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Which Is My Discrimination - The Real Story

by achettup

These last few days, a combination of ill-health and an extremely busy schedule have left me unable to blog as regularly as I would like. Unfortunately during that time a couple of articles have appeared on BCC! that have stirred me sufficiently to devote a bit of time to presenting my views on the subject. These have to do with the sanctimonious call on Indians living abroad to support wholeheartedly the sporting teams of the countries they live in, irrespective of whether they truly like those teams or not.

It is usually unwise to go off into a rant when you know little about a subject, though this is usually the case with the majority of rants, much worse so to condemn a whole people based on your perceptions and an article in a magazine and then urge people to subscribe to your ill-thought out opinion. The author has said a few (many actually but only a few that I shall comment on) things that I strongly disagree with and I wish to voice my protest here, hopefully in a manner that is constructive and invites introspection, or at least one that welcomes discussion.

First, are all Indians racist? Every single person from the Prime Minister to the poorest of the poor straddled in an endless spiral of debt? Racism is borne either out of ignorance or the refusal to step away from hatred of a people for the sake of it, though usually it is an unhealthy concoction of the two. If you are going to define some as being the most racist, have your measures ready to prove this. And don't contradict yourself a few sentences later by saying that they are the most racist but do not resort to violence. In every country there will always exist some people who are racist and some who are not. I could bring up the troubled pasts of some of these countries or the rather shameful instances that are covered up everywhere, even on the sporting field. But where would I begin and where would I end and what would I achieve by doing so?

The inherent discrimination that exists in some should not be used to taint an entire people, even if it is only the rotten bunch that are the most vocal. The important thing is that the majority of people have agreed that racism is unacceptable and almost every single country has taken strong steps to redress the wrongs of the past and prevent a recurrence. If you feel guilty that your own people haven't progressed to a level that is acceptable, then I have no problem with you asking people to change, just so long as you can bring up specific instances and discuss this in an effort to educate them. But do this responsibly. I had a huge issue with Dileep Premachandran's articles after the monkeygate saga for the same reason. Your guilt over your fellow Indians seems to outweigh your objectivity.

Secondly, both in his comments and the article, the author has asserted that a good measure of one's patriotism can be deduced from his support for a sporting team. This is wrong on so many levels and quite possibly the most naive statement I have read in long time. It is also dangerous because on the surface it seems to be a harmless observation, but it is designed to demand in an almost fascist manner that one must support the team of his homeland or be declared a traitor. It was Samuel Johnson who said patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and to draw a connection between the support a spectator has for his team and patriotism does a disservice to both.

Patriotism is defined as service to one's country. Exactly how does one serve their country by shouting themselves hoarse and waving a flag during a cricket match, not to mention all the other unruly activities you usually associate with this particular group? How have these acts benefited the country? At the most you are inspiring and urging on representatives of your national team, at worst you are becoming an extremely poor representative yourself. I can understand national pride and honor to an extent, and like most things I believe it is best taken in moderation. But whether the team wins or loses at a game - and lets not lose context here, cricket maybe religion in India, but it is still a sport and that is all it will ever be - exactly how does that affect the country at a macro and minor level? Does winning signify that you are superior to all other nations? Does losing signify that you are inferior? Neither, you played a game and one team must win and the other must lose, that is all it comes down. And if your sole motivation for attending a cricket match is to declare your love of your country, then perhaps the only hope the game has is that in between the bigotry and jingoism that ensues you might actually see a little of the action and fall in love with it.

When you see just how erroneous the basic premise of the author's article is you will perhaps dismiss the rest of his writing as related to an incorrect assumption. I am not entirely certain. This is because, and maybe its just me, but it seems that the author feels he is being cheated or losing out somewhere to Indians who live abroad and constructing his argument around this to try and restore some balance. You cannot have your cake and eat it too seems to be the inference. Is there anything stopping the author from making the choice that these people have made? If so, why does he hold it against them? If not, why does he not profit by this same mantra and get over this chip on his shoulder. Nobody has broken any laws, apart from that sanctimonious set that was developed to exercise social pressure when one felt insecure about another's success and one's own unwillingness to go down that path. We are so lucky to have the freedoms that we have, great leaders of our past demanded it as our birthright and if we now choose to pick on the freedoms of others what exactly does it say of us?

As for how the people of the host country feel towards the new immigrants, there are so many things to say here that I fear I shall forget a few while typing away furiously on my keyboard. One, why is this even a concern for the author if he doesn't consider them Indians and why does he demand that people of a country only support their country at sport? Two, it is quite clear from his example that the author has a limited grasp of the complex mechanisms at work for large scale immigration and integration, and in particular the case of communities of people from former colonies - what they have had to go through and the stereotypes that were associated with them not just as an outlet for resentment but also because they fitted perfectly with that contemptuous sneer and humor that aristocrats had make chic. Prince Phillip still derives great pleasure from this antiquated sense of humor that horrifies most people today, numerous examples of which have been explained away as gaffes. As well pointed out by Yenjie, there are instances where there is little resentment to proliferation of community circles and where such systems thrive and everybody wins. True integration cannot and will not happen overnight, if you have seen it somewhere please point it out to me. It is a gradual process and the understanding and patience of all involved will generally lead to a quicker and possibly even lasting integration than hasty, forced and restrictive measures.

The entire world applauded when Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. A few years earlier in India communal passions were stirred to prevent a white woman from becoming the Prime Minister. I personally do not believe in my lifetime that we shall see a person of African, Asian or Middle Eastern descent occupy the top political position in a European nation, and I can offer little in terms of proof for this, it is just a subjective opinion I have arrived at after my limited observation of a few of these countries, and I certainly do hope I am wrong. It does not matter either which way, and I personally don't believe these are the truest measures of overcoming prejudice. But the point I am making is that this goes on everywhere and maybe people will soon analyze and find that President Obama's victory had more to do with exceptional circumstances and an extremely shrewd campaign strategy rather than rapid change in a people's mentality. I do believe however that we are headed towards that ideal day in the future though when these differences are finally put aside once and for all.

To believe that you will change the attitude, or more importantly the underlying motivation for it, of someone who resents you for one reason today, by doing something you are obviously not comfortable with just to please them, will accomplish little because in most cases they will find another reason to resent you. It reminds me about a story of a certain Olympic gold medalist who threw his gold medal into a river in disgust when he realized how little had changed despite his accomplishments. The best you will achieve is to temporarily close one avenue of nitpicking. To those who were wiser and didn't have a problem with whom you chose to support, your switch is unlikely to please or displease them in terms of questioning your patriotism, something you might have noticed they didn't do to begin with. So I ask, rather than feel guilty about the behavior of your "fellow indians" - whom as mentioned before you should have no special feelings about since you are patriotic and don't consider them Indians in the first place (a touch hypocritical isn't it) - why not question why a minority has this resentment? Surely you have felt this when you asked why ALL Indians called people "chinki", "gora" and "kala".

I think after an hour of writing I shall stop here, and I apologize for the gazillion word essay and the irritated tone. I shall try and explain why this does annoy me. In my first few days in the bay area, while going through a few of the forums I noticed that trolls would bait people from different communities with the usual play on stereotypes. Most people who chose to respond in anger, usually defended their cultures and habits and traded a few similar insults, a pointless exchange that just acts as an unmoderated vent for them to let out their frustrations. I'll give you just one guess and no prizes if you can tell me which country had people pulling down and disassociating with "the others" from their country - whether they were fresh off the boat, from "lower castes", "less sophisticated" etc etc, who they considered were beneath them for some reason or the other, and actually trying to associate with the troll. Sometimes the divisions seem to be so deep and rooted in such stupid concepts that I feel it would be futile to expect true unity in this country. Then I take a step back and see how far this country has come forward, how much it has achieved and realize that I'm wrong and like the premise of one of the arguments it is wrong to blame all the people when it is just a minority who have grabbed your attention. For what its worth, I don't believe the author of that post falls in this minority, just that he has not fully explored the topic and has a strong opinion based on what he has seen. But even in voicing an opinion, particularly one that will be read by many, you must exercise responsibility.

4 comments:

Ottayan said...

Little knowledge is a dangerous thing and quiet often they are the ones who write these worthless opinion pieces.( I am referring to the author of the magazine article)

One other thing, these articles are written to gain notoriety.

Thankfully, you have denied him that by refraining from naming him.

Q said...

Agree cent percent Ach!

I had made my feelings abt the subject clear in his very first post.

I don't think its got anything to do with patriotism.. u may be able to deduce who the supporters associate themselves with more, but that again, is no measure for patriotism.

Indophile said...

Well Q and Ach ! that was the whole point which the author was trying to make that the Indians living in England tend to associate themselves more with the Indian team than the host country. Sports is never an indicator of patriotism but its a symbol or kind of representation of the country.It may be flawed logic but not very naive as you pointed out. The fault may lie with the host country but if people start booing their team's its very surprising.

Q said...

Indophile,

There's a difference.. just because some Indians have lived in the UK all their life does not mean that "they should" support England and not India..

This support comes from emotional attachment.. in bollywood terms, dil se.. If u don't dil se feel the support for England, no one should make u feel that it is ur obligation to do so.

It has nothing to do with patriotism.

I have lived in the UAE all my life, so should I support the UAE every time they play Pakistan because I have spent my life in the UAE and not in Pakistan?

That is wrong.