Re-purposing a looting machine


Sri Lanka’s vaccine rollout is sabotaged by the founding core purpose of the Sri Lankan state: looting and killing. The fact that any vaccinating is happening is an act of defiance against its original DNA. It was created by its various parents – Império PortuguêsVereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie, British Empire – to facilitate looting.

The looting involved extracting resources from the land via its people and imported slaves. Then hauling the loot to the nearest port via a road/rail system. Everything else – education, health, infrastructure, laws are sideshows in service of the core function. 

A fraction of the population was incentivised to supervise the process. The rest became workers serving the looting. Those who didn’t harvest the rubber or the tea grew food for those who did. Or built the roads. Or laid the rail for hauling the loot. Or loaded the ships. Schools and hospitals were built because looting efficiency drops when people enabling the looting fall ill. Training people to help you loot improves productivity. 

The looting’s global scale makes it all very civilised, which is a far cry from the broken glass and mobs of retail looting. If the population made a fuss (revolted), the fist of the state killedkilledkilledkilled, and killed

Independence didn’t change the states’ core looting/killing function or the farming mindset. Instead, it got covered in scope creep under the branding of “serving the people”. Instead of an empire, we now have local feudal lords doing the looting. 

The “caring” aspect of the state changed the vocabulary. The population became sheep. The state is the shepherd. The shepherd cares for the sheep out of economic interest. In this case, the shepherd’s interest was power over the flock and the ability to fleece it through the theatre of pretend democracy.

The new resource extraction was debt. Borrow money from somewhere else, splurge it on ego vanity and grand edifices called development. Pocket a slice of the “development” to share with family and friends. The democratic first world calls such things speaking fees, lobby groups and consultancies. 

Plagues like the current one are a problem. They are hard to kill. It tends to spook the animals. Rivals looking to control the farm can rouse up the animals to take over the farm. The state must treat the sick to stay alive. 

Re-purposing a looting machine for this is hard work. The result tends to end up being less than ideal. Spotty is a polite word. But it does what it can, and we sheep bray at the usual brutalities. The inefficiency. The cruelties. Human rights violations. All those indexes of sins and failures by noble global organisations finger-wagging at us darkies.

To cope, parts of the underclass are encouraged to beat up their peers in a convenient minority. Civilised types resort to letters – open and/or to the editor. Fools like me defecate what passes for thoughts into blogs like this.

Deep down in your heart, know all this. Don’t you?

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