The value of austerity | Daily News
Blessing in disguise:

The value of austerity

The economic situation the country is in today, no matter what anyone says, is a blessing in disguise in the sense that it is teaching the value of austerity. That is why all patriotic citizens irrespective of race, religion or political view are bearing it with equanimity. It is only sections driven by a few greedy for power nay the so-called ‘alternate leader of the nation’ and those who once vowed to plant manioc uprooting centuries-vintage tea bushes, mad over taking on the reins who hassle over President Ranil Wickremesinghe excelling performing the role of ruler for the unexpired period.

It is moot whether the life-threatening words uttered by the culprit abusing Parliamentary Privilege are in fact covered by such rules. It can, ipso facto, also be doubted whether the offender got his candidacy, the United National Party losing a whole family of party loyalists by threatening the party leader in like manner.

What Scandinavian American Thorstein Veblen dubbed the ‘American Marx’ says, in his landmark thesis ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’ setting out the value of simple living, has relevance to Sri Lanka today than anything else in a context where austerity should be the key word. Austerity forced by adversity whether induced by natural or man-made disasters such as war, tsunami, epidemic, frauds by politicians and officials has to be handled making great sacrifice as a nation as Germany and Japan after the Second World War that later became great nations.

Germany became famous for high class machine tools to motor cars while Japan manufactured every conceivable item from fountain pens with the legend ‘Made in Occupied Japan’ prominently displayed as required by the Allied Powers who, however, agreed to forego reparations as pleaded by young J.R. Jayewardene at the 1945 San Francisco Conference, quoting the stanza ‘Nahi verena verani…’.

The book of Veblen is truly a devastating put down. It brilliantly and truthfully illuminates the effect of wealth on behaviour. “No one who has read this book ever again sees the consumption of goods in the same light. Above a certain level of affluence the enjoyment of goods – of dress, houses, automobiles, entertainment – can never again be thought intrinsic, as in a naïve way, the established or neo-classical economics, still hold it to be. Possession and consumption is the banner which advertises achievement which proclaims by the accepted standard of the community that the possessor is a success”.

In the main thrust of Veblen, a razor sharp mind, who finished his last two years at college in one and graduated brilliantly, in his major dissertation ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’ revealing what had hitherto not been seen is a major scientific achievement. He says that ‘conspicuous consumption’, ‘conspicuous waste’, ‘conspicuous expenditure’ ‘pecuniary emulation’, ‘pecuniary standard of living’, ‘pecuniary canons of taste’, ‘dress as an expression of pecuniary culture’ ‘snobbery and social pretense’, are the bane of humanity.

Emulation is attempting to equal or surpass especially by imitation like trying to be better than the proverbial Joneses and snobbery and social pretense is striving to associate with those of higher social status and who behave condescendingly to others and ostentation. Non-essential expenditure is wasteful. He says, “One does not ordinarily associate the disposal of ill-gotten wealth with good breeding.” It is in this light that officials who were up to frauds and also misled the ousted president to forthwith stop the import of chemical fertilizer, no less the beneficiaries of practicing politics, the largest business, have to be considered.

Non-the-less Thorstein Veblen the sage’s admonitions have to be treated as inviolable truths by all in Sri Lanka today because there are no shortcuts to economic recovery that the opponents of President Ranil Wickremesinghe make out to be there and achievable only by them.

The priorities vis-à-vis the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter must be to strictly avoid luxury treating ‘conspicuous consumption’, ‘conspicuous waste’, ‘conspicuous expenditure’ and ‘snobbery and social pretense’ as the plague. The other two vital requirements: clothing and shelter must be satisfied well off the mark of ‘dress as an expression of pecuniary culture’, ‘pecuniary emulation’, ‘pecuniary standard of living’, ‘pecuniary canons of taste’, and ‘conspicuous expenditure’.

Veblen’s dicta must invariably be strictly applied not only to the enjoyment of goods – of dress, houses, automobiles, entertainment but also to today’s waste of money and resources in Sri Lanka in protesting against a beleaguered State left in the lurch by humans for God Sakra through God Vishnu to retrieve as ordained by the Buddha Himself Sri Lanka being the one country which He foresaw as where finally His doctrine would flourish.

So, first of all students in higher educational institutions must like all their younger brothers and sisters who now attend the once closed but now opened schools sitting for examinations which were not held earlier but now being held almost in time, occupy themselves in academic activities with zest rather that engaging in fruitless endeavours as meek underlings of frustrated politicians and fake revolutionaries.

It is also the duty by the country of farmers to engage themselves in agriculture which the majority are at except the hirelings of the frustrated politicians and fake revolutionaries who attend protests, rallies, demonstrations and even so-called ‘jana hamuvas’ in closed spaces being served with customary ‘packet and bottle’ listening to the demagoguery of biological heirs of past leaders, some nearly impeached, even after President Ranil Wickremesinghe has proved beyond doubt that the political heir of President J.R. Jayewardene in him has outmanoeuvred them. Hirelings who die for others’ causes are no martyrs.

As a poignant sign of the goodwill extended by the world community of nations some paddy farmers were shown to have reaped a bountiful harvest using fertilizer provided with the financial support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank in common parlance. It may well be the foreboding of World Government at the rate regimes in countries bungle.

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