On the debris of defeat By Syed Talat Hussain - Monday 4th April 2011

THE ICC World Cup semi-final in Mohali offers us two important insights. The first is a wide-spectrum sample of public opinion trends in India about Pakistan. The second relates to our national attitude of complacency in the aftermath of defeat.
The run-up to the match showed the reality of the much-hyped Indian desire for peace with Pakistan. Here was a great opportunity for the Indian media to win the hearts and minds of friends from Pakistan by showing grace and courtesy. But what was served was nothing less than national-level sledging, lasting for days.
The host nation took special care of the Pakistani squad. Large sections of the media tore into the Pakistani team and its captain as if this was an invading army from another world. In the name of debate, targeted frenzy was worked up against the green-shirts.
Matters became particularly uncivilised as the semi-final approached. The campaign was nothing short of a psychological warfare zeroing in on Pakistan. With the use of selective data and controversial instances, derision was freely heaped on the team. Kapil Dev talked about ‘how little Pakistanis have to cheer about’. Ravi Shastri, who loses his reason when the Indian team gets even a slight drubbing, compared the visitors with a rickety rickshaw, while the Indian squad, in his opinion, was a BMW.
On local channels the attack was particularly poisonous. In several shows, where Indian film stars and music divas rooted for their team before large audiences, ridiculing Pakistan was the norm.
We know media nationalism can hijack objectivity. It can lead to distortions. It can generate propaganda. This happens in Pakistan all the time. In that context, some of the content that was broadcast or written by the Indians about Pakistan could perhaps pass off as tolerable. But the scope of this campaign, which continued well after the match, was too large and the focus too specific to be ignored as a momentary loss of balance caused by the raging passion to win against arch rivals.
More worryingly, even some among the seemingly most liberal segments of society, who generally scoff at anti-Pakistan hysteria in their own country, had nothing but barely hidden contempt when it came to discussing issues related to their neighbour. No other country, or team, was subjected to this torment — a point made by Shahid Afridi, the Pakistani captain, before the match.
It was almost as if the Mohali match had given the whole of India a season ticket to trash Pakistan. Cricket appeared to be an instrument to unleash collective contempt. This Mohali experience contrasts sharply with the popular narrative about the growing peace constituency in India that wants to treat Pakistan with respect and believes in the principle of parity of nations. At a critical time when convincing messages of brotherhood could have been packaged with courtesy and sent across the borders to Pakistan with love, the mail received from India contained little other than hate.
The second insight that the Mohali event offers is just as important as it calls for a serious revision of the way we have chosen to respond to our defeat. A fake legend of heroism is being pushed out of our pathetic performance. The central message of this campaign is that we should ‘ask no question, hear no criticism, and make no complaint’ against our team because ‘we love them’.
The mantra that is spamming inboxes is primarily led by commercial organisations that have big contracts with some of the players. After the match these organisations have a problem: the poster-boys who rope in customers have suddenly developed feet of clay. This is disastrous for marketing. Continued hero worship is therefore vital for the image of the brands the cricketers represent. And this can only happen if the nation is told that somehow the mess in Mohali is marvellous for Pakistan’s cricket.
But apart from this there is a disturbing national tendency to sweep failures under the carpet. So when Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif — in whose province thousands of doctors have been on strike for weeks demanding higher wages — offered cash to the players he was as much playing politics as he was endorsing this sorry trend.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too wanted to fete the team for having reached the semi-final. Suddenly failure to make it to the finals has become a point of great pride, a matter of honour rather than cause for reflection and course correction.
But this is not surprising. We have consistently rewarded incompetence. We have a culture of complacency that simply lowers the bar of achievement instead of raising the game to the level where the best compete and win.
It is this criminal compromise with slackness and rank stupidity that has produced fake degree holders who flaunt their credentials with impunity and a band of corrupt-to-the-bone individuals who hold high offices. Mohali offers us a dozen points to ponder, about cricket, about the odds we face and the character we exhibit under pressure. But we will only face more Mohalis in every field of life if we, as a nation, stay proud as a peacock and prance around the debris of our defeat. We will be fooling no one except ourselves.
The writer is a senior journalist at DawnNews.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/04/on-the-debris-of-defeat.html

No comments:

Post a Comment