Descending to the pits
M. Forster wrote about what’s rude and reprehensible in society thus:
“…distinction between coarseness and vulgarity is that coarseness is
revealing something; vulgarity, concealing something.” That needed much
mulling over which this cat did. And she came to agree with the author
of Passage to India, who indicated the racist superiority of
administrators and more so their memsahibs during the time of the
British Raj as coarse, if not vulgar.
Descent to vulgarity
Coarseness, vulgarity, boorishness and of course crass stupidity of
our people was much in this feline’s mind after she read that one of our
internationally recognised persons was booed. Menika could not believe
it happened: that wonderfully talented, beautiful Kishani Jayasinghe,
world-renowned opera singer, was jeered after she sang Danno Budunge,
accompanied by drummers and Soundari David Rodrigo at the piano. This
was at the open air concert on February 4 this year on Galle Face Green.
Menika refrained from comment as she had not heard the performance.
Then, a computer expert who sets right what she makes wrong in her
computer, had her watch his cell phone and listen to Kishani sing.
Menika was stunned that the audience had shown their stupidity and
ignorance to such an extent. Here was Kishani in sari singing the words
of the song with not a trace of an accent, with heartfelt emotion as a
true Sri Lankan, appreciating the words and feeling proud of her
She has the ability to forge a bond between her audience and her
performing self. Not at the Independence Day concert solely because of
the collective nature of those who constituted the audience. She had her
own style of rendition of the song which did not distort the original
melody one bit. If the audience did not like the way she sang the song,
they had only to keep silent and await the next item.
So Menika thought about the incident long and hard as to why the
audience which surely was mixed but heavier with the hoi polloi meaning
philistines who gather at anything free, acted so rudely. She realised
that the vulgarity exhibited by the audience at Galle Face Green was a
new phenomenon; it covered the manner in which people have been warped
by what has been done publicly in Sri Lanka within the decade previous
to the new government taking over.
We are a nation that boasts forever and aye our cultural heritage of
more than 2,500 years; our assumed Buddhist tolerance; our innate
decency. They were all rubbished at the concert when boors gave vent to
their vulgarity. They erased a reputation we had earned: of civility, of
tolerance, of smiling gentility. Here were people representative of us
all acting like vulgar idiots. Kishani’s singing was definitely a case
of pristine diamonds thrown before vulgar swine.
So Menika asked herself the question, why the audience behaved the
way they did. How had our national nature and behaviour been so horribly
warped? How could people en masse be so rude? Several reasons surfaced.
People have lost decency and with it decorum. They have rent the
cultural restraint we have had and plugged the resultant spaces with
How and why? Imbibing false values, admiring what is not admirable,
giving vent to feelings without any thought, taking pride in being rude
and loud mouthed. The main reason for the reaction of the audience was
that we breathe air that was polluted. Of course by gases and all that,
but more by crassness, vulgarity, violence and vanity. And that was
within the last decade or fifteen years. Consider how the ordinary man
cheered Mervyn Silva as he tied a worker to a tree; barged into a media
office and attempted slapping a high-up because his, Merve’s speech was
not highlighted in the news telecast.
Politicians and followers among the public lauded and laughed at the
terrible insult Merve publicly gave the previous Head of the UNHRC –
Navi Pillai - by declaring he was prepared to marry her. (Just writing
that clothes Menika with gooseflesh of embarrassment). Mervyn Silva was
patronised, egged on and pampered by Prez Mahinda Rajapakse and his
brother Gotabhaya, not only as a court jester but useful political
handyman. (Menika can boldly write thus since no white vans ply the
roads to abduct truth tellers).
Therefore, that sort of ambience and behaviour insidiously
impregnated the very air we breathed and people imbibed vulgarity and
lack of restraint. Insolence, strong arm tactics and admiring what was
crass and sycophantic resulted. Leaders of the previous regime wore
hubris as a mantle for all to see. Once in a while one of them strutted
like the king in invisible clothes and the masses, whether willingly or
made to do so, applauded. The minority of those who retained their basic
standards of behaviour and were true to what we as a nation were admired
for, shivered and shook and hid their faces in shame.
Bhikkhus, or men in yellow robes, demonstrated violently and even
rampaged. They were sponsored by high-ups. Doctors in white coats,
having been educated free from kindergarten to medical college, struck
work at the slightest provocation. The GMOA called out its members in
Badulla in protest of something MP Harin Fernando said. Is that
justifiable? Crass vulgar is how this feline labels such action.
Thus the vulgarity exhibited of late conceals the insidious
corruption of values by previous VVIPs. It will take a long time to
correct the warping of behaviour that was lauded by the Big Bosses of
the last regime. But this feline feels a start has been made. The air is
Thank goodness for that. And this column, minute though it be,
apologises to Kishani Jayasinghe. That was a miniscule of Sri Lankans
who could not appreciate you. We realise what a wonderful gesture of
magnanimity it was for you, having performed in prestigious opera houses
around the world, to consent to sing at a public concert here in
Chris Patton, former Governor of Hong Kong and now Chancellor of
Oxford University said: “I think what most surprises anybody who goes
into politics from even a modestly cerebral background is the vulgarity
of much of the art and thrust of politics.” This vulgarity is
demonstrated in Parliament even now and could get worse if the scum who
were on top then are not curbed now.