Bigger they are, harder they fall

Friday, 7 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

So, the rally was a success. No, it wasn’t. Yes, it was, because it was bigger than ever and everyone knows that bigger is better. Also, beggars can’t be choosers, so we chose some scoundrels off the streets to represent us at the showdown (like the House), and primed them with a bottle and a buth packet, and sent them to the barricades (as we did to Parliament). Maybe it would have been a bigger success if social media had swallowed it whole – not the booze or buth, but the rice and curry of realpolitik-driven fake news; and not just questioned where 700 busloads of protestors could park, for instance, let alone demo in the town.

The point is that it’s silly season in the game of presidential politics. And that’s only because the blue green incumbents can’t quite make up their mind whom to field as a viable opening batsman at the next polls. Being at odds with themselves as a team! Also the retired-hurt pinch-hitter is greedy for another turn at bat – whether it’s in the laws of cricket, or not. Plus the people are fed up to their silly points or silly mid-ons or offs about promises made in the run-up but delivered as a no-ball. So what could or should have been a sophisticated contest between evenly matched teams – it’s the ‘President’s Trophy’, after all – has descended to the level of a street brawl. My rally is bigger, putha.

What passes for a ‘big match’ in political circles in the once-in-five-years tussle to see who gets their name on the top order of the national scoreboard is corny. For rather than wooing and winning the crowds with cavalier strokes of policy or dazzling sportsmanship in terms of principle, the contest between would-be national sides has come down to “mine’s bigger than yours”. My bat, my ball; my pitch, my fielding team; my crowd, my supporters; my ego, my energy; my organising power, my extraordinary party machine; my popular appeal – not my true temperament; my charisma – not my character; my everything, my all; it’s simply bigger than yours, sonny.

Maybe it is high time we all grew up as a cricketing polity. Or as a low-politicking cricket-playing nation? But who will bell the cat (or legislative umpires and third umpires and judicial match referees) without risking more than boos or jeers or catcalls, but broken noses and bashed-in heads? When the mood of the crowd – both at the stadium and at home, safely ensconced in front of the evening TV – is, ‘size matters’? It was such a success, no – saw the number of fellows, men!

One wishes that the brains – I use the term lightly, advisedly, and with no bias except a bit of satire at the expense of silly sausages on the street – behind the organising of such rallies as we saw this week would up the ante when it comes to ways and means of political persuasion. Oy, move on there, we’re not keen to be stuck in some ‘pseudo-socialist with a nouveau-riche peccadillo’ backwater hellhole where work and life and all that jazz comes to a halt each time some barbarian prince decides to storm civilisation’s gates with the great hairy unwashed hordes! Our place in the sun awaits, and not as a coconut state at that! Grow up, son.

Being part of the fourth estate, I claim no greater politically savvy brawn – again, satire or perhaps irony at my own expense – than the erudite spokesperson who said about the rally, to members of the media as much as the public: ‘sha, size matters’. I don’t think even he or they of the Pohottuwa persuasion put it so blandly. Were someone with more panache – for one can hope that even the Huns will grow slicker – to paraphrase him, the justification would probably go something like this:

“The SLFP is one party. It is a unit, after all. It was like a family. But sad to see and say that Mother and Father have fallen out. They both draw smaller crowds now than when they behaved like a loving couple from the same household in wartimes. Aney, even all our meda midula peduru parties have a lesser number of people, no? What if we brought all Mama’s and Dada’s supporters together – and proved to those nosey neighbours with noses like elephants’ trunks that we’re still one big happy family?”

So, on the street the bottom line is: ‘size matters’. The pity is, with an apathetic duo at the crease, they might be right – and might may be right. There’s also the matter of what happens if one of them gets out, and the senior partner (he thinks) looks for a better (he thinks) partnership.

Of course, in slightly more sophisticated circles the argument runs a little closer to the ambit of republican constitutionalism rather than crowd sourced antinomian demonstrations. It’s not all ‘happy families’ there, but rather about legal precedents and the gravitas of interpretation as regards a key piece of legislation. To wit, that the two-term limit on the executive presidency is a new constitutional clause – and therefore, does not apply retroactively to past presidents; who may thus aspire to the purple again. 

Of course, the same gravamen has been put forward by those who would see us all return to the heady days of being green in judgment in global matters – e.g. inveigling eastern dragons to set up more than Chinese restaurants called ‘String of Pearls’ – and cold in blood: for who can forget the water-cannon and bullets of Rathupaswala?

I for one still remember. And rue the day. As well as regret the penchant of peculiar republicans to take perverse pleasure in an early day off and home to telly because the barbarians have taken to the street. Says we are no better than the non-cricketing members of the chambers of not-quite-commerce who hanker for their old skipper back. 

Shows we are perhaps all in need of a straight bat who can tell a Chinaman from a googly or gin-gang-gooly-whatever, and queer the pitch of all of them… from ‘size matters’ merchants to the lame-duck duo who are stuck at the crease, hoping for rain and banking on Duckworth-Lewis to bail them out. 

(Journalist | Editor-at-large of LMD | Writer #SpeakingTruthToPower)