Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fascism, anyone?

I came across a very interesting list of characteristics that mark a fascist regime.

Do all fascist regimes necessarily display all of these characteristics? Probably not, as in everything else I suppose there are shades of grey but if one finds that too many boxes are being ticked then its time to start worrying.

The rest of that site is worth reading as well, seems to have quite a bit of information on the subject.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the winter of discontent

In a far off country a vegetable vendor, an unemployed university graduate, frustrated that the police would not allow him to trade set himself ablaze and unwittingly set off a chain of events that rocked the Near East.

There have been subterranean rumblings for a while. The mysterious phenomenon of the 'Grease Yaka' seems to capture the tone of many incidents, before and after.

The latest is vegetable traders and farmers who have taken to the streets. A rather troubling pattern seems to be forming. Once again, the imposition of laws and regulations with little consultation or foresight. Once again, the people have taken to the streets in protest.

The imposition of rules or laws that are seem to be unjust, creates anger that spills over to the streets. Some may call this attitude, high handed or arrogant while others would use stronger terms.

There have been many such instances of late, but to examine just a few, a year ago, the 18th amendment to the constitution, which had far reaching ramifications was rushed through as an "urgent bill". The average man in the street could make no sense of the complex constitutional questions and no one could explain its significance properly, so it passed unremarked. A certain minister who had been removed following mass protests earlier was then promptly reappointed.

Two months ago, the so-called expropriation bill was smuggled through, as an "urgent" bill. The business community was aghast but it was beyond the comprehension of the man in the street so it passed.

In both instances there was criticism but it could easily be shouted down and safely ignored.

The proposed pensions bill in May this year did however affect the workers directly and they understood its significance. They took to the streets in mass protest. The Government eventually backed down, but not before a worker was killed. Now it is the vegetable traders who are on the roads.

It is not the plastic crates that are the problem, it is the way in which it is imposed on the people that breeds this anger. I think reducing losses in transport is important and reducing waste will contribute to better income for farmers and traders while bringing lower prices to consumers. However the way to approach this is through education. If people see it is to their benefit, they will quickly adopt it. If the high cost of the plastic crate is the barrier then subsidising it, at least at the introductory stage would be a good idea, for it could bring long term benefits.

Employing the police to stop transport if the approved crate is not used should not even be contemplated. In a democracy, that is.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Green Path, renamed, for the second time.

I just received a news alert that stated that "The road from the Horton Place roundabout up to the Public Library roundabout is to be named as Nelum Pokuna Mawatha from December 15, after the Arts and Theater complex, titled “Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theater” is declared open.

I had to think a bit to work out which road this was. The news alert simply described two different points on the road. The road in question is actually Green Path or at least a part of it. The most extraordinary thing is that Green Path has already been renamed once, it is now officially known an Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, after the last major round of renaming that took place somewhere in the 1960's and 70's.

I have no patience for this silly business of renaming roads and public buildings. I have grumbled about it before, but the latest one really takes the cake, because the usual specious argument that the renaming is necessary to erase colonial influence is no longer valid. Which is probably why the news alert discreetly omitted mentioning the current official name of the street.

If there was any Sri Lankan who actually deserved to have something named after him it was Coomaraswamy, not that he would ever have wanted such a thing, he was far too modest a man. A brilliant scholar, he was fluent in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Pali, English, French, German, Spanish, Tamil, Persian, Hindi and Sinhalese. The American's are happy enough to list him in their list of distinguished Asian Americans, he probably qualifies due to his long stay in that country.

In fact, in his first career as a geologist, he did discover a new mineral, which he could name after himself if he so wished, but did not, it is Thorianite. He would surely have turned in his grave, if he knew that some thoughtless politician had decided to rename Green Path in his name.

In his second career as an art historian he achieved great fame, ending up as curator of of the oriental collection of the Boston Museum. The rulers would have served the people a a lot better if they had done something to promote wider understanding of his work or funded studies that could have continued what he had started, instead of naming a road.

Read more on his work here.

Friday, December 09, 2011


This is something that I have been thinking about for a while.

They are the thing on which we rest our heads every night, yet do we know where they came from? Why is it so difficult to sleep without pillows? I need two pillows, one is not quite enough, although I can just about manage (on a trip for example) with one if pushed.

I have a large foam rubber pillow and a softer cotton one, the springy foam rubber one sets a foundation and the cotton one goes on top.

How far back in history do we find references to them and why do none of the other primates need them.

I have heard of an old campers trick, where one scoops out a small hollow in the earth, just to fit the hips. It apparently guarantees a good nights sleep. Has anyone heard of this or used it. Was it a sort of precursor to a pillow?

Your pillow thoughts, please?