrily at Galle face Green, a surreptitious hand poured cold water over it and diluted its thickening aromatic goodness to a gruel thinner than what Oliver Twist is served in the workhouse. It simmers on though and is bound to boil again, huff and puff as you may to quench it altogether. It is fueled by the aspiration in the heart of the youth, by the thirst for freedom and fair play in the soul of every citizen who loves his or her nation. Unarmed and, therefore disarming, the saviours shall march with determination to the destination of their dreams.
Every pang of hunger felt by every fainting child should be reciprocated by a pang of conscience in you. You make no effort to feed them even some thin gruel, while you fatten your bandit clan with cream and, in return, they ooze with oily obsequiousness. The unholy and unnatural disparity between the sated and the starving is an ever-deepening chasm, literally undermining the foundations of this corrupt and callous State, which will catalyse its impending collapse. No less than medical men proclaim they see no poverty, malnutrition, or shortage of food in Sri Lanka! That is, to put it mildly, a heartless observation. While the world authorities lament the plight of our children, our State is in its customary denial mode. When will they take to heart that we are in the throes of a man-made economic disaster? Who will answer for the under-nourished mother and the underweight neonate?
Where money is the primary goal, it is easy to sacrifice human dignity, even human life. On the altar of the temple where money is worshipped, are placed the flowers of feminine modesty to be sacrilegiously sacrificed. What they want to cultivate instead is cannabis! Ironically, the namesake of the Goddess of Chastity in Roman mythology, is an impious priestess on our soil, preaching the opposite of what her name stands for. Consider the quote, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet) One may infer then, that regardless of whether the name is refined or crude, what it signifies is what will matter. In the name of progress, another name only, she encourages you to barter your virtue for profit in order to thrive in a godless culture called “nightlife.” Can such tainted lucre usher in real prosperity? Would it not corrode existing family values and eventually lead to the disintegration of the family unit? Claiming to have thousands of years of religious heritage with noble standards of asceticism and celibacy on the one hand, the State promotes such degenerate doctrine unashamedly, on the other, forgetting that it is robbing the soul of its purity and peace. T.S. Eliot brings this out in his “Preludes” by means of the euphemism of “a thousand furnished rooms” where the exploited suffer silently with their inconsolable sorrow of the sullied soul. Would it not be far better to empower women through education, skills training, vocational training, etc., together with poverty alleviation and nutritional support to make them competent for the workforce while maintaining their dignity and self-esteem?
Let us not lose heart but take heart. Let us not be half-hearted but engage heart and soul in this rescue mission. Let us confront the hearts of stone with hearts of gold. Let us advocate a true change of heart for the better in every sphere resulting in genuine patriotism and ethnic harmony flourishing in an egalitarian society. When our heart is in the right place, whether the heart skips a beat in shock or panic is immaterial, because when the heart forgets to beat for good, we would not regret. The heart of the matter, then, is, in essence, a matter of the heart.