The president's proposition in parliament to abolish the state of emergency prevalent since our erstwhile foreign minister's assassination in 2005 comes as a breath of fresh air. In a milieu grown stale with Channel 4 woes, slick with grease devil shenanigans, and tense with tea industry worries at Middle Eastern and North African goings-on, the news was welcome to patriots and political prisoners alike (I'm guessing).
But as usual with an issue as important as this, there was little unanimity about the story behind the hot news. We are good at spotting a conspiracy even when there isn't one, and this matter was no different. The only consolation these theorists have is the axiom that even if one is paranoid, this doesn't in any way prove that they aren't out to get you after all!
Really, as far as the late unlamented Emergency went, everyone wanted it out. The US wanted it out; and what the world's sole superpower wants, the world's sole superpower gets (with a few piddling delays for chauvinist regimes to salve their wounded pride). India and China wanted it out, for each their own reasons: one, to soothe savage breasts in their own backyard; the other to build shipyards and other politico-economic projects in ours (backyards, dears, not savage breasts).
The diaspora wanted it out, citizens with a conscience wanted it out, everyone with a smidgen of common sense and goodwill towards their fellow human beings wanted it out. In the end, the powers that be wanted it out as well… to all good intents and purposes, which will no doubt unfold as the PTA is crafted and shaped into a chimerical piece of legislation that may well surprise the polity at how draconian the ethos of our anti-terrorist laws still are. For the nonce, though, everyone is happy and has said so - except those party-poopers who sense that there is an iron hand in the velvet glove. Well… once bitten, twice shy (and don't mind us mixing our metaphors, folks!)
Now that that's that (if you know what I mean), how about the other emergency that pervades our society like the smell of durian on a warm wet summer morning? We refer, of course, to the sense of unseemly haste that galvanizes our nation at the oddest moments and for all the wrong reasons. Take, for instance, the vicious lick of speed at which average motorists whizz in and out of urban and suburban traffic - just so that they can rush to work… and sit bone-idle all day while the business of being industrious and productive and all that sort of thing dries up in the noon sun. Then again, there's our inordinate ability not to mind our Ps and Qs when the matter is urgent (it always is, isn't it) and we have no time to spare (we never do, do we).
Firstly, the common or garden consumer insists on being served first, served fast, and served favourably. Any delay to dish out the goods in a commercial transaction or an over-the-counter exchange results in furrowed brows, muttered blasphemies, and failing all else a heated trading of words. Secondly, we are prone to jump the gun by speaking first and thinking (if at all) later. Apologists, PR specialists, spin-doctors, propagandists - you take a point, no? And last but not least, despite many other hang-ups inherited from our colonial masters, we have never really learned to queue up properly. Not at buffet counters, not in supermarkets, certainly not in underground car parks. (Until the recent riots in the UK, it was my firm belief that the British were the only race capable of forming an orderly queue - even if they were the only person in line… Oh well, I guess that honour now goes to the Germans.)
But if there is one thing that we Sri Lankans will never ever give up in terms of turnover, it is the rapidity with which we get over the most traumatic experiences. No matter how brutal or cruel or gruelling the matter, the manner in which we overcome in our hearts and minds is only surpassed by how we overtake on our roads. War losses and World Cup ill-gotten gains; grease devils and diabolical governments; regimes bent on rapine, pillage, and plunder of public assets; tsunamis, stock market crashes, economic downturns or downright recessions; bad roads, bad weather, bad luck… we take it all in our stride - the quicker the bette r, and the sooner we forget the best. Our motto is to hasten slowly, because to do otherwise is dangerous: we may come to our senses. And there's no guessing where that may get us. Why, we may even want to rush to abolish white elephants like the cabinet, the executive, the opposition. No way, aney!