Posts

2012/05/01

It's 5am. I am in Dambulla with Navin, and it looks like we are about to get beaten up.

It's my fault of course. It always is.

A bunch of robe-monkeys supported by about 2000 idiotic cunts of misery decide that it would be a wonderful thing to attack an Islamic Mosque during prayers. If you gave two tugs of a dead dog's cock about what is happening in Sri Lanka, you would know about this.

And with the accuracy of all the news we get, Navin and I decide that it was time for a road trip.

Now, Navin and I are like Leia and Han. One relies on planning and diplomacy. The other on a fast mouth and an Indy ploy. So we make plans. Tell friends. Make a run for it.

A ride to Pettah bus station, a long and uncomfortable bus ride to Dambulla, and here we are. At Dambulla junction, totally out of our area, and we are looking like we are going to get into a fight.

We get off from the bus and start looking for a place to start. I have a plan of course, but we get sidetracked by a "hello".

It's a group of about four guys. Wearing yellow polo-neck shirts. Carrying bags. Look friendly.

Seems legit.

[GMsays: roll Sense Motive.. 11?]

We talk to them. They want to know what we are doing there. So I tell them that we are shooting Dambulla (when in doubt, tell the most basic truth).

They want to know if we are media. I say no. Tell them we are geeks, and we are here to do some shooting.

Ask them what the fuck is going on.

They ask if I am media. I say no.

They tell me that they don't want the mosque in Dambulla. "අපි මේක වෙන්න දෙන්නේ නැහැ". "We will not let this happen!"

I ask them why. I get told that there is a mosque near the Temple of the Tooth, and the Call to Prayer is at the same time as the Thewawa (, and the sound interferes with the thewawa. Only thing is, YT has been to thewawa. Thewawa is fucking loud!

They ask me if I am from the media. Things are getting decidedly uncomfortable.

I try to make some small talk. Get the feel of the mood of the city. Not that I am not getting a good feel already.

They ask if I am media. There are more of them showing up.

Navin and I say our farewells, and slowly and calmy walk away.

Back to the original plan. Find an eatery for tea. Navin points one out, but I tell him that is not what I am looking for. I am looking for a Muslim eatery. This is all part of my Cunning Plan.

We find one, and order tea. Navin likes his with milk, I like mine plain. We speak to the waiter. He seems more willing to talk about it. We sit there, drink multiple cups as he tells us many things about Dambulla.

Dambulla, according to him, may have more Muslims than any other race. Makes some sense. The place is a trading town, and trading is one of the Muslims in Sri Lanka do best.

Most of these Muslims are relative newcomers to the area. most of them from the last 2 to 3 decades.

I ask him if there have been issues like this before, and he tells us there has always been demands to remove the mosque. But the demands were never serious. Just temple assholes being asshole-like. I ask him why things got so weird al of a sudden and he shrugs. That extremely expressive shrug that Sri Lankans have learned to do. I ask him where the mosque was, and he points the way. We decide to walk it.

The walk is uneventful. A few kilometers, and there are some good scenes for Navin to shoot. The early morning light was pretty awesome for composition and shooting. So we walk on towards the Dambulla temple, looking for a mosque.

We can't find it. But Navin finds a derelict and ruined shop that would make a good scene to shoot. There are a few cops hanging around the area, but this is near the temple, and with all the activity going on, it would seem cautious and sensible to put a police checkpoint there.

We shoot the building, and look for a mosque. And we can't find it. But we do, however, see a shop owner smiling and waving to us. Since we have nothing better we go to his eatery to have another cup of tea.

Along with our tea he comes and talks to us. Asks us what we are upto. We ask him where the mosque is, and he tells us it is behind the building we were shooting. He assures us that it is possible for us to go and take pictures.

The police tell us otherwise. They are under orders not to let anyone who is not Muslim into the grounds. Navin reciting the First Pillar of Islam didn't seem to help. But we do get told that if we go and get permission from the OIC of the Police station, they can let us in. So we walk to the Police station.

At the Police station we find that the OIC has gone off for the monthly ispection ceremony, and would be back in about 30 minutes. Navin wants to wait. But then he's punctual and stuff. I, on the other hand, am used to operating on Sri Lanka Time, and suggest we head back to the mosque and try to talk our way in.

[GM says: Roll Diplomacy. I get a 7]

We still can't make it in. We head back to the eatery and speak to the shopkeeper. He sits and talks with us for a while and then says that he'll see what he can do. On the TV in the corner they are showing The Return of The King. In sinhala.

We wait and sip our tea as in Pelennor Fields, Elves and Humans fight the Forces of Darkness. A guy comes and sits at our table. He gives out an air of confidence. Looks prosperous. Is barechested. Starts asking us about why we are here. Asks us if we are Media. Apparently Al Jazeera had dropped by last night to do a piece. Having a hight level party snipe your quest is not a good feeling.

We tell him that we are here to see the mosque. To take pictures. To find out the truth, because no-one in Colombo seems to have any idea what the truth is. We tell him that we just want to see what's up. To be chroniclers, not investigators.

He looks at us for a bit, lights a cigarette and starts off by telling us that this is most emphatically not a religious issue. This is not a Sinhala vs Muslim thing. Not a Buddhism vs Islam thing. Not a temple vs mosque thing. He doesn't tell us what it is either. Just that we should make the decisions ourselves. He said that he would get us into the temple. He asks the shopkeeper to get him his shirt. On-screen, Legolas kills an oliphaunt.

The cops are still leery of letting us in, but our guide - lets call him Dragoman to protect the innocent - insists that we are let in. He says we are friends of friends from Colombo. After some grumbling, we are allowed into the mosque area.

The pathway to the mosque is tiny. Six feet wide, maybe 20 feet long. Floored with broken and well-worn bricks. As you step out of the corridor you are met by the mosque. Which is unlike any mosque that we have seen. From the outside it looks like a warehouse, which is what led to so many people cliaming that it is a brand new construction. The inside tells a different story.

While the current and most visible form is a warehouse-looking building made of corrugaed metal and iron grilles, there is a smaller, older brick building along side it. It is obvious that the old building had a long wall knocked down and was extended into the current structure.

There are about 20 cops hanging around the compound, about 15 of them are in uniform. The rest are in plainclothes. They pay us little to no attention as we walk in.

We are taken around the building and told its history. We are shown where the attackers came in. We are shown the place where they do their religious ablutions, where the monks pissed. Broken cupboards and chairs. Torn Korans. We get to see them all.

Navin is shooting up a storm, and I go outside to talk to the people. I spoke to a few cops and many of them are vocal in their unhappiness about this. Of course it is mainly that they are unhappy to have to hang out of here in the hot sun, but every little bit helps.

While I am talking to them a guy comes and introduces himself to me. Says he is the local correspondent for the Lakbima newspaper. He saw Dragoman escorting us to the mosque and waved as he went by. At that time Dragoman said he was carrying a load of papers to the temple. So I say hi. Speak to him for a while, nothing wrong with being polite. Later he comes over with some senior cops to watch them take Navin's and my addresses and ID numbers.

He makes a point of photographing us on his phonecam.

After this Dragoman introduces us to an old man. A trustee of the mosque. Has a proper muslim beard too.

He tells us the tale of the mosque. How he came to Dambulla in the 50s at the age of 20 to work in the now dilapidated shop in front of the mosque. How he and his co-workers used to pray on a table. How they built a cadjan hut behind the shop so they could pray. How in the 60s the shop he worked in and the one next door donated some land so they could build the mosque. How it was made larger into the form that we see now to accomodate more people.

Navin has his shots, and we decide to go look for the kovil. On the way out the gate we are stopped by another senior cop who questions us again. And the reporter videos us again on his phonecam.

We go looking for the kovil. It's not far. Cross the road, up a pathway, and in an open area, surrounded by mud huts, there it is.

Literally mud huts. Huts made of daub and wattle. Thatched with cadjan. Huts the like of which most of us only get to see on the grounds of high-priced, wannabe eco-lodge hotels. Huts like which people pay 10,000 rupees a night to stay in. And these people live in them all the time. Lucky buggers.

The mosque looks like a warehouse. The "kovil" looks like the shanty.

The people are poor. Yet they get the cash together to buy some concrete blocks to build a shrineroom. They have to build their own kovil because they are from the Sakkili caste. The toilet cleaner, shit pot carrier caste. The caste that is still not allowed to enter many major kovils.

The kovil is a temple to Bhadrakali. A demon-goddess who is one of the more deadly goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. In Sri Lanka she is mixed with Kali. The mother and destroyer of the universe. It says something when the deity you pray to is more demonic than deific.

Navin shoots more. He shoots the kovil. Shoots the people. They are happy to let him take pictures of them. They are surprised when he asks permission.

"Why are you asking us?" one asks me.

It never occurs to them that they can say "no."

The place is nice. The people are a perfect hunting ground for Navin's lens. There really isn't much to see here. And that is why they are going to lose it all.

We make our farewells, and head to the Dambulla temple.

I have been here often. And like every such place, it is a massive money-making enterprise. Any form of religion has fucked off. A radio station. A stupa painted in gold. A TV station. A "museum" that looks like a Chinese whorehouse.

The diffrerence between the mosque and kovil and this .. this monstrosity is jarring. It makes us finally realise why we are here.

This is not fight between equals. This is schoolyard bullying at its worst. This is Coca Cola versus the kid running a lemonade stall. This is Anakin Skywalker taking on the Jedi kindergarten.

So Navin takes the shots. And I stand there wishing for a bazooka. A flamethrower. A nuclear fucking missile!

Navin finishes shooting, and I finish my fantasies of what I want to do to this place and the Chief Robewearer who runs it. Fantasies that would make The 120 Days of Sodom look like a child's bedtime storybook.

We decide to go and see Dragoman, so that we can say our farewells. It's time to go home. We have what we came for.

The problem is that we have no idea where Dragoman lives. We go looking for him, and can't seem to trace him. The eatery we found him in is also shut down for the day. I see the Lakbima reporter who tells us where his house is. But when we ask around the area, we are told it is in the complete opposite direction from what we were sent.

We finally meet Dragoman's wife. She is a stereotypical big, bustling Muslim woman. She is also quite friendly. She tells us to stick around while she sends messages via runners to find her husband. Apparently, thanks to this mess his phone hasn't stopped ringing. So he's turned it off.

Dragoman finally shows up, and before we can tell him that we plan to leave, he starts talking to us. Tells us of the main issue about the placement of the mosque. That the so-called "sacred area" given to the temple, and which is the public basis of the conflict, only applies on the opposite, temple side of the road.

He tells us there are more stories to tell, and things to learn. But he refuses to tell them to us. Tells us that he can be considered biased because he is a muslim. He wants us to meet some people.

Sathya (not his real name) is a friend of Dragoman's. He is Sinhalese, Buddhist. Goes to the temple regularly. Has a cow in his garden that Dragoman got released from the abbatoir at his daughter's request. Sathya doesn't go to the Dambulla temple. He would rather go twenty kilometers to Habarana to visit the temple there for his religious activities. His hatred of the Dambulla temple and the "Parachute Priest" is strong. The tales he tells us tell us why.

He tells us the yellow-shirted crew we met on the road are members of a local youth organisation called "Api Dambulla" ("We Are Dambulla") that was organised by the temple. They are the sons of local families. Many of those families own shops in Dambulla. Shops that they rent to muslim traders. During Vesak the Yelowshirts visit Muslim traders demanding 5,000 - 8,000 rupees from each shop for a "dansala".

He tells us other tales. Tales of corruption, rapine, extortion, and murder. And he isn't the only person to tell us those tales that day. Don't believe me. Speak to people from Dambulla. Ask them about the Parachute Priest. You'll hear those tales too.

At the end of it all, we have to almost beg to be allowed to leave. Navin and I are fading fast. We have been awake since the previous day. A speeding bus is no place to catch some shuteye. And there was the problem of memory. Navin's Sinhala is not that good, so I was the translator for the trip. Talking to people, listening to their tales, trying to keep track of complex relationships. All this means that sleeping is not an option. I want to sit down and start dictating notes.

But then the food comes. One thing about Sri Lankans is they know how to feed you. That "eat-eat-eat-eat-eat" that Sri Lankan mothers say applies anywhere you go. Even if the have nothing to eat, they will insist you eat. Dragoman was no different. His wife spent the better part of cooking for us, and there is no way we get to leave without sampling her cooking. So we eat. Not as much as I would like, but by Eris I have a full stomach.

While the table is laid I dictate notes to Navin, and we are shown the recordings of the mosque attack taken from inside the mosque. It is obvious that the Police and the STF troops are doing the best they can to calm the situation while being respectful. That is not a place I would want to be. The anger Navin and I feel at this is immense. If we were there, there would have been a riot for sure. Impulse control is not one of my talents.

Dragoman insists on accompanying us to the bus station. He bundles us into his three-wheeler and takes us through various back roads to a bus stop over a kilometer outside town. He is not paranoid, but he is cautious. We have spoken to too many people. Been seen by too many people. We are private individuals, so we have no corporate backing to cover us if anything were to happen. He stays with us until a bus comes. He calls us later to find out if we are still on the bus. He calls me again much later to make sure we got home

Navin's photos are on Facebook. (And as a presentation on Google Docs) And they have caused quite a stir.

2012/04/30

Sometimes, you can't argue with racism. All you can do is laugh at it.

There is a post going around facebook that the Sinhala race is dying, because its birthrate is substantially less than that of the Muslims and Tamils.

The numbers are wrong. The facts are wrong. It is just a piece of sensationalist lies that certain groups want to accept.

There is no arguing with it. Just laughing at it.

Hence...

 

 

Translated, it reads..

 

if this is true..

protecting the virginity of sinhala girls

is a crime against the race!

awake sinhalese!

for the sake of the race

FUCK!!

2012/03/31
"This was a great idea you had, Such."
"I had? I thought you had it!"

When Navn Weeraratne and I had this conversation, we knew we were on to something good.

Something big.

Something so awesome and geeky and awesomely geeky it could only be called "The Great Geek Retreat".

Of course it came out of a drunken conversation - as such things so often do - but it is shaping up to be something special.

We rented a bungalow at Puwakpitiya (unfortunately they could only give it to us for one night - the place is popular), and collected the crew via the Facebook Page.

When the smoke cleared, the adventure party included Nick the Nonchalant (of The Fundamentalist Nomenclature of (Al) fame), his wife Areeba the Unburqa'd, Frank the Beancounter, Tushani the Unremembered, Hasitha the Analytical and his wife Dilini the Missus, Samantha the Bookly, and - the only other proclaimed geek in the team - Johan the Missing. Of course I, Suchetha the Nonsensical, and Navin the Crafty are in the list too. But that goes without saying right?

They all gather for a night and a day of Role Playing Games, geek movies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail and any others we think will fit), board games, card games, and general geekery.

There will also be food. Nick is brining and marinading chicken. And I have a 5kg pork butt that was marinaded for 24 hours and cooking for 16.

Right now, everyone is prepping. I have games to study and scenarios to write. Navin has a scenario to write. I am sure the rest of the crew is doing similar things.

We hope to make this as connected as possible.. so follow Facebook event page and the #greatgeekretreat hashtag on twitter.

2012/03/23

Prabhakaran, they say, was captured in Mullaitivu during the last days of the war along with his family, tortured, and killed.

Of course, there is no proof about this. Any evidence is circumstantial. What proof exists - if it exists - is probably locked away in some vault.

But the circumstantial evidence is rather strong. I heard the news of his capture on the 15th of may 2009. The news came from two totally disparate sources. One from a friend who said a cousin in the army sent the news, the other from a 15 year old girl who claimed her uncle was in the flight that brought him to Colombo. This was the day before The Beast claimed at the G11 summit in Jordan that I will be going back to a country that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of the LTTE.

US Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks say that the LTTE tried to surrender but were refused by Gotabhaya.

I was told later by trusted friends who were told by highly-placed trusted friends (yes, hearsay. yes, totally inadmissible in a court of law) that Prabhakaran and his family were tortured before they were killed. But by then it seemed everyone knew.

Probably some of these tales were just revenge fantasies. But knowing the way that humans operate, and knowing that governments are made of humans, some of these tales are quite plausible.

You are welcome to disbelieve me of course. But with the way things are, I think we can accept that the capture and killing of Prabhakaran - like that of Rohana Wijeweera - happened at the hands of the Government.

But capturing and killing Prabhakaran, without bringing him before a court, was an affront to the people of Sri Lanka.

Because an extra-judicial killing, even of someone as hated as Prabhakaran, makes a travesty of the Justice system.

It is the Justice system that stands between society and mob rule. It is the Justice system that makes the execution of Saddam Hussein - a travesty as it was - legal. That is what makes the killings of Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi wrong. That is what makes the killing of Prabhakaran wrong.

The Court may be biased and the verdict a foregone conclusion. But the forms must be followed. And seen to be followed.

Because that which we call civilisation is but a thin veneer on barbarism and chaos. And the glue that holds civilisation together is The Law. If the Law is seen to be ineffective, or unfair, then Civilisation crumbles. A few policemen can control a riot not because they are better armed, but because there is an in-built - or better yet, programmed - fear and respect for the Law. And a certain fear of chaos and barbarism.

And it is this Law that legitimises a Government.

The Commissioner of Elections may declare a candidate a winner, but the person who declares him President is the Chief Justice. While a King may be legitimised by a Pope or some form of religious leader, it is the jead of the Judicial branch that legitimises a democratically elected (even if only nominally) candidate.

When a Government consistently, and publicly acts in a manner that shows that it has no respect for the law, then it undermines the very thing that makes it legitimate. The only thing that differentiates it from a power-hungry despot, holding on through fear and force of arms.

And Sri Lanka is still - at least nominally - a democracy.

2012/02/08

I always wanted to be a writer. Not just a writer, but a Writer. A Chronicler of my Age. I read the greats. Hemingway. Thoreau. Kerouac. Runyon. And I dreamed of joining those hallowed ranks. Me and Jon Patterson. We were inseparable those days. And his dream was just like mine.

To live the Life. To move out of our one horse town and go somewhere. Maybe Spain. Maybe Mexico. Maybe the Greek Isles. Somewhere we could rent a seedy apartment in the seedy part of town. We would always be behind on the rent, and sometimes in love. Not with each other of course. With Women. With Characters. We would drink and smoke heavily. And they would be our Muses. And we would make cryptic dedications and references to them in our books.

And one day when we were 17 we did it.

We packed our bags – in flimsy cardboard suitcases, because that is how real writers pack – and got on a Greyhound and travelled as far as we could go.

All the way to Apache Junction, Arizona.

That part was Jon's idea. He wanted to write with a Western feel to it. Neither of us wanted to go to East. And California was over done. And we couldn’t afford to travel all the way to Mexico.

But we found our seedy apartment in the seedy part of town. We got work as busboys. We lied about our ages and got in bars. We tried. Oh how we tried.

And I wrote. On a pawnshop typewriter. Laboriously, until I got calluses on my fingers. But I wrote. And never got published. But one day I managed to knock one out that I just Knew was a winner. It was about something that happened to Jon and I, and I wrote it out.

It was perfect.

So one evening I scraped together what ever cash I had and went and got a bottle of Jack Daniels. And when Jon came home I gave him two copies, and a Zippo - all Writers carried Zippos and drank too much Jack Daniels – one which had his name in it as a character and one that didn't and told him to pick the one to publish. And so he burned the one with him in it. And that was the one that didn't get sent to the magazine.

And it worked. I got my first writing cheque.

I took some of that money and went to a printer. And I got business cards made. In creamy cardstock. Thick and rich. And on that I wrote “The Penn Street Moochers” - the name Jon and I had come up with for ourselves when we used to live on Penn Street – and presented them to him with great pomp and circumstance.

And time went by. Not much, but enough. Jon got tired of being a struggling writer searching for a muse, and I got published enough to keep me writing, but never enough to get anywhere with it.

Jon and I got into a screaming fight that ended up with him moving out. He finally had enough of the “starving artist shtick” as he called it and started working seriously at a job.

I got into “serious work” too. But I kept writing, and once in a while getting published. And I kept those business cards in my wallet. But I always felt I had this great story hidden inside me.

One year I went to see my Aunt Judy. She was the youngest of my mothers siblings and was always considered “a bit strange” by everyone else in the family, but she liked me and I liked her. Once in a while she would come to Thanksgiving held at one of the family houses, but she never hosted. And no one ever asked her to. Occasionally just after lunch you would hear stories about her. About how she ran away from home to San Francisco, to Woodstock. How she lived in a commune – and you know What goes on There.

That one visit turned into many as she told me her stories and her life. I told her mine and of the story in my head. How I could see the edges of it, through the mist, but never the whole of it. And how every story I wrote was just a small part of the pattern.

She understood.

So every few months I would go visit her, and as she grew older – I never felt I was growing old – her insistence that I sit down and Write grew stronger.

One day I realised that I didn't know the town I lived in, even though I had never moved out of the apartment since the day I moved in. The seedy part of town was no longer seedy. The apartment was pretty much the same as it was when I moved in, though my neighbours had moved on, and new, more upscale ones had moved in. The rent had gone up, but not so fast that I noticed. I was not Living the Life any more. The Life had passed me by.

The next time when I went to see my Aunt Judy – “call me Judy” she always said – I didn't leave. I found a job in her town, and I started trying to write.

But it never seemed to work. Something always stopped me. Work, TV, a book, something.

Until I woke up here. In a room. In the basement.

I am not sure what my Aunt Judy did. Or how. Or why she calls it the Narnia treatment. All I know is that I have to write a page a day or I don't get fed. I have a toilet and water. There is a hole in the wall that I get a ray of food, and if I have been especially prolific, some Jack Daniels.

The first few days I didn't write at all. But one day hunger got the best of me, and I started writing. A wretched little piece, but it got me fed. The next day it was longer, and in my mind better. And on and on it went. Until one day I started The Work. My Magnum Opus. I don't know what time it is, there is no light coming in, but when I have written for the day I slide it out through the food slot and ring the bell. Soon after that a tray of food comes in.

I am trapped. I feel like I am living in a Stephen King novel.

And I don't want to leave.

2011/12/31

I was there watching the election when Sarath Fonseka ran for president and lost. And then the Army surrounded the Galadari Hotel where he was waiting.

Of course no one came to his rescue. No one protested like they did in Iran against Ahmadinejad or in Russia against Putin. There was no mass upswelling of protest and anger.

Because very few people actually voted for Sarath Fonseka. Most of the votes were against Mahinda Rajapaksa - aka The Beast. Even YT who swore that he was going to spoil his vote because he felt neither candidate was worthy of his vote, ended up voting against The Beast because of the multiple showings of The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin on state TV. People voted for Fonseka because he was the not-rajapaksa.

Now everyone is trying to make a martyr of SF - forgetting, of course, that to become a martyr, you have to be martyred. They scream and shout that this is revenge (of course it is) and a frame up (would you expect any less from The Beast).

There are many petitions to free SF. There is even an attempt to liken him to Nelson Mandela. Nelson fucking Mandela.. I fucking swear. They even petitioned the White House, and there was much cheering and cries of "Jayawewa" because if they made 25,000 signatures the US Government would make representations to The Beast. Only thing is... they won't.

And of course The Beast himself has stated that he won't listen to the USGOV anyway. But, if the pardon plea came from the family (no doubt with much prostration and feet kissery - also dick sucking) he would "consider" it.

After all, why should he listen to the US? And why should the USGOV intervene? After all, it was the same people who now scream and beg for help and justice from the other countries that protested against and blocked any form of international intervention in the Sri Lankan Civil War. The same ones who claimed that other countries had "no right" to intervene in what was an "internal matter".

They were the same ones who were cheering that Sri Lanka finally had a "worthy leader" who had the balls to stand up to the "neocolonial powers". They were the ones who stood by The Beast while he trampled on the rights of the people. They screamed their support while he shut down and killed those who stood up to him. They convinced the Rajapaksa Brothers that they can do whatever they wanted with impunity.

And now the retards who supported all the bullshit, who screamed loudly that anyone who dared to question the "glorious leader" were traitors to the race and nation, who didn't see the whirlwind they would soon be reaping. Now those idiots are screaming to the very people they chased off and vilified for help.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

So reap the whirlwind, bitches. Reap it!

2011/12/05

A long time ago my FEW called me a robot. She said that I had no emotions. That I didn't feel.

I, of course, took that as a compliment.

I have always valued rationality over emotions. Mr. Spock was my hero. Even to this day I would rather solve problems through rational discourse rather than screaming and shouting.

But that doesn't seem to work too well with women.

Women want me to make an emotional commitment to them. And I find this is something I just cannot do.

I can't seem to lose control. I can't seem to want to give up everything. to fight dragons, to say, "Fuck it. I will do this because I love this woman."

I can't seem to lose or give up emotional control.

It wasn't always this way of course.

In my younger days I had no problems in doing that. I would give my all for a woman. I was willing to do anything, make any changes to myself and my lifestyle to be with someone. But as I grew older, that changed.

I guess the big change was somewhere in 2001. A bad breakup in 2000, followed by an even worse one in 2002, which led to depression and an attempt at suicide where I learned that 24 tabs of Panadol are not enough to kill you, just give you bad heartburn.

Since then I have been uable to feel anything romantic for anyone. There is no rush of emotion.

I find it impossible to get that can't-eat, can't- sleep, reach-for-the-stars, over-the-fence, World Series kind of stuff.

I sometimes envy those who can. I envy those who can actually feel something. Those whose wires haven't been overloaded and burnt out. Those who can unconditionally love someone. And feel pain when it is going wrong.

As my friend the Toymaker asked me once, Would you rather be unhappy with her, or happy without her?

Apparently my answering - without any thought or hesitation - that I would rather be happy, meant that I was not in love.

This is not to say that I don't care for, or even love the women in my life. It means that I am unable to get that deep emotional bond that many of the women in my life seem to want. I even find it difficult to say I love you to someone. Something that I was able to do before my marriage.

But that doesn't mean that I don't care. That I don't miss them when they leave - or to be more accurate, when I drive them away. It doesn't mean that I feel sad that they are no longer in my life.

It just means that I shrug, and move on.

2011/08/31

The hot news is that the LKGOV is compensating people for engine damages caused by the substandard petrol that was imported by the Ceypetco.

Now at face value this sounds like an excellent idea. After all, it is only fair that the people who fucked up your car engine pay for the damage they caused.

But who's paying for it really?

They say that they will pay compensation up to LKR50,000 for the affected vehicles. And over 2,000 vehicles have claimed damages, for a total of LKR100,000,000 in compensation.

Of course that isn't much. About LKR 20 from every man, woman, and child in Sri Lanka. And a lot cheaper than buying a Russian helicopter.

But it is the principle of the thing isn't it?

The money for compensation is coming from Ceypetco. Which means that it will be added to the price of fuel. So a few mililiters of every liter of petrol you pump into your car will go to pay for the compensation. And yet, the people who were responsible for this debacle are not only going to get off scot free, but they will be rewarded for it in the form of whatever cuts and commissions they got from it.

This is not new. This is not a unique situation. This is the status quo in Sri Lanka. Zero accountability. And whatever compensation will be paid by taxes by the state. And life - and the activities - will go on as if nothing had happened.

And that is the rub isn't it?

2011/08/30

Or is it vice-versa? I forget.

So Sri Lankan - and perhaps the world - has its first Mayor Monk. Not only did he run for power, but when he was elected he held a temper tantrum fast because The Beast said he couldn't be mayor because he was - you know - a monk. One of those people who have stepped away from lay life for a life of seeking enlightenment.

Monks joining the monkeys in parliament is nothing new. We have had them since 2004. They even got into fights in parliament.

But talking about that is another blog post.

I'm here to talk about Wewelduwe Gnanaprabha who screamed, and shouted, and stamped his feet, and held his breath refused to eat until he was given the position of Mayor of Embilipitiya.

You see.. this is a Good Thing™.

"But wait!" I hear you yell.

"What about your 'separation of church and state' stance? Does this mean that you have 'evolved on it?"

Nay, True Believer. YT has not changed at all (in fact YT is still wearing the same shorts from a week ago).

You see, the reason why The Beast - in a fit of sanity? or just because even a broken clock can be correct twice a day? - initially refused Gnana (not the be confused with Nana, the purveyor of spicy meaty goodness at Galle Face Green) the post of Mayor is because as Mayor, he would have to approve of things that are (nominally at least) antithetical to Buddhism.

Things like Liquor Licences. Meat Licences. Gambling Licences. You know.. the good things in life. (although we're still waiting for the whoring licence)

Now the thing is, people love their vices. And Embilipitiya is no exception. Moonshine, venison, and - YT is told - some of the best local ganja comes from the area.

So there are three paths that this situation can take.

  1. Stop issuing meat, liquor, and gambling licences

    This would make him MIGHTY popular with the people.

    Of course there will be people who benefit from this. Frozen meats don't need a licence, so your Food City, Keels Super, and regular shop owner don't need to worry. But considering that meat shops sell fresher meat for half the price, the consumer definitely will.

    And then there is alcohol. Make alcohol illegal and you create a thriving kasippu (moonshine) industry. And considering that moonshine was ostensibly made illegal because of the chance that improper distillation would lead to methanol poisoning (the fact that they were not paying heavy extortions to the government had nothing to do with it. Nope. Nothing at all) the people who would suffer would be the Common Man™.

    And of course the gambling ban will not affect the sale of lottery tickets at all. After all, if the Government does - nay promotes it, it's not gambling is it?

    So IF Gnana decides that he is not going to sign any of those horrible things that undermine the virtuous nation, then when the next election rolls along, there would be a massive influx of money the candidate - any candidate - that promises, even in private, to bring back the licensing.

    And because people love their morality at arm's length, the eating, drinking, gambling people of Embilipitiya would vote for them.

  2. Let his secretary sign them

    "I wash my hands of it," said Pontius Pilate.

    Gnana may not be able/willing to sign the licences, but he could always tell his secretary to sign them.

    But that would lead to other problems. First off, can the Secretary sign them? Is it even legal? Secondly, since these licences are the most lucrative income generators for whoever signs them, the Secretary is going to become rich. Very rich. And rich means powerful. And also means possibly able to stand for candidate at the next election. See above.

  3. Sign the damned things

    The simplest thing. And yet one that would get him flack from every direction. The people in his electorate would not be happy that he reneged on his holy vows for politics. They would not be happy that he got off the "morality" soapbox that he came to power on. And when the next election happens, this would be the first thing brought out against him.

Religion and morality in politics is a strange thing. It only works in the abstract.

Any politician who promises to make a moral law legal will be voted into power. As long as that law is not enforced too strictly. Bring in Prohibition, but don't look too hard at what is being sold under the counter. Make abortions illegal, but don't look too hard at that clinic.

Morality works best when it applies to your neighbour, not to you.

So the JHU is approved of when it gets into Parliament and screams and shouts and passes laws that affect no one directly. But when a robe-wearer gets into the local government and then starts messing with people directly, then there will be a problem.

What I hope will happen is that the people will get tired of this robe-wearer in particular and of robe-wearers in politics in general and refuse to vote them back in. That there will be a societal backlash against all this, and the creation of a SinBud Taliban will be forestalled.

What is more likely is that there will be more and more busy-bodies pushing robe-wearers into power because, it is their moral imperative to stop you doing what you want.H. L. Mencken defined puritanism as the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time. And we DO have a large number or Puritans in Sri Lanka (starting with The Beast himself) who want to stop other people from having fun, as long as THEY can do it.

And We The People will just sit with our thumbs up our collective asses, and do nothing about it.

That's what we always do.

2011/08/29

Going through my hard drive, I found this article I wrote back in 2006, before I even thought of writing a blog.

Here it is for your delectation.

My father was a civil engineer in Nigeria. When the coup d'etat happened in 1983 his employer made him an offer – stay on with the company, and he'd get citizenship in any country he wanted. He chose to come to Sri Lanka and work here. For almost 23 years after his arrival he never worked in the engineering field.

Fast-forward from 1983 to 1999, I too chose to leave the US and come back to Sri Lanka. If I had so chosen I could have stayed there. I too, inspired by my father's example decided that I would help my country and returned.

I often wonder what things would have been like if we had not done so.

For better or worse both my father and I had a dream, that one day we would be able to make a difference in Sri Lanka, that the things we do would help make this country a better place. Dreams die hard under the harsh glare of reality, but die they do. And the more important that dream is to you, the more it hurts when you finally let it go.

The final nail was hammered into the coffin that houses what remains of our dreams a few weeks ago. We have a plot of land by the Bolgoda Lake. We have had that plot since 1980. In 2002 we applied for planning permission to build a wall in front of it, instead of the easily bypassed barbed-wire fence. It took almost a year for permission to be granted for a fence instead of a wall, because that is what the law allowed. Meanwhile, on both sides of our land, walls were being put up with impunity.

We finally started building the fence a month ago, only to have petitions brought against us. There was a lady in the authority who felt that we had enough of a case to fight the petitions, and helped us do so. She also made it plain that she wanted her pound of flesh. The dream died when my father finally gave in and paid her.

My father is an honourable man. He doesn't take bribes and he doesn't give them. When he finally decided to pay the woman, it was the end of his belief that if you are in the right, you don't have to worry about the law.

I admit that I am not as naïve as my father is. I have passed a folded note or two into the waiting hand of a policeman. I have applied what is euphemistically referred to in China as hyeung yao or "fragrant grease" when the wheels of bureaucracy seem to stall at the axle. Yet I firmly believed that this was not what the people wanted. That people were giving bribes because it was demanded, not because they wanted to. I honestly thought that under the right impetus you could actually get rid of the bribery and corruption.

Looking back, my naivete amazes me.

A bribe is not about money any more. It is the exchange of power and privilege for money. "Privilege" - now there is a word that has no ambiguity of meaning. Take the Latin roots of the word privus and legis, private and law. Your own personal law.

Bribery affects those who bribe as well as those who do not bribe. When the de facto rule is to bribe, then even the honest people who have no reason or wish to bribe, end up having to pass "a little something", a "small support", a "summa santhosam", a "podi udavva" to get what they want done. The people holding out their hands range from the beggar on the street who threatens to embarrass you if you don't give him something, to the garbage man who now expects a payment every month, all the way to the top.

The problem is like smoking. The first fag (and I mean a cigarette here) is the hardest one. Your head spins, your lungs burn, your body and mind rebels at this unnatural deed. Fast-forward a bit - you light up and take a drag and not only does nothing untoward happen, but you actually enjoy the sensation!

And people like it this way. A politician is not chosen on his abilities, but on "what can he do for us?" Can this man get my kid into a school? If I serve him will I get that fat contract? If I run around with his thugs, will I be able to get a few crumbs that fall from his table?

Unfortunately the entire nation is corrupt. The politicians bribe the people with promises of free this and free that to get them to vote. The politicians bribe the public servants with offers of more money in the form of salaries to make sure that things happen the way they want them to. The people bribe the politicians and the public servants directly or indirectly in order to get what they want. Everyone is bribing everyone else.

Near my home there was a housing complex being built. This was not your average complex, this was serious business. Immediately the politicians in the area were up in arms about it. The ecological and social integrity of the area was suddenly the most important thing in the world. The screaming, the shouting, the posturing and the postering was a sight to be seen. Yet this was as standard and ritualised an event as combing your hair and checking your fly before you ask a girl to dance. The performance was masterful, and the audience was appreciative. The money was paid, the construction went on.

The war goes on in the North. Many thousands die, many millions suffer. The ones who give the military contracts teach their children in international schools, send them abroad for their studies. All on a government servant's salary.

We used to have leaders of integrity in this nation. People used to be ashamed to give or take a bribe. This too has passed.

The problem is, like I said before, people actually enjoy giving bribes. It actually gives you a good feeling, that you can do something that the other guy can't or hasn't thought of yet. That you're actually getting away with doing something that you know is wrong. Its a rush, a high.

And there's the rub. Sri Lanka is, pardon my French, fucked. "Sri Lanka Matha" is the victim of a brutal gang rape. Her mind gone, her spirit broken, she sells herself on the street for a few rupees a shot. And she was made that way by the society that depends on her. The politicians sell her to anyone they can as long as they can get a cut for pimping her. Many of her illustrious, and not so illustrious, offspring are willing to sabotage any attempt to revive and rehabilitate her in exchange for a mess of pottage.

There is no honesty left here. No honour. Those concepts are dead. Dead like my father's dream of living in a society where if you did things right you could actually go forward and succeed.

What works here is money. Remember Al Pacino in Scarface? First, you get de money. When you get de money, den you get de power. When you get de money and de power, den you get de women.

Power is cheap in Sri Lanka. A few hundred bucks gets your trash hauled for a month. A few thousand and you don't have to go to court and face charges for drunken driving. Society as a whole is corrupt and likes it that way.

Many of us came back thinking we can help this country. That we can clean it up. I, for one, found that you can't clean what everyone wants to keep dirty. You can't free someone who keeps his chains on himself. You can't carry out an "intervention" in an addict's life when all he wants to do is see the pretty colours.

I'm here, still fighting. I run a small company and spend my time doing what is essentially volunteer work. What money I get comes from teaching. I make less than one tenth of what my friends who are in the same field make.

Even I can see the writing on the wall. Even if I try to ignore it, it's still there. Sri Lanka doesn't want to be saved. We the, dare I say, "intelligentsia" of this country don't have a hope. We come in with great dreams, and sooner or later we watch them get thrown in a pauper's grave.

Lets face it, the Sri Lanka we dream of is dead. The priests are performing the last rites, all we are doing is performing CPR on a corpse. Time to give her up. Time to walk away. Time to let our dreams die with dignity.