I’m having dinner at the German Restaurant. The appetizer is mayonaisse and egg salad wrapped in a thick slice of ham and the Chicken Kiev is dripping with butter. It is druglike good. In passing I make a joke about guns and Ravana says he would seriously like one. Tell him the usual about that making you more likely to get shot but then he tells us a story. Apparently a colleague is at home, washing his car at one in the morning. The gate is open. A van pulls up with four or five men. He tries to close the gate but the men force their way in. They beat the man senseless and leave him in the driveway. The house is full of women and children. The men go inside, rob the house and rape his 13 year old niece. Thirteen year old. They steal the car and leave. His sister’s wedding is the next day. I put my fork down cause I suddenly feel like crap. Some things do make you want to get a gun.
Now, at this point in your life, the court system and police can’t do nearly enough. Quite simply, they don’t work. You have to make phone calls upstairs for anything to happen, and in that case the kind of justice you get is corrupted, even if the men are wearing uniforms. I like to think that I believe in rule of law, but when it’s your niece or daughter that’s raped I wonder if you really fucking care. Everyday people want the perpertrators of such terrible acts beaten and killed. The institutions of violence have obviously failed them, and they want immediate and brutal justice. Of course, not everyone feels that way, and I have no data on what victims do report. What I do know is that for every little thing that goes wrong I get somebody asking me if I was to have the perpetrator killed. A friend at the gym saw that someone strangled me at the RoyTho and he says he ‘knows somebody’. Sweet in its way, but wtf. It may not be you, but if something happens to a Sri Lankan family, someone will make calls to all sorts of unsavoury characters. Why?
Rule of Law
Does not exist. The justice system does not work. It is a bunch of words papered on top of a feudal system of connections and who-knows-who. Justice is meted out by strength and influence, and that makes any correlation to actual ‘justice’ purely coincidental. In a more mundane example, I was reading an interesting study of corruption in India, via Slate.
One of the groups in the Indian study was offered a cash bonus for getting a license within 30 days. These subjects had an incentive do whatever was necessary (offer bribes) to get a license quickly. If bribes work, these applicants would get their licenses faster. A second group was given driving lessons. If the licensing process accurately screens out unpreparedâ€”and therefore more likely unsafeâ€”drivers, then these applicants should be more likely to succeed in getting a license. Both of these applicant groups were compared to a third control group who received neither lessons nor a speedy completion bonus. The authors kept track of who got a license, as well as how much time and money the applicants spent in the process. Eventually, they gave their subjects a follow-up written exam to gauge their driving skills.
More than a third (37 percent) of the control group got a license, compared to 45 percent of the subjects who took driving lessons and 65 percent of the people who got paid for getting a license quickly. Subjects in the cash bonus group were most likely to hire “agents” to help them navigate the bureaucracy, spending an average of 1,280 rupees to get a license, compared with 560 rupees for those without an agent. And applicants using agents got their licenses 15 percent faster, making an average of a quarter fewer trips to the Indian DMV (which is actually called the Road Transport Office). They spent about three hours of their own time, as opposed to five hours for those who did not hire an agent.
The agents saved applicants time by, for example, standing in line for them. But the extra cost of using an agent dwarfs the benefit of saving two hours for a typical Indian, who makes 40 rupees per hour, raising the suspicion that the agent’s fee purchased something other than time. And indeed, 88 percent of the applicants who hired an agent did not have to take the driver’s exam before getting a license, while almost all of the other applicants did.
Perhaps the aspiring drivers who hired agents were better-qualified, so that their higher licensing rates and circumvention of the exam did not put other people at risk? Dream on. The drivers who used an agent had much lower scores on the follow-up drivers exam given by the researchers.
In this example you can see you sensible individual decisions make for a communal shithouse. If I want to get a license in a reasonable amount of time I’ll pay an agent and skip the test. It’s OK for me, I know how to drive. I guess it’s OK for my friends and family too, cause I know them. However, then I end up on the street and apparently it was OK for everybody’s family and friends and suddenly I’m surrounded by idiots. The system doesn’t work so people make individual decisions to go around the system. Those decisions are reasonable in both economic and common sense terms. However, on a social level it leads to a terrible and ultimately destructive environment.
Now, in terms of violence, what this means is even more pernicious. It reminds me of the first scene in The Godfather,
I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but — I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn’t protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her, like an animal. When I went to the hospital, her nose was a’broken. Her jaw was a’shattered, held together by wire. She couldn’t even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life — beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again.
[Bonasera breaks down. The Don gestures to Sonny to give Bonasera a drink]
[Bonasera, taking the drink, sips from the shot glass]
I — I went to the police, like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison — suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastard, they smiled at me. Then I said to my wife, “for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.”
Now, what Bonasera is asking makes sense to any father or brother on an individual level. However, what it does is enable a monster and ultimately corrupt the whole community. If the system doesn’t work then individuals will do what they have to do to get by. Mafias, black markets, terrorism, whatever. On an individual level these organizations can mete out ‘justice’, but their focus on results rather than due process means that the country gets shortcut to pieces.
The Rise of the LTTE
No one was ever prosecuted for the 1983 riots. The government didn’t even issue a statement until four days in. In 2004 CBK issued an apology and US $700,000 in compensation. Which is too little too late. There was no justice for the Tamil people. The system obviously didn’t work, and they don’t have the benefits to take the same shortcuts Sinhala people do. In a Sinhala dominated government and police force, you’re not likely to be related or chummy with anyone, so there are few ‘phone calls’ you can make. They can go to the police like ‘good Americans’ but in this case among others, there is no redress. The Tamil never received justice for 1983. Some of them chose to go to Don Corleone. The results have been vile and destructive for everyone but on an individual level, the decision makes sense.
The LTTE provides institutionalized violence to a people who are served neither by the state nor state corruption. In the process, they trample over the rights of every Sri Lankan on this island in their focus on results, but on an individual level the LTTE does deliver results. People do honor their checks and if Tamils are attacked (by someone else) the LTTE can respond. Does it make life shittier for everybody, yes. Is it insane, no.
Until the Sri Lankan state provides real security for Tamil people, there will always be a security vacuum. Eliminating the LTTE, as blanket awful as they are, won’t fix that. Someone worse will always step in to fill it, because it serves an individual human need. The LTTE is destructive to the common good of Tamils and Sinhalese and Muslims alike, but at the moment of individual need and injustice, the LTTE was there. Like Don Corleone or any street thug can be there. In the end they’ll extort and terrorize you, but when your daughter is shamed and you have nowhere to go, they’ll be there. I couldn’t understand why a person would want a gun, or why they would support the LTTE, but now I see a context where it makes sense. The LTTE doesn’t make sense as a macrolevel decision, cause it’s made everyone poorer and less safe. However, this was not a macrolevel decision. As Aristotle said, ‘For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual.’
Until Tamil individuals can obtain real security, the LTTE fills a necessary void. Same as the Mafia did for ethnic Italians, or Hamas does for Palestinians, or warlords in Somalia. If you call them they get stuff done. Unfortunately everyone calls them and all of a sudden you get all kinds of horrible stuff done with no how or why. Plus they’re run by bloodthirsty and corrupt assholes with their own agenda. However, in your moment of individual pain, nobody cares. That’s the tragedy of the commons.