Ragging–a simple analysis – Part V | Sunday Observer

Ragging–a simple analysis – Part V

10 May, 2020

As I mentioned last week in Part IV of this analysis, most of the countries experiencing the destructive effects of this epidemic of ‘ragging/hazing/bullying”, especially among their youth, have been trying to find as many contributing factors to the menace as possible, by treating it as a public health crisis. This requires that expertise from all related fields be used in the process.

If we look at similar behaviour patterns of members of different age groups and different tiers in society, we will see that these are all based on similar thought patterns generated by the same basic animal instincts, for example:

A group of teenagers using scare tactics on an innocent child at school to get his box of lunch by force

A group of thugs in a university using scare tactics on innocent new students to get them to join a certain political party or to get any other cheap thrill or satisfy an ulterior motive

A group of underworld thugs using scare tactics on an innocent group of bus driver/conductor/owner to collect unofficial taxes (bribes) by force

A professor to use the threats of being able to block a student’s or a junior staff member’s success unless that student/junior staff member was prepared to be a slave willing to do anything and everything the professor demands

A politician ( or a group of politicians ) using scare tactics on the  general public to rob their votes or to collect unlawful bribes/commissions and/or to threaten journalists to stop publishing the truth about their corruptions.

  This phenomenon is described by some people as the ‘law of the jungle, or ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘kill or be killed’.  It is very interesting to note here that, even though the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is commonly used to describe similar situations where the more powerful and resourceful gain and command an advantage over the weaker and the poorer generating a higher chance of survival for the powerful. It was originally used by scientists such as Herbert Spencer and Charles Darwin to suggest that the organisms best adjusted to their environment are the most successful in surviving and reproducing.

In the context of increasing the chances of survival, by being the ‘best adjusted to the environment ’then, it may be the ‘raggees’ who think and feel they have to accept any and all kinds of violations and torture and tolerate what is called ‘ragging’in order to survive in the university and obtain a degree. Or it may be that the student/junior staff member feels that he/she will have to wash the professor’s car and/or babysit the professor’s children and/or deliver groceries to the professor’s house in order to survive in this game of gathering qualifications.

Have we conditioned our young generations to think that these degree(s) they get at the end of their university careers are all worth much more than the torture, humiliation and the mental agony caused by ragging and/or more than their dignity, honour and self-respect that they sacrifice by being a slave to a particular professor. Would they not even feel that the;’raggers’ and/or those professors, with attitudes of a slave master, are violating their basic human rights?

Is that one of the main reasons why these victims, ‘raggees’ and/or students/junior staff members who are used as slaves by their professor masters, are reluctant to make any complaints against the perpetrators or even to be a witness at an inquiry related to these types of violations?  If so, could it be  that there is  an even more powerful influence than the witness intimidation that makes such victims become unfathomably silent?

Is it because the young adults coming out of our school system have no backbones strong enough to stand against violators of their basic human rights?  Is it because these ’raggees; are so selfish that they feel that it is better to tolerate the torture and somehow survive the’ ragging’ period so that they can just finish their degree without wasting time and energy trying to resist it, because once they pass the , ragging’ period it is not going to be their problem anymore?

Whichever way one interprets it, what is clear about the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ is that it describes a basic behaviour that the scientists have observed in the vegetable and animal kingdoms which was expected to be overridden, at least to some extent, through the process of evolution, civilisation and spiritual development within the human kingdom.

The fact that behavioural patterns similar to ‘ragging’ are observed around the world, from the hunter-gatherers of  the Ituri Forest in the north-east of Congo to elite fortune hunters of Wall-Street in New York, United States of America, irrespective of the dominant cultures and social environments in those different places, clearly indicate that it is extremely important for us to explore how much of this destructive behaviour is embedded in us as a universal characteristic of our basic human nature.

Since most, if not all, of such universal characteristics of humans have their origins deep in our evolutionary history, it may not be a bad idea to explore the possibility of inheritance perhaps from other primates pre-dating the beginning of our own species.  Decades-long research by Jeanne and Stuart Altmann on baboons and by Jane Goodall on chimpanzees in Kenya and Tanzania clearly show that this behaviour is common within these primate communities too.

They have documented similar intimidating and aggressive behavior among baboons, where some female baboons established their power over others in order to make others to be subservient to them and to get resources from them by force. Among chimpanzees, adult males did the same to the adolescent males making it difficult for the adolescents to join the senior group.  Sometimes, the older adult-male chimps have ganged up and attacked and even killed a younger-male when the younger one did not show much interest in joining the clan and tried to live on his own.

The researchers have observed the strong urge of the adult chimps to have control over the youngsters so that they would obey the clan and conform to parameters set by them.  Even though some of us may not like to admit it, when we see events like two women fighting for toilet paper at a supermarket in Australia during this Covid-19 pandemic and people being killed due to their sexual orientation or the colour of their  skin or just due to non-conformity to a political ideology, it is very clear that we, as humans, have not improved our behaviour that much from those of our primate ancestors.

We are good at keeping those prime-behaviours hidden until we are faced with limited resources to fight for or with what we feel as a threat to our survival by a newcomer or a new ideology.

(The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic for over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and  can be contacted at [email protected])