ASIA: The mind of Junious (A Parable)
By: Basil Fernando
This story is about Junious. Please do not think that I made a mistake in naming the hero and misspelling Junious for genius. I quite understand some people’s misunderstanding of that sort because an impression has been created and kept for a long time that Junious was in fact the genius. That is far from the truth. A Junious is rightly called Junious, as you will see when you read this story.
The Junious was a practical “trickster”. And, being a successful trickster far beyond what the people of that trade has achieved, he even created the impression of being a great statesman, a great politician and you can add whatever other titles to his acclaimed greatness.
A “Junious” belongs to a generation of people who came by big fortune, which they could have never expected or even in the latter time, grasp. They were overwhelmed by the enormous fortunes that fell on them. That such people will lose their minds in such a process, is quite normal. They should not be blamed for imagining themselves to be what they never were and never could be.
A good parable about how fortunate they were could be explained from an example from a different place. That place is known as Cambodia. From about 1975 – 1978, a big fortune fell on a man who was mostly unknown and could never have achieved anything worthwhile due to some political leaders in the United States taking to their heads to bomb Cambodia, and to bomb most mercilessly. To put it shortly, hundreds and thousands of people who were killed due to these bombings also produced another vast population, which fled their villages and rushed to the only place which could be called a City in their country, called Phnom Penh. All of a sudden, the whole City became filled with a far far bigger population than it could ever accommodate, and the result of such a situation is unrest of all sorts.
This brought a great fortune to a group of people who were in the jungles, living miserable lives and even afraid of some big massacre, which may all destroy them, like millions of people were destroyed just few years earlier in Indonesia when due to a great misconception that Indonesia may become Communist and add to the strength of Communism in the region. The American establishment, with the help of the some military leaders who were looking for some big fortune to come their way, massacred millions of people who had any sort of connection to the Indonesian Communist Party. The people who went underground in Cambodia were expecting a similar catastrophe to fall on them, and that was one of the reasons why they have left their cities where they were earlier working as social democrats and are now working as militant guerrillas in the forest.
But, when an old upsurge of people was taking place in the Capital of their City, they saw that the fortune was beckoning them. They walked to their Capital from their hiding places and as they expected, they were received with overwhelming enthusiasm by the people who were wholly desperate and were looking for some form of hope. They thought that this significant group of guerrillas emerging from the jungles to be much more mightier than they ever were and embraced them with great enthusiasm.
Suddenly, a ruling “elite” was formed just overnight. They had the control or their hope for the entire country. And, they did what many who go crazy would do and try to realise the wildest dreams they had about achieving what they thought was a new world of new Cambodian people, without the intelligentsia who would tell them what to do and without any King to give them orders. So, there began to be unleashed the fortune of this small group of people which brought about the greatest misfortune that is ever known, in the history, not only of their country, but also one of the greatest misfortunes, that a humanity has experienced in the world.
Three years went by this way, and during that time, over one seventh of the population of Cambodia vanished, which meant that they were killed due to starvation and other physical misfortunes, as well as political misfortunes of being suspected and killed as possible spies or traitors.
In order to make the story short, we may tell the next stage when the whole country collapsed under the weight of such a huge misfortune. And when with the invasion led by foreign powers with the people from Cambodia itself who had fled for security to the neighbouring country, the Pol Pot Regime fell and whoever that remained of that regime fled into the jungle. And people, for their part, not realising that the worst nightmare of their lives is over, and still fearing for their lives, fled as refuges to neighbouring countries such as Thailand. Whatever and whoever, that remained out of the more educated classes, also fled to other countries which welcomed them, like for example, the United States and also many countries in Europe.
As for the main cities of Cambodia, they remained completely abandoned and as one well known journalist described, “Cambodian cities look like places which had been hit by a nuclear bomb.” Everything had come to a standstill. If a car was left somewhere in 1975, it was there at the same place even by the early 1980s. That was the situation of all buildings, including all houses in these cities of Cambodia, particularly to the only really worthwhile place to be called a livable place, Phnom Penh.
People who have fled their villages and whatever place they stayed, and also had lost many of their family members, still did not have the will to return. However, as it always happens, few adventurous ones migrated slowly to the city, and found the empty houses and empty spaces everywhere. Some of them just stayed for a short rest, but then they found that there was nobody to object to their presence and gradually they realised that these houses had no occupants, and that therefore, they could occupy them. So they began a period of slow migration, from refugee centres to the country, which had no organised way of life, but had empty spaces where they could settle and remain undisturbed.
This part of the Cambodian story is merely told in order to illustrate how great misfortunes bring about sub-fortunes for some people at certain times.
That was the situation of a small group of people that began to emerge from out of the depth of the miseries,which was a part of the Sri Lankan way of life (we call it the “Sri Lankan way” only in terms of present day references). Out of the colonial takeover of Cambodia, gradually there emerges a small number of people who having leant to be providing services to the new colonial power, were able to get certain advantages which were far beyond what the rest of the population could aspire for. They became landlords of large lands and there emerges a few families which would dominate whole areas. The only significant people of a particular area will be the particular dominant family, while the rest were nobodies and knew that they were nobodies.
The colonial power that came, did not stay for a very long time. They stayed only for about 130 years or so, and by the latter part, they had begun to realise that they have to leave. That provided the fortunes for those small groups of families, which had built the links with the colonial power. However, the fortunes were far bigger than what they expected, if they had any expectations at all that could be achieved within a short time. The colonial power was not merely giving them properties and other benefits. They were in fact giving the whole country to the charge of “these people.” Political power itself was given to them. They became Jupiter, Apollo and Zeus, just overnight. And this sense of enormous wonder of a big fortune that has fallen on them, that conditioned the mind, soul and all expectations of this small group of people.
In short, they went mad. They went mad with the kind of fortunes that they had begin to enjoy and to collect fortunes for their families.
The mind and the soul of Junious was formed within the framework of those fortunes that came from their colonial patrons, who could not keep these fortunes for themselves, any more. Essentially, from the very beginning, it carried the elements of madness.
It is natural for mad people to make a mess of things. That is what the country has been experiencing all this time. The fall of the economy and everything else is merely the result of such madness, that for all purposes seems incurable.
Asian Human Rights Commission