These things are important. There’s Vigil at Alexandra Circus tomorrow at 6.
I called myself a Buddhist for most of my life, but I never really understood it until I meditated. In the same way I’m beginning to believe that I can’t really call myself a citizen unless I practice democracy. So that means speaking out more, be it in writing or in voice. It means paying attention to elections, even local ones, and voting. It also involves writing letters and meeting people and standing on the street and running around and being uncomfortable and awkward and generally muddling through. I’d say getting your ass the first inch off the couch is the hardest, but it gets easier.
Before the tsunami I used basically read all the books in my parents house and go swimming. But the tsunami got me off my ass and I discovered purpose and direction. In the same way, Lasantha’s death has gotten me off my ass in terms of the suffering we face now.
People ask whether it’s wrong to make Lasantha a ‘martyr’ or talk about him anymore or whatever. I think it’s fine, important even. That case is still open and he’s still murdered. The powers that do depend on Colombo forgetting everything within a week, but there’s some things we shouldn’t forget. Lasantha’s death has left a vacuum, but that vacuum is being filled by a new activism and citizenship. The Sunday Leader is coming back stronger and people are meeting and campaigning and generally waking up.
I mean, it’s not that many people, but that’s OK. I have lost interest in the lesser jihad of blackguarding the powerful and am fully occupied with the greater jihad to empower myself. Not that there isn’t a place for speaking truth to power, but there is an accepted way in a democracy to do this. You can write in the papers, online, you can protest on the street, you can speak in public, you can meet with like minded people and send letters and stickers out. You can just walk around and talk to people. You can call politicians and talk to them. These are small things, but I believe it’s simply important to get the blood flowing in the body politic. So we can lift heavier things later.
In the process, I’m also actually far less angry and far less adamant about me being right and other people being stupid. I don’t rant against the government anymore because I think that we need to work with them. And that has to start with, at the least, respect and the knowledge that they’re trying to help the country. I still don’t agree with how, but I’m far more open to compromise now. Because – outside the rarefied air of irrelevance – you have to compromise.
I dunno. I guess that’s where I’m at now. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says ‘I’m Sri Lankan Too’, in three languages. I go to meetings and I’ll be going to the Vigil For Democracy tomorrow (Thursday), to stand on the street at Alexandra Circus. I don’t know if these things make a difference to Sri Lanka or the world, but that doesn’t bother me as much anymore. It makes a difference to me.
I realize now that no one is going to give me the life I want, even though I think I want simple, basic things. Like the fundamental rights in our Constitution, like freedom from excessive taxation and corruption and highway robbery and minister’s sons flashing guns at clubs. But no one’s going to hand those things to me, certainly not the fellow complainers I meet around Colombo.
However, no one can gave me Buddhism either. Just because it was written down and I understood it on a logical level didn’t make me Buddhist. I had to practice and I have to, everyday. Anything important exists in practice. My faith diminishes if I don’t meditate and our rights disappear if we don’t practice them. I don’t even consider democracy a right anymore. I consider it a responsibility.