Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Street Talk

One of the things I often see in Lianga are groups of people, often all male but sometimes females included as well, sitting on plastic chairs or lawn furniture while occupying portions of the town streets and alleyways. This is a rather common sight in the early part of the morning and the late afternoon until the early evening.

In the middle of this impromptu gatherings is almost often a small table with food, beer or liquor bottles. But all that is often merely an accompaniment to the main dish or raison d'être for these informal gatherings. For these are venues and occasions for talk, laughter and bombast. And plenty of them too.

These gatherings come together simply from force of habit or simply by a spontaneous meeting of the minds. One or two or all simply generously contribute and provide the food and drinks and suddenly the party is on. The momentum gathers and the informal grouping catches fire and simply feeds on itself. It can last for hours and may end up only late at night or even the next morning and with all the participants stumbling home thoroughly besotted not only by copious amounts of alcohol but also by all the loud talk and claptrap.

I have joined many of these gatherings myself and I am always amazed at the variety of topics that come under discussion. Major political and social issues are, of course, perennial favorites but almost anything under the sun can come under scrutiny. And the talk, as time passes and the amount of alcohol available decreases, always becomes more spirited and inspired.

There is debate, ingenious and skilled repartee and argumentation that would rise to great heights and rival that of the floor of any legislature or courtroom in the world. The problem is nobody takes note of them and recalling what happened the day after while nursing a painful hangover can be a task impossible in itself.

Surprisingly, inspite of the alcoholic haze, very few of the heated debates end up in fist fights and actual physical confrontation. Ruffled feelings are quickly addressed to by cooler heads and, in most cases, such minor irritations are easily forgotten and the good times continues unabated until everyone finally gives up and goes home.

These street corner meetings are an indelible aspect of life and culture in Lianga. There are those, however, who decry them as manifestations of truancy and indolence. They say these groupings prejudice the public welfare because they unduly disturb the peace, create scandal and generally promote drunkenness and licentiousness.

That may be true but it is also clear that these gatherings will continue to be a phenomenon in this town. Not only because the people of the town are a stubborn lot but simply because they are fun and a way for the idle and, therefore, the voiceless, to let off steam and let themselves be heard.

These are, in one sense, the parliaments of the streets and the real voice of the masses. And the one fun thing I always like about them is that, after all the long and winded discussions, there is always a clear solution to each of the myriad of problems facing man in this world.

The problem is always remembering what the solutions were the next day.

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