A Psychoanalytic Look at the Beef Crisis

Image Caption: Hindustan Times

What could be a Goan response to the demand to hang those who eat beef? This violent demand was made in Goa by a religious person. We in Goa have been living a life of mutual respect and harmony for centuries. What does this demand to publicly decapitate the heads of beef eating Goans and others do to the peaceful and serene ethos of Goa? Can such a demand rupture our communal harmony? How are we to understand this discourse around beef politics? Maybe we have to examine the irrational demand through the lens of psychoanalysis. The demand comes from the position of a strong controlling parent. Indeed this demand is emerging from the law of the father. The Hindu supremists groups have become the bearers of this law that threatens to disown and abort every beef eater. Suddenly, the discourse around beef has become a family discourse. It took the form of the Father, mother and the child. The father figure in the discourse almost performs a symbolic castration of the beef eating child. Thus, we can certainly trace and locate who are playing the Father or the controlling parents and who are singled out as children. This means the beef politics that we are challenged to respond to has triggered what in Freudian terms we may call the oedipal crisis in Goa. Given our subjugation to patriarchy and caste, several among us have chosen an oedipal response of silence over the burning issue.

Psychoanalysis is both a critical and a therapeutic tool. Our discussion so far has critically analysed and tried to reveal how the beef politics has inaugurated Oedipus crises in Goa. Faced with the Demand of controlling parents, several among us have been looking forward to the intervention of nurturing parents. That is why several people expressed dissatisfaction about the silence of the political leaders like our Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. This disappointment is also a consequence of a desire for an oedipal response. The silence of the Chief Minister may be interpreted through the oedipal lens that can manifest how in the face of other controlling parents , the Chief Minister also becomes a child who chooses to oedipalize out of fear of being orphaned/disowned by his right wing constituency. Hence, it might not be an exaggeration to say that our society is taken captive by an oedipal crisis and is crying for therapy. The molar identities (as opposed to molecular ones) flowing from patriarchy, caste, religion, nation, region, race etc., operate only through the oedipal framework. The issue of beef has become a family issue and relates to caste, religion and nation. Hence to be obedient children, we have to oedipalize , summit to the law of the father. In rejecting Beef this one is thought to become profoundly religious and loyal to the nation.

The Oedipus crisis that we are discussing here unearths the age old cast principle of purity and pollution. Beef and beef eaters are thought to be already defiled and cannot be accepted as belonging to the culture of the nation and hence can be killed without having any issues of guilt. Thus, under the pretext of protection of the holy cow, the polluted beef eaters are demonized and are deemed to be fit to be exterminated. The theological colouring that is added to a mere dietary practice makes beef eating which is otherwise legal in Goa and elsewhere look criminal and worthy of death by hanging. Thus, the entire discourse as well as demand to hang the beefeaters is constructed through the oedipal framework. Thus, the conflict over beef is only an external face of other larger political battles of right wing Hindutva forces who are themselves trapped in the father-mother-son tangle of Oedipus complex. That is why these forces that play the parents to us demand of their adherents to be obedient Children. This demand manifests how we have to always triangulate and choose the law of the father within the Mother-Father-Son tangle that is constantly at play in our society. Thus, the oedipal behaviour only reproduces caste, religious and other power hierarchies in our society. That is why an anti-oedipal response has the power to also heal other ills that plague our society.

How can we live a life beyond the oedipal law in Goa? It is by refusing to oedipalize and by rejecting the law of the father that is reinforced by theology, religion, caste and a narrow nationalism that we can get out of the spell of the oedipal prison that we are trapped in today. This would mean we will have to reject the subject position that is assigned to us in our oedipalized society. An idealized society has only three subject positions for all. Some of us have to play the fathers, others have to be the invisible mothers and still others have to be the silent children. In the context of the beef conflict, we can identify who are playing the role of the father and enforcing the law of the father on the rest who are subjected to become silent children. This assigned position of a silenced Oedipus has to be rejected and we need to allow an anti-Oedipus to rise in our society. The rise of the anti-Oedipus in us can be a therapy not just for the sizzling beef conflict but also to the other issues that are linked to it. This anti-Oedipus can take us beyond the oedipal molar (strong) identities that emerge from patriarchy, caste, religion, nation, region, race etc. This anti-oedipalization will provide us alternate ways of being Indians, Goans, followers of religions etc., and provide ways of actively creating change to widen the embrace of everyone in Goa where the beef conflict is trying to narrow it down. Indeed, an anti-Oedipus within us can disrupt the narrow corrupt ways of dealing with the beef conflict and bring about emancipative modes of living in Goa and India.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao