The irony of diplomacy in Britain - Sri Lanka Guardian


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

The irony of diplomacy in Britain

| by Victor Cherubim

( March 13, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Bread and butter, tea and biscuits, pie and mash, coffee and cake, strawberries and cream, bacon and eggs, chips and gravy, sausage and beans, these are some the favourite things, being British.

Alfred Hitchcock did say, “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” I guess he was right, as the real value of a true Brit is his/or her measured approach, even, in humour.

Photo: David Cameron talks with Tamil people at the Sabapathi Pillay Welfare Centre in Jaffna (Reuters)
There is no such thing as being overbearing, there is no such thing as overdoing, there is no such thing called over the moon, there is no need or necessity for being over critical of anything. However, there exists is in the psyche of every Englishman, an innate desire for tolerance, fair play, appropriateness, proportionate to the occasion or circumstance or a softly, softly approach, without over exuberance or put it simply, there is a subtly of approach which stands out a mile, in everything English.

For anyone who does not know or understand the English, the British way of an apology, even if “one was not at fault,” is a default reaction. The first word that I came to learn in England was “sorry,” while in other confrontational cultures, even as a Sri Lankan, my gut reaction was: “do you mind.”

Likewise, there is a deep averseness for pomposity and self importance, as boastful and arrogant and un- Brit like.

My reason for volunteering this article, is that today, the weather in London is salubrious, it is 13 degrees C, and bright and brilliant. We never have it so good, so while it lasts I thought of penning a few lines on a subject which is hardly ever spoken.

To illustrate this observation, last Saturday, England played Wales at Rugby at Twickenham. England won 29:18. But the only excitement which was noted was Prince Harry in dark glasses, accompanied by “you know who,” in attendance.

When we associate with hallmark, we think of sterling silver, but when we associate with being British, we think of the hallmark of understatement. The irony to an uncultivated mind of a foreigner is that Britain thinks and acts as it is “great.” But really, when David Cameron, British Prime Minister, gave an ultimatum in Jaffna last September, he really overstated an understatement.

Diplomatic parlance in reverse

So what exactly did he really say? Translated in diplomatic parlance, it meant, “we will pursue you, to the ends of the earth, till the end of time.” So, why is there so much heat at Geneva ? The British sometimes, ironically mean the opposite of what they say,at any given moment, depending on the location and the occasion. Many from the Old Commonwealth fall into the trap of slogging the British off, hardly knowing the will of the British.

Confused, yes but not confused if you are in Britain. Britain has a culture of a strong sense of fair play. Whether in sport, in business or in politics, “giving a long rope,” is a well tried and tested strategy in Britain. We in Sri Lanka, perhaps, may mistakenly call it “deadrope.”

The language of British diplomacy is vague, like Hague, but let there be no doubt in our minds, the Brits are adept at giving a long rope for us to hang ourselves.

It is up to us in Sri Lanka to use the same diplomacy and show the Brits, that we also understand the nuances of diplomacy and leave no stone unturned in bringing about a diplomatic revival in our nations fortunes, by our adherence to fair play in the game of politics.

The politics of blame

“The politics of blame always finds an acceptable face: it wears a big smile and looks like someone you could have a pint with down the pub,” said Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister. This had nothing to do with the game being played with Sri Lanka in the dock at Geneva.

But let us never forget the words:”In not out, forward not back, hopes not fear, the future not the past,” in our march to bring about change, without regime change in Sri Lanka, is the irony of diplomacy.