The Rajpal Abeynayake Column           By Rajpal Abeynayake  

Words, words, words - words and godheads
People are notoriously short sighted when it comes to seeing the future. The majority of people live lives of quiet desperation, said an early American writer who had a penchant for delivering such dollops of distilled wisdom from time to time.

For the majority of Sri Lankans who "live lives of quiet desperation'', the future is seen in terms of one country or two countries, Eelam or no Eelam. Or, alternately, it is seen in terms of continuing as a Third World backwater or becoming South Asia's new Singapore. Or it is seen in terms of whether people will have to continue to go abroad in order to get their children better educated.

This is workaday thinking, and its linear. Nobody's fault, this. As the circket commentators say when they want to ward off boredom, "what to do?''. Today's problems are seen as tomorrow's too, even though Prabhakaran himself will become an old soldier sooner or later and fade away. Maybe there will be two countries however - but that will not be the issue. One country or two countries, come 2050, that particular problem will probably be as irrelevant as Queen Elizabeth is irrelevant in Colombo today.

What will be relevant is who will be running Colombo in 2050. George Bush III, the multi nationals, the Indians, Prabhakaran's grandson? The future is not ours to see - but stake my bet on it, it appears that whether Prabhakran's grandson runs Colombo or whether the Indians run Colombo, will also be handsomely irrelevant in that future equation.

What will matter on the other hand is 'who runs' whoever runs Colombo? Whether it is X, Y, Prabhakaran's grandson or the Indian Prime Minister himself who is in charge here, there will be someone else far away from this country who will likely call all the shots. A long held piece of wisdom was that one cannot alter the grand plan of the universe. Even that seems somewhat within the realm of possibility, considering what our donors, our benefactors and what is today generally called the life force of globalization, has planned for our future.

There is an almost ethereal inevitability about these things. In some wars, they say, there are victors, while in other wars, there are negotiated settlements. After that, there is a sharing of spoils which is generally decided by conflict resolution specialists from out of the country.

But there is no decree. Only the utterly simple will think that we are being told what to do. Instead new concepts of conflict resolution - indeed, new concepts regarding life itself and how life should be lived - would come our way almost by silent osmosis.

Consider all of the concepts and godheads that are currency today. Interim administration, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, civil society, Freedom of Information Act, political culture, peace dividend, social capital, sustainability, transitional justice, conflict resolution, contact group approach.

Then there is the NGO. Sounds familiar isn't it? All that can be said is that these words were not relevant when Sri Lanka became newly independent, and when Peradeniya churned out young hopefuls who thought they will run the country. Bad dream. For instance, if anybody runs this country today it is not Sarath Amunugama?

The young and the upwardly mobile may trip on these words, but they will eventually master them. Governance is another old word that has acquired entirely new meaning in the post Cold War post modern years. There will be no 'governance'' if anybody does not relate to these godheads today. For instance, anybody who wants to have anything to do in the future with running the economic affairs of this country, will be a total simpleton if he does not know what a Regulatory Authority is. A Regulatory Authority may be there to set easy ground rules so that the multi nationals can descend and run things here in any manner they want. But, without knowing the workings of a Regulatory Authority, the Sri Lankan patriot who wants to be part of the governing elite, might as well go home and open a Chinese Food outlet.

The godheads are so powerful yet they are so subtle. Consider this. Someone tells me that barring two, all members of the JVP politburo, which launched the 1971 putsch, are now big players in the NGO world. One does not have to name names, even though those such as Deshapriya would be obvious. Proletariat they say became 'civil society' - and revolution transformed over time into 'sustainability.'

Those who know most of this lexicon is also white - they come from America, or they come from Norway, or they come from Britain or somewhere in Europe But they also come from the Philippines , or Venezuela, or Argentina and places like that. Relate to these godheads, and one can govern not just your country, but countries far afield as Rwanda and Papua New Guinea. It is short work from working for a NGO to getting a job with the World Bank, or the UN peacekeepers in somewhere-land.

There are some people who have attempted to translate these words, and demystify these godheads. For instance, there are those who have pointed out that eventually nothing will be ours including water for cultivation which needs to be separately vested, for better management, by a multi national company for our own good. If you pooh-pooh these new water management concepts at good governance seminars, you might run the risk of being called a country bumpkin and being laughed out of the seminar room.

That was only a quickly culled example anyhow. Generally, concepts such as water management are best introduced by purchasing a country's intellectuals, or funding the country's average NGO moron. It is not as if these things have to be explained - if you dole out funds for people in Colombo from Norway or the Hague, there is no telling how many new godheads you can turn out in a month. Before one could say "Oslo'' these godheads define our lives. Not just paid intellectuals, but every newspaper Editor and every politician would be mouthing them weeks after their abrupt uncomfortable arrival.

After a new godhead is established, more white people will come to Colombo and discuss it, to give it more legitimacy. (Ah legitimacy! See how easily said it is, as if it was the mother tongue? ) Maybe we could invent one more. 'Proxy governance'. That will be quite the thing - when Bush's grandson runs, whoever runs Colombo in 2050. They tell me Bush runs Colombo even now. But mark my word - proxy governance will be something else, so see you in 2050.

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