Why Independence Still Matters to Me
The Sri Lankan flag flying from our balcony, the choppers in the sky and the 21 gun salute are my earliest memories of independence. We would sit around the TV and watch the arrival of people, the parade of the forces, the playing of the national anthem and the President’s speech. We would also hear the actual guns firing from Independence Square. Independence at home was special to us. Maybe coz a lot of my family were government servants. Or maybe coz it incited a sense of pride in who we are as a nation which of course is a very modern construct and has been the root of evil as well as the rallying force of being one.
Somewhere down the line I stopped watching the independence day ‘celebrations’. Somewhere down the line, once my grandmother and aunt were no more, and our family home was no more, we lost a sense of that. Or maybe cynicism crept in. Anger at the injustice of consecutive governments. Especially post conflict reconciliation which never really happened. Maybe with this mania to cling on to a majority identity which is a highly politicized demarcation; which has been used ad nauseam to tear apart the intricately woven fabric of multi everything that this country has encompassed for centuries. Nation building is a problem. Highly political. Highly contentious. One need only look above us at our neighbours to know the woes of demarcated borderlines. Of division. Of derision and of war.
I tried to think back to why independence meant something to me. Why it mattered. Why it was important to know what that independence stood for. One thing is that it stood for something that I am passionately against – colonialism. There’s no greater form of modern racism and structural violence than Eurocentric colonialism – the vestiges of which we are still laboring under – a lot by choice. Whatever fantasies we may have woven around colonization and its benefits, one needs to only read the many letters by the likes of Macaulay and mandates to understand that colonialism was an empire building exercise based on economics and masked with ethics. Yes we can’t blame the white man for all our woes. But you cannot deny that the roots of discord were sown then and there is a part that they did play. What is important is to learn and move on.
A damn lesson we haven’t learned. We have instead regressed into some cockeyed notion of a past culture that existed that somehow ensured that all races were ‘pure’ with zero cross nourishment from other ‘lesser’ races. Bullshit. A country that boasts a neighbouring man as the first king of Lanka who mind you banished the indigenous queen in his great zeal, and multiple kings and queens from India over the years, trade with the Mediterranean, a major port on the land silk route and hell yea, we were pro-creating in silos of only one race apparently. To believe such fallacies one has to be a fool. Sadly a majority of our country believe these fallacies.
Yet there are those of us who are intelligent. Who don’t blindly follow. Who don’t believe every yarn spun by politicians that will put Animal Farm to shame. Who question and who wish to see a just country that is fair by all. Not just for one group of people. Utopia exists in the minds of many and in the actions of a few. Still it is worth fighting for. Surely all it takes is a few? A few to create at least a semblance of change and to light the way.
A friend who joined politics told me, ‘It’s better to light a candle than curse the dark”. She’s right. To change we need to keep the good fight. We need to get into the system (cringe) and we need to start working. Change will not happen overnight, this year or next. But it will lead the way for others.
We all love bitching but we do nothing. That’s privilege. Coz we will all know some person who can save our asses on a tough day. That’s not the case for the majority of the country. Yes the blind majority and yes we need to stand for them. Coz that’s the right thing to do. And the hands of injustice do not discriminate. If we want justice, we all need to work for it.
Nothing in life ever worth having was easy. No pain no gain. Yet it must be done. Not to be martyring ourselves but stand for what is right in whatever way. Plenty speak of Kamala Harris and Mrs. Bandaranaike. To know the difference between the two look at where they came from. We have a long way to go. But I want to hold onto that little flame that was in me as a child. In hope. Plenty speak of SL as a hopeless place. Watching the events of 6th January in the Capitol Hill of the US is all the proof one needs that the world has excellent PR machines and we all share a universal trait – majority nations have shitty politics.
If I am to be a fool in hope that I could help pave the way, then so be it. I would rather stand in the dark with a candle offering some hope to the wayward than be a cynical, miserable messenger of doom. Being realistic does not have to be negative all the time. There’s a reason Pandora’s box released hope in the end. Coz there will always be evil. But there is good too. And that good can be nurtured and multiplied.
That’s why independence still matters. Coz hope still lives. Albeit in the hearts of the foolish who believe in ‘Someday’.