Living at the masculinist orgasmic moment of annihilating hatred

by Swadhin Sen

spc04IT IS March 19, 2015 today. When I am writing this short note, my Facebook notification feeds are being flooded by the expressions of anger, angst, horror, disgust, fanciful hope and distrust through mocked trolls, both sharp and dull analyses, and sexist abusive remarks. This is the Bangladesh-India post-World Cup cricket match phenomenon. This explosion in the virtual space of social media from both sides — Bangladesh and India — could be defined as ‘hatred’ that has invaded as the consequence of the erroneous (labelled, biased) umpiring decisions that went against Bangladesh. Under the circumstances, many of the expressions of ‘hatred’ in this case and its explicit denotations could be justified by stereotypical morale and spirit of the sports, cricket in particular, in reference to the expression of ‘gentlemen’s’ game (note that it is not gentlewomen’s game). In few sharp analyses, it must be mentioned, the recent influx of corporate money into the game and the position of India as the richest of the ICC members have been pointed at as the ground for the accusation of corruption and manipulation by both India and the International Cricket Council. On the pretext of the involvement of millions of dollars in match-fixing controversies and profit-generating nexus of cricket boards of a few member countries, corporate houses and media, these suspicions and indictments are not unjustified. The hatred towards the Indian cricket team, Indian state and ICC (mockingly termed Indian Cricket Council or Indian Cheating Council) by the Bangladeshi cyber warriors seemed quite legitimate on grounds of profound nationalistic claims at first look.
In spite of a few inadequate attempts to engage with the political economy of cricket, the hatred like any other jingoistic kind of hatred has concealed so many contextual factors and processes. The reality of power and capital would have been there, even if umpires hadn’t made any wrong decisions, or even if Bangladesh had won the game. What is missing in the downpour of hatred is the critical understanding of the hegemony of a game like cricket over billions of people in South Asia where many crucial issues of injustice in the nation-states and public space could be overlooked, or even forgotten by systematic manipulation of the public psyche through investment of a huge amount of money in cricket for the generation of vulgar nationalistic sentiments (think, for example, about the ‘mauka, mauka’ advertisement by the Star Sports channel). The match-fixing scandals are only part of the entirety of cricket marketing. The hatred has been unable to engage with the history of cricket and its entwinement with the national consciousness in South Asia, with the role of corporates, media and capital in the making of modern cricket, and with the role of India as an imperial and hegemonic nation-state in the region. The outburst of hatred has soon transformed into phallocentric exchanges and counter-exchanges among the victims of cricket nationalism and corporate capital of two countries.
The idea of neutrality is problematic in any game which has been turned into big money making machines and manufacturers of blind extremist fans. The game of cricket which has had a metamorphosis since the last decade or so, especially after the advent of T20 cricket, is now a spectacle with mesmerising visuals, captivating advertisements, masculinist voyeuristic space with cheer girls, and circus with different bombastic commentators. Without addressing this transformation of a game that had once invoked solidarity among anti-colonial and anti-racist nationalists, the hatred could only fuel the fanaticism and orgasmic pleasure, and successfully conceals the interplay of multiple actors, forces and powers.
My point of discussion in this short essay is not cricket. Cricket is merely a pretext of my principle concern. It is the new representation of hatred in the virtual space I want to talk about. The intensity of the hatred and expressions, the explicit sexist phallocentric contents of the remarks, and carnivalesque exhibitionist features of the expressions can hardly be understood without taking into account certain trends. At the outset, the contemporary escalation and intensification of ‘hatred’ in and through the domain of the virtual in reference to formation of the tyrannical nationalism and democratic fascism must be taken into consideration. The direct physical encounter is not essential in the cyber war, as is in the case of modern technology of warfare.
Over the past few years, oppositions and counter-oppositions have been drawn and defined through a pervasive desire to annihilate the opponents by systematic manufacture and articulation of hatred in virtual space in Bangladesh and in South Asia. Contrary to the optimism for a unity of diversity through the World Wide Web, sharp differences and disjuncture are being produced by this new form of hatred. The hope for a unified and equal global relation has always been suspicious. Internet, social networking sites and blogosphere, along with their revolutionary contribution to communication and resistance, have been the space in which communication has been entwined to construction of the other. Incommensurable distance and void have become an essence to our ordinary living with the virtual. Like the lyrics of the popular song by Mohiner Ghoraguli written after the advent of television and satellite cable networks, the world has become smaller within our reach, we all — the tech-savvy users of the internet — have distanced ourselves from each other like the stars light years away. I am not endorsing here the Bengali urban middle class’s romantic aspirations for a long gone past of harmony and unity which is hinted at in these lyrics. Rather, I want to point out that hatred, thus produced, is conditioned by the politics of solidarity and difference where the boundary between the virtual and the real is blurred, where both domains complement each other in a desire to construct, refashion and protect the selfhood and to demean and annihilate the other. The reciprocal processes of the construction of the other — ethnic, statist, linguistic, sexual, nationalist, and religious — and the self is an essential feature of this emerging certitude. The history and the context of the subcontinent and the post-liberation war Bangladesh has to do with this new formation of hatred in public space of Bangladesh.
It is not easy to deal with and write about hatred, especially in comparison to its other — love. In this short note I would like to address this new experience, expressions and formations of the hatred. The hatred, I argue, is not an accidental effect, mental condition or expressions, nor is it a-historical and an aberration from the normal. Drawing upon the eminent social scientist Veena Das who has pointed out about violence, I claim that hatred must be perceived and theorised not as aberrations from the normal and ordinary1; rather, hatred is and has been woven into the fabric of ordinary life and as a result, it has direct effect upon what we are. Formation of our subjectivity in many ways is intermingled with the hatred. Like the Darwinist notion, root of hatred must not only be understood as self-defence and vengeance. Talking about the political economy of hatred, Edward L Glaeser has argued, ‘hatred is the outcome of a political market in which self-interested political entrepreneurs interact with everyday citizens. Both the purveyors and consumers of hatred behave strategically. Politicians supply hatred if it complements their policies. If the poor are disproportionately black, then politicians who oppose welfare may find it useful to preach race hatred. Consumers demand hatred if it fills some psychological need (such as explaining their own past failures) or if hate-creating messages appear to convey useful information.’2 I find this analysis useful yet limited for understating the recent outburst of intolerance and hatred with their respective historicity. It does not take into account the history of inequality in the relations of power. Neither does this analysis help us to engage with the differential aspects and kinds of hatred. We should not, therefore, put every kind and expressions of hatred within the same frame.
The politics of the fabrication of hatred for an individual or for a group of people with shared ideology, gender, sexual orientation, national or ethnic or religious identity cannot simply be analysed from a generalised frame of reference. In this short space of the note, I am more interested to talk about the proliferated and intensified nationalistic and religious hatred towards the other.
Taking a cue from Manosh Chowdhury, from his reaction to the brutal murder of the scientist and blogger Abhijit Ray3, I would like to point at the ways in which cultural and political adversaries are invented and re-invented by different actors within a certain structures of practice. Perhaps, for the mere ontological space of the virtual, it has become very easy and common to frame someone or some group as ‘the other’ or ‘the enemy’ and as the object of infinite hatred. Continuous polarisations are being created and re-created. This is not to claim that this particular phenomenon of hatred is completely new in the history of cultural and political expressions of Bangladesh. As Manosh has pointed out, some of the polarisations, such as believer/atheist, are new manifestations in public domain as post-Shahbagh phenomenon and he thinks that this is a wrong battle to fight for. Like Manosh, I also think that their formations and the violent articulations of hatred from different collectives of the actors have their history in the political and cultural concepts and practice in Bangladesh. I don’t think that the history is quite transparent and perceivable to us till now. Interestingly, the solidarity of the collectives in actions has been sought and invoked on the shared terrain of the tyrannical nationalistic hatred. Perhaps, the polarisations were concealed under the cover of the comfort of the ordinary living. Perhaps, the polarisations have come out as annihilating hatred in the context of the requirement of the conditions and agency of the actors in public domain. But surely, hatred from adversary such as this kind does not have any potential for the wellbeing of the lives of the ordinary, just like the kinds of hatred I am interested into elaborating upon in this short note.
The religious, nationalistic and ethnic hatred often intersect each other. It is comparatively easy to comprehend the fabricated hatred. It is, however, difficult to comprehend the hatred that becomes embedded historically into the consciousness. I may hint at the communal hatred and violence which can partially be explained as political and manufactured. In South Asia, communal hatred has its own history of formations. The genealogy can even be traced back to the pre-modern times. Eminent historian Brajadulal Chattopadhayaya has vividly shown in his presidential lecture of last year’s Indian History Congress, how modern the idea of unity in diversity in the present Indian nation-state (also, in other nation-states including Bangladesh) is4. By referring to various ancient texts, he has shown that members of one community from one region hated others, adherents to one religion hated others, ‘insiders’ hated ‘outsiders’. Unity was also invoked at that time as it is now. But I must assert that the modern and liberal idea of unity, harmonic coexistence and tolerance within modern nation-state has its own post-enlightenment and colonial history. The pre-colonial existence of communal, regional and other modalities of hatred cannot simply be brushed aside as has been done by the most historians and thinkers with the desire for the solidarity of the nation and the state. In this way of subversion and suppression of history, they have attempted to invoke a past that is partial and that is driven by modern sensibilities, aspirations and dispositions. We cannot confront and engage with hatred by denying its historical existence or by blaming the colonialists for all the hatred we have generated for thousands of years.
I am more concerned with the intolerant phallocentric and pornographic (by borrowing the terms from one of my friends, Al Mamun) nationalistic, communal, ideological and ethnic expressions of hatred. This is the endorsement of the informal fallacy or false dilemma that ‘you are either with us, or against us (reflected in the George W Bush’s much circulated quote — ‘you are either with us or with the terrorists’), that has turned into the foundational ground of the current circulations of unbearable hatred and intolerance. We must remember that the liberal ideal of tolerance has its own limits. And, as Dina Siddiqi has pointed at, ‘we forget that the lines between “hate speech” and “free speech” are profoundly political and always unstable.’5 In spite of the fact the idea and notion of ‘free speech’ has often been an effective defence against oppressive ideology and institutional apparatus, the ‘hate speeches’ and their visible and potential urge for a pornographic display has refashioned the selfhood and identity politics. The formation of nationalism and ethnocentrism has been deeply entangled to this phallocentric, jingoistic, and exhibitionist phenomenon of the outburst of suffocating and violent hatred. It can be shown through an ethnography of social media that the hatred I am talking about often transgresses boundaries between the binaries of the secular vs. the religious, liberal vs. conservatives, progressives vs. reactionaries.
Another point is also important to consider. I am not here hoping for the erasure of hatred from the public sphere. It is impossible to do so. It would also be politically wrong to ask a victim of sexual harassment or rape not to hate the perpetrators. It is not possible for those of us who are demanding the trial of the war criminals to forget. We cannot stop hating those who had committed heinous crimes by collaborating with the Pakistani army during our liberation war of 1971. We cannot ask the indigenous nations of Bangladesh not to hate the members of the Bengali communities who are harassing and torturing them for a long time. Remembrance of violence by the victims is possibly deeply connected to hating the perpetrators of violence. It is quite clear now that it is not politically correct to act against every kind of hatred that is in circulation. Even it is not possible to detect every kind of existing hatred. Majoritarian hatred, for example, is easy to be detected in public space than the hatred of the minority.
I am not calling for a selective and strategic application of hatred as a cultural and political tool. Rather, I am in favour of delving into each and every phenomenon of hatred historically by locating them into the existing unequal relations of power and production. I am interested in understanding the hatred as some kind of sensibility and disposition within a tradition of generating and suppressing the hatred itself. I want to engage with hatred from the perspective of its selection from traditions for their contemporary manipulation and application as a part of maintaining the existing relations of power. I want to address hatred for recognising that structures and processes of concealing the potentialities for formations of hatred that can be effective for agency and actions to disrupt the comfort of the existing dominant power structure. Phallocentric and orgasmic expressions of hatred — communal, nationalist, ethnic and ideological — cannot help me fulfil my desire to engage with my ordinary living with hatred.
Swadhin Sen is an archaeologist and teaches archaeology at Jahangirnagar University.

1.    Ash Zengin, On life and words: An Interview with Veena Das, Feminist Approaches in Culture and Politics, Vol. 10, 2010.
2.    Edward L. Glaeser, The Political Economy of Hatred, Working Paper 9171 []
3.    Manosh Chowdhury, Abhijit Hatya: Prem, Ghrina, Bishad aar Atonker Upakhyan (in Bangla) []
4.    Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya, Interrogating ‘Unity in Diversity: Voices from India’s Ancient Texts, General President’s address, Indian History Congress, 28-30 December, 2014
5.    Dina M. Siddiqui, To ban or not to ban, is that really the question? Feminist solidarity in neoliberal times. []

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