How Durst You? The National Honor Argument

If you didn’t know it before, you know it now: Indians take their cricket really, really seriously. It’s always interesting to me how so many Indian fans like to think that it’s just about the cricket, when, in reality, the actual game matters very little to them. It’s about Indian glory, Indian dominance, Indians shining — all the usual upper-middle class mumbo-jumbo about a rising India we’ve been hearing in India for the last 15 years.

And so, without missing a beat, the Harbhajan Singh scandal has been portrayed as nothing less than a full-scale assault on the Indian identity. More than a few ex-cricketers and Indian statesmen have argued that just the accusation that an Indian could be racist — true or otherwise — is too much; after all, they say, Indians waged a campaign against racism (that is, British imperialism and, later, South African apartheid).

It’s strange, because these people are relying on the same sloppy thinking that, well, racists employ. They are saying, in other words, that Harbhajan Singh’s example (guilty or otherwise) casts a negative pall on all Indians. Well, that doesn’t make sense: you cannot draw universal conclusions about an entire race simply because of one bad apple. This is what’s so infuriating about racist logic (if it can be called that): selected anecdotes can be abscribed to fit preset perceptions and beliefs.

So, the national honor argument is just silly. Even if Harbhajan is guilty, it says absolutely nothing about Indians as a whole, or India’s history.

(Incidentally, I’m also a little tired that Indians insist that they do not discriminate at all — in a country riven with anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-lower caste prejudice, I find all this jingoistic claptrap nothing more than an attempt to airbrush our past. This is not to say that all Indians are racist or prejudiced. Of course not. But like all countries, India and Indians have a fair share of problems with tolerance, and a fair share of great qualities as well. And don’t let Harbhajan Singh decide the scorecard on this one.)

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10 thoughts on “How Durst You? The National Honor Argument

  1. vmminerva says:

    Although I agree in part that one person case should be extended to the country, since we are dealing with perceptions of people, I partly buy into the argument that branding one Indian cricket player would in fact taint the nation. Harbhajan Singh, and other members of the Indian cricket team are ambassadors of the India. Just like the average guy in India – I’m talking about the guy who reads only the vernacular daily and doesn’t have access to the internet- after seeing the Aussie behavior at the SCG in the 2nd Test is bound to brand Aussies as cheats, I would assume a similar assumption from the average Aussie Joe; to them, if Harbhajan is racist, tomorrow they will see Dhoni, Yuvraj and future Indian cricketers thru the same colored glasses. Perhaps this is what the BCCI, the politicians, Siddhu and media folks are getting at.

  2. Tex says:

    I tend to agree with these comments from one article I read:

    “The Australians have been sledging and abusing players with little censure for years, so there will be some sympathy towards Harbhajan for standing up to them. But in a world where racial friction can cause the death and destruction now being seen in Kenya, its use on a sports field is unacceptable, regardless of the provocation.

    Almost as disagreeable is the indignation that seems to possess Indian cricket and its millions of supporters every time their team suffers a setback they don’t like – in this case Harbhajan’s ban and the loss of a Test riddled with umpiring errors against both sides.

    The subtext, given the Indian board’s objection to Procter, as well as the umpires Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson, is that they are the victims of racism. Mind you, they could find a racist plot in a packet of jelly beans – and nearly did at Trent Bridge last year when someone sprinkled a few at the edge of the pitch.

    Racism was also the accusation Pakistan used to whip up fervour against umpire Darrell Hair after the forfeited Oval Test 18 months ago, and it is one Asian countries seem to reach for too often when umpiring decisions or disciplinary matters go against them.

    India have been here before, once threatening to cancel the final Test of their 2001-2 tour to South Africa. Then, the match referee was Mike Denness, a former England captain, who had imposed penalties on six Indian players for code-of-conduct breaches, including a one-Test ban on Virender Sehwag for excessive appealing.”

    I do think Symonds is genuinely offended by what he sees as comments about his dark skin, due to his West Indian heritage, and possibly could have ignored the remark, but it is racism, and I guarantee if an Australian had caused a person with dark skin (like most Indians for example), a monkey, their reaction would be a lot worse than that from Symonds.

    As for whining about Clarke not walking when obviously out, I do recall some Indian players doing the exact same thing in this test match.

    Both teams need to pull their heads in and get on with cricket, but to assume it is all the Australians fault is to ignore India’s petulant behaviour, deliberate slow over rate and Harbhajan Singh’s conviction for calling Symonds a monkey. A lot of people say it is the Aussie’s word against the Indians, which is true, but to say Symonds, Ponting, Hayden, and particularly Gilchrist are all colluding to make up a complaint is ridiculous, while on the other hand it is easy to see someone accused not wanting to admit what he has done.

    The offended tone exhibited by Harbhajan as though he is a saint who could never possibly do anything like this misses the point that in a tight, hard fought sporting contest, things do get said, even by saints, which they later regret. To assume these things should be ignored by others though is too much.

    I think he did call Symonds a monkey, was caught out and probably regretted what he’d said instantly. Whenever someone carries on in the way the Indian team, management and sporting public has, it means players are vindicated in lying about what they have said, because they know they are so revered that they are able to get away with it.

    I find in life, whenever someone uses the defence “How dare you………to question me?”
    with an injured, offended tone, they have usually committed the offence which they are denying occurred.

  3. Uncle J Rod says:

    I can’t help but agreeing with this article. When i first starting writing stuff about Symonds and the monkey business in india, i got so much abuse from people saying that Indians were never racist. It’s almost if you call it caste it takes away any racism from it.

    In Australia people do that too, they say i’m not against muslims, just the extreme ones, but we don’t know which ones are extreme so we should get rid of all of them.

  4. Scorpicity says:

    This is a beautiful article… am putting this up on my site… cheers

  5. […] I wanted to write about this and then stumbled on this short but well written article from the Ducking Beamer’s blog on India and racism. You can read about it here. […]

  6. Golandaaz says:

    I have refrained from writing at any length about this on my blog. Simply because, I read this incident, as a legitimate tactic employed my Ponting to get rid of Harbhajan Singh. It is a cricketing matter. And raises questions on the limits of sledging.

    Also I do not understand why an individual should feel so much emotions if his race is taunted but finds personal attacks okay (as Australia and other teams in the world call sledging).

  7. Soulberry says:

    But I thought the fuss was all about principles of natural justice….a decision made on one man’s word weighing heavier than the other’s when there wasn’t any evidence. I didn’t hear anything in the media about national honor etc…but then I must have missed a lot in those busy days through preoccupation. I’m not well-informed in what wa going on.

    But how is this so called mumbo-jumbo and other claptrap afflicting India coming into this situation? Unfortunately this is an error being commonly made for the sake of supporting an argument. Middle-class doesn’t talk about India shining…it certainly does talk about India’s glory…admen talk about India shining.

    I’m just wondering how caste and this pesky middle class is related with this. generalizations are usually misplaced.

    Sorry if I came off like that…I’m a bl@@dy middle-class Indian…can’t help it.

    Who do I have the pleasure of addr essing, by the way?

  8. kp says:

    Good analysis…….

    How come i dont here from u or anyone else that ozs always start the fight……

    I believe in this….when you give something….Be Prepare to Get it back!

    Lets Face it….whos the root of all Evil?

    Australians…they started this sledging and ICC and umpires allowed it why? When u get taste of ur own medicine…

    where were this people when McGrath called Jausuriya ‘Black Monkey”? why no action….

    You can label me as an extremist….I dont mind….I didnt forget what happend between sarwan and McGrath in Test where WI Chased?

    Australians thinks they run the ICC…they can do anything By hook or by crook! I dont care if u sweep it under carpet or not…u have to show ozs…to make them understand….

    I am curious to see what happens in ODI when Sreesanth is playing against Symonds

    Look at symonds…when he provkes people…why isnt he punished?

    Since when did “Monkey” became Racial for White man?

    You must be kidding me man

  9. […] our cricket too seriously, and we’re far too quick to hitch on to any episode and claim it to either besmirch or shine our “national honor” (whatever that means). Here, though, we simply have to face the reality: our security agencies, […]

  10. […] make this point because one hears a similar argument — the National Honor Argument, I call it — when India’s cricket team ends up in some controversy or the other. (See […]

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