March 18, 2007

Reaction to India's loss is alarming.

Much as I am dejected by India's loss yesterday and our diminished chances of making it to Super 8, what bothers me much more is the way aspersions are cast on the team. There are broadly two methods that people employ to vent their anger. More sophisticated of these are acerbic rants, while others are unabashed physical gestures.

The dominant reaction to the defeat seems to be one of anger. Anger is a complicated emotion. It's not clear what causes and is caused by anger. Let's say there are two categories of anger: personal and impersonal. The former is caused by things that have immediate relevance to you (your newspaper delivery boy is lazy) and the later by things with no or very little relevance to you (your friend's newspaper delivery boy is lazy). To be sure, this is not very well defined, but I am concentrating one single aspect which will be clear.

Both these angers are perfectly justifiable. The crucial difference between them is what you do about it. First there are some absolute limits on what you can do. For instance, you can't destroy the home of the newspaper boy. Within those limits, personal anger gives you more scope for action. You can fire your newspaper boy. But the impersonal anger almost never permits action. While you can urge your friend to fire his newspaper boy, you can't do so yourself.

The anger generated in many fans by Indian team's loss is impersonal. This is the case even though it may be true that the team's performances are key to many of the fans' happiness. This impersonal anger surely allows for serious criticism, but much of what we see today is unwarranted. It has to be remembered: the Indian team is not responsible to its fans. This might sound sacrilegious in today's atmosphere of affected national pride, but it is true. If the Indian team has the power to cause a fan intense shame and misery, that power is given to them by the fan. The team did not ask for it. The fan can take that power away from the cricketers if he wishes. The fact that cricketers make insane amounts of money is not germane to the issue. Neither is it correct to argue that a cricketer's basking in the glory when he does well requires him to take the obscenities thrown at him when he doesn't. The Indian cricket team does not represent India's pride. Anyone purporting to derive national glory or shame on the basis of cricket team's results is a fool.

It seems to me that this whole affair is symptomatic of a disturbing trend that is emerging in India. Many of the new habits and practices are characterized by instant gratifications and even more instant disillusionments. Gone in the process are the balancing convictions afforded either by ancient culture, or a thorough education. This is apparent everywhere one sees. In cricket, a player is lifted to sky after a handful of good performances and his effigies are burnt after a single bad show. Whether it is the national obsession with daily junk on television, or the eager rush to modify education to suit the immediately visible needs, what seems to drive people today is the expedience of the moment.


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