The patron-client relationship

19 August 2013 03:40 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Afreeha Jawad

Truly, the world does not fall short of patron/client relationships and Sri Lanka shows exceptional brilliance in this highly volatile, emotion based systemic existence.
The ‘our man’ syndrome based on old school ties, matrimonial and biological connections, caste, race, religion, regional and provincial  leanings, among other things has taken a heavy toll on man’s rationality - the end result being a highly chaotic , ‘dead habit’ state of existence - the very grim, abyss of disaster Rabindranath Tagore wished the Lord would help save his country from.

‘’Where the clear stream of reason does not run into the dreary, desert sand of dead habit,’ he cried out continuing, ‘’ into that heaven of freedom let my country awake!’’
Incidentally, this intriguing and noteworthy status quo of patron/client existence spills out from the man to man domain to a wider space of man to animal. We, who are heavily focused into getting cattle  off the hook, choose to ignore the sanctity of life in fish and fowl. Is it because the cow is useful to us in giving milk  and the moral obligation of its safety outweighs all that goes with conscience vis -a - vis the other for their irrelevance to man?  The life of a chicken, a fish even a sprat is as important as that of a cow and a bull. This then includes the life containing egg as well, where thousands of eggs are eaten to sustain homo sapien lives. Nevertheless, regardless of the motivational forces behind animal slaughter, the act per se of halting animal slaughter is commendable and charitable, when it is devoid of the patron/ client relationship, needless to mention its magnanimity that accompanies an all -inclusive approach entailing even the tiniest of creation.

" The importance today in cultivating  relationship is based on who wields power and ‘who’ is in contact with ‘whom’. Power wields an abundance of social respect over moral ,value based existence. The days of value based relationship of gratitude and sincerity are now buried under the sands of time "
When the Buddha professed, ‘May All Beings be well and happy, there wasn’t in the least an agenda of a patron / client relationship. Yet, what baffles this writer’s mind is how we could wish some other well, while at the same time titillate the taste buds with the pain and agony of an innocent animal in the course of slaughter.
 That is as far as human/animal patron/client relationship carries us.

Today unlike earlier on, money and power are major contributors to fostering patron/ client relationships. Clients could be bought over with pecuniary offerings enabling whatever club to consolidate its existence.  So its all tenter hooks for the looser organisation which is also not guilt-free of the same exercise at some point in some other form not necessarily money. This is the dominant feature of politics.

The large gatherings at funerals symbolise the discreetly operative yet conspicuous patron/ client ‘ uphold’. The deceased may not have even set eyes on many of those present before he decided to call it a day. Yet, bus loads of workers do a double up on hearing a colleague’s relation’s demise. If it happens to be a power wielder’s someone, both the house and compound would be unaccomodative of the overflowing numbers wearing sorrow masked faces.

Human relationship be it social, business and politics, the absence of mutual gain is very rare unless those concerned are spiritually evolved. To expect such  outlook amidst a highly competetive market orientation is akin to asking feather’s from a tortoise.The kind of patron/ client relationship operative earlier on under  centuries old  caste environs was far removed from that which exists under contemporary mercantalist  class. The mutual exchange of goods and services in the absence of monetary involvement in feudal set up  based on sincerity and goodwill  later paved the way for  money based exchange of goods and servíces - the 1848 Colebrooke Cameron Reforms - a landmark in this direction.

" Where the clear stream of reason does not run into the dreary, desert sand of dead habit,’ he cried out continuing, ‘’ into that heaven of freedom let my country awake "
Transforming the entire socio/ political/ economic lay out of this country, these reforms gave an impetus to the patron / client relationship that once was ,  injecting greater dynamism and force based on individualism.   The inclination towards fellowship and communal existence ceased to be. Self propogation got pride of place and the type of patron/ client relationship of modern times observably comes with so many strings attached. When one is of no use to the other, he or she is dropped like the proverbial ‘hot potato’. The importance today in cultivating  relationship is based on who wields power and ‘who’ is in contact with ‘whom’. Power wields an abundance of social respect over moral ,value based existence. The days of value based relationship of gratitude and sincerity are now buried under the sands of time.
Even in international relations, national foreign policy on self interest takes priority. Countries devoid of moral government do not suffer isolation as long as mutual economic interests continue unhindered. Among trading partners, when the scales are tipped with one-member state inclined into greater leanings with another, a resentment build up follows. A cracked patron/client relationship threatens even regional stability. This is very conspicuous in the current ‘goings on’ in the India, China, Sri Lanka tripod. India’s distaste of a closer and stronger Sino/ Lanka relationship has made India develop a ‘kick’ and ‘kiss’ attitude towards Sri lanka . One glaring instance was the Indian ‘kick’ of Sri lanka at the human rights voting in Geneva followed by the ‘kiss’ that saw the arrival of the Buddha relics into this country playing on the relgious sentiments of Sri Lankan Budhists - an attempt into cover up of the ‘Geneva hurt. ‘

The patron/ client relationship has come to stay, be it locally or globally , and those that thrive on it are the elite and budding elite - the stinking rich. Its politics will continue to realign the course of families, schools, workplaces, religious/ political/ socio/cultural and economic spheres not to forget the destinies of nations as well.
At familial level many mothers favour the economically stronger siblings over the rest - never mind from where the monies come - sons over daughters never mind the intellectual prowess of the latter, the school authorities favouring the politically and economically stronger student fearing a ‘kneel down , hands up’ fiasco, religious authorities that invite political elite into front row prominence whatever be the invitees’ placement before divine eyes - office sub - ordinates that go marketing for the ‘big man’s’ family, the political big wig who gets done all the menial work from those  at the lower wrung seeking a break into politics and there it goes - the list, an unending one.

The study of society certainly captivates the mind. Human behaviour, people’s hidden motives, their discreetly operative tactics, manipulations, schemings, personal agendas, the low cunning and what not is repulsive yet painfully interesting. Amidst all this, spectacular moments of humaneness still prevails and are best seen in times of natural disaster. Verily, these moments then are free of the highly motivated patron/ client involvement.
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