Time for re-evolution
Posted on February 4th, 2015

By Rohana R. Wasala

Courtesy The Island

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is let loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  • From The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939)

I must explain why I am starting my essay with these lines from Yeats’s  short poem The Second Coming”. The epigraph is meant to serve the readers like the headlight that an explorer fixes on their headgear on entering a hitherto unexplored cave. The poem’s reference is to the traditional Christian belief that Christ will come a second time when things on earth are like the terrifying vision that the poet describes here: things spiraling out of the control of a steady centre, general anarchy, violence, good people having lost  faith in traditional order, but the bad ones full of passionate intensity”, etc. The situation in Europe around 1921 (when this poem was written) was like this in Yeats’s view.

We don’t know how seriously or with what degree of commitment to any religious or political ideology he analyzed the contemporary social reality surrounding him.  But it is clear that he probably believed that things were so bad that the time had come for the biblical prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ to be fulfilled, i.e. for a new revelation to become reality, the meaning of which he interpreted in his own unique way. Yeats includes in his nightmarish vision the Egyptian Sphinx (A shape with lion body and the head of a lion” or the rough beast”) and equates it with the new Christ (not entirely inconsistent with the Bible description of Christ at the Second Coming, which is: With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns….”).

Yeats sees this shape as A vast image of Spiritus Mundi” (World Spirit) or the collective spirit of humanity”. He may be interpreting the Second Coming of Christ as symbolizing the dawn of a peaceful and prosperous age (similar to the Millennium that is believed to follow the Second Coming).  Yeats probably thought that such an age would be made possible by the triumph of modern science over blind superstition (the Sphinx insisted on a riddle being solved by his captives on pain of death)  and of democracy over authoritarianism, in spite of the temporary unsettling imbalances that this earth shattering event may cause. The feeling of uncertainty that is engulfing the country as a result of the recent change” is also mingled with an exciting sense of hope that things will be somehow better than before, which made me incorporate these lines of poetry in my essay.

A confident, smiling, white-clad Mr Ravi Karunanayake, the new Minister of Finance, (as pictured on the front page of The Island  of 30.01.2015) with his 100-day interim-budget document in his briefcase like A box where sweets compacted lie”, no doubt, warmed the cockles of the public heart (though the budget had been presented on the 29th  and  was already stale news). Such a show of pride was not  unreasonable, for our normal experience with parliamentary budgets is, as the traditional Sinhala idiom goes, a case of delivering a mouse after a mountain of labour”! But here the relief measures offered are beyond normal expectations, and what’s more, the whole thing may be celebrated as a pleasantly ironic inversion of the above metaphor. I can easily imagine the eager jubilation of the masses who had been subjected to some forced austerity in the name of reconciliation-oriented development. I can also understand the corresponding chagrin of those who could/should have dispensed earlier the largesse they themselves made possible if they had thought about the privations of the ordinary people. (Aside: The master cooks who laboured for this banquet to be laid out are out in the cold today. This is the nature of power politics. Of both the cooks and the waiters it could well be said, with apologies to John Milton the English poet of the 17th century: They also serve who (lie) and wait!”)

Nevertheless, this should be seen as an auspicious beginning for the new regime. Let’s hope that the same level of felicity will continue to prevail across the country until and after the  real concerns and aspirations which brought the people together for effecting a change at the centre are  addressed to the satisfaction of most if not all of the Sri Lankans. No community should be given reason to feel overwhelmed by the changes introduced. Pleasing all the communities equally is a tall order for both the president and the prime minister. But if the whole country stand behind them, it won’t be too daunting a task. It is heartening and praiseworthy that President Sirisena stressed the need for the SLFP and the UNP to work together for the greater good of the country” during an interview broadcast on Rupavahini Television on Saturday 31 (as reported in The Island, Monday 2, February 2015)

Prime Minister Wickremasinghe also emphasized the same point before at a meeting at Polonnaruwa. May leaders of all other parties too join them in the same spirit for forging a truly national front. Let them then work out a new constitution and get it first approved by the public through a country-wide referendum before passing it into law through parliament.

On this 67th anniversary of the end of foreign occupation of our country, let us put an end to fruitless mutual recrimination and turn our collective mind towards a re-evolution of a system of governance that strengthens us through unity as one nation, instead  of one that weakens us through separation, and do our common ancestors proud. Let us hope that the educated young people who cast their vote in an unorthodox way in the exercise of their franchise in the last election will play an equally significant role in ushering in this new age. When there is war it is always the young who will be called upon to fight and die for the old codgers to ….. I don’t know what. Let us remember this.

2 Responses to “Time for re-evolution”

  1. dingiri bandara Says:

    As long as the Tamils and the Muslims have aspirations of separate states fer them in the North and the East whilst the majority of them live and flourish in other parts of the county because the Sinhalese in those did not discriminate against them as claimed, Sri Lanka will never have peace. The constitution must be amended to include a clause to make illegal to to attempt or to divide the country.
    Does implementing 13A mean the all Tamils and Muslims move to the North and the East and not be able to live in the other parts of the country by choice because they are relatively safer and prosperous? Does it mean that there will be no more Tamil or Muslim police officers in the so called Sinhalese areas ?

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    dingiri b :

    Isn’t the 6-A Clause is sufficient to deter Separatists ?

    It is just that it has NEVER BEEN PUT TO ACTION AT THE INCEPTION OF ACTIONS LEADING TO SEPARATISM. Only when Terrorism strikes, there is action taken. Therefore, Self Rule, 50-50, Federalism flourishes in Lanka through minority leaders.

    In fact, the fact that only soem 23% of the Budget allocated to the Northern Prov. Councils have been used so far is a sure indicator that they want to keep the Tamils of the North unhappy.
    Also, the fact that Tamil tea pluckers are still kept in Brit line rooms is another indicator that the CWC wants to keep the Upcountry Tamils socially down, thus continuing the Caste type stigma.

    These are questions that should have been brought up at Parliament level as such actions by the Tamil leaders affect the Unity status of the country.

    The 6-A is inadequate, it seems. New Laws have to be brought about to address acts of aggression affecting the Unity Status of the country.

    Comments welcome.

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