Selected Writings by
Sachi Sri Kantha
of a Singular Kind
recent pronouncements of (Sri Lanka) Presidential advisors Lakshman Kadirgamar
(before demolition of the Bamiyan statue) and Lakshman Jayakody (after
demolition) in trying to harvest some cheap publicity for them in the
international media is nothing but snobbery of tallest proportions...
thousands of Buddhist monasteries (in Tibet) have been defiled and
demolished by the Chinese communist regime during the past five decades.
But for reasons of convenience, the mouths of Sri Lankan snobs keep
silent, demonstrating that these snobs are hypocrites as well. How can
lowly snobs offend their patrons who provide armaments for their war
against the Tamils?.."
It is an open secret
that majority of the Sri Lankan politicians lack many talents which are urgently
needed to navigate the moribund Sri Lankan state. But one skill in which
majority of the politicians are abundantly blessed comes to the forefront at
regular intervals. Of course, I refer to - snobbery of a singular kind. First,
to the latest news, if some have missed this item. The Sunday Times of
Sri Lanka (March 18) reported the wish of a ranking presidential advisor, under
the caption, 'Lanka wants to rebuild Bamiyan statue'. I reproduce this news item
"Sri Lanka is to
make a formal request to Afghanistan's Taleban rulers to hand over the rubble
or remnants of what used to be the Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Presidential
Advisor Lakshman Jayakody said.
He said Sri Lanka was
willing to buy the damaged statue or even the debris and erect a similar
statue from it in Sri Lanka and a formal request to Taleban rulers would be
made after President Chandrika Kumaratunga returned from her European tour.
'We have the expertise and experience in erecting such monuments,' Mr.Jayakody,
a former cultural and Buddha Sasana minister, said.
He said Sri Lanka
would raise the funds necessary for this operation through international
organizations such as UNESCO."
Now, do not
misunderstand me. The destruction of the majestic, standing Buddha statues in
Bamian by the Taliban folks was a tasteless act by any cultural standards. It
hurt the sentiments of pious Buddhists, idol-worshippers of other religions and
students of ancient culture. But the recent pronouncements of Presidential
advisors Lakshman Kadirgamar (before demolition) and Lakshman Jayakody (after
demolition) in trying to harvest some cheap publicity for them in the
international media is nothing but snobbery of tallest proportions.
Here is my
classification of these two high-ranking snobs. Lakshman Kadirgamar is a nominal
non-Buddhist, pretending to be the Number One Buddhist of Sri Lanka. Lakshman
Jayakody is a nominal Buddhist of Sri Lanka, posturing as the best Buddhist of
the civilized world.
Ernest Van den Haag
published a paper on snobbery in the British Journal of Sociology (1956,
vol.7, pp.212-216). In it, he stated,
"a reputation can be built without
achievements or deeds of valor simply by being associated in the public eye with
those who have high status. One can manipulate one's status without changes in
the status base. With this discovery snobbery was born."
study inferred that
"the essential characteristic of the snob is his thirst
for unearned glory. Thus snobbery is concern with repute and unconcern or
spurious concern with cause or merit of it, a desire for prestige
More than a month ago,
the snobs of Sri Lankan government wouldn't have even bothered to know where
Bamian was. Once the fate of Bamian Buddhist statues received full notice in the
international media, Sri Lankan snobs tagged on to the high status symbol with a
motive to better their own tarnished images. I'm somewhat relieved that average
Sri Lankans have a good sense of humor and are not fooled by such snobbery by
the political big-wigs. Here is an entertaining opinion by one Dharmapala
Senaratne of Gothatuwa, which appeared in the Island newspaper of March
19, the day following Lakshman Jayakody's pronouncement. Excerpts:
friend tells me that Taliban must have learnt the art from Sri Lankans. Asked
to explain, he elaborated that digging holes in ancient Buddha statues of much
archaeological value - thus practising a most degrading form of vandalism -
has been practised in our motherland long before Afghans tried their hand at
Not long ago, it was
reported in the press that two Buddha statues were missing from a temple in
the Anuradhapura district. Two days later, there appeared a further news story
to say that they were found in a drain a distance away wrapped in polythene
sheets. If this is not Talibanic activity, what then is it?....
animals in their vast numbers are taken to the killing ground much against
their wish and their throats are slit, so that the poor animal slowly and
surely bleeds to death in excruciating agony. The state sponsored gruesome act
is performed in all parts of the country day in and day out right round the
year, except on Poya days, thereby violating the very first of the five
precepts. Further, the state has made arrangements to export local meat. This
is Talibanic without controversy.....
fraud etc. which are contravenous to the 2nd precept are so commonplace today
that they hardly need any elaboration. Instances of Cabinet Ministers running
on the road crying out 'Eureka', in Archemedes-like garb have been reported,
and that obviously goes against the third precept. The fourth precept relates
to uttering falsehoods and our rulers do it, million times a day, 365 days a
So, why go all the
way to Afghanland across the Pamir mountains, the roof of the world, when we
have Talibans nearer home just under our noses?"
Well said, Mr.Senaratne.
One could add more.
Even if one accomodates
a saner reason that Hinduism is a step-child in Sri Lanka and thus suffers from
lack of political patronage, snobs like Lakshman Kadirgamar and Lakshman
Jayakody also know well the fate of Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. As attested by
Dalai Lama and other neutral observers, thousands of these monastries have been
defiled and demolished by the Chinese communist regime during the past five
decades. But for reasons of convenience, the mouths of Sri Lankan snobs keep
silent, demonstrating that these snobs are hypocrites as well. How can lowly
snobs offend their patrons who provide armaments for their war against the
Lakshman Kadirgamar, on
his regular jaunts all over the world, delivers invitations to every dignitary
of his host nation to visit Sri Lanka. But he will not do the same to Dalai Lama
to avoid the displeasure of China's ruling clique. Attributes like conscience,
logic and rationality are not in the dictionary of snobs like him.
I'll let the noted
lexicographer Eric Partridge to have the last word. Snobs like the two Lakshmans
of Sri Lanka offer positive proof for what Partridge wrote 50 years ago in his
essay, 'The speech-habits of Snobs'.
"Many snobs are
stupid; not quite morons, yet certainly stupid rather than intelligent. With a
touch of acuteness not, among such persons, so rare as one might think, these
particular snobs have come to make a virtue of their lack of true
intelligence. Nowadays, it is regarded as 'cute' to be shrewd yet not
noticeably intelligent. And it is very 'cute' indeed to be merely 'smart Alec'
instead of genuinely smart. That, however, constitutes a form of snobbery
unlikely to last more than a few years". [Eric Partridge, in From
Sanskrit to Brazil, 1952]
I'm sure none will
disagree with Partridge's biting inference.