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’?


  • Hamza
    Posted at 03:58h, 22 May Reply

    I think it has more to do with how much into sports we are as a nation. Even if the guy werent from Pittsburg, he might have still done a similar thing if he were a Steelers fan and the game was supposed to be on that night or something of that sort.

    So I would not subscribe to either of the two theories presented in this article (killing people, we are too serious).

    I think we don’t act like this because we do not have any strong regional sports teams, and the only sport that our nation follows is Cricket (soccer is gaining ground too, but still a majority of people don’t follow it).

    Maybe this will change if the regional 20/20 thing becomes big. Focusing on just India for now, maybe you’ll see a guy from Delhi making such gestures about the Delhi Deredevils team, 10 years from now.

    Imran Khan would definitely be a good person to ask about this since I understand that he has been making a case about city-based domestic cricket for a long time.

    • SouthAsian
      Posted at 14:23h, 22 May

      Hamza, There has to be more than that. Let us not move as far away as South Asia but stay within the Anglo-Saxon culture. The English are just as much into sports as the Americans – note the equivalence of teams like Tottenham Hotspurs and Bolton Wanderers – but one can’t imagine an English professor going “Go Spurs” in the middle of a talk on Shakespeare.

      Of course, there is a lot more class consciousness in England and the infamous soccer “hooligans” have their fighting club songs. But the upper class reserve would rarely allow a demonstrative gesture of the type that initiated this discussion. I wish we could ask Imran Khan – he knows so much about the English having gone to school and played there. What do you think?

  • christygriner
    Posted at 05:04h, 23 May Reply


  • Rummuser
    Posted at 06:59h, 04 July Reply

    You realise of course that in Calcutta, if say a Hindu Professor or consultant said “Go Mohammedans”, he will be lynched before he can leave the dais. It is simply politically too volatile a statement to make! On the other hand, he could comfortably say. “Go Mohun Bagan” and get away with it, subject to of course, his audience understanding what he is trying to convey. Your response about the British attitude is more applicable to the South Asians. Yes, 20/20 IPL may just change things to go the American way.

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