The Art Of Rural Warfare

Agitations are the in thing this season. The voyager is witness to many a fast-unto-deaths for various causes. Some to find a solution to the centuries-old problem of corruption and others zealously requesting a separate state. Some of these efforts could be termed genuine but in most other instances, protagonists furtively tend to their grumpy stomachs every now and then, hoping to outwit peeping Toms. Peeping Toms appreciate that fasting can be a tough business; with the indulger often ending up hungry, so an occasional helping of Potato Chips dipped in tomato sauce followed by chicken biryani and tea shouldn’t be a deplorable offence.

I shall not bother the reader with necessary details such as motivation behind the demonstration and so on. Henceforth, the demonstration will be referred to as the Movement and the demonstrators, the Illuminati.

A brief introduction to the typical Art of Rural Warfare is in order though, prior to the story.

A street-war in bucolic locales begins with a tuneful jangling of the vocal chords, reminiscent of a tiger’s growl and a visible frontward coiling of the tongue, akin to an elephant’s curl of its trunk prior to attack. The Wail is expected to achieve multiple objectives of revving up one’s dormant battle instincts, striking fear in the hearts of the opponent and arousing slumbering soldiers. It is generally most useful in accomplishing the last objective. Contortions of the tongue and protruding eyes are intended to impress upon the opponent the seriousness of one’s malevolent intentions. The opponent is expected to back down at this warning but generally, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, the opponents repay with an equal and opposite reaction. For no fault on its part, the loincloth which adorns the gents is then subject to several slaps around the thigh-area, followed by wind-mill like motion of the arms, as the warriors shadow swim above water. The body is known to join in and so do the legs in a rigorous warm-up just before commencement of battle.

Baleful voices found their way into my ears. I craned my neck in the direction of the source and discovered mace-like hands sparring with the air above and determined feet punishing the earth beneath. For a moment, the mob seemed to resemble a pack of irate mongrels. Adorned in colourful clothing and equipped with flags that emitted fluorescence, the Illuminati were self-professed flag bearers of the Movement. The group halted on an open field and on closer inspection, one discovered a range of metal accessories that are generally commonplace in gladiatorial contests. The only missing ingredient (which wasn’t missed for long) was a catalyst to flag off the drama. One wasn’t sure if the Illuminati had a definite objective that they were working towards. Not that it mattered; to them or to me.

The time-tested technique to incite a jingoist mob is a Socratic attempt at a discussion on the pros-n-cons of the issue at hand. This was the Movement. How could anyone question the prudence of such a noble activity? A Socrates regrettably committed this grave sin.

The leader of the pack – a gentleman inclined towards roundness – let out an ungentle-manly growl hoping to drill jingoism back into the fidgety mob, which looked like succumbing to reason. The snarl only succeeded in shooing real mongrels away. The air-beating resumed and the leader’s voice was lost in the debris of cacophony that had broken out. These are things that are too much for the Ego to handle. Smarting from the dismissive nonchalance with which he was greeted by the Illuminati, the leader thought it appropriate to unleash another round of verbal ammunition, this time at a higher octave.

The Illuminati seemed to quieten for a bit. Impressed, the leader stomped his feet and was beginning to consider his next move when a simpleton landed in the leader’s vast constitution. Someone had shoved the simpleton from his left, who lost balance and thought of embracing the leader for support. The latter, however, misinterpreted the simpleton’s decorous intentions. Glowering, he seized the man and decided to let his restive hands do the communication.

The simpleton felt a mace coming to an abrupt halt in his cheek. Dazed at the assault he took some moments to regain his composure. The leader, meanwhile, looked around to his sycophants for approval; nodding his head and smiling in self-congratulation. He hadn’t considered a guerrilla manoeuvre by the simpleton, though. Fleet-footed, the simpleton compensated for the great mismatch in body volume with agility that had never managed to convince the leader of its utility.

A leg, swinging like a pendulum, disappeared into the leader’s underbelly.

The protrusion around his centre of gravity prevented the leader from addressing the point of impact with his eyes. The leader’s hands, abruptly reminded of their primary responsibilities, moved involuntarily towards the gentleman’s ailing sausage, caging it in protection. It was too late. The cost of the lapse was borne by the leader, who let out a roar in pain, whirled around and sat down. In subsequent proceedings he took no further part.

The sycophants swung into action, drawing out their weapons of mass destruction. The simpleton’s camp followed and battle lines were drawn. The reflection of the sun off the metals seemed to stir a whiff of reason into the soldiers, who thought it wise to replace weapons with their hands. The sycophants turned towards their leader for a battle cry and were greeted instead with a low-frequency whine. Overcome with consternation at this sight, the sycophants decided to exact revenge.

The typical Rural Warfare setting outlined in the beginning of this story played out to near perfection. Roars rippled out in all directions, tongues curled in unison, eyes magnified to twice their normal size, thighs suffered in stoic silence and arms waved in circular motion in both camps. This proceeded for what seemed like an eternity with each side inviting the other to take first strike. Heartfelt abuses were hurled to and fro; directed first at the opponent and then invoking ancestors several generations back in time. One felt sorry for the souls who were responsible for putting these Illuminati on earth. So stinging were the abuses to the kindred clans. But the impending fisticuff remained a stillborn.

The ‘war’ threatened to be played out solely in the verbal realm. The sycophants had seen the fate of their leader and as much as they adored him, were loath to join him in pain. The simpleton’s party, meanwhile, wisely considered the mismatch in numbers, apart from the mismatch in physical bulks which was roughly 2.5:1. Both sides judiciously, but regrettably, settled for verbal warfare. As the gullets grew weary, momentum was lost and both sides menacingly cowered away, unwilling to give a quarter. The leader was escorted away by his sycophants, sausage firmly protected by the hand guards.

So, after an entertaining lag, reason had triumphed over jingoism and egos. A magnificent build-up to what promised to be a grand spectacle had fizzled out.

What about the Movement?

It didn’t matter. Either to them. Or to me.


This is a re-run of an old post. Similar circumstances to those described above reminded HaLin of this post lost in the archival depths of Haphazard Linkages.

9 thoughts on “The Art Of Rural Warfare

  1. In the midst of all the hullabaloo, the real reason behind a fight is often forgotten.. lost.. sometimes, even intentionally…and the movement serves no purpose.. but, “it doesn’t matter”

    1. Agree. I think on most occasions, we are all too eager to throw up our arms enthusiastically purely by keeping an eye on our neighbour’s actions. The cause, the movement etcetera, seem like a remote non-event.

  2. The “mob mentality” is sometimes amusing but, more often, a terrifying thing.

    It’s interesting.

    I attended a Beatles concert at Shae Stadium in 65, there were some fifty five thousand people there. They were so insanely loud, screaming with one mindless primal voice, that it was impossible to here the music.

    At the end of the show the band was hustled away in armoured trucks, which were instantly besieged by hundreds of “fans” that moved, like some flock of demented birds, as one.

    On the other hand, when I attended the Woodstock concert in 69 for several days, there were several hundred thousand people there at some point. There were never any “mob” incidents. While there were people engaged in group activities, dancing, singing, swimming in waterholes and the like, the mindless mob never manifested itself.

    With all the “recreational substances” that were being consumed at Woodstock, with that huge crowd of humans, it would seem a situation perfectly primed for absolute mob mayhem.

    Then in 76, I and a few friends, on a whim, made it to the american bicentennial in manhattan. There was some fleet of “tall ships” that was to come sailing into NYC harbour.

    All the streets were closed to vehicular traffic, only pedestrians were permitted. We wandered around for a few hours. I have never seen more people, shoulder to shoulder, as far as the eye could see, in every direction. People of every description were mingling, talking, eating, (restaurants had brought tables out onto the sidewalks, vendors were everywhere), and dancing to music played by bands on big flatbed trucks that had been brought in.

    We managed to make our way to the top of one of the world trade center buildings to watch the fireworks. It was still daylight when we got up there and looking down, the most incredible scene was revealed. There must have been millions of people flowing like a rivers of humanity through all the streets below.

    As far as I’m aware, there were no “mob” incidents during that day. It seems there should certainly have been many opportunities.

    Now all three of these occasions were more or less celebratory in nature, yet one produced the typical mob mentality while the other two demonstrated the amazing degree of gregariousness that is natural to the human species.

    Mob psychology is apparently just as bizarre as individual.

    1. Your experiences made riveting reading. Thank you for sharing. Mob mentality fascinates me.

      The rock concerts that I have been to have often featured mobs that resemble your Beatles crowd; perhaps even to an unruly extreme.

      In other settings – religious processions, for instance – witness mobs that are several fold the size of a typical rock concert mob; and yet, peace prevails, generally.

      It is an paradox. I think the setting, the perceived ‘coolness’ factor, perceived passion (soccer, rugby) and the behaviour of the crowd, all come together in influencing herd behaviour. Peaceful objectives probably keeps mobs sane, whereas pursuits that involve strong emotions tend to incite mobs more readily.

      Elsewhere, in the financial markets, you see a similar phenomena, sometimes taken to extremes. Here the mob is unseen; one participant in the ‘grand mob’ of market participants looks at fluctuating prices, gets a picture of what the ‘mob’ is doing, and then gets influenced by these actions. Net-net, individual actions shape mob behaviour, which often end up doing silly things.

      The herd looks at the herd and the act of looking and learning stokes herd mentality, and mobs feed on themselves.

  3. Your punchline pretty much sums it up. I wonder why you call it “rural”. This is the practiced form even in non-rural settings. Like the “people for peace” party engaging in an orgy of violence to protect its ideals of a peaceful world.

    1. You are right. I think the era of the nomenclature swap is well upon us. Refer to one thing and do the exact opposite.

      Only, in urban settings, the ruckus is slightly more sophisticated in nature. But it is a thin line, really. Often blurs all too easily.

      Then there is the philosophical side to the point that you make. Is violence sometimes the only path to maintaining peace?

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