Ah, to look at Angelina Jolie now, one would hardly think that the 34-year-old superstar was once a geeky, gawky, teenager. In fact, you could argue that the celebrity mom of six today was never really an awkward child herself – and that, in her mid-thirties, she looks like the same teenage waif whose early modelling photos are soon to be auctioned (it was announced this week).
On one hand, in this “arresting collection”, Jolie – the daughter of Hollywood actor Jon Voight and French actress Beatrice Marchand – looks “demure” and “exceptionally gorgeous” despite being “just plain Angelina Jolie” in “black and white”. On the other hand, as one fashionista commented online earlier this week, “even now, [some of those pics] could practically pass for Angelina in 2010… it’s astounding to think how much her photogenic face has stayed the same over nearly 20 years”. The point being, dear reader, that the more some things change, the more they stay the same.
Alphonse Karr (not, perhaps, as looked up to – or looked down upon as Angelina Jolie) put it like this… “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Now pardon my French, dears, but that roughly translates: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Or, to those of you to whom Government is Greek: “Looks like these guys are here to stay, if it’s all the same to you?” And while the reason why we mention this may not be immediately apparent – it being Sunday, or the early part of your week, when concerns more pressing than joie de vivre make you think that life is très Jolie – it will become as clear as mud come 8th April.
Also look back on the fateful day in late January – when the change some yearned for, the change they could trust, did not materialize; when the status quo was consolidated in no uncertain terms – and you will agree that there is no improvement without change. An older, wiser, mentor once remarked on this to a younger, wizening, guru… “No improvement sans change.” And while I did not consider that bon mot too profound then, I do so now.
Consider. The wisdom of change as a consummation devoutly to be wished and earnestly to be desired has not escaped the attention of sages throughout human history. Confucius, he say: “Only the wisest – and also the stupidest – never change.”
Bertolt Brecht said, sounding pretty hopeless (or hopeful?) into the bargain: “Because things are the way they are, things will not remain the way they are.” Schopenhauer changed keys, for a loftier music: “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.”
Gandhiji brought us back to earth: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” But for the purposes of our reflection today, let a politician – nay, a statesman – have the last word on the topic: “In a truly progressive country, change is constant; change is inevitable.” One lives in hope, dear Benjamin Disraeli, one lives in hope…
Akon, in the meantime – the Senegalese-born US rapper who outraged Buddhists with his cheeky music video – is not coming to town… Ban ki-Moon – the born-again defender of human rights à la the West, who continues to infuriate Sinhalese hard-liners – is going to town… Colombo, caught between a rocker and a hard place, doesn’t know whether it is coming or going! Be that as it may, while the world moves on in a lemming-like rush towards oblivion, oblivious we lag, tarry, and wallow in comforting euthanasia.
Which reminds me that our neighbours may be ‘Uniquely Singapore’, ‘My Indonesia: Just a Smile Away’, and ‘Malaysia – Truly Asia’; but a little paradise island in the vicinity, which shall be nameless, may one day soon be tagged ‘Eelam: Euthanasia Comes Home to Roost’ – if we insist on wiping out all traces of a recent violent past before learning the lessons of yesterday.
We refer to the razing to the ground of all LTTE monuments, ye patriots! That type of cosmetic change – washing away the blood and the toil, without also wiping away the sweat and the tears – will merely ensure that the chancre lies beneath the skin… Under the fabric of a freshly cleansed, thinly veiled, but at heart despoiled society.
In the meantime, by the way, out in the open spaces, we are currently enjoying the No. 2 slot in National Geographic’s ‘Best New Trips in 2010’ list. And only recently, sunny Sri Lanka occupied the New York Times’ ‘No. 1 Travel Destination in 2010’ spot. Now all we have to do is ensure that for the next 19 years or so (the same time that it took a bitter kid of acrimoniously divorced parents to become the better half in the Brangelina brat-pack), we don’t change a single thing. At least, don’t change a thing on the waterfront; beside the beautiful lakes and beneath the age-old trees; and in the sun, sand, sea and sky where constancy in dollar rates is the only change.
Who says we can’t paint a pretty-as-a-picture portrait of our own landscape? Go eat your heart out, Angelina! When you’re not yet 50, we will be looking at our 75th birthday photos and sighing over how much we look ‘now’ like we looked ‘then’… So wish us happy anniversary in advance, would you, dear?