Woman Sues Over Loss of Breasts, Doctor Sues Over Loss of Reputation
(a headline in today's Island, the Herald of Sri Lanka)

I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. The article was about two column inches long. We're not talking about a tabloid, folks; this is one of the older and more widely read papers in the country.

In other news, have people been following the political shit that's going down here? Last week a Supreme Court judge was assassinated, presumably by LTTE cadres but no one is saying for sure because that would be finger-pointing on a grand scale. It must have been a very secret thing of course, because all officials at that level are highly guarded. That no one has been caught means it was REALLY sophisticated; usually assassins are predictably cornered and shot dead. I'm sure this inspires confidence in you statesiders.

The (wack, politically adept but falled into her own snares of late) President declared, with the certainty that goes along with the Executive Presidency here, that the death penalty would be reinstated in order that it might be used against the assassins, when they are found. And you thought Bush had power! Well. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty (in a Buddhist country, folks) three guys have been condemned to hang for murder and conspiracy. Unrelated to the judge guy. Sri Lanka has ordered four new special hanging ropes from China and is training the youngest hangman in the island's history.

The Norwegian moderators of the peace process have all but decamped, not because things are dangerous for them personally but because the talks have stalled. A delegation from the Norwegian government, much more powerful than the SLMM (--Monitoring Mission), visited last week and prodded the LTTE to stop their human rights abuses, like recruiting kids and shooting folks in their beds, and criticized the government for restricting regional authorities more than they previously agreed was appropriate. At heart this conflict is regional and minority representation in a country that is ridiculously, inefficiently, corruptly centrally administered.

If that weren't enough, well, Saturday is Martyr's Day, when charismatic/deadly LTTE leader Prabhakaran typically makes a big speech about all the stuff that has gone down in the past year and what's to come in the next. As you might predict, this is not a happy holiday for most Sri Lankans; I mean, he's the orchestrator of about 20 year's worth of the last 40 years' civil unrest.

How this plays out for me is harder to analyze. I have a deep attachment to this country and these people. I also have a certain arrogance, related to being a northeastern liberal Amerikan, that the problems are not really so complicated, and the guns that are being stuck to (in some cases quite literally) are really, really pointless, and we'd all be better off if Some People in government and civil society both would stop being so stubborn.

I even get this feeling with people I love and respect--my Sinhala teacher, for one. He's one of my favorite people here; constantly happy, overjoyed when you (I) learn anything, easy to make laugh, sympathetic, infectiously enthusiastic about any experiences or insights you (I) have. I don't like to talk politics with him because I know he actually believes the plan for regional devolution of governmental powers is a ploy orchestrated by the LTTE to start a separate country. He supports the Wack President. He's not entirely wrong though...

It's a case where both sides, the Government and the LTTE, have broken so many rules, so many expectations, so many agreements--so many times--that a stalemate seems like the only possible solution. People are exhausted, and the merits of "peace" as opposed to "no war" (significant difference; one involves a settlement and disarmament) are not well understood and not desirable to all.

Case in point: a major incentive to peace, under the previous government, was that development, investment by international corporations and funding from nongovernmental sources would simply flood the economy once a strong ceasefire held up and progress was apparent in negotiations. For many reasons, including that the Wack Prez dissolved the government as is her wont and habit, that didn't happen. Poor folks stayed poor, and rich folks didn't suffer, and the prices of rice and petrol keep rising. Suddenly peace is irrelevant and expensive and detrimental to (many) people's vision of a strong nation, because we've got to Compromise, Settle, Share Power. This is after all a socialist country and folks expect the government to Provide. A government that is engaged in a negotiated attrition of power isn't one focused on getting the bread (rice) on the table (banana leaf) and the monks in the temples.

In some ways they were right. Development isn't guaranteed or even likely to help the poorest people's economic woes, and will probably exacerbate their perceived poverty by elevating the attractiveness of consumer goods and Western values. A country as proud of its history (disputed as that history is) and culture (divisive as that culture is) as this one had better be careful about what is getting imported along with all those potential jobs. The newspapers, even the better ones, are chock-full-o'-editorials about the need for a return to Lankan values.

Those values, as I am fond of pondering while enjoying my third teatime of the day, really have something going on: respect for family and leisure time, disregard for making a lot of money or getting ahead, devotion to personal life and introspection. Sri Lankans are not workaholics or greedy or ignorant, in ways that are inconsistent with how many of them are undereducated or unexposed to the world. Their values really are worthwhile, and certainly for me, a good antidote to the anxious frenzied individualistic cults of Amerika.

Enough political/psychological rambling. I can only hope that the ceasefire holds and the stalemate at least continues if not improves. Martyr's Day, I'm having a tea/cocktail party. Unrelatedly.
Has anyone read A Room With a View? It's so good. Unfortunately it's short. I watched "Mona Lisa Smile" yesterday and was disappointed by how little I found to criticize in it; was hoping for more covert feminism-bashing and censure of female liberation even as the movie sought to promote it. It seemed pretty nuanced and unobvious, except for the part where Julia Stiles explains her desire to Really Be a Housewife, in this stupidstupidstupid fakey Boston Brahmin accent. The synchro scene was far too short, as well.

and, for some laughs--
topics for possible descriptive analysis: vote for your favorite! these are all funny but Old News.
1. My two stalkers, by the names of "Sham" and "Buddhi" (say it with me: Booty).
2. My career as a homewrecker has just begun.
3. My valiant efforts not to pay an exorbitant Rs.600/ a month to use the friggin' library.
You just can't make this stuff up.

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