Monday, September 27, 2010


Comment: And Freud said...
By Rabia Ahmed
Sunday, 26 Sep, 2010 | 07:50 AM PST |
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It is a truth experienced that a driver at the wheel of a car will encounter a person cutting close behind his car just when he is trying to reverse. This truism, although (very) loosely inspired by Jane Austen, will resonate deeply with all drivers in this country.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself next time you are on the road. Park at a shop, bank, bakery, or wherever it is that you usually go at any time during the day. And yes, you can try to play it smart and try this at night as well, when most people are off the road and asleep. Look behind, you won’t see anyone. Look to the right, and then to the left, and then behind you again, as all good drivers must. There is nobody there.

Fine, now start reversing, and out! There’s the person currently on roster, on a bike, motorcycle, or on foot, quickly crossing from one side to the other, right behind you! Hah! You checked and you saw no one! But you forgot the roster! This person was on call at that time of day (or night) and unlike any other occupation, the people on this roster are dedicated to the cause: Must cross behind reversing car! Must try to get killed! Must do it!

It is irrelevant whether you are in the midst of the Thar desert, on a lonely stretch of a road in Balochistan or in some remote village elsewhere. The reverse gear is connected to an alarm at a frequency audible at all times to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. There seems to be a person in charge at some crazy headquarters, who restrains the horde of people rushing to respond to the sound.

He or she then sends one person, just one person, whose job it is to kill himself if possible. He does this by rushing behind your car as you, unaware of the whole chain of events are reversing out of your parking space. You will know that this person has been sent, because all these persons have instructions to glare at you as, missing them by inches you flop over your steering wheel gasping and clutching your heart.

There seems to be a roster of people standing by to fulfill this mission. If one is unavailable for some reason, another is sent out instead on an urgent basis as soon as the gear is engaged, anywhere in the country.

It is immaterial whether or not you have checked behind your car and to the left and right before you start reversing. As soon as the gear grinds into position, the person on call will rush to cross as close as he possibly can behind your car. And then, with a glare at you as taught in the instruction manual back at the headquarters, he or she will leave you to carry on as best as you can. There is a possibility that he does not resent being hit. Freud’s ‘Death instinct theory’ may help us understand this crazy situation. But to understand the theory, one needs to know its background.

Austria had been a major power in Europe but at the end of World War 1, it was economically deplete and the people had to deal with a bewildering change of fortunes, misery, poverty, confusion and starvation. Freud, an Austrian, found that many of the patients who came to him for help had a tendency towards masochism. This conflicted with the hitherto popular view that human beings were programmed only to seek pleasure and avoid pain. After studying these patients, Freud came up with his ‘Death instinct theory’.

According to him, humans had two basic instincts. The constructive instinct was called ‘Eros’ (a Greek word for ‘love’), and the destructive instinct was called ‘Thanatos’ (a Greek word for ‘death’). The dynamics between these instincts made humans behave in any particular way. When Ethos had the ascendancy over Thanatos, which was generally when people lived under benign conditions, people interacted with each other and sought out pleasurable social activities. When Thanatos overcame Eros, they turned to aggressive or solitary pursuits, inclined to destruction. 

In case you still have not noticed the parallels, let me spell it out. Conditions here these days are such that Eros is out and Thanatos is in. Like lemmings, our fellow countrymen are throwing themselves over the cliffs, carelessly walking behind reversing cars or anything else that will take away the pain. The pain of being hit by a car is nothing compared to the pain our corrupt society hands out.

The way around it of course is to bring back conditions that foster Eros. Label those methods what you will. The end result is that we seek a society that fosters life, not death and destruction.