20 June 2016

Sequence matters, dear rebel

When I was working at 'The Nation' I wrote a column for the FREE section of the paper which was dedicated to youth.  The title of the column was 'Notes for a Rebel'.  I wrote a total of 52 articles in this series.  I have resumed by 'Notes for a Rebel', this time writing for the website www.nightowls.lk.  Scroll down for the other articles in this series on rebels and rebellion.

Let’s say Kumar Sangakkara is facing Dale Steyn.  There are motions that he has to go through.  If he was Sanath Jayasuriya there’s a whole lot of ‘musts’ that he would do which have nothing to do with facing a good delivery from a skilful bowler apart from helping calm your nerves (or whatever).  Sanath had a long process of tapping and adjusting his gear before facing up to each and every delivery.  We are talking about the process that begins after that. 

Consider a situation like the following:  Kumar Sangakkara executes a lovely cover drive, checks his stance, then takes his guard, shuffles his feet to rattle the bowler and then gets his back-lift done to perfection.  There’s a problem.  The ball is yet to leave Steyn’s hand! 

You’ve heard the dictum about putting the cart before the horse.  It simply doesn’t move, doesn’t work and doesn’t take you anywhere.  It’s all about getting things in the right order or the right sequence.  Think of cooking.  There’s a sequence.  If you want the food to come out a particular way then you have to toss in the ingredients in a particular order.  Mess the sequence and you’ll still be able to eat, but it won’t taste as good.

Revolutions are like that. 

It is true that many roads can get you to a single destination, but if each journey requires a particular number of steps, you have to understand that the steps are in a sequence.  There is no way around it.  This is why they say ‘first things first’.  Seems easy, but in the case of revolutions it’s tough to know which should be done first and which later. 

Think of it this way. 

It’s like capturing a police station and then asking yourself ‘what next?’  Of course those who have decided to say ‘no’ to some injustice or say ‘yes’ to a different order of things won’t be that silly.  It’s a way-out example, offered just to illustrate the point. 

Meaningful social change cannot be obtained overnight.  Typically it involves long struggles.  The envisaged end cannot be seen – it is so far away.  There will be rivers to cross and mountains to climb.  You’ll fall into traps and struggle to get out of them. You’ll lose your way and spend a lot of trying either retracing your steps or finding a path that puts you back on track. 

So it is not easy.  The trick is not to make it more difficult for yourself than necessary. 

Perhaps you want to secure a big advantage through an ambush somewhere down the line.  However, you won’t gain any advantage if the timing is wrong or if either you or the enemy doesn’t get to the particular location.  You’ll have to push things in the preferred direction and you’ll have to get there yourself. 

Chess players would know something about this.   If you’ve planned a series of moves that allows you to capture a piece and secure a decisive advantage, you have to get the move order right.  A check on the opponent’s king one move early or late might kill the entire attack. This is perhaps easily understood if you go through the famous game between Gary Kasparov and Vaselin Topalov in 1999 ('Kasparov's Immortal').

Sequence matters also because typically you will have lesser resources than does the enemy.  Sequence-errors on your part can cost a lot and sometimes too much whereas the enemy can err and still recover. 

What are the steps? Well, you would know that.  It depends on the objective, the resources at hand, the preferred methodology and so on.  That’s up to you to figure out, but while figuring out, you have to get the order right. 

Sangakkara would know.  Sometimes it is about spacing the innings.  If the RRR (Required Run Rate) is, say, 8.3 runs per over, he wouldn’t aim to score 9 an over or more.  He would think of a few overs where you take stock of the wicket, he would resolve to be happy scoring 4 or 5 off the opposing team’s best bowler and 12-15 off by targeting the less potent bowlers.  That’s also factoring sequence. 

Sometimes you take a hit. Sometimes you suffer an insult.  There’s a time to be silent and a time to shout.  A time to keep moving and a time to stay perfectly still. 
Sequence.  Think about it.

Other articles in this series

The sun will never set
When the enemy expands consider inflation
When you are the last one standing
Targets visible and targets unidentified
When you have to vote
So when are you planning to graduate?
The belly of the beast is addictive
When you meet pomposity, flip the script
When did you last speak with an old man?
Dear Rebel, please keep it short
Get ready for those setbacks
The rebel must calculate or perish
Are you ready to deceive?
Dear Rebel, 'P' is also for 'Proportion' 
Dear Rebel, have you got the e-factor out of the way?
Have you carefully considered the f-word?
It is so easy to name the enemy, right?
The p-word cuts both ways
Cards get reflected in eyes, did you know?
It's all about timing 
Heroes and heroism are great, but...
Recruiting for a rebellion
The R, L and H of 'Rebellion'
Pack in 'Humor' when you gather rebellion-essentials
When the enemy is your best friend
The MSM Principle of Engagement
Dear Rebel, get some creature-tips!
Dear Rebel, get through your universities first
Read the enemies' Bibles
Poetry, love and revolution
Are you ready to shut down your petrol shed
The details, the details!
Know your comrades
Good to meditate on impermanence.
Time is long, really long
Learn from the termites 
Be warned: the first victory is also the first defeat
Prediction is asking for trouble
Visualize, strategize and innovate
How important is authority?
Don't forget to say 'Hello!'
It's not over until you clean up!
Have you met 'PB' of Alutwela?
Are you sure about those selfies?
Power and principles
'Few does not mean 'weak'