Truth-Telling in Sri Lanka
Leaders of former British colonies gather in Sri Lanka this week for a meeting that Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa intended as a multi-million-dollar exercise in self-promotion. Thanks in part to Pulitzer Center grantee Callum Macrae it is becoming instead an opportunity to confront Rajapaksa on his government’s brutal suppression of Tamil separatists in 2009.
Callum’s film, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka,” has sparked demonstrations in India and in Malaysia a human rights group faces criminal charges just for showing the film. But the message is getting through: Indian Prime Minister Mammohan Singh announced this weekend that he will boycott the meeting, as is Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. British Prime Minister David Cameron is still set to go but issued this remarkable tweet:— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov)
Cameron’s tweet is a reminder of the impact of journalism done right, how it can change minds and drive actions even at the highest reaches of government power.
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, and then forever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee,
The most resonant moment of the evening was the least anticipated: someone had made an audio recording from the master class that Awoonor had given at the Festival on Friday. And so, in the silence of the auditorium, we listened to about a minute of his final lecture. And there he was, speaking to us in his own voice (how startling its clarity), as though nothing had changed:
“And I have written about death also, particularly at this old age now. At seventy-nine, you must know—unless you’re an idiot—that very soon, you should be moving on.”
Then he added, with both levity and seriousness,
“An ancient poet from my tradition said, ‘I have something to say. I will say it before death comes. And if I don’t say it, let no one say it for me. I will be the one who will say it.’”
The countries where people are the most and least emotional
Valentin Serov, Portrait of Izabella Grunberg (1910)
And I began to think that something in me had really been crying out for stillness, but of course I couldn’t hear it because I was running around so much. I was like some crazy guy who puts on a blindfold and then complains that he can’t see a thing.
And I thought back to that wonderful phrase I had learned as a boy from Seneca, in which he says, “That man is poor not who has little but who hankers after more.”
And, of course, I’m not suggesting that anybody here go into a monastery. That’s not the point. But I do think it’s only by stopping movement that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home.