Idle military spec, heading down the A9
I think the end of war has left a big void. It’s not that one enjoyed the elephant in the room, but the place seems a bit empty since its left. I remember watching the news in Singapore. It was about building hospitals and helping kids and stuff. I was terrified. I couldn’t wait to get back to the chaos of Sri Lanka. But now that chaos is somewhat stilled, or at least reached a new baseline. Things are still fucked up, but not magnificently, lyrically so. It takes some getting used to.
For one thing, a person in Colombo could always be confidently, unfalsifiably right about one thing, that being that the war would never end. I too didn’t think the war would end in my lifetime. I thought Prabharakaran would die in his sleep and keep ruining lives until. But the war did end. So I was wrong. We were wrong. For some this is hard to accept.
There is the corollary, talking about the past, that one is talking about possibilities. It is possible that negotiations could have worked. One can say that war worked, but that there were other possible outcomes, perhaps better. High road, low road, etc. I get it and it makes intellectual sense, but it doesn’t ring quite true.
Judging from the LTTE’s deciding to take hundreds of thousands of hostages and dare the world, I don’t think they were ever negotiating in much earnest. I was reading over old TamilNet archives and in hindsight it seemed quite clear. They were going for a separate North Korean style dictator state in the north.
But who knows. Negotiations remain a counter-factual and now not an option. The war did end. It was ended. This was possible. A lot of people were wrong about that, and admitting it is hard to do. Some people basically don’t and I suspect never will. The cognitive dissonance makes it hard for me to chew so I’ll say I was wrong, but a lot of people I know can’t or don’t. Hence they drift a bit from reality.
Not Being Right
On the other side, there is a self interest in this thing. I have great contacts internationally, with journalists, NGOs, foreign embassies, etc. These people read my stuff and I see them socially. Under an internationally mediated settlement I would be hooked up and feel quite important.
My military and government contacts, however, are shit and I am largely left out of whatever profitable and happening stuff is going on right now. I think this is well and right. I am free to write and swim and generally do OK, but I suspect that a lot of people are not entirely happy being out of power.
Being a Sri Lankan born in Canada and raised in America, I have never had power anywhere, so this is not an uncomfortable sensation. For a lot of old elite families and peeps this must, however, be a bit awkward.
I still know people who hark back to Ceylon as some post-conflict idyll. I still know people who praise the British for their roads and civil service. Not me. I think
postpre-conflict Ceylon was not a just society, a lot of people were left out and the transition exploded. That didn’t mean the old order was good, it was oppressive for millions including, yes, a lot of southern Sinhalese. The correction was extremely unjust in the other direction, against Tamils and English-speaking elites, but some sort of course correction had to happen. Sinhala and Tamil should be the main languages. Unsavory, uneducated types should be in power, and hopefully mature into it.
There was a big class shift which began with independence and has finally come to fruition. Basically, the Sinhalums are in charge. The Tamils don’t have a very secure place, but if they can get their shit together they could be the opposition in Parliament (with upcountry and Muslims, not likely to happen). Everyone has, however, accepted this hegemony and generally that political maneuvering rather than violence is the way forward.
More to the point, however, racial relations have actually improved to the point where there are no more riots (big deal, though there was a bad incident in Trinco, 2006 I think, underreported). It is not easy being Tamil, but it’s getting easier and tensions are cooling. Freedom of movement and all have returned to the North and East, which is a big deal. People vote and lose, but they get to vote, unlike the boycotts under the LTTE. Which is to say, it sucks, but it sucks within a system. Which was lacking before. We at least have the dawn of systematic suck.
So is everything hunky dory, no. But it’s stable. Which is what we’ve been lacking. Which is a big thing. This problems persist, but without the bombs and the blood and the oh my God. Which is, come to think of it, fucking huge. So I was wrong and I have no hopes of a government job and whatever. I’m not being genocided though. Neither are Tamils. I can take the bus to Jaffna without worrying that it will explode. So yeah, OK. I’ll take it, and not ungratefully.