The Long Road To Ruin

How civilization took a wrong turn thousands of years ago
9 min readSep 14


From the Blues Brothers (1980)

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

I was at my Achchi’s house where everybody’s slowly dying. I remember when her road was a dirt road and my Seeya would walk me down it, or maybe that’s a photograph, either way I remember. Now the road is paved and I’m driving a jeep, which is how it’s supposed to be, but things went terribly wrong somewhere. My Seeya had a car once and promptly drove it off a hill and never did that again. I think he had the right idea.

Now I pass a kid on a tricycle going down my old road and I wave to him. What future does this kid have? Not the same one I did. I used it up and there’s not enough future left. I want to tell him it’s a dead-end. Not the lane that ends up at my grandmother’s house. The other way. The road that leads to civilization. This civilization was always a dead end. Everybody’s slowly dying. They just don’t know it yet.

The River Of Regrets

How did we get here? How does it end? Dr. Tom Murphy has a map of the path to modernity which I’ll reproduce here. He describes the whole process as a river that gets bigger and bigger until it finally becomes a ‘raging class-5 rapid’ and ducks us over a waterfall. We’re on the way down, if you’re wondering what that tumbling feeling is. Here is Murphy’s metaphor, illustrated.

To me, the more obvious metaphor is a road. That’s how I always experienced ‘development’. Going from my grandmother’s dirt road to the highways of America always felt like progress, even though I cried bitterly about it as a child. I think I had the feeling right, but what to do? We had to go.

For most of my life Sri Lanka didn’t have highways at all, but when they did open I remember queuing up to go on them. Not to go anywhere. To just go. It felt like we were finally getting somewhere. I didn’t realize that we were just getting nowhere much faster. A few decades later the fuel ran…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at