(un)Covering the Power of Horror Behind the Denial of Qabristan

Image Source: The Milli Gazette

One question that has disturbed many is that of the opposition to the qabristan by some Catholics in Borda , Margao. What does this tell about us Catholics? How do we understand this resistance to qabristan ? In a Year of Mercy it certainly makes us look unmerciful and egoistic. The denial of a dignified post death ritual closure to any human being appears wicket and unchristian. This brings us to the relation of fear and faith. Both fear and faith appear to be opposite of each other, though in some cases fear may draw a person to faith. Maybe a psychoanalytical analysis can become a tool that might enable us to understand how an intense fear triggers resistance to the said qabristan. The proposed graveyard seems to have become a symbol that produces disgust and horror among a tiny but significant minority in Borda.

Along with Freud, we may need Jacques Lacan to understand the psychodynamics of fear that triggers resistance and anger among some of our catholics in Borda. Freud rightly discovered that our conscious state is under the control of what he called unconscious. Freud taught that the unconscious cannot be fully understood and accurately rendered verbal. Moving beyond this Freudian principle, Lacan teaches that the unconscious is structured like a language and is the discourse of the other of the self. This means our passions are conditioned by the desire of the other. Thus, the unconscious is less something within a person than an intersubjective space between people.

In the case that we are trying to understand, with great respect and love to all stake holders, one might say that it becomes clear that the desire of our Muslim brethren (the Other of the Catholics) becomes a point of trigger that has unleashed passions of fear and resistance among some Catholics. The desire of the Other (the legitimate wish to have a dignified burial space) has dismantled the imaginary cocoon that had been the source of sense of right order of things for the aggrieved Catholics. When the bubble of this order of things explodes in the context of an encounter with the desire of the Other, one encounters the fear of disintegration and loss of grip over the future. Once, the narcissistic illusions of the self break down in the context of its Other , the false sense of self mastery over life begins to fade away.

In Borda, it appears that some of the Catholics experienced the Other (in the form of the Muslims) as a point of rupture that brought about a false sense of disruption of order of things. This sense of horror has led to the eruption of passions that are fomenting the rejection of the burial space for our Muslim brethren. Within the texture of meaning of life, the Catholics seem to have encountered an imaginary point where all meanings seem to fall away leading to a false sense that the ground beneath their feet is falling away. Panicked by this imagined loss of joint time, their resistance becomes a cry for a sense of balance and security. This might explain the repugnance and rejection of the proposal for a burial ground by a minority.

But what puzzles many is the question that asks: how could the resources of our Christian faith be not enough to overcome the castration anxiety that anyone can be subjected to in the face of an encounter with a supposedly intruder ? With great respect, love and admiration to our Catholics brethren, we may have to agree that the crisis that they are facing is also a crisis of faith. While the actions that are triggered by fear are far from our Christian morals and ethics yet the desire that is expressed as resistance is self damaging and is an expression of what Freud calls death drive. Maybe we might get an insight into this subjection of self to a mode of self destruction if we interpret Lacan’s presentation of the mirror stage.

Lacan presents the mirror stage as a crucial developmental stage of the self of a child. He says that a child between the ages of 6 to 18 months comes to identify itself with the image in the mirror, the other of its fragmented self. The child experiences a brokenness of its body and deceives itself by identifying with its image in the mirror that bestows a sense of wholeness and balance. Hence, the self imposes an illusory order and builds its comfort zone. The same is true about all of us. We too have an illusory sense of order of things that bestows on us a sense of equanimity. Like us, the Catholics in Borda seem to have build an imaginary mirror image of themselves and life in general and when the real life comes biting the imaginary world comes down collapsing triggering anxiety and resistance.

Hence, it is important that we all realise and understand the power of horror over life. The power horror/fear is controlling some of our Catholics in the case under our study. It is important that we bring these brethren to a leap of consciousness that would take them to a heightened awareness of the fact that without their intention, in that given situation Christian faith is crucified on the altar of fear. This awareness can break open the constrictions that debilitate their minds. We need to exhibit compassion to both sides of the divide and yet firmly tackle the unfounded fears of our people in Borda and work to change the discourse that is rooted in fear to the one that is rooted in faith, courage and openness. It is my earnest hope and prayer that all stake holders in the case that we have studied receive the divine gift of discernment that would allay all fears and anxieties and open us to offer a dignified closure of death to our Muslim brethren.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao