Monday, June 26, 2017

Compromise Managers

"Angamaly Diaries" is a fabulous movie.

A 2017 crime-drama film in Malayalam, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, it tells the story of internecine conflicts, and gang-wars in a small town in Kerala. What makes the movie outstanding is the way it brings out the color and celebration of life - eating, drinking, singing, dancing - with the darkest of out instincts, of murder, vendetta, and strikes a fine balance between the two.

It is the last part that really caught my attention here - especially the role of individuals who are designated as "compromise managers" by the warring factions.  These are people who are allowed to step in when the cycle of murder and retribution reaches a stalemate where there can be no winners, or when it is clear that if the fight were to continue into a war of attrition, the winner would be an "outsider".

The one person designated as the Compromise Manager is an insider, a person who, despite being identified with one gang, has over a period of time, won the trust and confidence of the rival gangs as well. From this precarious position, he tries to make the key decision-makers, often the most violent individuals, recognize their own long-term selfish interest in agreeing to a compromise formula.

Thanks to this arrangement, the role of the state law-enforcement agencies and its ponderous legal system gets sidelined in favor of solutions that are more local. Money and business opportunities stay within the community, and the focus shifts from settling scores in the neighborhood, to putting up a joint front for challenges that come from outside.

Needless to say, CMs can be effective only when the costs (including bribes, jail-terms) of using the official legal system are much more than the benefits. In this case the town does have an active police officer, but the CM understands that in increasing crime-graph reflects poorly on the career of government officers. Similarly, the lawyers find it more lucrative to extract fees for striking a compromise rather than legal charges.

If the small town or village represents a microcosm, the UN perhaps represents the defunct legal system that is simply not in a position to resolve conflicts. This movie makes you wonder - who would be best positioned to be a compromise manager in conflict between nations-states?


* Movie - Angamaly Dairies (2017)

* Director - Lijo Jose Pellissery -

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