Machine politics, no answer to crisis | Sunday Observer

Machine politics, no answer to crisis

12 September, 2021
Emmanuel Macron French President
Emmanuel Macron French President

It’s funny seeing the reactions to recent emergency measures enacted to ensure there is no food shortage, by those who call for draconian lockdowns. If they cannot see the contradiction, it must be because they are generally purblind.

This is an era when an arch neo-liberal of the ilk of Emmanuel Macron the French President, is calling for economic independence. For whom?

Not for those forgotten former French colonies in Africa. He’s asking for economic independence for France. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said recently.

It is strange that the liberal democrats back here so-called are not seeing the trend. The West moved fast towards policing their societies. Lockdowns were the order of the day, but other measures were taken.

In other locations, Malaysia recorded 468 suicides in the first five months of 2021, compared with 631 for all of last year.

The country’s Health Director-General “acknowledged the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health around the world, including in Malaysia.”

Sri Lanka has not seen such extraordinary statistics with regard to suicides, and that’s due to the culture of neighborhood amity and empathy that prevails in the country, it is guessed.


But this is while the opportunist political hopefuls as always try to take advantage of a bad situation. The latest cry against emergency regulations is farcical.

It has to be seen in the context of achieving economic independence at the time of an unprecedented crisis. If such policy is good for rich and beleaguered France, it should be good for not so rich and economically challenged Sri Lanka, by any reckoning?

There are interesting lessons in the transformations of people such as Macron. He made fun of Brexit and is now calling for the economic independence of France? “Our supply chains and the over-dependence on them has to be addressed”, he has said, explaining his strategy to come out of Covid hit economic conditions.

There is Cuba on the one hand. The country is relying on home grown vaccines for Covid which are being administered to kids as well as adults.

There are many legitimate reasons to think that the isolationist Cuban system of Communist Party dominance has not served the interests of the country’s people. But then again that’s the opinion of those who are used to a lifestyle of laissez faire and free market.

But in particular during the pandemic, the Cuban system of self-reliance has bode well for the country. Brazil is also meanwhile developing its own vaccine called ButanVac.

It is clear by now that self-reliant nations with innovative policies are trending as winners in the race against Covid. The more self-reliant a country the better it is suited to weather any type of crisis, health related or otherwise.

Take the post-colonialism crisis of deprivation in most colonised societies. Which nations emerged from these depredations faster? It’s a clear picture. Countries such as Botswana which were colonised but were not entirely vulnerable to the enforced order of the coloniser, have thrived.


The country that does best in these challenging times is the one that is best able to control the narrative and keep focussed on a set of policies that have worked.

Take this excerpt from an article in “The health-care and pharmaceuticals sectors are expected to thrive in the post-pandemic economy as people become more aware of the importance of health and fitness. Least developed countries can take advantage of WTO provisions by producing more generic drugs, which face no patent-related obstacles.”

Would the raucous anti-organic, anti-emergency and anti-anything set here in this country react positively to the idea of generic drugs? No, because their mindsets are too wedded to the supply chains that are sacred to the West.

Their mindsets are too much in troth to external influences particularly from the West, period.

That’s hilarious when the countries they try to emulate are scaling back on liberalisation and globalisation untrammeled, and touting self-reliance, and are policing their states more than ever as well. It’s as if the perpetually protesting liberals here have not got the memo.

These approaches may change with the times, but at the moment a somewhat inward looking economy is a good indicator of post pandemic success, and that is for obvious reasons.

Mindsets that refuse to adapt are doomed. In the past, old fashioned SLFPers had to take to free market policies which they suitably disguised as open economy with a human face, in order to win back power under Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Some SLFPers under the old guard of Sirimavo Bandaranaike were shocked by the transformation but they became irrelevant fast.

Easy adapters thrive, and in this pandemic situation the Government has to revert back to some — repeat some — policies of state intervention. No, that’s not going back to the era of shortages and controls as come commentators have characterised it.

It is to have an economic climate of no shortages that the controls are being imposed, so it’s an equation of controls and no shortages, and not of controls and shortages as in the Bandaranaike era of the 70s.

The policies are organic to the situation, to coin a term. They are as natural as an umbrella for rain, or insulation against electrical leakage.

It’s why the opposition noises against these moves sound so much as if they are rote — the speeches are coming from zombies who are merely going through the motions of protests.

There is no conviction in their voices — there hasn’t been for a long time. It’s why they don’t register in the public domain or in the collective public memory, these knee jerk efforts at criticism.

It’s why none of this morphs into a political movement. The opposition is being a ‘dutiful’ opposition and that’s all, because they must be telling themselves it’s the duty of the opposition to oppose, each night before they retire to sleep.

When there weren’t half the problems in the country because there was no pandemic, one had to give it to them, the SLPP managed to mount credible protests that gathered a storm of dissenting voices against the then Yahapalana Government.

These were organic voices of dissent because the SLPP was able to draw on the massive discontent that built up against the anti-national policies of the then Government.


The SJB opposition of today is far too transparent in its attempt to exploit a crisis for its own political ends.

People are scared of the pandemic and they do not want somebody coming and telling them that an attempt at controlling shortages is not for their own good. There is a massive credibility deficit in that claim, and the man on the street isn’t buying it.

In the US, there is a name for it, and that’s “machine politics.” Large political machines operate in the manner of mafia mobs. There is a tightly knit structure, and on command the “bosses” are able to get the faithful to turn out and oppose anything, no matter what the issues are. But that’s a different kind of machine politics, however pejorative the description. Back here, they have given new meaning to that term “machine politics.”

It’s where the political bosses have turned into machines. They are no more than automatons. They repeat the same lines of criticism as if they have committed the script to memory. There is no passion because there is no conviction, it’s never organic. It’s the opposite of organic. It’s totally machine. Artificial intelligence would have done better.

This sort of machine politics is not the answer to any of the issues of today. Even the Government’s most trenchant critics, if they are objective, would have to agree that at least on a relative estimation the regime’s policies come off better than the current opposition’s critique of them.