I am not sure this new year will bring us the happiness and prosperity that we so wish each other in our frenetic-poetic text messages. Not in Sri Lanka. Maybe not anywhere. But then, I confine myself to this island; and this island is what I give a damn about; and I give a damn because I want to be happy in this little island this year.
So here’s something that makes me write on the first day of the year. I don’t care for citizen journalism, but in a situation where all of us sit around and crib about our decedent politics, it was refreshing to see someone walk out there alone; paint some canvas and put it out in front of the Fort Railway Station. Ok, it’s not the mass rally that will topple the government. And this young man, Sanjaya is still shy with his words, but he gave me enough freedom within his paintings and his slogan “Fight for Love; Love Peace” (Direct Translation from Sinhala). I will caption it, MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR!
I am glad I went there. Apart from discussing about how poorly recieved art is among the masses with these fresh graduates from Haywood, we managed to have a decent conversation about why we should or should not leave out the words “war/peace” from our captions. After all, ‘peace’ is no more the winning horse. It certainly is not, as long as you think that Peace is a round of talks in Switzerland or a ceasefire.
We were not disappointed: a lady walked to us and wanted to know what we mean by ‘all this’? “Are you trying to say that the war we are fighting now is bad?” She just managed to introduce herself as an army doctor, and it was a shame she did not wait for an answer. (Like all supporters of war, they bombard you with questions and fly away…and that question is suppose to haunt you in your dreams: “Traitor!!!!!”)
But what actually haunts me is this: “how do you have a conversation with a person like this good lady army doctor, who thinks that we are an ungrateful bunch of spoilt madmen, who don’t give a frothing penny about what our poor soldiers go through up there!”
Do they really think we hate our boys so much to side with foreign conspirators for whatever the gold we get to utter the Poisonous word Peace! The other day, driving past Ratmalana Airport, the road gets blocked and eight ambulance vehicles whizz past me, surely with body bags, followed by a Rosa bus full of bandaged young men in sanatorium clothes. Eyes plastered, arms in dressing…I know it is not a movie! and I bang at my steering wheel in frustration! CANT WE SEE! CANT WE SEE!! CANT WE SEE!!!
AND YET WE SAY NOTHING!
Sorry I have to change topics. I need to cool down…..
So, like Sanjaya, I too choose to talk about love in this situation. And my impression is that Sanjaya too, chose so for similar reasons. It makes little sense to talk of how battles are fought and won between governments and guerrilla groups. Of course you can talk about it for hours, but what is it that we as individuals who are far away from that line of action, who are caught up so much with our mundane battles, begin to realise that there really is a thin red line that connects our personal battles to those big games. How are own personal battles, within us, between those who are close to us, are also arenas of conflict and violence of varying degrees. How cruel are we in these little battles we fight? between lovers, brothers and sisters, families, colleagues? How unforgiving? How mad do we get once we are out on the streets? How abusive?
No wonder the world is full of thieves, and people who are just about to become thieves.
The real battle is perhaps not the one up there in the north, in that sense…the real battle would be within us…within this society we face every day…to remain kind, loving, uncorrupted, good at heart, and have a conscience. The real battle is to believe in these virtues, in a time that they seem so out of vogue.
Perhaps I am as much a reductionist as Marx when he said that the fundamentals of everything is in economics: but I keep coming back to , no not economics, but love: love is the answer to many of the social deseases of the modern day. Love is a perspective; a practice; it is a process of healing and transofrmation.
Love has the power to transform us in to more honest individuals; kinder and more contemplative; more compassionate. In this mass anesthetized oblivion of our lives, only love can strike a sensitive chord.
And without that sensitivity there would be no Art. Nor Peace.
This is the moral choice we make. And I pray, I do not want blood in our collective conscience.
Inspired by Sanjaya Senevirathne