The Greatest Nation Never Was

Sri Lanka is a proud nation. A little too proud maybe. Although the following blog post is addressed towards my fellow Sri Lankans, we all can learn something from the issue at hand. Pride.

Remember how we learned about our Sri Lankan heroes who fought and defeated the English? Remember how we learned about our great kings who carved rock mountains and built amazing castles? Wise kings who made the country prosperous whole through the years? Remember Ravana who had an aircraft for crying out loud? What the hell has happened to us? How did we became one of the biggest backwards nation in the world? Where is that perfect nation? Although the question seams very loaded and heavy, the answer is very simple. That perfect nation never really was here.

Try to control your rage towards me for the next few lines. We never was the best nation there was. We never built the best of anything. We didn’t have aircrafts, before the world even had sketches of ideas of aircrafts. We won’t qualify as the most advanced nation just because Kuweni (Queen who ruled Sri Lanka in 5th Century) had cotton technology when Vijaya (First King of Sri Lanka after Kuweni) arrived to Sri Lanka. Think about it — when we were in the stage of cotton spinning, India even had battle ships to come to Sri Lanka.

We fought English guns with swords, and Lost. We were given the “freedom” as a passive control technique, not because of our bravery.

Wait…. How about our history. We have a written history of kings who ruled the country and everything was perfect. It can’t be wrong.. Right?

Unfortunately it can be. And it can be wrong in multiple ways. One thing is, before we were able to write any historical records, we had an oral history. Every event came down generations ear-to-ear, and we already can agree that’s not a reliable strategy. Because our memory is selective, we remember only what we want to remember. It’s one of our internal coping mechanisms. So the vocal history is being filtered down to almost only good things about the past, as the time progresses. So the things we wrote down very first was also just some optimistic perception of the history.

What’s worst is that, everything in our recorded history also can be unreliable. Have you heard the phrase “History is written by the victors”? Kings’ monarchy allowed them to write the story however they wanted. If your imagination is wild, even with flying wooden shacks (oh for crying out loud!!).

Basically what we have today is some stories written by people, to match their liking and memory. Nothing more. “History is the devil’s scripture”. So don’t get lost.

History is the devil’s scripture.

George Gordon Byron

What’s wrong with us?

There’s nothing wrong with us. That’s just how humans are. It’s just a matter of understanding what we are. What we are is some emotional, irrational, and animalistic beings; in the past and in the precent.

But, I’d say there are two psychological complexities which might have altered our mentality, to become who we are as a nation today.

The first is the generic feeling we get — that we are better than everyone else. Did you know that in a study carried out by McCormick, Walkey and Green (1986) with 178 participants, 80% had evaluated themselves having above average driving skills. It’s mathematically laughable but it’s more serious than we think. This is called “Illusory Superiority” and this clouds our judgement to a great extent. This is how Hitler rose to power, so it’s a very strong emotion. We as a nation suffers from this just as bad as any other nation.

The second, more serious complexity we have I believe is “Island Mentality”. Sri Lanka always was an isolated nation (even when we were land connected to India). We seldom had visitors and we rarely blent with other cultures. Unfortunately, interrelationships between nations was the only way people connected to the world in the years of yore. So we remained in our own bubble going though the social, technical and other evolutions in our own phase. We were the greatest nation we knew, so we thought we were the greatest nation in the whole wide wold. Even after the Portuguese invasion, (because we were forcefully blent with other cultures,) we proudly kept our complexity so we won’t loose our spirit.

Looking at the above, is it so hard to believe that we told and wrote stories which made Sri Lanka, the greatest nation of the world?

And worst is, somewhere along the way, we might have believed our own lies and thought “Why do we need to improve if we’re the freaking best?”


Don’t get me wrong. We were neither a useless nor a dull nation in any stretch of the imagination. What we weren’t was Perfect.

We were just another nation who were figuring things out just as the rest of the world. Still are. We did not destroy the great nation bestowed upon us by our ancestors. They did not have everything planned out either.

We were good people who got lost because of the circumstances, political agendas and many more different complex issues. We still are those people.

We are as much capable as the rest of the world. Nothing more but nothing less.

So we should hide our head in the sand?

It’s a painful journey to the land of bitter realization. Seeing the foundation of our beliefs crumble is not a pretty sight to see. However, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a foundation, because we do. When we really learn our roots, it doesn’t mean we’ll loose all of our confidence. It means we’ll loose the fake facade and we’ll see our surrounding for what it really is.

We need to know how we failed so we can rise again. We need to know how our kings oppressed and enslaved us and still wrote some ridiculous stories about themselves.

We need to know that Sigiriya, the great rock fortress, didn’t have a hidden magical pump to get the water up. It had hundreds of slaved workers to bring the water up and fill the tanks everyday, so the king can see the pretty water fountains working.

Rather than feeling proud of the Kings, we should feel sorry for the common people like you and me in that time. We should feel sorry for all the kings’ so-called “wives” who were forcefully separated from their existing families; And for men and children of those women. We should feel sorry for the brave Sri Lankans who knew they’re going to lose but still fought with invaders.

We also need to understand that we lost our ways by not learning from our mistakes and improving. After doing that, we can properly do an unbiased evaluation of our past, present and the future. We don’t want to go back to the good old dictatorship age. We need to go to the future.

We should properly evaluate what happened so we can correct ourselves. As the saying goes,

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.

Nathaniel Branden

So let’s stand up and step out to the brave new world… We’ll definitely get knocked down couple of times, but this time, we’ll remember where it hurt, And most importantly, Who Hit Us…

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