04 December 2014

Are you ready to deceive?

Deception.  That doesn’t sound nice.  It is utterly unromantic.  It is a quality one associates with persons of low integrity, people who pay scant respect to morals and ethics.  Thieves deceive.  There are men and women of ill repute, whose word has little value, who are ready to use and abuse.  The word lends itself easily to describe such people.  It is at odds with the popular image of a rebel.  And yet, it is an important and often indispensible weapon that is as potent as any at the disposal of the rebel. 

Rebellions are about controlling outposts, securing advantage, attacking weaknesses and none exist creating them.  It is about inducing the enemy to err.  This is why devises such as booby traps, decoys, diversionary moves are part and parcel of war.  And what works in a battlefield also works in other arena where power is contested. 

Those who engage others in battle don’t show their hand for the simple reason that fore-knowledge can be used to stop and even rout the enemy.   Rebels are by definition taking on stronger foes.  The odds weigh against them.  Every edge counts.  Every advantage yielded will hasten defeat or at least lead to setbacks.  This is why rebels do not show their hand.   But that’s the low-end option. 

It is important no doubt not to divulge any information that can be kept concealed.  It is more potent however to deceive.  Thus the enemy would not only be ill-informed about worse would be misinformed.  Anyone who embarks on any course of action based on incomplete or even erroneous information has less chance of success than someone who has a good grasp of all the factors, a sense of the size of the enemy, the depth of the enemy’s reserves, the way he or she thinks etc. 

If the enemy overestimates your strength, the enemy would deploy more force than is necessary to stop you, thereby weakening a flank, let’s say.  If the enemy underestimates your strength, the enemy would drop guard, concentrating forces elsewhere thereby rendering vulnerable certain areas.  It is therefore strategic to MAKE the enemy believe you are stronger or weaker than you actually are, prompting miscalculation which in turn leads to the designing of flawed counter-strategy. 

Similarly, it is prudent to appear confused, disorganized and utterly incapable of attack when in fact you are totally focused, the rank and file well trained and disciplined, and when you are absolutely confident of launching a significant strike.   And at times, for example if you are confused, disorganized and certainly unprepared to strike or withstand attack, it is useful to give the impression that you’ve never been as ready. 

In December 1986, the then Chairman of the University Grants Commission Stanley Kalpage was scheduled to arrive in Polgolla.  He was to declare open a new ‘Arts Theatre’ at the Dumbara Campus, University of Peradeniya.  Back then, ‘Dumbara’ was for first year students of the Arts Faculty and the 2nd year students following a ‘general’ (3 year degree) degree.   A new batch of students had just arrived.  The first year students were on vacation, awaiting results of the General Arts Qualifying exam after which they would be formally inducted into their second year.  Those second year students who had completed their exams were also on vacation. Only a few stragglers were left.  It was the ideal time for someone of some authority in the education system to attend a campus event because the likelihood of objection and protest was minimal.

The objectors did their best.  They spent a couple of hours the previous writing slogans on the road (from Katugastota to Polgolla).  They were dismayed to find that an early morning shower had all but erased their defiant words.

The frustration of the protestors grew as the hour of arrival neared.  The campus security was on alert.  One of the protestors asked one of the leaders what the next move was.  The ‘leader,’ conscious of the fact that a security guard was within earshot, said, ‘everything is going according to plan: the first year students will join us as well as 100 from each of the faculties from Peredeniya who will be here 10 minutes before opening time.’   

Stanley Kalpage didn’t come. 

That was no revolution and looking back the entire exercise seems quite silly.  The lesson however is not small. 

Deception.  It has its virtues.  

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