Don’t read this essay

Indi Samarajiva lived through the collapse of Sri Lankan society, and wants to tell us what it was like and compare it to our American experience. Don’t fall for it! You’ll just find out how screwed you are!

I lived through the end of a civil war. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens.

This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner.

If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

Then after relating the chaos in Sri Lanka, he has to tell us how much better the country was at dealing with the pandemic.

Don’t read it unless you want to be driven to do better.


  1. PaulBC says

    @1 beat me too it, but yeah, “everything changed when the fire nation attacked” and I got to see it up close and personal (well not too close fortunately; my house was never in danger.)

    I haven’t been personally punched in the face. If anything (he said selfishly) this description is reassuring because I do have some prospects for getting the hell out of here, but it will take some plans that I have not yet made and won’t be able to do much right after the “election”. I often think about refugees from Europe before WWII. I admire the ones smart enough to leave before they were desperately seeking or faking an exit visa. And I suspect you get to that stage a lot sooner than you know.

  2. says

    “I often think about refugees from Europe before WWII. “
    My great grandfather Otto was one of those. He moved to America, changed his name and started working for a logging company in Northern California.

  3. sophiab says

    Mostly lurker here, from NZ.
    I feel that the lauding of nz (which I’m proud of! They did well! Minor mistakes may gave happened, but good intentions all round! Caution in face of uncertainty!) Is rooted in racism and excuse-ism

    Much of the Americas and Europe want to pretend they’re winning. Especially Europe wanting to see themselves as winning, compared the USA. It drives me crazy.

    Every country that let’s this run wild defeats the efforts of countries controlling this. They make the world less safe, they make my country less safe.

    And there’s this feeling of aimlessness. Europe is just expecting an inevitable “second wave”, bit everyone is exhausted and not willing to make efforts without a goal in mind, a recipe for disaster.

    There are reasonable differences well- meaning people can have, of course. I see a reasonable argument between “get our overseas citizens home” and “protect our borders” or trying on contact tracing more, and lockdowns less. None of this involves haircuts or getting people to bars…

  4. Marissa van Eck says

    God damn it I fucking warned people years ago this would happen! I told them in 2016 a Trump victory means the collapse of the nation as we know it and it’d happen faster than they could possibly imagine. I got laughed at and worse, because of course I did.

    This decision to move to 15 minutes’ walk to Canada is looking more and more like the only reason I have even a chance at survival pretty soon. My parents should have named me Cassandra, not Marissa…

  5. PaulBC says

    sophiab@4 I am not completely sure I get your point about racism. I think if I were awarding prizes (and I haven’t checked as much as I was doing) it would go to South Korea, which lacks the advantage of isolation that New Zealand has. NZ had an impressive response though, no doubt about it. I will continue to insist that China did a good job, though it doesn’t make up for the oppression of Uighurs, Xi’s crackdown on Hong Kong, or any number of other abuses. I have in-laws in Chengdu, and they seem satisfied with their government.

    It is relative. Brazil’s response was terrible. In normal times, I wouldn’t be shocked at that, but the US was just as bad. That is intolerable to me as an American. Europe varied a lot. I think the “German model” might be the best you can expect from people as ungovernable and entitled as us Westerners, and of course a lot more people died than in South Korea. That is less racist than “culturalist” but I do think maybe Asians are just better at this than we are. The evidence seems to be that they did a much better job.

  6. sophiab says

    The racism is behind claims of either ” We just want trust their numbers (but we do trust europes) and a
    “Asians are just naturally obedient”)

  7. PaulBC says

    sophiab@7 Well, I don’t want to be associated with the latter position. It is still true whatever the reason, Asian nations on the whole did a better job facing the pandemic. A non-bigoted explanation is simply that they’ve have the practice and know how to do it. China already faced SARS and had the protocols in place. They also did an incredible job setting up field hospitals. The US just fucked around for months.

    Whatever the explanation, one thing I can’t abide is making a virtue out of incompetence. If the US has done a crappy job dealing with the pandemic, it does not mean that we’re better because we relish our individual freedom above something as mundane as keeping our most vulnerable alive in a disease outbreak. All it really means that we did a crappy job and we ought to try learning from those nations that did a much better job, whether it is New Zealand, South Korea, or China.

    But I’m afraid that my view is in the minority, and not just among anti-maskers. There’s nothing at all to be proud of in the US, not the federal government’s commission of negligent homicide, not New York’s late response, not California’s eventually buckling to lockdown opponents after getting things more or less right early on.

  8. PaulBC says

    And as I said at the time, China was finishing massive field hospitals to save the lives of their own people on precisely the day that Trump was putting a medal around the neck of Rush Limbaugh and crowing about the GOP Senate’s nullification of his impeachment without contesting facts or calling witnesses. Which is the superpower, which is the banana republic?

  9. PaulBC says

    sophiab@7 By the way, I do not equate placing high importance on the social contract and seeing beyond individual outcomes as tantamount in any way to being “naturally obedient.” I tend to agree with Gandhi’s assessment that Western civilization “would be a good idea.” (No idea whether he really said that.) I am really sick of people (by which I mostly mean white Americans like me) acting as if they bear no obligations whatsoever to other people. Just fucking grow up, OK?

  10. says


    “Just fucking grow up, OK?”

    I wish it was that easy to get people to pull their heads out of their tail-ends. But yeah. It seems there’s a percentage of the population that never grew out of that phase where the universe simply must revolve around me, me, ME or I’ll throw a fit. That’s appropriate for a small child, sure, but for adults? Grown-ass adults having full-on threenager tantrums over being told to consider others? They are why we’re all fucked.