06 November 2014

It’s all about timing

This is the sixth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness. 

A thirteen year old girl in the USA had run into a fellow student she hadn’t seen in a while.  The ‘friend’ had, by way of greeting, exclaimed, ‘Oh my god, you are still wearing braces!’  The girl had responded immediately, ‘Oh my god, you are still ugly!’ 

The girl’s father was upset.  He was upset because he remembered all the times he had been taunted while a schoolboy and hadn’t been able to come up with a silencing rejoinder.  He remembered also how he would revisit the moment again and again coming up with brilliant come-backs. All to no avail of course. 

It’s all about being able to seize the moment, about doing or saying something when it is most effective.  This is how it is in politics, not just in the parry and thrust of debate but all action: timing makes a difference. 

Let’s consider some simple examples.  What’s the point in putting up a poster around midnight when most ‘poster teams’ get on the job around 4.00 am?  No one will see your beautiful designed, hard-hitting, eye-catching poster.  Message obliterated.  Is there any point in converging at the Fort Railway Station at 6pm on a Sunday to demonstrate against this or that? 

You have to strike when the iron is hot.  That’s something good to remember.  It works the other way too.  The enemy, if prudent, will not try to iron out some crease with an ice-cold iron.  When you know ‘time’ you know when to act and when to expect action from the other party. 

ගුරු සිත නොරිදවා
වේලාව නොවරදවා
බැති පෙම් උපදවා
අකුරු උගනිත් කුමරු සොඳවා  

This is about punctuality and school.  The good student will be conscious of time, will not hurt the teachers’ feelings, and will carry him/herself in a manner that fosters affection.  All good, but for our purpose the key line is the one about punctuality.  Timing.  It’s an early lesson that we forget pretty quickly. 

Let’s take a political example.  Politics is nothing if not about insult and humiliation, sadly.  In recent history, it is hard to find two individuals who have been as vilified as President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.  The former suffered insult after insult for years, some of it from the leader of his very party.  He took the hits.  He smiled. He did not show his hand, he did not jump the gun.  His moment arrived and he seized it with both hands.  He prevailed.  Ranil Wickremesinghe, similarly, is a man who refuses to be irked by personal attacks.  His time may have come and gone or else it may come someday in the future, but one thing is clear – his detractors have shown poor judgment when it comes to timing moves to oust him.  It’s not only about time of course, but bad time makes poor judgment look worse. 

If politics is theater, the players will not receive applause if they start too early and play to an empty house.  If they are late, they are booed.  Entrances and exits have to be timed perfectly for the drama to hold. 

In political action, the correct time is not based on the movement of the earth around the sun alone.  It is about determining the moment when the enemy’s strength is at its lowest and yours is peaking.  Surprise always gives an edge, but it has to be precisely calculated. 

Think of an archer.  There are many factors to be considered when shooting an arrow at a target.  The wind, the release, the angle etc. have to be considered.  You put it all in your head.  Finally it comes down to the time of release.  A moment too soon or a moment too late and the wind-factor can affect direction-change.  Where the stakes are high, i.e. of the ‘bulls-eye or nothing’, you can’t afford to get the timing wrong.

The bat must come down at the right time to negotiate a Lasith Malinga yorker.   Get it wrong and you’ll get out LBW and have your toe crushed to boot.  Or have your stumps disarranged.  Plan an attack in chess, get the move order wrong, and you get creamed.  Same principle.    


It’s hard to be dead right when it comes to timing.  However, if you are not conscious about timing the chances are you’ll be way off mark.  A rebel, by definition, has lesser resources to play with than does the enemy.  These can be squandered if not employed correctly.  At the right time. 


Previous articles in this series
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1 comments:

Snoweater said...

I think RW's time is yet to come. He is all about timing, I think. I am concerned that he is loosing his commitment to democracy by believing that he alone can hold the center together.