The concept of postmodernism is a late 20th century critical movement that arose in continental Europe to respond to art, architecture and later other fields of intellectual pursuits including philosophy, culture and history.
The American device of post structuralism and Jacques Derrida’s proposition of deconstruction are indeed vibrant intellectual movements that countered certain religious dogmatisms and age old absolutist approaches to life and reality. The resulting effect was a form of hybridity that most postcolonial theorists took up in their critical approach to the treatment of the colonies as an object of study (Orientalism, Edward Said critiques it comprehensively), dichotomizing East-West relations. It is in this light the political undercurrent since 8th January is brought under scrutiny in the piece below.
Post 8th January
The kind of politics that is in operation since ‘the Sirisena victory’ over Mahinda is a crucially important matter for discussion. What Sri Lanka has now is a president who is the chairperson of the SLFP, but considered by the ordinary SLFPers as someone who betrayed the party, elected mostly by the UNPers and the Tamil and Muslim block vote.
The SLFP parliamentarians entertain a love-hate relationship with their party head and the more radical UPFA parliamentarians would not trust him and perhaps consider him a political hybrid belonging to no party, therefore an identity-less persona.
The President cannot be blamed for this scenario. He himself either wonders about his political identity or simply he is a classically forced hybridized post-ideology statesman of South Asia. He is to be credited for his hybridity displayed so far. This postmodern political disposition of the President is infectious because the SLFP parliamentarians argue that Sirisena is their ‘blue man’ in ‘green clothes’.
The President says that he will not abandon the UNP because it helped to end an era of corruption, fraud and disrespect for the rule of law on the island in which he was part during his ministerial days which he perhaps conveniently forgets. JVP did not overtly support the president, but campaigned vehemently against the UPFA presidential candidate which also indicates their post-ideology inevitability.
They are no longer a revolutionary party, well tamed, fits comfortably in parliamentary politics with scanty street protests leading one to wonder whether it is a Marxist-Leninist party at all, and displays perfect postmodern hybridized politics. Somawansa Amarasinghe’s defection is symbolic of JVP’s splintering hybridity. The JHU has always been a postmodern political party, rejecting, absorbing, adjusting and reframing their ideology and strategy. Some suggest that they have been skillfully opportunistic for their piece of the pie.
Buddhism, nationalism, heritage and sharp critique of the establishment remain their tools of post-ideology politics while opportunism and adaptability become their trade mark. They are a prefect hybrid too. UNP parliamentarians display liberal thinking but their loyalties within the party are hybridized as some of them have severely criticized Ranil himself. UNP leadership in the person of Ranil perhaps is the only unaffected politician by the winds of postmodern political influence because he is ardently and conservatively liberal to his marrow.
There is perhaps hybridity in his personal story. The difference between him and CBK is that Ranil displays political maturity to withstand criticism, failure, shameful defeats and resilient comebacks while CBK lacks that same maturity but shifts between radically liberal and liberal foolhardiness – a perfect persona of the hybridized post-ideology political animal.
The former president, Mahinda who has been long in the political game, is also an adapt at post-ideology pursuits as he built his grand coalition as a grand juggler but Sri Lanka remains his catchment area and internationalism is not his forte. So is the case with president Sirisena. They both act like fish out of water among their global counterparts, a core indication of post-ideology symptoms.
They both will say yes and no to the same question posed to them at different times in a sound cut and in front a camera. One has to tolerate them for who they are, they cannot perform more than what they know and are used to.
Post-Ideology Mr. Cleans
Post 8th January is a turning point in the political landscape since independence. End of 100 days with the half-baked 19A and the pending 20A are typical tactical politics devoid of policy and principles. The TNA and the Muslim parties themselves are perfect hybrids of our times, with a mix of arsenal ideologies personal interests and agendas determined by the actors in the distant theatres. Interestingly the voters too function with their suffrage with a subtle post ideology axiom to elect their preferred men and women to govern them.
Their contract is becoming more difficult to be bought by the election time goodies. They will accept them but will not be influenced or guided by vote bribes. The next fleet of elections will be extraordinary and the nation will know the political behavior of the people. The UNP, JVP, JHU and TNA will have to sell a different story to win the legislature. SLFP, what remains of UPFA have a herculean task to win over and above all allegations. All of them have to prove to people that they can be clean.