I mean, I could report the interesting items that come up, for example on the Reuters news feed, but they’re not really happening to me, and y’all can check those out on your own time. I also don’t figure I’m well positioned to provide the weekly or monthly news summary. Oh, why not…the worst that happens is they kick me out of the country for a well-developed sense of humor, huh? For those of you don’t check the news on your own, here’s a small example of the otherworldly reality that is now ours here at Oh So Much World, So veeerrry Little Time….one fine tropical day week last week, in the course of half a day, the reports I saw could be paraphrased, in sequence, roughly as: 1) Government of Sri Lanka categorically denies Monitoring Mission (aka Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission, the group charged with monitoring the now sadly tattered Cease Fire Accord that brought a much-needed respite to this truly remarkable island, back in the halcyon days of 2002) reports that it [GoSL] has agreed to renewed peace talks with those terrorists, 2) government reiterates its firm commitment to the peace process, 3) government clarifies that it is extremely eager to talk, but only if those terrorists agree never, ever to fire another shot or do anything to harm anyone ever again, no matter what. Meanwhile, from the other side of the aisle, come regular reports that every time the government breathes, more civilians suffer and die.
The sad thing is, it seems increasingly true clear that the actions of both sides are causing fear and loss to more and more civilians all the time, despite each side’s repeated assertions of commitment to the peace process. Actually, rather scarily, the tigers said not long ago (after government forces retook a small area that was strategically important to them) that in their view the government has now firmly broken the accord, and now the rest of the island will learn what suffering means just as much as the north of the island has had to learn it.
Then there’s the very strong anti-NGO sentiment on the island, much of it rooted in the post-tsunami backlash: too many NGOs who landed on the island after the tsunami, some of which maybe didn’t do the best work and some of whom probably didn’t behave very respectfully or respectably. Then there’s all the usual reasons a government and military faced with an apparent resumption of civil conflict might not want NGOs around. So you’ll probably understand one’s need to develop a shell, and it seems mine is humor.
So let’s get back to the important stuff: my life as an overloaded office worker. Whilst still in China, I enjoyed thinking that China had invented bureaucracy at a time when my ancestors were still living in caves and hadn’t yet figured out how to cook meat. Silly Paul, that’s like thinking America’s so-called government couldn’t get any worse than the living nightmare foisted upon us by the rich back in the 1980s! Come to find out that these former British colonies down here in South Asia take bureaucracy to whole new levels of development! My brain is an alphabet soup of ministry acronyms that form my daily rounds, in the process of trying to acquire visas and working permits for our colleagues (and oh by the way, for me too…). It is a good test of recall: when I don’t feel like I’m starring in Kafka or Beckett, I wonder if there’s some highly evolved alien life form taking notes of my reactions, a la rats in a maze: “it took him only two weeks to figure out how to get his application out of ministry A and all the way to ministry C! Clearly he has the ability to learn from experience.”