Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Being booed in your own country

I followed the India-England match cursorily on the net in the life-long absence of television I exist in. One of the features, something that an English player later referred to as a motivational factor in the win, was the overwhelmingly raucous support for the Indian team.

I remember some English lord once declaring the side you cheer for as the litmus test for patriotism. I remember it was a statement quite derided in the press at that time. But I somehow agree.

The trial of Socrates never meant to put him to death – apparently the democrats knew that by giving him this death they would be giving the ideas of Socrates more life than ever – but to scare him into a self-willed exile. All efforts to persuade him to “escape” were made but ultimately owing to his own intransigence, he had to be put to death. Socrates argument was that of “social contract”. He argued that he had accepted the social contract under which the Athenian society was built by willing to exist according to its rules and regulations, which, so far, had even benefited him. Hence, he was obliged to live under those same contracts when they went against him, even if he might not agree with them.

Despite the nobility of the act, I have my doubts. I believe that there are certain “principles” we live in that exist independent of the society – call them the fundamental principles. These principles are based on personal ethics – the idea of virtue (note: not morality, which I think is a social contract built upon the idea of virtue) – which I would follow even despite the de facto social contract – as is indeed the case in India where to stay non-corrupt is against the flow of the existing innate acceptance of corruption as a valid mean to an end.

True, societies exist which violate these first principles but their existence is not invalidation of these principles. Hence, in the case of Suttee versus the right to life, it was the society which had to change, though, I am sure, the first argument Macaulay would have heard from distressed feudal lords would have been “But this has been so since ages!”

A social contract, in my opinion, covers the contract outside the individual contract that we all make with our own conscience. It’s a contract to bind the collection of these individuals into a single society and works in two respects. It seeks to deter individual contracts which impinge on the freedom or rights of another individual (your right to sex exists only to the extent that the other party is of an age where the person is deemed to be adult enough to decide for him/herself and that he/she is consensual, for example). Second, it looks into the affairs beyond these first principles – the nature and role of family, the form of government, civil law, economic contracts, etc.

We are born into these contracts mostly. But do we have to accept it to the letter? – I think this is too deep a topic to get into here. As I said, I have my doubts on this that I still have not resolved.

There’s another aspect to the social contract that I have not come across so far – though I am sure there would be whales of literature on it. (My understandings only reflect my own ruminations and discursive readings and are uninformed and ignorant of accepted academic definitions to that extent.) That is the aspect of ideas embedded in the underlying principle of the civil law and institutions. Ideas that go beyond the fundamental ideas of human rights. The idea of a family, the idea of social good, the idea of a patriot.

This is where dissent starts. My idea of morality and how short the skirt can be to not endanger the moral fabric of the society derives from my subjective habitus and experiences and is bound to have variations with mainstream definitions – which themselves change as the society evolves (By evolution, I just mean change and do not imply that it is for the necessarily better). This is the realm of subjectivity.

Similarly, what is the idea of a patriot? The idea is subjective – though treason which directly threatens the nation is patently unpatriotic. But where there is no tangible harm or good, the idea is fuzzy.

If I fail to stop and stand when I hear the national anthem, am I unpatriotic? (my personal opinion: yes. Since the idea of stopping and standing to show respect to the nation is built in the idea of the anthem which has been constitutionally chosen for the same. Again a little subjective.)
If I express dissatisfaction with the policies of government, am I unpatriotic? (As most totalitarian societies say.)

Is patriotism embedded in which side I cheer for in a game? Perhaps not. I might be doing this just in jest. I might cheer for Kenya in an India-Kenya match just out of fun.

But suppose I judge the loyalty of the other person by his action in the same activity.
Suppsoe I frown on people not stopping and standing in attention to the national anthem – can I escape the same consequences of my failing to do so myself?
No. Let me drive the point clearer home – suppose I believe that Indian Muslims who burst crackers after Pak won in Indo-Pak wins are non-patriots, am I not then affirming my acceptance of that activity as a litmus test to loyalty for a nation?


This is where my point lies.

Most of the NRIs cheering for India that day would instantly denounce these IMs as non-patriotic. Hence, by the same application, especially in a nation that they themselves chose to settle in, are they not non-loyal to the same degree?

Note: this is not a personal judgment. I am still undecided about those IMs – loyalty can only come once there is a foundation of making you feel belonged. I am not sure whether these IMs, or any aggrieved minority – religious, ethnic, ideological – has the sufficient ground to feel estranged from the mainstream enough to assert their non-loyalty thus. It would depend on the context.

I am judging them only by the litmus test they have accepted barring the few who do not regard this as a litmus test. And I think that the majority do accept this as the litmus test for IMs back home.

In this respect, I feel that this action does raise the issue of loyalty of the migrants and the English have good cause to feel peeved about it.

1 comment:

TradeExpress said...

semantic gymnastics