Gerontocratic Jokes
Posted on August 20th, 2021

By Rohana R. Wasala

It is always in season for old men to learn. -Aeschylus, Greek playwright of the 5th Century BCE

Partly to our dismay, gerontocracy has shown
Its withered hands of a wizened old wizard
Behind the recent cabinet reshuffle, muddle or mess,
Moving ministers like pieces on a chessboard, changing,
The configuration of portfolios, like pawns of restricted movement;
But partly to our relief, it might turn out to be a stroke of genius
Of an experienced Gerontocrat with a Grandmaster title claim.
Moving pawns in a game of chess to avoid checkmate
Is an intellectual feat of the highest order
Let’s wait and see, before we pass judgement.

That is being politic, for the sake of being politic, you might respond.
True, but in a situation where rule by the old is the norm
Both in the government and the opposition, where games are won or lost
What else could we do except keep our fingers crossed? 

A gentleman noted for dealing with opponents in an impeccably politic
Manner, without even positive ulterior motives, whatever the cost
Is getting back the foreign ministry, after almost a decade of accustomed-.
Mediocrity elsewhere. Only the oldies might remember how lacklustre
His performance was then, when his pedantic rhetoric and politic postures
Prompted on enemy faces feigned smiles that concealed daggers.
Of course, I won’t say that he’d fail to avoid the fate of having to prove 
A doormat for a diplomat to be walked over in Geneva In ignominious submission
To the dictates of the Mighty expressed through an abject mea culpa
For human rights violations uncommitted and accountability issues concocted.

Then there’s the case of a worthy scion of a leonine clan
Who is now required to tackle an unruly brood of callow cubs!
Let him be careful lest his congenitally strong backbone 
Get stressed too much for his remaining in politics
Any longer because, like his ancestors, he is no political survivalist.
He is likely to give up politics, but never his principles!

In the case of a worthy of a different reputation and temperament,
The heroic act, perhaps his personal best, committed by him 
Is lifting by firm fiat a local pandemic-related lockdown
That eased the free social spread of the contagion.
He has got his just deserts for he’s been rewarded
With a kick upstairs from transport to power
Where a younger colleague of his is credited
To have done a fairly good job
By having government policies implemented
Through experts without dabbling in their work
Or seeking to promote himself through crass gimmicks
That are harmful to the workers and the general public.

But this latter was lucky that his known language skills
And his past-masterly performance in palaver
Had nothing to do with power that lights up residences
Runs the industries and drives the human civilization
The media will afford him an excusable chance
To indulge in his often innocuously meaningless prattle.

A phone call from the PM came to the former health minister
Who had just been sur-prised out of her job
And transported, not to a plane of joy, but to a new terrain,
Where the going won’t be so easy as where she was,
This, despite her having met her responsibilities reasonably well
In the critical circumstances that had suddenly emerged,
Having even contracted the deadly corona in the process,
That threatened her life and her family’s health, too. 
The call gave her some consolation, no doubt about that.
The PM asked her to check on what was going on in her ministry.
Perhaps, even more shocked by that request than by her removal
From Health, she told him that she was no longer there (to meet his request).
So it was crystal clear that the PM didn’t handle the cabinet reshuffle.
The PM must be confident now that the lady won’t wrongly assume
That he was behind her outster from a position that she did justice to.

The senior politician who has replaced her
As health minister must have a lot of luck 
To outshine her in the job.
But he is a gladiator hardened in the rough and tumble
Of the traditional political arena.

The fly in the ointment in this perfect job is the fact
 Of burdening the youngest cabinet minister
Who remains still untested and unbroken
With additional responsibilities, earlier subsumed
Under a subject included in the portfolio of one of the few
Technocrats in the cabinet, with a proven track record.
The novitiate’s position might be intended as a bridgehead
For an imagined future of youthful meritocracy.
That is alright. People, particularly, the young,
Love Novelty in governance in terms of new blood, 
But they might think this is Nepotism,
Which they love to reject.

One Response to “Gerontocratic Jokes”

  1. aloy Says:

    “Under a subject included in the portfolio of one of the few
    Technocrats in the cabinet, with a proven track record.
    The novitiate’s position might be intended as a bridgehead
    For an imagined future of youthful meritocracy.”

    Never underestimate anybody. You got to try, try and try. And if your stars are in correct places nothing will be impossible, I believe.
    But the key is make friends with every body. If not your enemies will cut you down. Perhaps the best is to learn their language and make connections via communication. I see millions of youths in India and SL doing just that via music these days; the “Manike Mage Hithe” song.
    Perhaps the first person to love Sinhala songs was non other than the late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi via her classmate Lionel Edirisinhe.

    Hindi is a beautiful language. I remember singing a popular song around late 70s (“Dil Deka Deko” without knowing a single word in it) in a foreign land among friends at a party in my house. There were a few from Rajasthan among them and they were amused.
    My daughter learned Hindi within few months from her friends in her class in a Colombo school. And she started singing, too. I give a link to the song that was recorded way back in 2004 at Bandarawela.


    And talking of digital technology, mentioned in Rohana’s verses, you may find my contribution at my website (perhaps the first attempt for an SL made engineering software:

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