Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who's Right

Growing up, I'm sure your parents kept telling you that you have to finish school with good grades, get into a good university and land a good job. Well that is the usual shit they tell you to define success in life. Education is a basic human right, something that all humans are entitled to. But most of the time, something as essential is not absolutely free. Here in Srilanka, some of us are actually blessed with a free education system, funded by the government, which really means that we are paying for ourselves. Anyway, that aside, the 'government' education system provides for thousands of children all over the country.

It goes from the primary's all the way up to the universities. The problem with the government system is that, when it comes to higher education system, placing is limited and the quality is not adequate when compared on a global scale. This is not to say they are incompetent, but rather lacking in skills that someone who studied abroad would possess. The seating is limited, a quota a places is given to each province and entry is gained by sitting for the local AL exams, and scoring above a given target.

Now that we have established that, lets move onto the other options a Srilankan student has. Another option is to go abroad, note that these options are in no particular order. Students either go to foreign universities by choice or because they have no better option. The problem with this is that some who go don't return, leading to a brain drain and to ad to that a large amount of money leaves the country as well. An estimated 80000 people leave the country annually for higher studies, so if each spends a low average of 2 millions rupees, that's a whopping Rs. 160000000000 which goes out of the country.

There are some students who are unable to go to a foreign university because of financial limitations and not able to enroll at a local university because they haven't done the local AL's, instead maybe the London AL's. The only option this person would have is to get maybe a professional qualification like CIMA and maybe hope for a good job with that. But since recent, there are Srilankan institutions which are affiliated with foreign universities that allow the students to study in Srilanka and receive the same foreign degree for a fraction of the cost.

This has opened up an avenue for thousands to pursue their dreams and gain a proper higher education in their own country, thereby keeping the money within it. In logic, it is a great concept which will help the country in the long run. But has recently been met with much hostility from those in the government run system. These individuals are calling for the closure of these institutions saying that they are decreasing their chances of getting a job. They say that instead of wasting money of foreign degrees, the money from that can be used to 'expand' the government system.

But then comes the point of expanding the government system? The government system first needs to improve the quality of its output then consider expansion. Education is a right that everyone has, just because it hinders the chances of another, that another has no must not try to take away the right to education of that person. The reason the person educated under the foreign system may get the job is because he is better than the other candidate from the local system. It is a blatant way to say it, but it is reality at the end of the day. So instead of trying to shut down and wasting their time threatening other institutions, should they not be using that time to push for reforms in the current system to improve it.

It does seem the logical thing to do, if someone is better than you, must shouldn't just try to eliminate that person, you have to work hard and get better than him. In all,education is every one's basic human right no matter what.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Losing it

Almost everyone has a cyber life these days, a sort of second life they spend an increasing amount of time on. Some people tweet, others blog, most are on Facebook and many do it all. Social networking sites have made a real difference to our mundane lives. If you have the internet, there is always something to kill boredom with, be it reading someones blog, stalking people on Facebook or just having a casual exchange of tweets with someone you haven't even met. But when compared to the other kinds, Facebook has the majority of users.

It was first created as a network tool for grad students but now has bloomed into a full-blown social networking site with over 350 million users. Up until a few years ago, it wasn't all that popular, back then Hi5 and Bebo were theshiz, everyone needed to have a Hi5 account. But due to its non-existent security settings, Hi5 became saturated with cyber sluts and perverts, not a very pleasant place! So then there was the exodus from Hi5 to alternative like Orkut, Facebook and Bebo. But out of them, Facebook stood out because of its simplicity and user friendliness.

But now it seems to have lost that all these third partyapplications on it. I mean before when you log on in the morning, its only that someone has commented on a photo, or your status which by default began with 'is' or even posted on your wall. But now when you log on in the morning, some idiot has 'thrown something at you' or someone wants you to 'fertilize their flowers' and yes, I mean that in a virtually literal way. It's either that or someone has taken a quiz on 'what you eyes say about your future' or some rubbish of the sorts, I mean WTF?! don't people have anything else to do!?

To add to the needless spam you find your politicians' faces floating around when nearing an election. Facebook always sends out this statement on how they are trying to improve security and all that but is security the only concern? How many pointless applications are floating around the place, with the potential to mass spam? I mean, instead of trying to complicate the security settings they should deal with all the applications that are popping up before Facebook turns into anotherHi5.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Practical penalties

One Sunday I was watching Ben10 on Cartoon Network and I heard footsteps on our pergola. I looked up ready to scream melodramatically when I saw a pair of... stripy shorts.

Dad? I inquired. Oh hi, he replied. Apparently he’s heard that the Health Authority found dengue breeding spots next door and my neighbor could literally go to jail, so he was checking our roof for any mosquito nurseries after the rain. My dad, who wouldn’t be bothered really, up on the roof, in the scorching sun prompted by jail sentence.

I think Sri Lanka has tons of opportunities for good change, with the help of penalizing minor(?) offences and keeping it at a standard. Singapore penalized taxed spitting on the roads which resulted in squeaky clean pavements and a social change, while India fines peeing in public (I’m not too sure how that turned out though). In Sri Lanka I think the main problem is that penalties are formed and not carried out. Its practically free potential cash, flowing into government coffers for crying out loud.

Here are some penalties I think should be taken seriously, especially in Colombo.

1. The seat-belt law – I heard it was Rs. 5000 if you’re caught driving without it. I anyway wear mine after seeing a propaganda video where a guy’s spine gets crushed while driving at just 40kmph. (eek!) But the big ha-ho amounted in nothing, and you can still freely drive without it.
2. The bus lane – Aren’t they supposed to travel on the left-most lane? NOT. -__- Plus they do the worst possible traffic offices and some police officers don’t even bat an eyelid!
3. Throwing non-biodegradables while traveling – I HATE THIS! And everyone does it out of convenience! Rs. 5000!!!
4. Spitting – yuck. Rs. 1000
5. Peeing – Oh well, at least it isn’t as bad as India. Rs. 1500
6. Animal abuse – anyone caught abusing should serve a week’s sentence at least. And complaints should be taken seriously, be it pets or livestock.
There should be laws for puppy mills, pet shops and pet licenses to make people think twice about getting a pet and not caring for it properly!
7. Mosquito related disease – Dengue just got totally out of hand last year. I personally know so many people who lost their loved ones. Crazy. It was the same with Chickengunya, I know an aunty who still finds it hard to walk or go up steps. You breed em? You go to jail buster!!! (Plus 50,000 thankyouverymuch)
8. Noise pollution – Anyone who makes noise between 10PM-5AM in a residential area, be it a vehicle, their dog, music, sex – complaints should be taken seriously -_-
9. Littering – each shop owner should be responsible for dirt in front of their own shop. Same with households. I’m sure the city will be cleaner then.

I can’t think of anymore right now. but practical penalties maybe a start to change the majority of undisciplined Sri Lankans who think our urban issues are someone else’s problem.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Facebook Politics

Right side of my Facebook page was splattered with all these pretty faces for the past few weeks.oh where have you gone? :(


Friday, April 9, 2010

The epitome of liberty

We've all done it sometime or the other, some don't talk about it, some may admit it and others even advocate it. But there is good reason behind not telling everyone you do it, because for some odd reason, it is illegal here! If you haven't already guessed what I'm talking about, I'm talking about weed, also known as marijuana, scientifically known as Cannabis Sativa more commonly known as Ganja in this region. (Ganja FYI is the sanskrit word for cannabis). Weed is technically legal some parts around the world but there are severe restrictions on it.

But there are a few places around the world where there are no restrictions per se. I'm sure the moment I said that, you were thinking of Amsterdam, weren't you?! well yes, that is one of the places but that too has restrictions now. Tobacco has been banned in Amsterdam and there are cops who are trained to sniff out tobacco crawling all over the place, sniffing you. Even a trace of tobacco and you are fined!

So what if I told you there was a place where it was legal, where you could smoke your joint out in public and there would be no cops trying to arrest you or sniffing you. Christiania as it is known is a micro-nation is Denmark. It's been branded as a hippie town and the worlds last surviving anarchist community. I think this is the most significant feature of Christiania because it is a working model of anarchy, one which has been going on for 40 years fighting away attempts from other governments to destroy it.

It was once said that "anarchy only leads to chaos", but then look at this place, it hasn't descended into chaos even 4 decades later, when in the meantime democratic systems have collapsed into chaos in less than 4 years. So forget Amsterdam, Christiania is the place to go to, where you can have a beer at the 'Woodstock Bar' , light a spliff and inhale nothing but pure liberty.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Russian illustrations

When I was young, my dad was away at work a lot. Amma worked as a teacher so most of my time was hanging out with Seeya. He had and has a voracious appetite for reading so I’d say 80% of our time was spent in libraries. I vividly remember getting lost in British Council, bawling my eyes out and finally being reunited with him. He looked down at me briefly and then went back to his book with not so much a shrug.

We also frequented the municipal library, the little libraries built in almost every major town. Our library wasn’t major though, it had a jam tree in front of it, a tuk-tuk park and a Buddha statue next to it. But it had ALL the daily papers to which Seeya honed in like a bee to well…honey. He and I sat in our little dingy corners, him with his nose on the papers, and me sitting in little colourful chairs going through children’s books.

One day I found a stash of old Russian children stories, which bring me to the point of this post. Most were translated to English and a few to Sinhala. I assume now that they were gifted by our great comrades in friendship and delivered to all the public libraries and government schools to remain untouched until someone like me came along.

They were pretty addictive and now that I look back, quite distinctive in its art. Most had stories with wolves and foxes in them. (quite mystical) or stories based on environments with snow storms and ice (quite alien to a Sri Lankan kid). But I poured over them because most of the Russian folk stories had a weird sense of magic in them. I suppose it’s the combination of dark woods, the unknown and then a happy ending at the end.

I found some similar ones on a flickr link too.

Maybe I’ll look for a few publications to keep for myself. For nostalgia and for the love of the distinctive art.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Racism Racism

Racism is a cliche problem. It's a cliche because it really just doesn't go away. But there is a misconception as to what it really is. Most believe that one group of people just automatically begins to hate another and that they are evil. Since things can turn violent then the people doing these actions must be very bad people.

But the reality is a little more complicated. Racism stems from fear. People who are racist are afraid of those people who are not like them. It's all fine when there is only one different person, it's like 'oh this person is from so and so'. Even if its just 10 people then its usually fine. But the problem begins to manifest when the numbers become significant, say when an entire population moves in.

Suddenly these strange people are a noticeable force and they moved in to your land. It's like some strange guy moving in to your house, the one you lived in with the people you know for the last 10 years. Suddenly this new guy comes and he's brought his friends. You're house is big but you can't say no because its a public house (example).

Now these guys need to eat. So they open your fridge and start to help themselves. You don't like that very much. After all they're not one of your kind. Then they might even begin to intermingle with the people you know and this makes you uncomfortable. One guy might want to marry your sister. There's nothing wrong with the guy but you get a strange uncomfortable feeling. You'd prefer it just didn't happen because it'd be much simpler and you'd rather just not go there.

You're not a bad person, but you just don't like these foreigners that much and worst of all they have no intention of leaving. At first it was ok, they didn't interfere, but now they're changing the decor to match their tastes and getting more and more vocal in the house. You don't like that at all after all its your house!

The funny thing is, the house always belonged to you in the past, and no matter how many generations of the newcomers live in it, you feel it still belongs to your people. After all... they were here first.

The feelings of resentment are there, like some baby brother you now have to share your toys with. But the worst part is having to share without someone you don't really know that well and you don't identify with.

Just imagine that I come to your house and stay there. You never invited me and now you have to share all your stuff with me. I have a job and I contribute fairly and all, but still I can help myself to things that you never really owned, but when others take them you feel jealousy. Worst of all I'm here to stay whether you like it or not. I dunno... I get the feeling you wouldn't like me very much.