By Ravi Perera -
Trying to explain , perhaps down-play , the youthful brawl in a resort hotel on the Eastern coast a Minister who is the government spokesman used the old idiom “ boys will be boys…” . The boys in this case were a son of a senior Minister who with his companions had allegedly assaulted another “boy”, the victim needing hospitalization as a result of the injuries sustained. The injured is a son of a senior Police officer, a Deputy Inspector General. There were no reports of injury to the assailants.
Apparently, the quarrel began when the son of the DIG objected to a youngster in the company of the Minister’s son taking a photograph which he thought may have intentionally or otherwise “captured” his wife who was walking past. The intended subject of the photograph was another young man evidently with little clothes on him. The DIG’s son had demanded that the photographer show him the digital image. The photographer refused to oblige which resulted in the brawl. It is said that the group with the Minister’s son had been after liquor.
The details as reported are mundane and typical of your everyday youthful broil anywhere in the world. As any psychologist would explain the adolescence are difficult transient years for a young man to handle, when you are neither a child nor a fully fledged adult yet .But as we view such incidents in the context of the Sri Lankan culture , there is another , a sinister dimension to a young man’s coming of age , particularly when they involve children of those we commonly refer to as VIPs.
We must consider the victim, at least by the fact of marriage, more advanced in his passage to adulthood. The opposite group , with the Minister’s son, apparently younger in age, seems to have had a boozy fun time , with no care in the world ,no rules applicable and money not a consideration.
Most of us, particularly when travelling, would have sometime or the other become a part of the background in many a photograph involuntarily. Although those with a more developed sense of social etiquette would endeavour not to walk in front of a camera or avoid unnecessary subjects when using one, sometimes you cannot help such things from happening. One wonders if anyone else other than a son of a DIG would have demanded that he be shown the images of photographs taken in a public place. In this country we all know that the Police are not only a force to maintain law and order but are a power to be reckoned with. That power could extend to the family and even friends of Police officers.
On the other hand, the Ministers son and his friends thought nothing of brutally assaulting a young man who was heavily outnumbered. They attacked him right in front of his wife. It is clear that they had no fear of consequences, and in fact the manner in which events unfolded confirmed their confidence. They also did not think that their conduct was socially or morally unacceptable. Maybe it was a necessary ritual on their way on manliness as defined in the milieu they are familiar with.
This incident is just one of the many cases in recent times where children of VIP’s, particularly politicians, have assaulted and debased others purely on the basis of the impunity they apparently enjoy. Even army and police officers, who are also no angels, have been publicly humiliated by them.
Obviously, the phrase “boys will be boys” have a different meaning when we examine these incidents so symptomatic of the broad culture of the country and particularly that concerning the exercise of power. These boys will be boys only when certain circumstances are fulfilled. The most important condition for their conduct seems to be the fact that their fathers have to be in the governing party or holding high office in the forces. When the father is out of power the level testosterones in the boys seem to recede rapidly. Secondly, just like the father, the boy also must have behind him security officers provided by the State. Thirdly, either the security or the young man will have a gun with him, which puts him at a tremendous advantage over his adversary. In addition, the other symbols of their ilk, those huge four wheel drives, convoys, young men and women who invariably provide a kind of entourage to the brat go to make up the show.
In most other cultures such young men would be considered pathetic cowards and parasites on the public purse. But not so, here in Sri Lanka. Those who remember that era would recall that the nascent tigers of Tamil terrorism were also called the “boys” by their elders. That seems a description that comes easily in this country when we seek to excuse the conduct of a youthful offender. The problem however is that we have far too many “boys” but so few “men” here. Oh God, when will you give us the men of the kind that Josiah Gilbert Holland demanded?
GOD, give us men!
A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Men whom the lust of office does not kill;
Men whom the spoils of office cannot buy;
Men who possess opinions and a will;
Men who have honor; men who will not lie;
Men who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.
To read this in Sinhala click here. Translation by Yahapalanaya Lanka.