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2014 – The Year Of The Social Compact

Sri Lankans have seen the New Year coming. In Colombo and other major cities, the skies are illuminated by festive fireworks after the city clock chimes struck twelve.

The 2013 year was rich with historical events. We wish you and your families to usher in the New Year with optimism!

Sincerely yours,
the Sri Lanka Guardian
srilankaguardian.org and lankaguardian.com  


| by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

( January 1, 2014 - Montreal – Sri Lanka Guardian ) Jehan Perera is quite correct when he refers to the significance of leadership in 2014. 2014 will also be an year of elections and therefore a reflection of the people for renewed and roust leadership. Even President Rajapaksa has referred to the possibility of an election in 2014. From an international perspective, one could argue that 2013 was a year of failed leadership and feckless insouciance. Both President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron started off against Syria with peremptory threats and waffled thereafter, leaving countries like Saudi Arabia, who had amassed weapons against a possible attack in the eventuality of a reprisal by countries affected by a US led allied attack on Syria, befuddled and irate. The declaration by the Chinese authorities of an Air Defence Identification Zone had the United States defiantly operating fighters over the declared zone with the Japanese and South Koreans in tow, which fizzled out thereafter. Benjamin Netanyahu’s redline against Iran was seemingly crossed but proved to be a damp squib.

In the midst of all this, Nelson Mandela died, reminding us of the importance of his doctrine of social compact where he put the people of his country first. A royal baby was born, giving the people of Britain new hope and pride and an unostentatious and beguiling Argentinean Jesuit took over control of the Catholic Church, bringing a sense of purpose, direction and dignity to a religious order and faith rife with child exploitation and antiquated dogma on gay relationships.

Egypt lost its short lived virginity of democracy to a military coup; Thailand had massive protests with Turkey following suit with less intense rallies, carried out by people whose social fabrics are disfigured by bifurcated lines between western elites and rural simpletons, bringing to bear the possibility of military coups in 2014. Ukraine was split between Russia and the European Union, which saw implacable and relentless opposition to the government which was leaning toward Russia, only to be topped by two suicide bombings at the end of the year in Russia seemingly carried out by terrorists in Chechnya who are adamant to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

These events were supplemented by a car bomb which killed a prominent and much loved former minister in Lebanon; suicide bombings carried out with monotonous regularity in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ominous prospect of the Taliban regaining crucial regions in Afghanistan after the US and NATO troop withdrawals from the country.

In Africa, South Sudan is a complete mess, with civilians being killed the moment they step out of a UN compound, and the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo being at the crossfire of vicious fighting.

So what of 2014?

Indians will go to the polls, possibly to choose Narendra Modi who has proved with his leadership of the State of Gujarat that he can bring about change for the better which a moribund government could not for the past several years. South Africans will vote in the spring. It is to be seen whether the voters will still vote for the African National Congress if only out of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, despite the party’s bungling and plodding under the leadership of Jacob Zuma.

Scotland will vote in September whether they would separate from the United Kingdom, leaving the United Kingdom no longer united. Would they dare to go on their own, is yet to be seen.

Cat and mouse games, which abounded in 2013, will continue to be played on, with Iran looking as though it is reaching out, and Bashar Al Assad doing the same. Whether the US and Europe (with the possible exception of France) continue to waffle, with Benjamin Netanyahu on the offensive (which he seems to have justification to be) and will Vladimir Putin continue to shine among the diminishing stars despite the severe threats he faces from the Northern Caucasus, are also to be seen.

The only ray of hope comes from the Philippines which might surge a step forward with a comprehensive deal between the Government and the Islamic insurgents.

The author hopes that, with all the bullshit and mayhem of 2013, 2014 will be the year of moral introspection, responsibility and social compact where the interests of the people will be paramount based on a teleological approach to leadership. If anything, Mandela’s legacy should pervade 2014, where rhetoric gives way to benevolence and true commitment towards realizing the hopes of the people.

As Allison Hanes said in the Montreal Gazette of 27 December: “We’re not naïve anymore. We know politics is a blood sport from which virtually no one emerges unscathed, save for a legacy that may only be properly appreciated in the rear-view mirror of history.

And yet we still yearn for a hero we can believe in — a Mahatma Gandhi, a Pierre Trudeau, a Bill Clinton, a Vaclav Havel, a Barack Obama. Even if such personas are largely constructs and few leaders ever manage to live up to their own mythology, we want at least at the outset to be able to respect the people whose names we mark an X next to on our ballots. This is the social compact”
When all is said and done, and now that Mandela belongs to history, my vote in the true context of the social compact goes to Pope Francis, and all those unsung heroes who put others first.