Political fantasies is not a new term to the world. Its history goes back to Julius Caesar in Rome. An examination of history reveals that factors such as age, wealth, power, people, as well as politically misguided leaders nurtured political fantasies. Some rulers lived in such a political fantasy, claiming that they came to the human world as God’s representative and that God had given them the absolute right to determine the future of all animals and humans on the earth. Many of the rulers who lived in political fantasies suffered from a mental illness called Malignant Narcissist. Thus, they thought only of themselves. If anyone criticised them, they became deadly haters. Such rulers even killed their opponents because of that disease.
At the top of the list of the most brutal rulers who ruled Rome, Attila built up the fantasy among the people that he was the man who would carry out God’s command on earth. He also lived in that fantasy. While burning a large part of the Roman Empire, Attila killed the priests of Rome, dismembered them, and placed them on public display. Idi Amin, who ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979, introduced himself as the master of all the people in the world, the beasts as well as the fish in the high seas, and the greatest troublemaker for Britain. Idi Amin has repeatedly written letters to Queen Elizabeth-II of the United Kingdom, living in the fantasy that he is the beloved prince that all European girls even dream of.
Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who often remembers himself as an actor, employed one of the most popular actors in Libya as his driving assistant. Gaddafi washes his hands before dinner on a desert trip with the blood of the deer killed. He believed that his sexual stimuli could be improved through that ritual.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein also lived in a fantasy of the consequences and political benefits of writing the Holy Quran in his own blood. He did so at the risk of his own life. Saddam also kept grenades and pistols made of gold for his own use and security.
Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a former Emperor of Central Africa, also lived in a fantasy that he has created. He introduced himself as the 13th Apostle. He told the people that he often talked to the Pope. Anyway, that did not happen in the real world. However, the people lived in the fantasy created by their ruler. Nicolae Ceaușescu, who ruled Romania, often thought that his enemies would poison his clothes and kill him.
So he decided to use clothes that were resistant to high levels of radiation only. He thoroughly disinfected the chairs, tables, and other items in other places before using them. He banned the use of intelligence development puzzles in Romania. He said that the reason for this was the immense intellectual development of the people of the country and that it was detrimental to governance.
Benito Mussolini, a former ruler of Italy, ordered the people to give their newborns the surname Benito. He gave cash rewards to those who did so. Enver Hoxha, who ruled Albania, punished the people of Albania who grew beards. Hoxha, who lived a life of fantasy, created over a million unique bunkers in various parts of Albania. Former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has a passion for blue films. He kidnapped a film director who was famous for making pornographic films and made such obscene films for his own viewing. In return, he presented the director with bundles of dollars.
The above are just a few of such fantasies that have been written in world history. Humans love to live in fantasy. Because that fantasy is inspiring and relieves the mental fatigue in a person. But the fantasies cannot be realised. Political fantasy in particular is not sustainable. They result in the exclusion of accurate information in decision making, and as a result the collapse of States that cannot be resurrected.
In Sri Lanka
It was due to such a political fantasy that the President at that time decided to hold the presidential election earlier, in 2015, even though more than a year left in his presidency. It was a fantasy created by astrologers and his nearby others. Thus, it was impossible to accurately assess the deviations of people power. Ignoring the whole thing, astrologers have made predictions resulting the Halo effect, and created the fantasy for the President.
These days we are experiencing a non-partisan public struggle with a strange form that has never been experienced before. It seems that there is a lot of political fantasy behind such a creation that the rulers as well as the people are stuck in. Some fantasies are self-created. Some political fantasies are created by those around them or by the media, concealing the real situation on the ground. Today, the entire nation of Sri Lanka is experiencing the unfavorable consequences of decision making trapped in such fantasies.
Some think that the current public struggle is a non-political struggle. Thinking so is a fantasy.
It could be a non-partisan struggle. It can be a struggle in which no political party is involved, no support from a political party, and also not for party agendas. But it is not a non-political struggle. Indeed, human is a political creature. Hence, there is some politics in the current public struggle. Accordingly, the people have made demands to the current rulers.
‘If we earn, we will eat’ is another fantasy that many others have stuck with. Everyone is now in gas queues, fuel queues, and milk powder queues, regardless of income level or social class. Despite billions in revenue, we alone cannot afford to import fuel from the Middle East, and must be purchased at a local fuel station, probably in queues. Even though we earn, today we cannot eat.
‘Country runs because of patriotism’ is another such fantasy that we were stuck with. Patriotism is needed. But it also has some limitations. It is, in fact, a fantasy set by politicians. Once people are forced into that fantasy, it is easy for politicians to spread racism and religiosity and thereby gain power as well as maintain power. Most people came out of that fantasy a few days ago. Opportunistic politicians do not want people to break that fantasy and come out. That is because then people will be able to live in social, cultural and religious harmony, regardless of race or religion. We are now experiencing the reality that foreign exchange is essential to run a country than mere patriotism.
The current public struggle arises because the people’s rice-bowl itself feels the pressure of the current acute economic crisis. It seems that the task of rescuing the economy from that acute crisis has been entrusted only to the new Governor of the Central Bank. If we think the new Governor of the Central Bank is a cleaner who can do an economic miracle, there is no more dangerous fantasy at the moment.
Mass media as well as some social media activists are trying to create such a fantasy among the public. Without political and social stability, the Central Bank alone cannot find solutions. Indeed, the Central Bank has a long way to go. In particular, the Central Bank cannot meet the demands of the public struggle, such as the establishment of the rule of law, which has been broken, and the recovery of national wealth stolen by corrupt politicians.
People should never be overjoyed when we receive dollars from India, China, the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, and the fantasy that the queues will end and we will be satisfied again. They are incentives only for short-term standing, and are the debt for consumption purposes.
We who go to the elections and vote for politicians must get rid of the misconception that the elected representatives will do a miracle for us. We as a nation all must come out of that fantasy, and remember that we have our own part to fulfill without waiting for the rulers.
It seems that the current ruling class in this country is still in outdated fantasies based on the political experience they had in the 80s and 90s. They do not understand that today we are living in a digital era with a digital generation. That is why they engage in old-fashioned deal politics by purchasing members of the legislature to maintain parliamentary power avoiding real pressure at the grassroots level. It also seems that the Prime Minister addressed the nation at a time when the President is due to address the nation, and invited the public for discussions, with the delusional notion that the charisma he had a few years ago is still there.
If the rulers and the people fantasise further instead of seeing the truth, the political, economic and social injuries it inflicts will not heal for centuries to come.
The author is a Senior Lecturer of the Department of Human Resource Management at the University of Kelaniya
By Tharindu Dananjaya Weerasinghe