Today The Hindu (newspaper) carried an article by former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh (click here to see article) who stated that the current conflict between Australia and India about cricket and more was about “cultural differences”. Especially he noted that to call a person a monkey in India is not an insult as deep as a racial slur. I agree. But I was thinking why.
In India, we don’t naturally believe in the scientific worldview… hence… evolution theories may be partially believed but not really committed to. There is no need to believe or not believe in evolution within the Hindu mindset… and hence the idea of man’s descent from “apes” is just not important… and affects nothing… especially if “all is God and God is all” in the first place.
I still think it was wrong to throw out the supporters in Mumbai for making “monkey sounds” for Symonds without having a dialogue whether it was actual racism or not
In effect, the crisis that Darwin had on western (scientific) Christianity entirely misses the Hindu-Indian (even Christian Indian???) mindset and thus, to say a person is a monkey… points not to “race” as it would in the western world where monkey clearly refers to a crisis of evolution; where, since we are descendants of monkeys… and since evolution is thought to be “BETTER”, thus, the one most resembling a monkey is lesser evolved etc. (This was used (terribly) on many African communities for a long time, even till recently).
In India… the idea of monkey is closer to monkey (naughty)… or monkey (unruly)… or even monkey (funny). These are the typical meanings… where the myths (from the ancient literature of India, not just religious… like the Panchantra etc) depict monkeys in various lights. But invariably… the monkey is never refers to a lower species or even… and this is important… a reference to species.
Of course, in the context of cricket, while I don’t think the Indian fan is always without blame (we were horrible in Eden Gardens against Sri Lanka, and the throwing bottles on players is unacceptable), I still think it was wrong to throw out the supporters in Mumbai for making “monkey sounds” for Symonds without having a dialogue whether it was actual racism or not.
I mean Symonds has the right to be hurt… but he and his countrymen must have understood but now… in a postmodern world… that symbols… actions… even racism… mean different things in different countries. But instead of seeing that the action of “monkey” was not meant to be on Symonds race (which is a serious allegation), but on symonds looks and behaviour (which is a slur on character, or personality not race… hence not racism).
The Indian cricket governance did something wrong right then and there… by not addressing what racisim “really is”. In effect, if Harbhajan did use “monkey” to Symonds… he is subject to the tag of racist because the Indian cricket governance did not deny that it was racism in the first place.
In actuality, Harbhajan could have been riling up Symonds because he knew it would get him irritated, but it is almost impossible for a person like Harbhajan, whose main source of identity comes from community not race… (ie Sikhism)… to refer to Symonds as lesser evolved. That western concept is not dominant in our common psyche, and hence I argue, not a racist comment… but an insult, nevertheless.
So what? Well… nothing… whatever is happening now between the two countries is so sick anyway… both sides, Australian and Indian are acting like brats. It’s like they’re playing school cricket, all of them, in terms of attitude at least. I don’t even care that India lost or Australia equalled the record… in cricketing terms it would matter. But in this test… cricket seems to be the least important thing!