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(No, I’m not talking about the newspaper).

If it’s one thing Sri Lankans seem to excel at, it’s a strangely bipolar type of xenophobia. On one hand, when a cousin or aunt comes down from Dubai with a handful of cheap sweets as a bribe, we proudly tell all and sundry that they “rata indhang aawa (came from abroad).” Attach the prefix “rata indhang genawa” (brough from abroad) to anything, even a can of beans, and to the average person it seems to double in value. Biscuits? Boots? Bread? Ammata udu. Rata indhang genawa.

On the other hand, when a politician does anything that is even remotely associated with an English-speaking country, or even has parallels in a western land, the ¬†xenophobia kicks in full steam. “Selling our land to the West!” come the indignant shouts.

I don’t quite understand why. There seems to be two parts to this:

  • Any foreign¬†morals, cultural affections and thought processes are “bad” and “corrupt”.
    (Which explains why we live in a third-world, corrupt dictatorship ravaged by centuries of war, our founding legend (read: Vijaya) is about an asshole prince who got kicked out of his own kingdom, settled down here, married a girl, killed her family, cast her aside, married another girl….
  • An illusion that Sri Lanka, as a whole, is worthy of sale, and that Western countries like ‘Murica are Out to Get Us.
    Yes, I can see why a superpower that effectively controls the world’s economy would be interested in a pebble-sized splat on the Indian ocean with 21 million people

The government of Sri Lanka has always played these two factors to their advantage, and I daresay it’s played its part in instilling these attitudes. Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt is always a very effective way to govern, and by and large it’s kept entire empires afloat. The first one, especially, has been fine-tuned for use at select moments (increasing taxes? Get the public’s minds on the evils of Sharia Law, they won’t notice the price of sugar). It’s also been a card played with alarming effectiveness and consistency against the Opposition. Ranil wears a suit and speaks passable English, therefore he must be selling the country to the West (although admittedly he is a weakling, a failure as a leader and a bit of a prat). People in the Opposition have degrees in economics and law, and people in the Government tend to have dropped out of school and been jailed later; obviously, being educated in your domain of governance surely means you’re selling the nation.

Why? Because Sri Lanka, in all its ignorance and beautiful cultural glory, must be preserved. Election posters must go up. Sons and cousins and your uncle’s nephew’s third son must be conscripted into Parliament. The culture must be preserved! Admittedly, let us relax these laws to allow for corruption and a few street races, personal helicopters and monks in SUVs, but…well, Western Culture is bad, eh? If the Opposition came to power, girls would be wearing shorter skirts, and then where would we be? Why, we’d need to build casinos to create jobs for all of them…
Eh?