Toy dog urinating by Diastema
Traffic was all cocked up what with the postered cars and grinning idiots. Local elections, so all the supplicants for the government teat have to make a big procession to file their application. I once wrote this Leisure Times article named ‘Territorial Pissings’, but D kicked it out. Here’s some lines that got cut – ‘Elections are a time for politicians to dole out promises, clog up traffic and generally lift their legs on Sri Lanka. Like mangy street dogs they leave their mark on every passing car and signpost to mark their territory and rights as alpha males. Colombo is flush with hoardings and plastic streamers and the promises in the air are just as ephemeral and transitory.’ All this election stuff – posters, paint on roads – is a symbolic extension of territory not far removed form wolves marking their hunting grounds. First the politicians clog up traffic, then when I get home and open the gate Lucky takes a leak on my tires. Same shit.
Sri Lankans, perhaps through insecurity, seem to place great value on symbolic representations of culture. For example, Sethsiripaya down the street has these Pirith chantings at night that keep the whole neighborhood awake. For a faith devoted to Noble Silence, I’ve always found the chanting a little odd, but I definitely think that hooking up to crackly loudspeakers and chanting all night was not the Buddha’s intention. I mean, if there were any potential Buddha’s around they couldn’t meditate with all the racket. However, Buddhism is something that needs to be projected and, dare-i-say, inflicted on the populace at large.
Same with the ubiqitous religious iconography in Tri-Shaws. Like, from the inside of a Three or a Bus you can immediately tell the religion of the driver. Most 177s have that Buddha with the neon halo, and the 100 lines have Lakshmi with coins pouring out her hand. Muslim Trishaw drivers have Arabic writing inside, and Buddhist and Hindus have the appropriate pictures taped up. This, however, I think is really cool and I would love to study/photograph it. The general point, however, is as Thatha said on LacNet years ago –
Sri Lankan group dynamics place great reliance on symbols. For example, many religious conflicts in the early part of the twentieth century were precipitated by symbolic violations of the territories of specific religious groups (Rogers 1987). One group would march in a procession or engage in extra-loud tom-tom beatings or similar activities inside another group’s territory or in front of a site of symbolic importance such as a temple or church. This would be interpreted as a challenge or as an appropriation of the territory which would then be met with a counter attack or a counter demonstration. There was little if any evidence that these activities had proselytization (which includes persuasion) as the objective. They were more in the nature of extensions of territory and/or reinforcements of group cohesion.
Politicians do this in the worst way. I remember when the Water Buffalo was selling us Soap as Leadership and I was trying to get downtown to a meeting. There were piles upon piles of (empty) state-owned buses clogging the Borella junction, and it just got worse from there. Finally around Malalasekera I got off the bus and walked cause it was faster and cooler to be outside. Made some calls and all business was off for the day, and I’m stuck in no-man’s land. That event had nothing to do with educating or convincing me, it was just Mahinda taking a big steaming piss on the place I like to work and live. Simply to say ‘I’m here’ and ‘Look what I can do’.
That basic marking of territory is, of course the first part of any marketing campaign, but I don’t get why politicians are allowed to be so disruptive to the rest of society. I mean, we have elections every couple months and it gets old pretty fast. Like, when they file their applications they have to travel in a convoy of Trishaws and Jeeps, like a day of funerals. Then they have to bus people in for rallies and leave the empty buses parked on the street. Then election day is lost too. Freaking why? I have to chew the steering wheel, with nothing to bide the time except these dumbass posters plastered over the buxom women selling milk and all. I learn absolutely nothing besides the fact that these politicians exist. No voters are educated or convinced, I mean, how much information is really in a white stencil on the street? All I learn is that politicians are here and they’re really capable of fucking up my life. I got it. Send me a flyer or something, just stop pissing on my tires.