Politics and arrack are a disagreeable mix. A social explosive that is dangerously hard to manage, loud, and can create a mess very quickly. As with most incarnations of social unpleasantness, encounters with politics and booze are unavoidable. Particularly at those segregated Sri Lankan dinners where the men gather around a bottle of old reserve, ignoring dinner. I wish they would stick to beers and pass out quietly. It is a sure fire way of making a pleasant evening unpleasant and reeking with tension. Thankfully there is a way out. Otherwise this post will be a whiner which I’m not.
It is worse when the crowd includes business types— with relatives in the “forces”. All upper level officers of course. This crowd hears things that don’t feature in the familiar futile shouting matches between peacenics or warnics. Some with uncles who stepped on land mines after two decades of war or suffered for their politics after retirement. Others have family still in the fray. Complicating things are business interests marinated in political connections. These are best left mentioned as they provide an inflation busting pile of cash (at least for now). If we gave into the terrorist today, they might all be richer — or would they?
All it takes is one sweeping statement for the initial “no Machang” with the horizontal head shake. It is the initial polite skirmish before the Katyusha barrages of slurry assertions. Insider knowledge is cited to dispute or support “facts” which are unverifiable to Elephant House Ginger Beer bearing civilians like me. I try to derail the hostilities with humours non sequitur. If the argument started early enough in the evening I can mange a successful derailment. Overall it is a preventive measure — my success rate drops with the liquor in the bottle. Somewhere close to the half way mark the possibilities sinks to futility.
Alcohol induces a stifling degree of stubbornness and incoherence to the exchanges. The participants of course would rather die than concede anything — something Sri Lankans have done on the internet in a supposedly sober state. Eventually the battling pair do what most disagreeing drunk men would do. Raise the volume in the silly notion that loudness equals a convincing argument. Fuelled by the ludicrous assumption that shouted moral out rage at being disagreed with will convince the opposition.
By this time I have left the men’s group with the other pragmatic types. The host and the combatant’s friends are left to end the hostilities when the first threats of physical violence are made. Generally their boozy camaraderie makes them competent peace keepers. I know that wives and/or girl friends will be summoned to defuse the situation should the things get closer to snapping point.
Moving over to where the women are hanging out is refreshing after the glare of boozy politics. A particular advantage is that they eat earlier than the boozers so I get to partake of the yummy spread. Mrs C who dresses in a casual eye catching yet pleasantly understated way provides the more than something pretty to look at with her napalm humour. The gossip alone offers more entertainment than a billion idiot box channels. Serve these girls face book on a wifi laptop and there’s enough humour to flush out the stupidity unravelling in the next room. A few more explosions of laughter drown out any memory of the arguing.
Eventually the combatents, crawlout under a third party brokered truce. They agree to disagree with limp handshakes looking sheepish at causing a scene. The drinking men are told to eat which the obediently do. Naturally dinner table talk does not cover finer points of 13th century Latvia architecture or the use of alliteration in Sinhabahu (not that I am saying it should). By desert and coffee/tea “Machang” returns to the conversation. The culprits easily forgiven mainly because these guys can hold their liquor and have been friends for too long. I have heard stories of drinking sessions in
political/organised organised crime (political) circles which have resulted in death.
Someone finally notices the time with am “aiyo it is almost 3am!”. Time to go (after chatting for another hour among the parked chariots outside). Those with military/police/law credentials are generous enough to give others checkpoint free rides.
Be well, a fun safe weekend and keep in touch.