The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Put out the light, and then put out the light


Happy days are here again. When our knowledge society makes it possible to plan work- and life-stoppages well in advance of the event – because all the information we need is out there. And there is no need for you to fret or fume or frustrate yourself wondering when the next power cut or power outage or “technical difficulty” is going to be. So knock back, down tools, chill out, rest, relax, and take it easy, folks! We’re all going nowhere – fast…

The pessimist sees the tunnel.

The bad news is mostly elemental these days. For starters, there’s the gathering gloom of an impending island-wide round-the-clock blackout girding its loins for strike action. And while lightning aid is coming in (in, er, ever-lightening tranches), developmental assistance is being swallowed up by the black hole of, um, ‘project-management costs’ (let’s say) – so much so that former finance ministers are muttering darkly into their five per cent (I mean, five o’clock shadows) that this is simply throwing good money after bad. Then there are those awful diaspora types – acting in collusion with traitors, deserters, and human traffickers – to discredit our blessed isle in the eyes of the closely watching world by engineering vessels full of ‘boat people’ to a land ‘Down Under’, which is very naughty of them… and not a little ironic. Following closely on the thunderhead of this ill-conceived venture are the rains that failed and the lack of foresight of politicians who failed to legislate against a possible drought.

The optimist sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

If only our visionary types had seen Camelot instead of mucking about with Chinthanas, they would have ensured that “a law was made a distant moon ago here” that “July and August cannot be too hot” and that “there’s a legal limit to” the dry spell. They should have stipulated that droughts “are forbidden till December” and that the monsoon “exits March the second on the dot”; while “by order” sunshine “lingers through September”.

“I know it sounds a bit bizarre”; but in Camelot (“Camelot!”), that’s how conditions are! Our parliamentarians could have passed a law that “the rain may (n)ever fall till after sundown” and that “by eight the morning fog” – to say nothing of the evening smog – “must disappear”. If they had, “in short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-after-ing than here”… in our very own and rather fantastic Camelot!

The realist sees that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of an express train thundering towards the observer.
That there would be a price to pay for wastrel self-indulgence was evident to the more perspicacious of us around Vesak. The spectacle of a well-lit city and extravagant carnival-like atmosphere through the citadel that we call a circus today had the critics gnashing their teeth and reaching for the calculator and the cutoff switch. A day would come, they reasoned, when the plebs would have to pay for all this bread. Those with a vision discerned that the writing was on the wall as far back as the day when the powers that be pulled the plug on hydro and invested all their faith and hope in thermal.

Given the blown fuse now and a ministering angel strategically missing in action – wasting his sweetness on the desert air, out of sight somewhere, maintaining a low profile until the storm has blown over – all that we consumers can do is to exercise charity. And pray for a stiff offshore breeze to introduce just that right note of balminess into our insular air to prevent any precipitate thought of protests and revolts. (Of course, that revolution won’t be televised, folks – didn’t you know there’s a timely power cut on?)
The pragmatist knows that due to the world energy crisis, domestic inefficiencies, and the rising cost of electricity, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off until further notice.

And so we weep and wail and languish awhile, hoping that our consignment to outer darkness will not last more than a week or so. In this stygian atmosphere, there’s still our cricket and them ministering clowns for light relief mixed with dark thoughts about match fixing and fuel bills that keep escalating no matter the restricted power supply.

We are a resilient nation. We will weather this too. War then; now crime waves, rising costs of living, rampant corruption around every corner, malicious international conspiracies around us everywhere – we smile knowingly, wink a sly eye, and grin and bear it all. That, if nothing else, is the unique characteristic of our island race. Complain loudly, cringe inwardly, criticize all but self… and carry on. Ignorantly! Regardless! Apathetic! We might as well live… the alternative doesn’t bear contemplation.

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