Methinks the populace doth protest too much

One day, it is petrol prices at the pump making the cost of everything from coconuts through Chinese takeout to Calvin Klein accessories take a quantum leap into an alternate universe.

The other, it is the stumble and fall in the pitch dark that comes from having white elephants such as the CEB and CPC continue to thrash around the domestic, commercial, and industrial consumer of electricity - just because the state finds it too non-traditional to pull the plug on waste, corruption, and mismanagement (whether real or rumoured).

On the one hand, the powerful lobbies such as those in the transport and logistics sectors appear to have won the day with a twenty per cent bus fare hike, among other hidden subsidies, riding roughshod over plebeian commuters and pedestrian consumers alike.

On the other, the poorer livelihoods such as fishermen who find that an angling excursion in a day boat is now as costly as a deep-ocean trawling exercise over the course of a week or so are all at sea.
This week, the Department of Wildlife Conservation decided to be beastly about the wild way in which the government was treating them vis-à-vis pay and other bureaucratic procedure, and worked to rule.
That week, it was the Sri Lanka Railway's panoply of unions - uniting stationmasters, signalmen, and sundry technical and related services employees across professional and political divides - launching a lightning strike that crippled the second-largest transport sector in the country.

The other week, there were those university students - accompanied by a plethora of the arguably empathic public and some demonstrably incensed members of the colourful clergy - storming the barricades over a plethora of tangible and perceived slights, insults, and injuries.

I have a bad feeling about this. It seems that from winning an unwinnable war against terrorism, the powers that be are teetering on the brink of losing an un-lose-able battle against tyranny. The opposition thought that the next campaign would be against the economy. They were wrong; in that crime, corruption, and the cost of living - all of which are now entangled in a snafu of gargantuan or ginormous proportions - are coming home to roost on the government's doorstep.

You may as well have a bad feeling about all this too. Because in a shorter time than it takes to say Tahrir Square or Tiananmen Square backward in Demotic or Chinese, it might well be the wrong end of the gun-barrel of democracy that you and I are staring down at. Do pardon my ending that last sentence with a preposition, dears, I have more pressing matters on my mind these days than the sanity of grammarians to contend with. (There I go again, with prepositional endings.)

There are the pundits who say that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. That, for instance, the Damocles' sword of sanctions is hanging over our heads between here and the next human rights sessions to be held in Geneva tomorrow, at which a resolution on Sri Lanka will be mooted. The thinking, for another example, that the incumbent administration has thrown in the towel of trying to win elections by garnering populist sympathy; and is chucking a new gauntlet into the public ring - the semi-divine, mythically reinforced, chauvinistically popular, conceptually untenable right of governors to govern wrong in the name of might, power, and realpolitik.

However I suspect that things are the worst that they've been in a long time. Just take a look at prices at the pump, the long arm of the law loading live ammo to maintain order amidst institutional anarchy, and the iron glove in the velvet fist that is government today - and you'd agree with my analysis pronto, folks. The writing is on the wall… and it is saying that this is not the shape of things to come… rather, it is just the status quo.

Therefore my conclusion is that when you have hit rock bottom as we have done in the past fortnight or so you can reasonably expect things to get better. Assuming of course that the government has an overall strategy in terms of timing and grouping all the bad news in one basket - in the same spirit that the opposition has no game plan at all; except to roll over, play dead, wag its tail feebly, and go home patting itself on the back for a good job well done.

Notwithstanding strikes, the military on the streets again, four price hikes in one week and two funerals in the course of as many protests in which the police used live ammo to quell a riot, and an impending resolution on a certain island-nation that shall remain nameless for the nonce, methinks the future looks very bright indeed.

Now let's just hope that not only is the light at the end of the tunnel not the down train, but that the town drain that is governance today will take away the tunnel, too.

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