22 May 2009

The Tamil tragedy and their psychopathic leader

Psychopaths, bereft of conscience, commonly resort to violence in the pursuit of their pleasures. In normal human intercourse, this often leads them into behaviour that is unacceptably anti-social or even criminal. But when violence is socially acceptable, such as in war and revolution, the psychopath comes into his own. He can use violence to aggrandize himself not only with impunity but with honour, even glory. Rather than a social pariah, he becomes a revolutionary hero. History is replete with such figures: Lenin, Mao, Mugabe, the list is long. And recently another has been much in the news -- Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder and leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Leading his Tigers in a just cause warped to his own sordid methods, Prabhakaran pursued a bloody, destructive civil war for 26 long years until finally dying, as he lived, by the sword. A master of assassination, suicide bombing and child soldiers, he was a man of considerably skill. Typical of psychopaths, despite his unimpressive appearance and unassuming manner he had a powerful charisma, described as an extraordinary "focus." He created a formidable military, complete with army, navy and even an air force.

Despite his substantial ability, his war was a miserable failure. He ruled the Tamils with the same merciless brutality he fought his Sinhalese enemies with, killing anyone who had the temerity to defy him. He brought his people 26 years of death and suffering and left them worse of than they were before. And one can't help but wonder how they would have fared if he had won. Not only does managing a country require very different skills than fighting a revolution, what would life under such a thug been like? Like Russian under Lenin? China under Mao? Zimbabwe under Mugabe? One shudders at the kind of society he may very well have created.

A more constructive, and far more enlightened, course for the Tamils was offered by a former revolutionary leader in neighbouring India. I refer of course to the greatest man of the twentieth century, Mahatma Gandhi, who showed all of us that great things could be done, including liberating the second largest population on Earth, without raising a hand against anyone. Such inspiration so close yet the Tamils missed it and paid a terrible price.

But now, with the Tigers defeated and their leader dead, the opportunity presents itself again. If the Tamils take it, if they pursue justice in Sri Lanka, or even a state of their own, by the methods of Gandhi, or at least peacefully, one thing is certain. They will do no worse than they did under the leadership of the psychopath Prabhakaran.

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