Do you know something that I've noticed that has really been getting on my nerves lately?
It's people using the phrase above; "bless his heart?"
I've been talking to chaps lately and they've chucked the BHH thing into the conversation. At first thought it's as innocuous as one can imagine, a little inoffensive, probably even nice and complimentary, three words.
But something about the use of it, on all these recent occasions, nagged deeply inside me. So much so that I devoted some thinking time to it to try to figure out why.
I realised why this has come about. This little trio of words is a farce, a trojan horse of a phrase, a cunning way of disguising an insult as a compliment.
Why am I saying all of this?
Well it's used when people want to assert their superiority and patronise someone else. They use it as if they're talking about a dog or a small child, wrapped in a bundle of smelling like a compliment.
One person was telling me about a driver recently, of how helpful he had been and how good he was. All very nice I hear you think. But then the person came to narrate details of a specific incident and said:
"And L, bless his heart, was very protective"
The implication, in a very indirect way, was that L knew no better, that he was like a faithful dog following his master off the edge of a cliff.
Another friend was talking about his child and used BHH in that context. And that's when people use it; when they want to portray the person as childish or pet like.
I was perusing one of these business magazines the other day and came to a lengthy and informative article about the new bribery and corruption laws that have been introduced here in the UK from around July this year.
The article went into detail about the impact of the legislation on business owners and company directors and I read it with fascination, horror, dismay and not a little pride, a good eclectic mix if ever there was one.
If I've understood things correctly, a big "if" I know, then there are some key points to be gleaned from this information and the impact it has on business leaders. My own personal connection to Sri Lanka also made me think of how the law here, and expected behaviour in business, compares and contrasts with the same in the motherland, as well as other countries.
The big points are that:
1. Bribery is defined as occurring when a person "offers, gives or promises to give a "financial or other advantage" to another individual in exchange for "improperly" performing a "relevant function or activity"". Sorry for the multiple quotation marks there!
2. The other side of the coin is that of a person requesting a bribe. It fundamentally says that if you request, accept or agree to accept a gift (pretty much of any sort) in exchange for not performing your function or activity properly, for not acting with impartiality, then you're fucked. It doesn't actually use the word "fucked" though.
3. As a company, company director or business owner you can be held liable if an employee bribes someone, even if you didn't know about it. Ignorance is no defence here. You have to show that you had procedures in place to prevent your people acting improperly.
4. Bribery of foreign public officials is a specific and serious offence. We (Brits) cannot do it, regardless whether it's acceptable practice in the foreign country or not.
Like I said, I was amazed by this. It's serious business, with positives and negatives for UK business people. The bribery act has been universally acclaimed as the toughest in the world, above and beyond the equivalent in the US.
It means, as an example, if my company was competing with a Spanish company for some business in India and the buyer wanted a bribe, the Spanish company might comply and face no punishment in any way, very possibly winning the business, (though I know nothing about the specifics of the equivalent Spanish law), whereas I, as a UK business person, simply wouldn't be able to do same.
Many feel that this reduces the ability of British business to compete with its foreign competitors. They have a point, yet others argue that it levels the playing field for British businesses, also valid.
Another interpretation of it is that actually it's fine to give gifts, money, prostitutes or whatever to your buyer, as long as it can be seen that the buyer still acted "properly", which is where it gets dodgy.
The current fiasco with News Corp and the Government here is very much about whether various people, from the Prime Minister to the former Police Commissioner acted improperly. It's well documented that Sir Paul Stephenson stayed at Champneys, an expensive and exclusive health farm, free of charge. Of course the point here is that Sir Paul Stephenson, (of course!) didn't act improperly in any way as a result of this. Champneys has strong links to Rebekah Brooks and News Corp.
My feelings of pride arose because the legislation is something that the British are leading the way in. Give it time, possibly many, many years, and other countries will certainly follow this. Equally the horror cropped up because of my realisation that it will in effect prevent British companies from acting in ways that are wholly acceptable, even expected, in many countries, Sri Lanka included.
My own company does no business in Sri Lanka, something I don't see changing. But if we did, should I be prosecuted or punished for bribing someone to get something done for me there, or for giving a fellow a nice flat screen TV as a "thank you" for giving me the business, when it's just the way things are done?
"After a very long sojourn, politics seems to have returned to the local blogosphere. What is more interesting is that it has sparked some reasonable debate, something that has been missing for a long time. "
Where and when did it all start? My thoughts are that a lot of it was catalysed by both The Killing Fields and Sangakkara's Cowdrey lecture. I'm uncertain how things began in the Sri Lankan blogosphere, but certainly the first post that caught my attention, very probably yours, was this one, by Indi. Entitled "The War Is Over. Tell Your Friends" it created lots of feeling.
The main theme of it can be summed up in this quote:
"For a long time Sri Lanka was defined only within the war frame. Indeed, many local people/publications (like Groundviews) have trouble adjusting to a post-war mindset. They’re still all war all the time while the average Sri Lankan is like, ‘breakfast?’"
Indi then tried to prove his theory with some of those word cloud things, showing the most commonly used words on some websites, including Groundviews. A bit of a bitch fight between Indi and Sanjana threatened to break out but nothing came of it really. Disappointing. I'd quite like to see a proper physical fight break out. In fight between the two of them they're both so lacking in the Chuck Norris / James Bond / Sly Stallone stakes that I suspect they'd both lose. David Blacker would probably win without being in it or even being near the scene.
And lots of people, including me, took a different view to Indi. Some commented on Indi's blog, some wrote posts.
I wrote this little one and it generated a bit of discussion too. It seemed to annoy a lot of intelligent people, which wasn't my intention. DD threw all his toys out of his pram and left me staring at my monitor in disbelief with some of the things he said. I put it down to the fact that he must have had a particularly busy week dreaming about killing muggers. Muggers that is, who sound like Dick van Dyke trying to do cockney.
"Cor blimey guv'nor, I'm a cockney don't you know, now hand over yer frickin' wallet. I've got a chimney to sweep."
I do get frustrated when I see the diaspora being tarred with one brush, as I tried to explain in this later post. One of the ironies is that I was criticised for tarring people with one brush with what I said.
Then, with my apologies if I haven't got the chronology totally accurate, we had the great Indi vs Guru debate on Al Jazeera. It was a bit of a let down when Indi's connection got lost for an important chunk of the segment, but it was interesting. Many thought that, in the win / lose context it was billed, Guru emerged as the clear winner. I agree, yet feel disappointed that it had to be billed and presented in that context. Indi has said on too many platforms to link to that he was trying to reframe the context of the debate rather than engage in it.
A couple of now rare yet much welcomed voices entered the arena. First we had Electra, showing us that she's still around and lurking with intent. This post was a very specific response to Indi as well. When I first read it I thought that Electra has said some similar things to my thoughts, just with bags full of intelligence, eloquence and detailed knowledge that I don't possess. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so simple.
I smiled to myself at the fact that a load of comments have appeared on Electra's post advertising cheap made in China sportswear sites.
Which I suppose is one of the key points that many people are trying to say; that while some go on about sanctions, inquiries, international bodies and punishment, many in Sri Lanka are trying to deal with some very harsh realities of daily life.
I know only too well about these day to day trials and tribulations. I was looking at the price of Dominic Sansoni's new bags in Barefoot only the other day and thinking that there must be a small percentage of the population who can't even afford basics like these.
There's an element to Cerno's post that I don't understand; it;s the bit when he talks about the irrelevance to the Sri Lankan blogsphere. I'm unsure if Cerno is saying that the Lankanosphere is pissing in the wind by talking politics or that us bloggers aren't interested in SL politics. If it's the former, then I see it differently, but I'll come to that at the end. If Alanis Morissette writes another song, perhaps calling it "Ironic two" she should bung this line in it:
"That Cerno, ooh ooh,
Could have the time ooh ooh,
to write a blog post, ooh ooh,
saying that he envies those who ooh ooh,
find the time to blog (big drum fill here)"
Jack Point, the most serious court jester to ever exist, put out this post which told us his thoughts on things. He was one of the many who reminded us of the evil, terror and despicable actions of the LTTE. For what it's worth I reckon these actions should be remembered by all, to help put things in perspective.
Meanwhile over on the all comments are closed blog owned by Rajiva Wijesinha, the man who makes my accent sound heavily Sri Lankan, things are carrying on as normal. His approach, of attempting to shatter the credibility into a zillion pieces of anyone or any institution that deigns to criticise the GoSL, continues.
Finally, let me tell you my current concluding thoughts. These are subject to change without notice.
Yes, the war is over. No, the memories and consequences of it are not and they need to be dealt with.
Talk, when constructive and positive, is good and needed. Someone told me the other day that my opinion, me saying things, won't change anything. I agree. But someone, somewhere will be the person with the millionth or billionth opinion, blog, comment or statement that just might break the camel's back and cause change.
Apologies for the long post, the jewellery shop's worth of links and the crazy jumble of fonts and quotes. One of these days I really must change over to Wordpress!
Is it just me who finds agreement stimulating and exciting?
I ask this because I've noticed something in life that bothers me tremendously, something that I think is also reflected in the blogosphere and the Lankanosphere.
It's exemplified by this; I write a post like this one, in which I take issue with the content of another post by Indi and it generates a book's worth of comment and more debate, argument and generally heated discussion than you'd find in a barbecue showroom when it catches fire and they can't agree on whether they should call the fire brigade.
Much of that discussion is good though, certainly for me it has helped to learn, to understand viewpoints and respect where and why they originate. Much of that discussion is bad, as I also reckon that argument is fundamentally a counter productive concept. It has its uses but, as a means of solving a situation, of coming up with solutions and moving forward, it's pretty crap and ineffective.
Before anyone accuses me of being negative I'd like to tell you that I think there are better methods of finding solutions. The six thinking hat method, invented by Edward de Bono is one such example, something I've instigated in my company and has, in a very short space of time for us, had hugely positive results.
Why do I say this?
Simply because, in an argument, often people get so fixated and focused on winning their point that they take polarised positions and then fight for them. They do all they can to beat the other person, to win and therefore make the other party lose. And no one really ever wins and argument. If you win, you lose, if you lose, you lose.
On the other hand, I write a post like this one in which I agree with Indi, and it generates nothing. No comments and very little interest, though I'm assuming the bit about the interest from the non existent comments!
So I wonder. I find agreement to be genuinely exciting. I often feel butterflies when I talk with someone and we find areas of agreement. They're like little stepping stones with mini trampolines on them from which can spring forwards, hoping not to land on our head and break our neck!
But it seems that most of us prefer to have a good old fight, to try to gain the satisfaction of winning and forcing the other person to lose.
Mr Floppy started by indulging us in a bit of ice breaking small talk. I considered this to be a good thing and we shot the breeze about wholly irrelevant bits and pieces for a couple of minutes before settling down to the serious business.
When the serious business began the first thing K did was present Mr Floppy with her newest school report. I had been unaware of the very existence of this report until about an hour earlier in the car, when K had casually mentioned it and then read bits to me.
It was glowing. Red hot. I swear.
When I was a kid I would have considered working a bit if I'd known it might get me a report even half as good as hers. The addition of a smart brain would have helped too. There were more predicted As and A pluses than most would consider fair and the narrative was even better. K has been like that since she began school. It would be worrying if she was one of those boffin types, the sort who are total geeky smartarses but no good for anything else.
Fortunately she's not like that. She's got streetwiseness going on too. There are some downsides to her character, the main one being a strange liking for David Blacker, something both her and her sister have that I'm trying to cajole out of them.
As salespeople we're trained to spot "buying signals" both verbally and physically. It's quite obvious but I'll patronise you and explain a bit more. A buying signal is when a potential buyer inadvertently gives a sign that he wants to buy. It can be via their words, like "do you stock it in red?" or through body language like leaning towards you, thereby showing interest. There are a million of them and they include what Mr Floppy did as he read K's report.
His eyes literally got bigger, his whole demeanour changed and I could just see that in his mind the situation had switched from one of him interviewing K to one of him trying to make K come to his college.
The questions began and my vow of silence hung loudly in the room, like one of those silent monks but with tourettes.
"So K, why do you want to come to X College?" was first. I must admit I did think it was weird that he called it "X College" instead of its full name.
I did that smirking thing I do, when I'm trying not to laugh and doing my utmost to look all serious. K though, looked at Mr Floppy very earnestly as if considering her response, then came out with the answer we'd rehearsed and worked out in the car word for word. But she delivered it with such conviction and applomb that it was totally convincing. I wanted to pat her on the back.
We went on and he asked just about everything we'd role played. I must confess to a slight feeling of smugness. Smugness that I'd guessed the questions correctly, but I figured that they were so standard that most people would have guessed the same.
He came to the "why do you want to study law?" question and I crossed several fingers, hoping that K wouldn't forget what we'd prepared. She didn't. Bang, came her answer, full of words about intellectual challenges, analysis and even analyses and the pursuit of knowledge. Not once did she mention arguing.
We had discovered that he was one of the law lecturers and, as he was asking the questions and K was answering, his buying signals increasing all the time. The highest point, which happened only about half way into the interview was when he said
"Look I shouldn't tell you this but you're the exactly the sort of person this college wants to study here and you're going to have a place, but I have to go through the rest of these questions to make sure I've covered everything."
Buying signals don't get much bigger than that. Inwardly I whooped, hollerred and hoped that I wouldn't then say or do anything that might mess it all up. Fortunately I didn't.
After we'd finished the main bit I complimented Mr Floppy on what a great representative he was for his institution. I told him that, despite the fact that this was the college interviewing K, it was also us getting a feel for the place and that he really presented it positively. I can't be one hundred per cent sure but I think he might have got a hard on when he heard this.
Off we went. There were handshakes, K doing all she knows, and I felt immensely proud.
If we were Americans I hazard a guess there would have been high fives and lots of shouts of "Yeah" and "woo", things like that.
We're British though. So we listened to some music and felt quietly proud in our heads. Well, I felt proud, K just took it in her stride, as she does.
You've got to brag about your kids sometimes, haven't you?
I believe in praise where praise is due, which is why I write this. I give Indi enough criticism when he says something I disagree with so I feel I should also do the opposite.
This post of his contains words and thoughts that I think we could all do with reading and pondering on, including me. We all do it, we group bunches of people together. I think it's very commonly done regarding the diaspora, but it's also done with the "local Sri Lankans", as if you who live in Sri Lanka all have one group opinion, thinking the same thing along every front.
As Rajiv and N pointed out in my recent post, I sometimes do it and I apologise for that. The sooner we start to realise that the diaspora contains about as many different views as it has people, that the local Sri Lankans hold more different opinions than even Hi!! Magazine features photographs of its own editor, the quicker we'll make progress.
The counter to that is that there are certain groups of people who are bonded by some communal thoughts and views, but one view shared doesn't mean all other views are shared.
Some people supported the LTTE's initial reasons for taking up arms, which doesn't mean that they supported the ongoing violence and warfare and terror. Some didn't support them from the start and others were forced to contribute financially because they wanted peace. And of course, sadly in my opinion but true, some supported them from start to finish.
Others may have supported the GoSL to different degrees. Some were okay with some things, not with others.
Many in the diaspora, many within Sri Lanka hold many views. There are stupid, ignorant and downright unpleasant people in all corners, but there are also bright, intelligent and sensible ones. Not only that, but there are people who can be every combination all in one.
It's a mad and mental world and that's just the Sri Lankan side of things!
It's all very well for Indi, Kumar Sangakkara and others to talk about the fact that they're Sri Lankan and not defined by their race.
Maybe, just maybe, instead of discussing why people who are part of the Sinhala majority already feel Sri Lankan, we'd be better off looking at why so many other people DON'T feel included in the "Sri Lankan" identity label.
I found myself escorting K, the now fifteen year old, to a sixth form college interview last week, for schools in this borough only go up to what I used to call 'O' level stage. You probably remember K. She's a "challenge" in the nicest possible way.
There's nothing worse than parents who go on about how intelligent, bright and potentially world beating their kids are. Why? Because to most parents their kids are always like that, no matter if said kid is thicker than a short plank folded in half and plays bass guitar.
But K is actually bright. She was picked out as one of these "gifted and talented" children a few years ago, she has a voracious appetite for learning and for life in general and possesses a sense of drive and energy that is admirable, enviable and downright scary and annoying at times too. I say all this not so much to boast, more to give you a description of what she's like. Background, I think is what proper writers would call it.
I picked her up from their place at the appointed time, well a good chunk earlier than the appointed time because of my disconcerting obsession with being early. Of course she wasn't ready, so I waited until after the agreed time for her to be ready. As any man knows, compromising with women, especially teenage ones, mostly involves letting them do exactly what they wanted to do. "Letting" implies we have a choice in the matter. Sorry about that, we don't of course.
We left, late and with her saying all sorts of things about us having plenty of time etc. I had been asked by her mother if I would prep her in the car for the interview, so I did tried to.
It was an interview she faced, it was about her future, at a college she wants to go to. She had done no preparation and it was all I could do to ensure that she brought the things she was supposed to bring; her report and whatnot. You would think that she'd be a bit interested in preparing wouldn't you?
But no, the first obstacle I had to hurdle was to get the music turned down so we could have a conversation that didn't involve shouting and wasn't punctuated by her flicking through radio stations every twenty seconds. We got there, turning the music down and doing some role playing. I'm not good at training but at least I'm a salesperson so I felt I had the knowledge, just lacking in technique in imparting it. It was a start.
I went through some questions.
"So K, why do you want to come to X College?"
"Why have you chosen photography as a subject?"
"And why law?"
"What do you want to pursue as a career?"
"Tell me a bit about what you do outside your studying?"
"What do you think about the current News International phone hacking saga?"
I was surprised and disappointed to find that she knew nothing about the last question at all, gave her a little pep talk about why it's good to keep up with current affairs a bit (again) and tried to impart some wisdom about how to generically answer questions like that without lying and sounding like a total idiot and yet giving the impression that she was up with current affairs.
Her answer to the question about studying law was that she "likes to argue". V true, just probably not the best reason for studying 'A' level law. I told her this and was surprised that she appeared to listen to me and heed my advice. I mean, how do you persuade a fifteen year old who thinks it's smart to argue and win that perhaps it's not? It's a bit like meeting God and trying to persuade him that God doesn't exist.
For the "tell me what you do outside studying" we built up her portfolio of things that she does other than facebook and BBM. I reminded her of playing the piano, music in general, how she's the house captain at school (which she'd forgotten!), a member of the school council, that kind of thing.
I told her to think about what the college wants from a student, of how she could benefit the college, the things that they would want more than what she would want. You know, features and benefits, what's in it for the buyer, the regular things about selling.
A and K, being reared by two parents who are both salespeople, are fundamentally familiar with all of these things and have had them drummed into them since they were small, so it's usually more an issue of reminding more than teaching from scratch.
We got to the college, parked and strolled in to find a group of other parents and shifty looking teenagers waiting in the lobby for their interviews too. Some of the kids were in their school uniform and some were in their casual uniform. So it was a contrast of dorky looking school clothes or high fashion. On the parental side it was mostly mothers with a small scattering of Dads. There was one fat one.
The whole group of us was led off to a library where we all sat around and waited. The kids, every one of them, looked relaxed but sullenly pissed off that they had to be somewhere with a parent. In contrast the parents all looked nervous, wondering how to pitch themselves, yet trying to act nonchalant.
Over the next few minutes random people, who we all assumed to be college lecturers, turned up and called the name of a student to take them off for their interview. K watched, as did all of us, to see whether parents were accompanying the child into the interview or not. To her dismay, out of about ten that were called, only one parent had stayed back. The rest had all gone with their child.
K's initial decision; that I should be allowed nowhere near the actual interview, was under threat. Her turmoil was evident. I told her that it was totally up to her, that I was fine to wait or come in, but it was up to her to decide. It was a blatant lie, I NEEDED to be there, just that it had to be her decision.
Eventually she decided that she wanted me there. Not a minute later a floppy haired chap, who looked to be about half my age, with twice my intellect but half my life experience and about ten per cent of even Dominic Sansoni's fashion sense strolled in and asked for "K Diaspora".
Me and K got up, she said hello, corrected the chap in his pronounciation of her name (as we do) and then gave him a good firm but not too firm handshake, as her and her sister have been trained to do since they were tiny. We'd only just kicked off and I felt proud already.
We followed him through a maze of corridors making small talk and ended in a classroom. We all sat down and braced ourselves. I looked at the lecturer and thought
"Oooh, he's more nervous than the two of us put together."
I'll start this by setting my stall out; I'm fundamentally against the principles of colonialism. To me, in this day and age, in just seems wrong.
I've also witnessed, mostly in the last few years it seems, an increasing degree of animosity and antagonism towards the British and their colonisation of Sri Lanka from 1802 to 1948. Truly, I question the motivation behind some of this animosity.
My questioning comes from the fact that I just don't hear much said against the Dutch and the Portugese, both of whom, as I'm sure you're aware, also colonised Sri Lanka. The Portugeezers were there for around one hundred and fifty years, the Dutch then for about one hundred and forty years followed by us Brits for about one hundred and fifty years.
It remains to be seen how long the Chinese will be in occupation for, but it's fair to say that in previous times each occupier was there for about the same time. But these days it's the Brits who get all the flak. Call me naive, which you probably will, but I don't hear much anti Dutch talk or sentiments about the harm that the Portugese did, yet from all I can find out they raped the land, the people and the resources as much as anyone. Though of course the Dutch left lamprais and the Portugese left the baila.
Of course there is one thing that has hit me; the fact that these days the Dutch and the Portugese aren't that vociferous on their calls for investigations and inquiries into things that may or may not have happened in Sri Lanka. The Dutch are usually too stoned and the Portugese may be just too worried about their own place going bankrupt to be at all bothered about little old Sri Lanka.
A cynic might conclude that much of the anti British colonialism thing is actually a way of attacking the credibility of the British, rather than a real problem with the effects of colonialism.
The thing about colonising other countries is that it's a thing of the past, isn't it? Those days, from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, it was all the rage in Europe. It was the means by which many nations built prosperity, power and profit. It wasn't right, it was exploitation, but we know that now, which is why it's not up there along with surfing the net and getting my phone hacked by News International as one of the hobbies of most European leaders.
I compare it with smoking. Slightly.
You know when we see all those old adverts about smoking, the ones where a company says that most Doctors recommend Marlboro as the best fag to smoke, or where they extol the benefits of smoking Benson and Hedges. Well, in the cases where we've later found out that the tobacco companies actually knew about the evils and perils of smoking but ignored them or chose to lie, then that's downright despicable behaviour clearly.
But, in the cases where we just hadn't discovered the dangers, when people really thought smoking was good for you, then we don't actually get angry with those responsible do we? Sure, we would get angry with people if they tried to do the same now, with the knowledge we have.
And that's what I wonder about. Colonialism was the done thing. It's not now.
A wise friend told me something that has stuck; that every colony, once granted independence, goes back in its development to some point between when it was first colonised and the point at which independence happened, then continues to develop from there. It's a bit like a post divorce marriage. I reckon a country takes some years to get its bearings, to figure out where it wants to start from, and I think that's what Sri Lanka is doing at the moment, whilst dealing with all the other things going on as well.
It's no mean feat is it? Colonialism, for Sri Lanka, wasn't all bad. There were some positives as well as lots of negatives. It's going to take time to figure out the negatives, let alone get rid of them.
So shouldn't we, Sri Lankans, in which I include myself, be more angry, concerned and worried about China's behaviour which is actually happening today and now, than towards what the British did over a hundred years ago when I'm not sure that they knew any better?
I don't know the answer, just thinking aloud really. What do you think?
I watched it and, even if you didn't, you've probably seen it by now. I know both of the chaps, though not that well.
Guru is a good friend of The Auf's and I've met him, conversed with him and generally enjoyed his company. He's fucking scary, well his intellect is, and I felt a bit like Bertie Wooster did whenever he bumped into Jeeves on one of his rare evenings off down the local pub.
I'd also count Indi as a friend, scary too, just for very different reasons, mostly to do with his dress sense and accent.
I like both of the esteemed fellows. My own opinions are closer to Guru's than Indi's but, in following both of their online presences, I've learned a pretty large bag full of information about Sri Lanka.
But this Al Jazeera thing, well it was so wrong wasn't it? It was like watching the USS Enterprise fight against Mike Tyson in his prime. I'm pretty smugly happy about that simile, because I mean it with no disrespect to Indi, hence the Mike Tyson in his prime thing.
My first issue with this was that Guru is a heavyweight sort of bloke. The Auf was telling me the other day that, as part of Guru's academia, he has to write four books a day, or something like that. He knows his stuff, he quotes facts and figures and has the knowledge to back up his opinions.
Indi, on the converse hand, not that either of them would wear Converse, is a different kettle of fish, simplifying things, comparing the plight of Tamils to that of Elephants, something I think is insulting to many, Elephants included. He has a much listened to, much argued with and much agreed with voice in the Lankanosphere and is one of the most widely read Sri Lanka bloggers, though not the funniest. I think we all know who that is.
But, as fights go, this was a mismatch.
And then we have my second issue.
Why was it a fight in the first place?
It was pitched as a debate. It was advertised by some on Facebook and elsewhere as a confrontational situation between two people holding opposing viewpoints. As Guru representing the Tamils and Indi representing the Sinhalese. I suspect neither of them would have wanted that, neither would have been aware of how it would be advertised.
That post I wrote the other day showed me something along similar lines. Fighting just doesn't help progress, whether it's verbal or physical. Why pitch Indi against Guru and see who wins?
Wouldn't it have been more productive to have got the two of them together and got them pulling in the same direction together?
Isn't positive discussion so much more powerful and solution driven than people rearing up against each other and trying to win their point, to "cancel" out the other person's view?
I think this post might be the one that saw me spend the most time thinking of a title. Which makes it kind of lame that I could only come up with what you see above. Sorry about that, it's just that it's a bit personal this one.
Where to start, what to say, what to reveal? These are Q's that have been ricocheting around my head for some days now. I'm not one of these "proper" writers, the sort who want to reveal their innermost thoughts about the most personal of events just to further their art. But, on the other hand, I do have this blog and you do read it. And there's some big stuff going on in my life now. It would be a bit mental to not talk about it, to tell you about bogeys in my hair but not this.
There wasn't really one definitive moment when it started but things sort of kicked off at the end of May, last time I was in Sri Lanka. I got a message from Academic Bro, my academic bro, to say that my Dad, also his Dad, had been taken to hospital because of some severe back pain. I immediately phoned London and found out that the hospital had told him that it was mostly related to wear and tear, his age and things and should start to get better soonish.
A pain in the back, quite literally, but not such a biggie.
Well things didn't get better. I came back to London to find Dad laid up in bed. There were some bad days and some not so bad days but there didn't seem to be much sign of improvement. My Mum, being a Doctor, was concerned and we made an appointment to get a second opinion. That was about a month ago and we thought we were finding out how to fix his bad back.
So, when the Doctor told us that it looked like Cancer, it was a fuck of a shock. I felt like I was watching a film scene with me and my family in it, but we weren't very good actors. Outwardly there were no tears, no big gestures or words even. All the big stuff was happening in our heads. Except in my Dad's one.
The Doctor gave him an epidural to try to help the pain, told us that some more tests were needed to confirm things and also said that there were other possible diagnoses, but that if it was Cancer, it looked like we'd caught it early anyhow.
The past few weeks have been, to put it mildly, trying. We've had numerous hospital visits, each of which has been quite a mammoth task because of his pain and lack of mobility. My Mum has been trying to look after him, to balance the positive pain relieving effects of things like Morphine with the negative confusion and sheer off his head more than normal effects that they can have, as well as looking after his minute by minute needs.
I don't mean to bleat here, I know that many people go through these sort of things, often with people who are much younger than my Dad's seventy seven years, but it's still hard.
Watching someone you love go through so much pain is a test, yet I feel that weird need to be seen to be strong to some. I'm a pretty pragmatic chap anyhow, so that's useful. I've been telling the girls what's going on, trying to strike the right balance between giving them all the information and not upsetting them too much. They adore my Dad to bits and find it unbelievably hard to watch him in pain.
I watch him and see his pride suffering. He's like that. He's always been sprightly and young looking and, all of a sudden, he's become an old man.
We're waiting on one test but the specialist told us yesterday that she's ninety nine per cent sure it's Myeloma. It can't be cured but can be managed and he may well go on to live some years yet.
As I write this he's been taken in as an in patient at the Royal Marsden, the UK's leading Cancer hospital. They've told us that most of his pain is probably caused by the Cancer and that they hope to get rid of most of it in the next few days, then talk about treatment for the Myeloma itself.
It's weird. I don't know why I'm writing this really. It's a bit cathartic, it's a bit informative, as I know many of you actually know my Dad and will want to know this. And I feel as if I do have a bit of a duty to tell you what's happening in my life, seeing as you know about the rubbishy crap I tell you at other times!
I'll try to keep you posted of progress as we continue on this journey and also just say a huge thank you to all the people who have been such good friends in recent weeks. You know who you are and you're great.
I read this post by Indi and it slightly incensed me. "Slightly incensed" might even be a oxymoron, though not to be confused with being attacked by one of those chaps selling incense sticks.
I can't really define exactly why or how the post got to me but it's something to do with the way Indi has simplified things, condensing them into neat little packets of logic, ones that are often irrefutable yet you just feel are wrong. Also, for a grown up, albeit it one with American or Canadian background, he uses the word "like" far too much and too often.
I asked K, one of my daughters, the other day to see how long she could last without saying "like" in a sentence, except where it was genuinely needed as a word. She managed about twenty seconds of conversation before like crashing and like burning. She's fifteen.
I have some thoughts and comments on what the Blogfather tells us and there are too many of them, in too rambled a fashion, for me to whack them up on his post as a comment.
His post begins with a sarcastic line insinuating that he can't comment on the phone hacking scandal going on here in the UK because he doesn't live in the country and therefore isn't an expert.
"Isn't it funny that Sri Lanka experts are usually sitting abroad?" he continues.
Errr no, it's not Indi. First off, I think you're confusing the word "expert" with someone who can hold an opinion. Secondly the number of people in the Sri Lankan diaspora is approximately ten per cent of the total population of Sri Lanka.
It's a high figure compared to most other countries. The comparable figure is eight per cent for the UK and Wikipedia states that there are approximately two million French nationals living outside of France, which has a population of about sixty three million. Wikipedia of course can be wildly wrong about things, something to bear in mind.
Lastly, another reason it's not funny is that many Lankans live abroad as a direct result of the conflict. You, my esteemed reader, don't need the likes of me to tell you that many Lankans left their homeland for safety, seeking refuge in other international communities.
Should these people have a voice? Should their opinion matter? Ask me those questions and you'll hear a resounding "yes". But you knew that anyhow.
Indi goes on to say "the war is over and the only people that can't really accept it are either abroad or facing abroad".
Well I can't figure out what he means by "facing abroad", but forgetting that, I wholly disagree with the sentence, in as much as I understand it. My view is that everyone I've come across, which isn't a huge amount of people, say forty thousand as an example, but is a wide cross section of folks, accepts that the war is over. It's just that many, me included, believe that the consequences of that war remain, in fact will remain until they're addressed instead of brushed under the carpet.
If a chap goes out and does a bank robbery and kills someone in the process then it's not appropriate to just forget about the robbery the following day, to say to people that they should accept it was in the past and move on. The family and friends of the person killed will be affected, there will be consequences of the act, they need to be dealt with. Only then can many actually move on.
I have come to realise something that I think is crucial in Sri Lanka moving forward; there isn't right and there isn't wrong, there are only different views and different perspectives.
Many years ago in the business environment I learned about the phenomenon called helicopter vision. It's something most good business people possess. Imagine you're in a helicopter. As you lift off you see everything on the ground in great detail but you don't see a wide range. The further the aircraft climbs the wider a range, but the less detail on the ground, you also see.
I reckon you can figure out where I'm going with this.
The thing is, the views from the helicopter, at whatever altitude, are "correct". There are no wrong ones, just different ones, showing varying things.
And the "locals" in Sri Lanka are the people who, for the last thirty or so years, have had to worry about lots of the day to day issues that those of us in the diaspora haven't. Issues like the cost of living, like whether you or a close relative will get killed in a bomb blast. Those are things that diasporic types like me haven't really dealt with.
But, there are also many in the diaspora who do have close family and friends back in the motherland, who have had to worry about day to day issues as well.
So the view of people living in Sri Lanka is often a ground level one. Totally valid, totally genuine and as real as it gets.
But people not living in Sri Lanka are higher up in the helicopter and can see a bigger picture, missing out on lots of the detail. Their view is not wrong, not invalid, just different. They (we) need to remember that we didn't all go through the day to day agony that many in Sri Lanka did.
When people in the island talk about the war being over and say that people should move on, it's a wholly understandable view. As is that of the diasporic people who can look at a wide ranging picture, one that takes little or no account of the finer, but very important, details that affect people every day.
It's not actually about where you live, it's about how much you know and how much you care.
I'll tell you this story but I'd appreciate if you keep it to yourself, you know what a quiet and private person I like to be.
There I was on Saturday morning. K had stayed the night with her friend J, not that that's relevant really. I woke and strolled into my bathroom to do ablutions and things. I did the usual combination; brushed teeth, showered, dried myself etc.
Then I did what any true metrosexual should do; I sprayed on the appropriate amount of deodorant, appropriate meaning enough for anyone in the vicinity to go running away holding their nose as if I'd tried to gas them done a fairly average fart, and applied moisturiser, mens' of course.
I massaged it into my face, working under my chin and doing the bits around the eyes, feeling sprightly and looking forward to the day to come. And, as I've been wearing a shaven head recently, I rubbed some into the scalp and proceeded to massage that in.
All was going well until I came to a stubborn bit of moisturiser that refused to get absorbed into my scalp. Sometimes these crop up, hard bits that might actually have been on the edge of the lid of the bottle and so lost their elasticity.
I rubbed some more and the thing steadfastly refused to disintegrate. Strange I thought, but persisted and gave the fellow one more chance to submit. It didn't, so I picked it out and had a look.
It was a bogey, no doubt. One of those wettish squishy ones that only ever seem to exist in swimming baths or showers.
Even after that I still couldn't manage to get it absorbed into my skin, so I chucked it away.
Sorry for the blog silence. I'll explain more when I get more time to tell you about what's been going on. It's family business, not in the mafiosa way, just things that many face and we have to deal with, and has been going on for several weeks now.
But, as it's Friday, I thought it would be wise, in the lighthearted Friday mood that most are in, to give you some random spoutings. Here they come:
1. I think I may have a gay body part. It's not my willy though. It's my right hand. It has a tendency to flop and be a bit limp. I blame in on drumming, the Moeller technique specifically, something you wouldn't know about unless you're a drummer too.
2. I'm slowly, not very surely, beating a battle. It's a battle against a smell; that stale one that hangs around in dishwashers, my one in particular. I've tried every solution I can find and feel as though the combination is working. The problem is that I'm not sure what's causing the issue in the first place so don't know if I'm treating symptoms or the illness. Sometimes the symptoms are the most painful thing anyhow. It's like a metaphor.
It's ironic that the sentence "it's like a metaphor" is actually a simile. If that's what irony is.
3. I'm still reading David Blacker's book. My progress is hampered by the fact that it's a real paper book with not the faintest smudge of e ink to be seen anywhere. My god, how do you people exist without Kindles?
4. I've figured out a way of cheating when I play Guess the Music with A and K. It's that game where we flick through the music channels and the first person to name the artist and song correctly gets a point. For many months now the three of us have realised that my forte is when we get to the "old" channels showing 80s and 90s music. When it comes to today's tunes I'm clueless. However, last night I realised that if I lie about the song and artist the girls usually let me have the point as they don't know I'm lying. Keep that quiet though.
5. Loneliness is a fucker sometimes.
6. It's quite easy dealing with life when things are all fine and dandy, it's how you respond when things go the other way that really test a fellow's mettle.
7. New shoes, on me at least, take about a week to get worn in properly. Before that I just look if I'm trying on a pair of shoes that I've never worn before and am testing them for comfort.
That's about it for now, I bid you a grand weekend.
I don't know if you get a lot of these over in the motherland, but I bought a gadget mag the other day. Here, you can walk into any newsagent and take your pick from a plethora of the things lining up on the shelves. I can't even recall the actual name of the one I chose. But it's fantastic, particularly as toilet reading matter.
Gadgets are great. There's page after page of reviews of phones, tablets, satnavs, TVs and things that no man needs but every man wants. My choice of the word "man" is wholly deliberate, not that I lay any claim to the slightest bit of understanding about women, but even I know they're not into gadgets.
I noticed something that's new to me; the abundance of "advertorials" in this mag. That is, adverts for a product or a company that are pretty hard to distinguish from real articles in the magazine. I use the word "real" with some trepidation, as I'm never sure how genuine the actual articles are anyhow, with the power that advertisers yield these days. I'm sure, if I were a big advertising client of a magazine that wrote a scathing article about one of my products, I'd think twice about where to place my ad budget.
But it seemed as if every other page consisted of a multi page advertorial, in similar font and appearance to the pages of the magazine. I think the magazine industry here still has certain rules that dictate these things must have "ADVERT" or something similar stuck at the top of the page somewhere for all to see, so that does make it quite easy to spot. If not, the average Joe would have a tough task to figure these out.
There I was, reading watch adverts, perusing sexy satnavs and 3D TVs when something dawned on me. A large portion of this issue was devoted to talk of tablets. Not the paracetomol and aspirin type, but the iPad and Blackberry variety. Understandably so, as they are THE gadget that everyone's talking about.
These day everyone more or less needs a tablet, such has been their meteoric rise in fame, awareness and popularity.
I thought back to the dark ages, all those years, perhaps months ago; the pre tablet days. You know what occurred to me?
Well back then, if you can remember, we had smartphones and we had laptops and no one, I repeat no one, went around muttering that what this world was lacking was something that slotted nicely into the gap between the two.
We didn't meet random chaps in pubs who had their heads down and grabbed passers by to tell them how their life would be so much better if someone brought out a device that fitted in between their phone and their laptop.
Then someone came along, I believe it might have been Steve Apple, though I'm not positive on that one, and told us that they've got this brilliant new product called the iPad, to fill that gap, the one we weren't even aware of in the first place.
Did Apple rather brilliantly create a gap in the marketplace or did they find a gap that we weren't even aware of and launch a product to fill that need? Either way it's a slice of genius. My uncertainty here is because I know not whether Apple invented the concept of the tablet, I merely know that they made it what it is today.
So I've decided to take a leaf out of Apple's book. No publication that I've seen has even mentioned it yet, but this weekend, probably on Saturday afternoon if I don't go shopping, I'm going to invent something of my own.
It's a device that will fit nicely into a gap that no ones knows about yet; the gap between the smartphone and the tablet.
It will probably have lights and all sorts of things, including a battery life of more than a few hours.
I've been thinking about these lately. There are a few things I'm involved in where it's relevant. Some people like to be a big fish in a small pond. All well and good, if you like to shine in a lower quality environment where you're the best.
Personally I prefer to mix in a more challenging situation, where the standard is high but I can learn more, feeding off better quality team mates and hoping that their ability pulls me up. The recognition is less but the sense of satisfaction, the real achievement is usually greater.
Yet I find myself in a couple of teams where the opposite is the case, where I'm nearer the top as far as knowledge and ability goes. One of the issues that frustrates me is that in these teams the speed of movement and progress is dictated by the people near the bottom, those lowest common denominators.
The rest of the band has to wait for these people to catch up in their learning and knowledge.
It's a no brainer isn't it? Surely it's better to be the smaller fish in the big pond but to be open and big enough to know your own ability, to realise that you're learning, not to bluff and kid people (mostly yourself) that you're many rungs above the one you're actually on.
Or, on the occasions when I'm nearer the top of the ecosystem, should I be doing more to assert myself, maybe be more authoritarian. Maybe I don't have the confidence in my own judgement and ability. Perhaps I need to be bolder and ballsier.
Just thinking aloud really, but I'd be very interested to hear what any of you think about this. Do you think the rate of progress of a team is dictated by the highest level or the lowest level of performer within the unit?
A little while ago I got into a conversation with my Mum and Academic Bro about names, specifically my one. It started like this:
"Would you have preferred it if we had given you a more English sounding name?" said the maternal unit (Sri Lankan).
"Well yes, I think so." I replied, knowing that I'd actually given the wrong answer and that I was about to be punished for it.
She looked hurt and wounded, like a sad brown swan. Sri Lankan mothers do this now and again. I believe they go off and get trained in it for about six months before entering motherhood.
It is of course quite hard to write this post without actually typing my name, but I think it's a fair guess that you probably know what it is. At the grand old age of slightly over twenty eight I've decided that I don't like my name. Sort of. Actually the truth is that I don't like it in England, but in Sri Lanka I do.
You see the thing is, over here, whenever I introduce myself or have a need to say my name, to Britishers that is, I also have to spell it. Usually I also have to say it again, so alien is it to the average Brit. It's just not a name that is already stored in the mental library of names that most Brits possess.
That's the problem with many Asian names, people here are often not familiar with them and therefore don't recall them until they've got to know you as a person and associate the physical you with your name. In Sri Lanka it's an entirely different matter, I say my name and the relative commonness of it means that I don't have to spell it and don't have to face that quizzical look from the face of the recipient as they try to figure out what it sounds like.
When I call someone in the UK and have to give my name to a secretary or receptionist invariably there's the mammoth task of saying my name, getting them to actually understand how it should sound and then spelling it too, which can take up to four hours in some instances.
Then, once that's all done and dusted, they usually forget how to say it or spell it anyhow. On the positive side my first name is so unusual here that I never have to give out both my names to people who already know me. Which is nice.
Spelling my name in Sri Lanka is so much easier and cleaner because it's in peoples' linguistic library already. Though it took me a good few years to learn that the letter Z has to be pronounced correctly or you lot haven't got the faintest idea of what I've said.
When I come to a Z, probably my least favourite letter in the alphabet anyhow and one which crops up twice in my name, I know that it must be pronounced as "ee - zed". Thankfully the Es in my name, though plentiful, don't come before any of the Zs, or all hell might break loose.
Dealing with Americans necessitates the pronounciation as "zee" because they're of course too lazy to use zed. That's the septics for you, try saying "zed" to them and most really don't have an inkling that you're even saying a letter.
All those years ago when their mother and I were choosing names for the girls, we wanted ones that would reflect their heritage yet also comfortable to the British tongue. I think we did well there, choosing A and K. You may know what those letters stand for, you also may not, which might make things a bit confusing for you. Sorry about that.
So I suppose the perfect name for me, were I my parents all those years ago, would have been one of those Sri Lankan names that could be shortened into something easy on the Brit palate. Perhaps something like Indrajit or Sachintha, but not actually those as they'd be quite dodgy in real life and they'd never work for a blogger.
Tarika's quite a decent name too, exotic sounding and easily abbreviated to Tari, a bit too girly to have been given to me though. I've also heard that girls called Tarika have huge big feet about the size of frisbees.
Or perhaps if I'd been given the name of a character on Eastenders then it would be easy for the Brits too, but it would have to have been one of the dodgy Asians, not so good.