Kandy Man with long name who fought the Brits.
Key fact: in Sri Lanka heroes were allowed to get fat, another reason to like the place.
You see some pretty sick stuff when you do my job, but I just read something sicker than any Congo cannibal buffet. It’s an article by a posh little limey named Jeremey Brown condemning the Sri Lankan government for being too messy in putting down the LTTE, and demanding that we stop buying the cheap textiles the poor Sinhalese make their living churning out.
What’s sick about this is that the British establishment destroyed the Sinhalese people completely. Completely and purposely, sadistically. Stole their land, humiliated and massacred their government, made it Imperial policy to erase every shred of self-respect the Sinhalese had left. You can talk about the Nazis all day long, but for my money nothing they did was as gross as what you find out when you actually look into the history of British-Sinhalese relations. If you can even call them “relations”; I guess a murder-rape is a relation, sort of.
But nobody knows about it. Weird, huh? Nothing weirds me out more than the total news blackout the Brits have managed to put on all the sick shit they did to brown and black people all over the world. They had a system, and it worked. They’d grab some paradise island in the tropics, use the Royal Navy to wall it off from the rest of the world, and crush the local tribe. If the locals resisted, the Brits would starve them to death, shoot them down, infect them with smallpox or get them addicted to opium–whatever they had to do to gang-rape the locals so bad that they’d lose the will to resist.
And to this day, they don’t catch even a little bit of Hell for it. Everybody thinks the Brits are all cute and harmless. You’re all a bunch of suckers for those suave accents, you suckers! The truth is that compared to the Brits, the Nazis you’re always yammering about were a gang of eighth-grade stoners who ran around spraypainting swastikas on school property. The Nazis lasted one decade; the Brits quietly ran their extermination programs for three hundred years, and to this day they wouldn’t even think of feeling guilty about it. Wouldn’t cross their minds.
That’s what made me want to puke battery acid when I read Mister Jeremy Brown’s sermon on the naughty Sinhalese: this pig Brown has no clue about why Sri Lanka is so fucked up, no hint at all that it’s the result of British Imperial policy. Not “mistakes” or “a few bad apples” or “regrettable excesses” but clear, cold, ruthless British policy.
One of the funniest bits in Brown’s little Anglican sermon to the Sinhalese is when he mentions Arthur C. Clarke, the Brit sci-fi writer who moved to Sri Lanka. The reason that’s funny is that a few years back, when he was too senile and drunk to watch his tongue, Clarke admitted in an interview that the whole reason he moved to Sri Lanka is “for the boys.” As in, he liked to rape little boys, and they were cheap and pretty in the dear old ex-colony. The fucking Brits wouldn’t stop raping the Sinhalese even after their troops were forced off the island.
Jeremy Brown wouldn’t know that, of course. To him, Clarke is a wonderful example of all the wonderful things British people have done for po’ little Sri Lanka:
“Britain has…helped to rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourist industry: Britons accounted for 18.5 per cent of the foreigners who visited the former colony’s famous beaches, wildlife parks, tea plantations and Buddhist temples last year. Only India sends more tourists. Many Britons also own property there, especially around the southern city of Galle, not far from where Arthur C.Clarke, the British science fiction writer who settled in Sri Lanka, used to love to scuba dive. [Is that what they’re callin’ it these days? GB]
So the question facing British shoppers and holidaymakers is this: should they continue to support Sri Lanka’s garment and tourist industries?
Don’t you love that last sentence: “Sadly, the answer must be no.” Anybody who can write a sentence like that without blowing his brains out at the monitor is a hopeless twit anyway, but let’s help Jeremy out a little bit, folks, let’s go back in time and take a quick look at all the wonderful things the Brits did for these rotten, ungrateful Sinhalese.
The pattern you see in the colonizing of Sri Lanka is a real familiar one, if you study the European naval empires: the Portugese, the greatest sailors and explorers, came to Sri Lanka long before the Brits, claimed the place, but couldn’t hold on to it. The Portugese lost the island to the Dutch, those up’n’coming Protestant go-getters, in the mid-1600s. That’s another pattern you see everywhere, the old Papist powers losing out to the Protestants, who were just faster and smarter.
The next stage was also totally by the book: the Brits, the canopy tree if you know what I mean, come along and force the Dutch out. There were times the Brits sort of liked the Dutch; they were Protestant, at least, and blonde/blue-eyed. But business was business, and the Brits realized, by the end of the 1700s, that Sri Lanka was worth taking. Of course they didn’t say that in public; the official reason was that they had to boot the Dutch to guard the island from the nasty radical Frenchies.
That way of stealing islands, making it sound like you had to take them for the greater good–that was classic Brit strategy. They always made it look like they were forced, against their will, to grab this or that colony. I dunno if y’all ever saw a movie called Erik the Viking, but it has a great scene with John Cleese playing this insane bloodthirsty warlord who orders people tortured to death in this tired, disappointed upper-class voice, and then whines, “It’s the stress that gets you”–all put upon and harrassed, like Attila the Hun meets The Office. That’s a perfect image for the way the Brits booted the Dutch out of Ceylon, tsk-tsking while they stole every shed, cannon and bale of tea on the island.
With the Dutch trade rivals gone, the Brits had only one problem left: the damned natives, the Sinhala, or “Kandyans” as they were called back then. That dumb name, “Kandyans,” came from the fact that their main city was Kandy, up in the highlands in the south of the island, the fat part of the teardrop. The Sinhala lived in the highlands for the simple reason that it was a little cooler, not as totally malarial, up there compared to the stinking coastal marshes.
By all accounts, the Sinhala/Kandyans were harmless slackers, who didn’t need or want much from the outside world. All they asked was for people to leave them alone up on their big rocky highlands to do their Buddhist thing. Unfortunately that wasn’t British policy. It irked the redcoats that Kandy still had a king, an army, all this impudent baggage that went with independence. The British decided to break the Sinhalese completely, crush the whole society.
You have to remember that by this time, the early 1800s, the Brits have perfected their techniques in little experiments all over the world. Those Clockwork Orange shrinks were amateurs compared to the Imperial Civil Service. They had dozens of ways of undermining native kingdoms.
British administrators were trained to do a kind of rough, quick sociological sketch of the natives, get a sense of the fault lines and then figure out how to exploit them. The Brits saw fast that the Kandyans were a sluggish bunch of people divided into rigid castes in the classic subcontinent pattern. That made it easy: the Brits made two big castes their official pets and shunned the others, setting up a violent hate between different parts of Sinhalese society. That guaranteed that if the diehard Sinhalese/Kandyan nationalists ever revolted, the teacher’s-pet castes would have a good selfish reason to help massacre them.
Then there was the Kandyan king himself. The Brits weren’t dumb in the way Paul Bremer was dumb, “de-Baathifying” Iraq. They loved corrupt local rulers. Much easier and cheaper to bribe one fat old degenerate on a throne than negotiate with all the commoners. So the Brits started playing with the nervous, dumb-ass Kandyan royals, scaring them with the threat of losing everything and then teasing them with the possibility of the safe, soft life of a Brit puppet.
This was the major leagues of Colonialism. To give you an idea of how important Ceylon/Sri Lanka was back then, try this on: in 1802, when French armies were kicking British and Prussian and Italian and Russian ass all over Europe (weird how nobody remembers that, huh?), the Brits were so terrified they tried to give Napoleon all their colonies except Sri Lanka and Trinidad. Those were the two they needed to keep.
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