Survival with Integrity Lost or Be the Pariah and Die with Dignity?
Calling in favours, pulling all strings (and flings), flexing power and basking in privilege seems to be the order of the day in these turbulent times. People know they are privileged. People know they can afford to wait. Yet people also don’t give a damn about others and this is what you see in this great vaccine battle unfolding before our eyes.
It’s like in Roman times. The gladiators are given the best battle weapons to entertain the rich and privileged while the poor watch on, debating if it is better to die a slave or a die a worshipped hero and yet mauled by lions and ‘beasts’. The gladiators will only taste of the privilege but never truly own it. And so the vaccines are vacillating around Colombo, injected into the well fed arms of those who don’t really need it because they are privileged enough to have a room of one’s own. Whereas the hoi polloi who ply the streets and the public transport systems, who live in squalor and on daily droppings from the mouths of capitalism, must wait till the ‘nonas’ and ‘mahaththayas’ are fed and watered. It’s like humanity stripped down to bare skeletal remains.
Sri Lanka has always known corruption and so does the rest of the world. Just that we live here you know. Stuck watching as more and more bum suckers, leeches, preachers and sycophants go around getting what they want simply because they have the ‘connections’ to do so. What’s worse is that now it’s a proud badge of honour. “I know XXX and therefore managed to get the second dose”. Not that most people can’t. We the ‘Colomba minissu’ (Colombo people) as we are referred to by the rest of this country, more often than not, do know some person somewhere who is ‘powerful’ or ‘privileged’. Yet there are those who still cringe at the thought of pulling those favours. You would if say a loved one is on death row. But for a vaccine? That should anyway come to you eventually, is it worth it? And when your conscience is pricking and the clock for those who have zero voice is ticking, how the devil can one justify to oneself that it’s ok to get the lion’s share while others are starving?
Have we lost our sense of self and instead become the proverbial survivors – where Darwin is probably cackling somewhere – because it’s now the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest? Is this how the world is going to be? Yes I know life is not fair, but now it’s like a badge slapped in people’s faces. Now it’s no longer some projected benevolence. Now it’s all out grab and keep. Yet the question remains – is it ok? Is it ok to be the survivor who does what it takes or do you remain the pariah who may die tomorrow but with your integrity intact? I’ve always felt it’s harder to do the right thing in Sri Lanka whereas it’s so easy to subvert the system. That debate is still true.