22 May Reflections: Go Mohammedans?
Can you tell me what is meant by ‘sublimated violence’?
I am asking this question to try to answer another that was put to me yesterday. It has left me quite perplexed.
A reader wrote and described the following observation. He was attending a serious talk by an American professional. Somewhere in the middle of the talk, the presenter had occasion to mention he was from Pittsburg. All of a sudden, he swiveled from his hip, pumped up his fist, and shouted ‘Go Steelers.’ And then he continued with his serious presentation.
The question posed by the reader was whether I could imagine a South Asian doing something like that and if not, why not?
To explain: the Steelers are the football team from Pittsburg and the presenter was expressing his loyalty to his home team in a way many Americans do. It’s a part of the culture and taken in stride by the audience.
I tried imagining a Bengali professional giving a talk in Calcutta suddenly swiveling from his hip, pumping his fist in the air, and shouting ‘Go Mohammedans’ or ‘Go Mohun Bagan.’ I tried imagining the reaction of the audience if something like that happened. My imagination failed.
I thought of asking Imran Khan who is our guru on the differences between East and West and because he has now attained wisdom would be ideally suited to solving this puzzle. But Imran Khan is a big man and I do not have direct access to him.
In desperation I turned to a young man who I am hoping would help me in running this blog but who has thus far contributed little more than smart-alecky comments. His response was that since we are still killing each other in South Asia we do not need to sublimate our violence in this way.
I agree we are killing each other in South Asia but I am not convinced by this explanation. I know there is the Shiv Sena in Mumbai that continues to threaten to kill those that don’t toe its line. And now there are the Taliban who would like to kill those who desire to shave. But these are exceptions. I don’t see residents of Lahore having any latent desires to kill residents of Rawalpindi.
Am I missing something? Is it the case that given sufficient provocation the residents of Lahore would have no compunctions killing the residents of Rawalpindi just as they had none in killing the residents of Dhaka? And that we cannot say the same thing about residents of Pittsburg and New York at this point in time – things would never be allowed to get to that stage and they know it?
My simpler explanation is that South Asian professionals take themselves way too seriously to do something they feel would ‘make a fool of themselves.’ Professional comics would since it is their job to make people laugh, but an academic? Never.
How do you come out on this question? Do you think if we have the IPL teams for another decade we too would swivel from the hip, pump up the fist, and yell ‘Go Chargers’?