| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(August 27, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Escapism is equally the last solace of the common man, religious leaders and royalty when all hopes are lost.

Escapism was practised by Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ and many philosophers since it liberated them from the scourge and imprisonment of one’s freedom of thought and free-will. Lord Buddha left his comfortable enclave of a princely mansion and his wife to seek enlightenment and also to find inner happiness which eluded him despite the trappings of wealth in a privileged royal household.

Jesus Christ escaped into the mountains to find his soul and to be free from materialistic pursuits. He forsook his family and fasted for 40 days to find out a way to end human suffering. At the age of 12 he was sought by his mother, the Virgin Mary, to turn six jars of water into wine during a wedding in Caanan.

A response from an American wise-kid was to ask his teacher whether Jesus was an alcoholic.

Queen Victoria was fond of mariati wine (imbibed with opium) being deprived of any marital bliss from her husband Prince Albert (being the royal she was) and queen mother was a bit too fond of Gordon’s gin and neither were comforted by their husbands and they spent their lives seeking solace in social causes.

Her tenure was one of the worst in history for the British since there were work-houses where illegitimate children were left to be fed with gruel and made to work long hours while their mothers were abandoned and ostrasised by the society. Still history would laud her as the empress who ruled much of the world. It was the British who introduced opium to the Chinese and made them impotent whereas they were once industrious.

Queen Elizabeth 11 who had given up sharing her marital bed many decades ago with Prince Philip is not averse to morning cocktail with her female companion. The consort’s hang-up is that he has to walk one step behind the queen. Her mother too suffered the same fate when King George who had a bad stammer and had precarious relationship with her and thus her solace in betting on horses and Gordon’s gin.

The Royal males would take to fox-hunting and horse-riding and invading other countries rather than being good family fathers or husbands. The palaces became prisons for them. Prince Charles drove his wife to other men’s arms while he was still reliving his fantasy of being the tampon of his childhood sweetheart Camilla Parker Bowles even while he was engaged to Diana and the latter was already married.

Contemporary escapism is prevalent among youth who seek refuge in drugs, alcohol and sex but what beset them as pariahs is they, unlike the privileged, are poor ergo scorned as the dregs of society.

The real world out there is a den of thieves and scoundrels from politicians who party at the expense of its citizens and their minions and family members while they pilfer their money and spend it like there is no tomorrow. Kudu Nuwan is small fry compared to Gotabhaya Rajapakse who openly consorts with drug barons. J.R. Jayewardene relied on Ganja Chelliah to fund his election campaign.

Then our judiciary system is such they only punish drug addicts and not the suppliers.

It is a sad world out there when parents abandon their children, throw them in the river or smother them and commit suicide themselves because they cannot feed them. It is sadder that in a developing country like Sri Lanka there are opulent casinos and nightclubs which are frequented by the brats of the ruling politicians who drive around in grand prix style sports cars crashing into sacred places even at night times and engaging prostitutes while its citizens find it hard to feed their family three whole meals a day; nay one proper meal a day.

In this light is it any wonder people seek refuge in drugs and alcohol to forget their miserable existence? Escapism is one way of turning a blind eye to the evils of our rulers be they monarchs or democratically elected leaders.
Inner peace and happiness may be a state of mind but it can only be achieved when one’s basic needs are met. And we are far from achieving them due to our leadership which is morally corrupt and blatantly above the law. Until such time we bring back true selfless leaders Sri Lanka would descend further into an abyss and lawlessness which could only be revoked through mass uprising. This would be no Sri Lankan spring but a tsunami.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)