The ethnic scene in 1976 (UTexas Maps)
Was talking to my token Tamil friend. Word on the street is that the cops are out in
Kottawa Kotahena, asking for bank details. Looked online, and indeed tis so, CWC filed a case. This is one reason I think 1983-type riots won’t happen again. Open economy, you know? It’s all about the money now. Go upstairs, another house, another time. Sri Lankan men have this unusual desire for their own company, a substantial desire shall we say. Lean my knuckles on the table and try to contain the irrelevant cauldron within. The women are downstairs. Old School is telling me some stuff I don’t quite believe. About JVP curfews when the streets went dead. About Burgher girls, there being more of them, and the mini-skirts they used to wear. I wonder where they all went. Another place, another time, wholly among my own kind. Usual scene, usual questions about work and bullshit. Plastic chairs, no bloody booze. I honestly don’t identify with the Sinhala race much at all. I’m Sri Lankan, and I miss the Burgher girls. There are so few Tamil girls and so early curfews that I can’t even imagine that wonderland.
Ceylon, from what I hear, was pretty cool. For the gentry more than others, for sure. But for someone at least. The civil service was still a honorable thing. I don’t know have any peers in the government service. My interaction with government people socially is pretty much the same as mobsters. They have bottles on the table, cars in the parking lot and you don’t fuck with them. But anyways. Government jobs became a (political) right and not, say, a job and this is what we get. Now the Sinhalese have the reins of government. The Tamil technocrats have bled and the Sinhalese have fled. The Burghers have regretfully boarded flights and tend miserably pristine gardens in Oz. I met Mahinda once, with a bunch of foriegn people here for a conference. He spoke in Sinhala, and literally one person there understood. I don’t think he speaks English. The short eats at Temple Trees are good.
I’ve been watching the Jazeera. Feels vaguely dirty yet the coverage is good. The little blipper at the bottom reads ‘Inflation in Zimbabwe hits 66,000‘. Reminds me. Mugabe decided to kick like 4,000 white farmers out and give the land and equip to locals. Fine and dandy, except they couldn’t operate the farms. The breadbasket became destitute. Sri Lanka used to have a capable (English speaking) civil service, with a great many Tamils and minorities. And millions of Sinhalese clamoring to get in. So now they’re (we’re?) in. And we can’t work the levers.
There’s a total Sinhala class in the private sector as well. They’re below management level, and for a reason. Most Sinhala speaking people are illiterate in the sense that they can’t (or don’t) really write. The written form is drastically different and most people say they can’t write. They can read enough, but writing or typing with confidence is a rare trait. So that means that they don’t really use email, can’t process computer-readable paperwork, research stuff on the Internet, get better at their jobs through international text and study. In the government that class is running things to the very top. And it is a class thing. It’s totally a class thing. Peeps between don’t necessarily have lunch together, and they certainly don’t have the same perks – in the private sector. Good or bad, whatever. I’m trying to learn Sinhala to get myself marginally ahead, but I don’t really have to. Their prospects won’t tangibly improve unless they learn English, or Tamil.
Sinhalese need to wake the fuck up. We’re not Arabs. There’s like 16 million of us, we don’t have natural resources, and we don’t have significant markets on this island. We need to stop extorting Tamils and learn Tamil and sell them stuff. We need to stop calling English a ‘sword’ that divides, we need to learn English, improve our skills and compete in the global marketplace. A unitary Buddhist Sinhala state is one of the most boring and mediocre places I could ever imagine. I feel like that’s where we’re going, and it makes me miss Ceylon. I certainly miss the Burgher girls.