The Split in the Gaze in Goa

Looking at someone without being seen is indecent. It lets our scopic desire (to look and be looked at) go astray. Why do we want to see without being seen? This often happens when we perceive the other as an anguishing presence. Hence, looking at without being seen occurs when there is a trust deficit between the self and it’s other. When one looks for self sameness in the other, it doubles up into envy and trust deficit. It is important to reflect on the action of seeing without being seen and consider its implications for our society in Goa. Though looking without being seen happens in multiple ways in our society yet it remains uncharted territory and few of us have attempted to understand it. Though Goa and Goans are subjected to the gaze of the tourists and often Goans are looked at and objectified without their knowing of it, it is not this gaze that we are directly gleaning here. We wish to problematize the optics of the eye that splits and divides Goan Society. It is like the proverbial evil eye that acts from a distance without being seen. This looking from a distance seems to be happening among the three major communities in Goa: the Hindus, Christians and the Muslims.

The hidden eyes that see remain in the comfort of invisibility. This is about representing the otherness of the other to the self. The comfort of looking at from a hidden position brings about hesitation of coming in the open. Looking at without being seen marks a distance that shields and numbs a disconcerting feeling of guilt. It seems that Goans to a large extent cannot directly gaze at each other particularly when it comes to issues that are painful and cross intimate inter-community stakes. This appears to come in the open when there are public agitations where Hindus and the Christians often take opposite positions while the Muslims are largely left alone to fight their own battles. Hence, a scrutiny of the fact of looking without being seen may assist our society to break its ice. Hence, we need to look at our looks without being seen, which often may take multiple scopic modes in varied contexts in our society. In fact, often the otherness of the other disrupts our field of vision and the other becomes a mirror for the self to look into itself. This return of the Gaze often punctures the inflated self vision and produces in the self new modes of scopic desires which imagine and see the self as triumphant in relation to its other.

The seeing of the self in relation to its other when considered psychoanalytically only remains a mere image. The representation of the self is always spatially split in as much it makes present that which is absent. Moreover, the representation of the self is temporarily deferred as it represents time that is always elsewhere. Hence, the representation of the self always remains incomplete and it remains always driven to look at it’s other without being seen. Thus, the Hindu of Goa is often led to think that he/she becomes more Hindu (actualizes his self sameness) by taking an opposite position to its other, the Catholic. The same may be said to be Catholics who also emerge more Catholic in opposition to the Hindu position. Although, we cannot draw these interstitial lines of conflict in a rigid manner as often what I have simplified as religious communities operate on the basis of their caste locations and the self and other psychodynamics that we have tried to elaborate operate at the level of castes . The complex history of our Goan society in our post-liberation era demonstrates how scopic desire produced the social life of religious and caste communities in our society. Often, there are complex psychic substitutions that operate within these communities. Thus, for instance Goa was substituted for Maharashtra, Marathi was substituted for Konkani, and English for Konkani in our days. This means our society is crying for healing. Perhaps we need to break free from seeing from a distance and see directly in the eye of our fellow Goans. This ability to face the face of fellow Goan is certainly required to bring authentic harmony and equilibrium in our society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao