Learning from the global village | Sunday Observer

Learning from the global village

30 July, 2022

“We must learn the difficult lesson that the future of mankind will only be tolerable when our course, in world affairs as in others, is based upon justice and law rather than the threat of naked power.”
– Albert Einstein

It is time for Sri Lankans to open their receptors and learn as much as possible about the ways in which they can come out of the economic and political mess the country is in at the moment. It is clear, that the country will have to request the support of other countries and international organisations such as the IMF in getting the existing debt restructured and new credit lines opened through foreign aid.

This certainly is a suitable time for Sri Lankans to develop the habit of learning from the experiences of other countries in their efforts of solving political and economic problems, especially if the root causes of the problems share common themes. This, without a doubt, is the most serious combination of economic and political problems the country has ever faced and if these hardships have not motivated the citizens to be interested in finding solutions, nothing ever will.

The process of finding solutions will require understanding the root causes of the problems and thinking out of the framework that has given rise to the problems. More than fifty percent of solving a problem involves understanding the problem and the way it has been created. Any solution that does not address the root causes of the problem is bound to fail eventually.

Sri Lankans may be able to learn from two stories dominating the international media of current context: the Congressional and Justice Department investigations of the attack on the capital building of the US on January 6, 2021 and the economic problems of Italy that led to the resignation of the Prime Minister.

One is trying to estimate the damage caused by a populist President and find the root cause of a political uprising while the other is trying to bring a populist, a right-wing extremist as the Prime Minister by ousting the current one who is perhaps the most capable of seeing the country out of the economic troubles.

Vote fraud

Donald Trump, the previous President of the US, had been making allegations of vote fraud after losing the presidential election that was held in November 2020. On the fateful day of January 6, 2021, the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by certifying the electoral vote count by the congress, presided by the Vice President, at the Capital, Washington DC.

According to some of the members of the inquiry committee, the evidence, including testimonies of some of the White House staff members and recordings of phone calls, emails, tweets, and all other types of communication, to and from Donald Trump will be enough to bring criminal charges against him.

If that happens then, it would be one of the darker moments of the history of the country which preaches democracy around the world to have one of its own democratically elected presidents trying to overturn election results by thuggery. One of the top advisers to President Trump, Stephen K. Bannon was convicted of two counts of contempt of congress for refusing to appear in front of the investigating committee.

Bannon, a conservative, right-wing media personality, helped Trump’s campaign for presidency by bringing right-wing nationalists, anti-immigrant white supremists together through his media campaigns including the website ‘Breitbart News’. He continued saying in his shows that trump had planned to declare victory in the 2020 elections, no matter what the results were. This same Stephen Bannon was arrested in August 2020 for defrauding donors of the wall building project along the Mexican border and was pardoned by Trump during the final hours of his presidency.

Last week, Mario Draghi, the Prime Minister of Italy submitted his resignation since the coalition of different political parties that was supposed to participate in the confidence vote in favor of Draghi fell apart due to partisan extremism practiced by those parties.

In the face of all the economic problems the country is trying to solve, Draghi would have been the best choice to be the Prime Minister. After all, he has been an Executive Director of the World Bank, Director General of the Italian Treasury, Governor of the Bank of Italy and the President of the European Central Bank during the financial crisis of 2010.


He is credited with not only saving Italy at that time but also saving the euro from crashing through the crisis. What Sri Lankans might find even more interesting is that Draghi has never contested in an election but became the Prime Minister in early 2021at the request of the President of the country. Though his leadership would have been the best solution to improve the economy of the country, his resignation is considered to be a win for the democracy as most people have understood it.

Italy is planning to have elections in September of this year and opinion polls show that Draghi will have a hard time winning against his nationalist-populist opponent who may have been the architect of destroying the coalition. Italy has turned to technical Governments several times in the past specially to address economic issues valuing the economic stability over political stability and technocracy over democracy.

The problem is that the credibility of such a technical Government comes mainly from the key players such as the bankers, multi-national corporations, politicians who are nothing but lobbyists for those parties whereas the credibility of a democratically elected Government comes from the majority voters.

The question narrows down whether to prioritise the economy over democracy, which is difficult to answer even with the most sophisticated methods of managing risks. Should people agree to have the economy fixed, irrespective of how it is done or who does it, so that their suffering in the material world is reduced or should they be prepared to endure a certain amount of material discomfort in order to protect the country from falling into the hands of a despot?

One might even think what do all these have to do with Sri Lanka and the type of problems we are facing now? Though the economies of Italy and the US are twenty-five and two-hundred times that of Sri Lanka, the gap between people’s ways of thinking about the prosperity of a country against one’s own development in the material world is not that big from country to country.


Eleanor Roosevelt has said: “Small minds discuss people; average minds discuss events; great minds discuss ideas.”

Though this discussion includes people, events as well as ideas, let us use the information about people and events only to understand, if at all possible, why some people do what they do and the root causes of events with the intention of using all that knowledge to develop better ideas.

Therefore, opening our receptors to learn about what is happening and why certain measures produce intended results while others don’t and so on in other countries will certainly help us to improve our knowledge about what we should be doing to save the country from starving to death and/or from despots who do not show any concern about the feelings and emotions of human beings.

The writer has served in higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fifteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]