Of course, not. You will say. That is a way of improving yourself. Isn’t it obvious, you might add. But will you change your answer when I add a caveat? Say, if it is about your country or your religion or the like, some things that directly appeals to your deepest emotions. Then, you may say – ‘Well, wait a minute. How can you question that? They are off limits.’
Emotions have run high in our country, India, during these Rio Olympics. India has not won a lot many medals, much to the fury of public expectations. So, many people expressed their sadness on social media about this even to the point of criticising our contingent. That, I think was unfair.
However, some have criticised the training of our players. And that I think is fair but for the paper patriotism of a few. To say anything that seems to suggest that ‘we have failed our athletes’ has become anti-national and I completely fail to understand why.
Why do we always have to hold everything with a national sticker on it, on an altar – as if they are beyond reproach as if they are divine or holy? I have always struggled to understand the psychology behind this patronising attitude. But I think it is pretty fundamental. It is a very typical reaction to disbelief.
As soon as we say – ‘The players are patriotic’, it seemingly relieves us of our responsibility to question why they failed. How can you question their patriotism? But is questioning their failure equivalent to doubting their patriotism? Of course, it is not.
Citing nationalist slogans just makes you feel better. You no longer have to think about it. You no longer have to introspect the reasons why they failed. You just have to change you profile picture to some customised version of tricolour on your silly face on Facebook and that’s it. Independence day is coming!
Let me digress here a little.
26th November 2008. Mumbai suffered the worst terror attack in it’s already chequered history. A few days after the attacks, most media outlets and politicians described Mumbai as ‘resilient’ and ‘brave’ etc. for picking itself up through the cracks. Here again, these adjectives are a cliched euphemism for false hope. Did the people have any option other than to get up on their feet the very next days of the attack and live again and work again and catch that crammed local train again? ‘Patience’ may have been the right word.
Did the people have any option other than to get up on their feet the very next days of the attack and live again and work again and catch that crammed local train again? ‘Patience’ may have been the right word. It might as well have been ‘resilient’ but to constantly say so undermines responsibility that our administrators evade even today.
There was much outrage against Pakistan about it. Why Pakistan, I dare to ask? It might seem outrageous to some but I find this very patronising. Did we have no responsibility for what happened? And even if we didn’t, what about now? The report prepared by the investigative team of Mumbai Police has been lying unheeded. Until the next attack happens and we blame Pakistan for it?
Look at the events happening around the world. Trump uprising. BrExit. Islamophobia in Europe and the US. The killing of Muslims and Dalits in India. All these events have a very common narrative – A lack of self-introspection, self-righteous nationalism and dangerous patronage of the ‘other’. This is a vicious blend of emotions.
Somehow, in this sentimental commentary, we have demonised our public discourse. We have reduced our public discourse to a binary discourse. Voices of reason are few and far between.
Will India accept the athletes with the same fervour as it sent them off to Brazil even though they didn’t meet our expectations?
Will we train our ‘patriot’ athletes better the next time?
Will this jingoism improve our chances of saving our face, both in Olympics and from terrorism, the next time?
Will there even be a next time? Or just a replay of what we have seen thus far, just in another city or another country!
That is a million dollar question.
(Do not call me an anti-national for using ‘dollar’ instead of ‘rupee’. It is just a phrase.)