Developing profitable insider connections with strangers — specially to get on the post war reconstruction gravy train — requires a savvy few of us have. That’s why we are here reading and writing blogs instead of making big bucks. The skills of cultivating third word insider connections are akin to rituals for controlling murky spirits. Fuck ups are very messy. Alcohol is an essential part of the tool kit. The rituals of business drinks is the Voo Doo through which the most cherished types of insider connections are established.
In Sri Lanka, as in with any place in the third (and the first) world, an insider connection is the most powerful and secretly desired type of business relationship — in the right circles of course. Alcohol is a time honoured way of washing away ethical handicaps and mistrust that prevent such a relationships bearing fruit. Rules, ethics, and laws are-to the blessed few-mere barriers. Separating the unwashed hordes from aggressive manly types who take risks to make the big bucks. Punishment is for getting caught or being unable to buy your way above the law.
Regulations create and define the market for insider services. It is one of the many benefits of being a socialist the third world. You get to “struggle” for equality and social justice while “facilitating” lucrative business ventures through a forest of regulations. If things get bad there is always a convenient minority or invisible forces to blame.
Some rude people (who don’t care about lowering the cost of doing politics) call it corruption. Our neighbours in the region have made the whole thing a part of their political culture. The Americans are much more civilised about this sort of thing and reserve it only for their elite. Only proper people should have access to lobbyists, and legal armies. Imagine if everyone was able to democratically loot the Iraqi reconstruction fund. On our loony little island in the sun, things are more egalitarian (since we are a Democratic Socialist Republic).
Liquor is an essential ingredient of the process of procuring and maintaining insider services. Not just as a detergent against ethical qualms, but as an indicator of your clout. Particularly in the slippery world of government contracts where even a thin slice of the pie is could mean easy access to desirable such as a mansion, Porsche, another Porsche, an orchard in Australia, regular trips to Harod’s (on business class if not first) or at least a classier hooker.
It is a world swimming with shady fish. “Advisers” to bigger sharks in and around the palace. With .gov.lk email addresses on their “business” cards. These fish expect expensive drinks in posh places — both as signs of respect and indication of your financial clout. They may not be dim but whatever expertise they possess to offer “advice” is hard to pin down. The “adviser” (nearly always a guy) or his father did a favour/helped out the big fish he is advising. Generally at a time when the big fish was still a small fry.
Naturally success in these rituals are all in the details. To be elaborated in tomorrow’s part 2. Till then, check out my previous posts on the significance of alcohol in Sri Lankan society for more background.