ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 24, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 39

Bubble wrapped ?

By Rukshani Weerasooriya

It has been brought to my notice that the youth in the city of Colombo live in a bubble; a bright little illusionary world in which getting to a weekend party on time is more important than appreciating the current situation in the country and the reasons as to why we might have to be stopped and "harassed" by the security forces, and "forced" to show some form of identification.

The inhabitants of this little fantasy world believe they're paying a price – that they are sacrificing their youthful freedom – for the sake of appeasing the horrible men in uniform who delight in taking turns to stand on the sides of the road for four-hours shifts throughout entire days and nights, regardless of whether they are roasting in the sun, sweating themselves out to the point of dehydration, or soaking wet from the monsoons, or getting stung by mosquitoes at night; regardless of whether they have a thunderous headache (again) and would so like a chair to sit on but must keep standing till their shift is through, and regardless of the personal concerns they might have in their minds - such as, having to perhaps take up positions as luxurious as these, closer to where all the action is – say in Palali or Mannar.

How can we, city folk, sheltered from the torments faced by millions, a mere five-hour drive away from us, even begin to understand the magnitude of the burden this nation has carried for a quarter of a century? How dare we speak of "what must be done" to "wipe out" the terrorists and get things going in this nation? Are we willing to contribute to the cause we so easily lend our approval to? Will we give anything of ourselves to see the "victory" or the "peace" we profess to desire?

Our generation speaks of losing its youth to the hassle and restricted circumstances of Colombo life – but have we any idea of the kind of youth we would have had to spend if we lived a few hours out of town, in a frontier village, perhaps; helpless, poor, vulnerable and afraid, never knowing when our homes would be vandalised and our little ones taken away from us? Can we, as a generation of young, privileged citizens, ever relate to anything such as this when we put our every effort into polishing the bubble in which we live and pretending there is nothing outside of it?

It is not enough to be shaken at the thought of the bombings that take place closer to where we live. No doubt, they are horrendous, and absolutely tragic, but they are only the very tip of the iceberg. It is not enough to fear for our lives when we use public transport. Of course, this too is a legitimate fear, but it is no sacrifice on our part in light of the true cost of war and its consequences, which very few of us reading this column right now can truly say we face.

Have you faced a bullet? Seen a man die? Watched him gasp for air in a struggling effort to hold on to a body that can't hold on anymore? Have you watched your parents being massacred in front of your very eyes? Have you had to carry your best friend on your back when he was shot in the stomach? Have you spent your fifth birthday in a bloodbath? Do you know what it is like to miss someone so bad and know that they are never, ever, coming back to you?

I know I don't. And though this may sound overly dramatic, there is nothing untrue about the picture being painted; these are very, very real and absolutely, unfathomably tragic circumstances. Thousands of people our age, living in this very land, know exactly what it feels like, while we live in an expanding bubble which pops every now and then, but grows back around us in time for the next party.

The bottom line is, some people have lost so much, all they have left is bitterness; bitterness and pain. The least we can do is to care.

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