03 December 2012

Crow-shit blessings

Lakshman Joseph De Saram is made of music; few who know him would contest the claim.  Like most great talents, Lakshman is self-effacing and humble.  We met once when we were both invited for dinner by a mutual friend. We met for coffee and conversation once.  Thereafter it has been random.  The last meeting was at Hansa Café, a quaint coffee shop on Fife Road where poets and poetry-lovers gather to read and listen to poetry on the first Saturday of each month. 

I usually get there when things are winding up because Saturday is not just a working day but the busiest day for anyone working in a Sunday newspaper.  Typically, I breeze in and breeze out, promising myself to linger longer each time.  Never happens.  Last Saturday I got there later than usual.  The winding-down itself was almost done.  There were about 5 people there, all ready to leave.  Among them was Lakshman.  He was talking about papaws.  I don’t know at what point of his philosophical presentation I entered, but the following is what I caught.
‘A crow shits a papaw seed in our garden and we get enough and more papaw to eat. We don’t have to do a thing.  It’s a blessing.  But that’s what it is.  We don’t have to do a thing.  It’s not like that in Finland.  They can’t grow anything for months so they have to bust their balls the rest of the year so they won’t starve in the winter.  It’s not like that here.  We are ok with things, they are not.  That’s why they (I guess he was referring to the West in general and not Finland) have to go to the moon….’

‘While we are happy right here on earth…’ I completed the sentence.  ‘Exactly!’ he said.
Lakshman was by no means saying Sri Lanka is Paradise on Earth.  All he was saying is that we are so rich (in a way) that it is hard to put us down. 

He went on to observe that it is hard to get people out to protest.  They need to be paid.  Well, not all, but many.  And it doesn’t cost much, he said: ‘Just a bath packet and 100 rupees’.  I think the protest-price is a bit higher than that, but the point is clear.  One might argue that the low cost indicates levels of poverty, but it is also true that most protests are ‘good time’ affairs.  There is more alcohol consumed on the streets of Colombo on May Day than on any other day, one notes. 
People do protest, but sustained protests are rare.  That’s not because the powers they stand up to are capable of sorting problems or else squashing protests.  They do and that’s certainly part of the story.  One of the things that authorities count on routinely is protest-fatigue.  And then there’s Lakshman’s theory too.  People can just be and be happy about just being.  This is why, perhaps, those who do opt for the fire-and-scream way of doing things regularly lament ‘The masses are asses’.  They don’t stop to reflect that they themselves are mart of the assy-masses, coming out and spouting slogan only on the rare occasion and doing the do-my-thing at other times. 

Except when it really, really matters.  Like when pinned against the wall.  There was a time, recently, when they did opt to stand and stand together.  That was when they had enough of Eelam mythologists and their journey-companions bullshitting the country about the LTTE’s invincibility and/or the legitimacy of attempted land-theft.  They stood and prevailed.  Then went back to whatever they happened to be doing, including the bickering about things not being great and doing the getting-by  with smile and shrug, grin and bear.  And the occasional protest, of course. 
This is why when a ‘regime-weary’ bunch of people in Colombo ‘regime-weary’  called for a replication of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, there were no takers.  It is not that people love this regime of course.  Whatever antipathies they may have, they are probably very different to the problems that the aforementioned regime-wearies harbor.  The latter are essentially upset that some people who they are not friends with are doing what they wouldn’t mind their friends to do.  The former probably understand that they get the short end of the stick either way, the only difference being familiarity or otherwise with the particular stick. 

Not everyone waits for crows to shit seeds of course, but then again only a very few among those one expects to be so hard pressed that they would come out and protest, camping out until Regime-Change Day, would not be benefitting from crow-shit seed. 
Some might say it’s a curse.  In a different context, someone like Lakshman would say ‘blessing’.  I would concur. 


sajic said...

I really dont know. I think a very high percentage of Sri Lankans now are regime weary and sick to death of the corruption. Are we really blessed if we just grin and bear? The Holy Bible would say 'yes'. I would say 'no'.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

There were two significant political moments where regime-weariness showed: 1977 and 2004. In 1994, Chandrika's People's Alliance squeaked through. 1977 was a watershed. 2004 too...for it marked the end of the long federalists'-day. very few actually 'like' governments. oppositions are not exactly 'liked' either. they are usually beneficiaries of the by-default clause of politics. i guess i should have elaborated. we are quite a distance from a 'critical point' that can push regime-weariness to political instability to regime-change.

sajic said...

You got me wrong. I do not suggest regime-change. We have no credible opposition. I suggest regime-correction!

Channa said...

....and that young chap who wants to be an astronaut? what exactly is he unhappy about?

joking a part... I agree fully with your friend Lakshman. Drama on the TV box can never match a busy high street while the dusk is dawning to a true artist. TV would never have been invented in a country like ours. We were never that frustrated to create a media so artificial.

They say need is the mother of all inventions. Why bother creating when we Helayas are the blessed children of mother nature?

Jack Point said...

I think there is an aspect that is often missed - the migration.

All the disaffected, disgruntled leave - for jobs in the middle east, as legal migrants and as illegal boat people.

Revolutions are lead by angry young men. At the moment we have few of those but if their numbers grow as the economy sours then danger lurks.

Margosa said...

No government is perfect as we know... all we lack is a strong opposition that is genuine