People have been occupying the Presidential Secretariat for weeks now. I say people because that’s all it is. It’s not a political party, it’s not an organization, I wouldn’t even call it a movement. It’s just… people.
I went there today with the entire family because… I guess that’s what Sri Lankans are doing. We went with our young children and their grandparents, and the streets are full of families just like us. Infants strapped to fathers’ chests, toddlers sleeping in their mothers' arms, children holding grandparents’ hands, teenagers out on their own.
A Family Revolution
Political protests are almost always all dudes, but these protests are full of families. They’re full of women. They’re full of children. Of old people. As Kurt Cobain said, come as you are. Nobody actually said much, but things are so bad that people just spontaneously came. And they keep coming. Every day.
We came during the day once and people are just camped out on the lawn. People are living in tents across from the President’s Office, just to tell him to fuck off. They’ve set up libraries, food stalls, they have performances, speeches, they make art, they make signs, they’ve set up loos. The place even has a name, GotaGoGama, a play on the President’s name (Gota) and the word for village (gama). If you type the name on Google Maps it takes you to the right place.
An Anarchic Revolution
I’ve seen enough revolutions to know that they usually go screwy. The Empire Strikes Back, and the revolutionary spirit often gets distilled into a soporific hooch. The beauty of Sri Lanka’s protests is that they have no leadership, but that’s their problem too. Right now they’re a demonstration of the wonderful organizational power of anarchy, but historically these moments don’t last, I know.
But it is a moment.
Anarchy, if you read about it, is the opposite of what the word commonly means. As Noam Chomksy said, “Anarchy as a social philosophy has never meant “chaos” — in fact, anarchists have typically believed in a highly organized society, just one that’s organized democratically from below.”
Indeed, that’s sorta what’s happening on the Galle Face Green in Sri Lanka. No political party called for these protests, indeed, they disavowed them. No organization is organizing them. People are certainly doing politics and people are definitely organizing, but they remain just people, organizing democratically from below.