It was way back in the year 1982 that the world first got to know that a woman called Diana Spencer was about to marry a man called Charles Arthur Phillip George. The wedding was to take place in a far away country that was sometimes called Great Britain and at other times referred to as the United Kingdom, never mind that both ‘great’ and ‘united’ were more wish than reality.
Back here in Sri Lanka, people got excited about this union. The man was the king in waiting. He was a prince. The woman was a lady. She’s been gone more than fifteen years now. And the prince…well, he’s still waiting.
Anyway, when the marriage was announced it caused quite a bit of excitement in Colombo. Everyone was thrilled about this ‘Royal Wedding’. The President of the country was invited. The Prime Minister got himself invited too. It was as though the butler and the stable boy had been invited to the lord’s son’s wedding.
It was to be shown live on television. Almost everyone in post-Independence Sri Lanka wanted to be part of the story. Well, there was one person who openly said what had to be said. He wrote to one of the newspapers something along the following lines:
‘Prince Charles, it was reported on two occasions, had not stepped out of his plane which was transiting in Colombo. We were told that on both occasions he had been asleep. Guess what I am going to do while the rest of the country watches this Royal Wedding on tv? I am going to sleep.’
A few days from now, we will have the opportunity to walk proudly to the polling booths to play our role in an exercise called democracy. We get to actually decide on which set of thugs or crooks or confidence tricksters we would like to rob us, beat us up or cheat us. We get to choose the sauce with which we will be eaten, as has been said before.
But it is exciting, this democracy business. We talk about it as though we will occupy seats in Parliament on August 18th. We worry whether or not we will get in. We jeer at our ‘opponents’ who, by the way, are not the contestants but the backers of contestants. It’s all vicarious, this democracy business.
There are flame wars raging in social media. Insults are traded. There are memes galore. There’s a lot of photoshopping that’s countering other photoshopping campaigns. Words are literally put in the mouths of people. There are lies, damned lies and there are statistics too. No sources, nothing about methodology of course, but the numbers are tossed around as though every single voter has been interviewed and their opinions obtained on every possible issue.
It’s silly. For the most part it is about feeling good about one’s choices — who after all wants to back anyone but a winner? It is also about demoralizing the other guys. And while the different groups bicker and quarrel the candidates, at least of the main parties, are raking in millions by way of campaign donations. Once elected, there will be payback time. The donors would have to be serviced. The backers on Facebook will be seen as ‘volunteers’.
It’s funny. If all the predictions were as accurate as claimed, we will have around 350 or more people getting elected. More than 100 would have to be standing in Parliament. That’s on the first day. If average absenteeism is considered there’s bound to be many seats available thereafter, so that’s not a problem.
The problem is in the illusion of participation. We don’t. We are not doing anything more than those Sri Lankans who way back in the year 1982 watched a man and woman get married in some other country as though they themselves were getting married or it was the wedding of a close relative or friend. They are far away. They know that people are excited but they don’t know who is getting excited. They don’t care.
Here’s something to do on August 17, 2015, then. Sleep. Sleep through it all. Vote if you want but do it as though you are doing it in your sleep. Don’t wait up for results. It doesn’t matter who gets to nibble on you for the next several years. All that matters is that you are going to be devoured in the end. Saying ‘delicious!’ before hand is moronic.