India lost to Australia today in the semi-final game of the Cricket World Cup. I am quite sad about it, but I am very proud of my team in the way it has conducted itself through the stages to get to this particular game. A few of my friends, who are more passionate about the game than I am, are devastated. No doubt there will be analysis of how and why we lost the winning streak, of the mistakes we made and such. And if we are to improve, it is important that we do. Analysis, however is an exercise devoid of emotion and it is necessarily impersonal, at least in sport.
One of the news channels — Times Now — in India, decided that we were shamed at the venue by the loss. As is its nature, it asked its viewers to trend a #hashtag on Twitter that said that we were ashamed of what happened, in foreign soil — Sydney, where the game was played. Our team did everything that they could to win the game. We are the defending champions, and there is no reason to believe that we spared any effort in winning the game. On this day, however, it was clear that Australia was the better side. Given what little I know of cricket, I can tell you that we made some mistakes. But none of them were to be ashamed of. Fans of the game came out in strong support against the hashtag that Times Now had proposed. Instead, the hashtag #ShameOnTimesNow was trending on Twitter, not just in India, but worldwide. Hopefully it sent a message to the channel about their blunder.
Perhaps a larger issue hides comfortably in this incident. Is defeat shameful? We prepare for a game, an exam, or a life event to the best of our abilities. When that comes to an end, we get to know if we have won or not. And if we don’t win, and if that is shameful, what would motivate us to participate, in the first place? Every day a coach, a teacher, a parent teaches us about winning. Trains us. Provides us with means to win. Yet very few tell us, if at all, about what it means to be defeated, in spite of giving your best. Sadness and despair are perfect (and natural) responses to a defeat. But shame? That is one feeling that has to be eradicated from any duel.
“In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity.” ~ Winston Churchill
I recently saw a video that described honour. Of the many things the video said about honour, it talked of gaining and receiving honour from honourable people. If you award (or, for that matter devalue ) yourself, it means nothing. It follows that dishonourable people giving you an award (or taking it away from you) means nothing. I believe this is what the channel has done. Without having the honour, they tried to dishonour an honourable team. That’s what failed.
Shame and honour may be public issues. They are seen, expressed, and experienced publicly. Dignity is not. Dignity is as personal as it gets. Your judgement of what makes up shame and honour, is dignity. And a flawed or a biased judgement, or just pure malice, exposes how undignified you are. The people see it. It becomes public. And then you are stripped of any honour and are publicly shamed. It doesn’t matter if we are the highest rated TV channel or an unnamed census statistic in 1.2 billion people. We have to maintain dignity.
You just lost it.