Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part VI | Sunday Observer

Ragging - A Simple Analysis – Part VI

17 May, 2020

I hope, by now, the reader can easily see that ragging/hazing/bullying, are not epidemics unique to the Sri Lankan state university system, but can be frequently observed in every faction and every tier of our human society, perhaps, in different disguises and intensities.  Some of the other interesting observations documented by those researchers, who studied the behavioural patterns of primates, are the highly antisocial behaviour and the lower reproductive success of those female baboons who regularly lost these fights and were confined to lower ranks by the bullies and the antisocial and aggressive behaviour of those adolescent chimps who got attacked for being different from the rest or for not conforming to the norms set by the seniors.

If we, as a nation, are genuinely interested in improving our behavioural patterns and climbing higher in the evolutionary ladder, it is extremely important for us to learn about the aftermaths of ‘ragging’ too.  It will not come as a surprise to anyone if they observe similar antisocial and/or aggressive behaviour in the later life of some of the ‘raggees’ too.

Research shows that most of the youngsters who were bullied had developed anger towards society and therefore, did not feel any remorse for any of their ‘antisocial/uncivilised/unethical/immoral’ actions irrespective of the identity of the victim(s) in general. Most, if not all, of the gunmen in mass-shootings in schools around the world were later found to be victims of bullying at their schools.  Even though we, in Sri Lanka, fortunately, do not have a gun culture similar to some of those other countries, I, for one, would only be surprised if some of the ’raggees’ from our universities had not contemplated homicide as well as suicide.  Though we have been lucky so far not to experience any mass killings in our schools or universities, how do we know what these ‘raggees’ who started hating society in general, have been doing to accomplish their revengeful motives while they are living their lives as teachers, executive officers, administrators, politicians and even as professors?

What happens when some of these ‘raggees’, who come out of the universities not only with a degree but also with this hatred towards society and low self-esteem find themselves being either underemployed or forced to become the members of the ‘Association of unemployed graduates of Sri Lanka’?  Can one really expect any loving, kind, compassionate contribution to humanity by such a frustrated individual?  Do we have any idea about the magnitude of the destruction just one psychopathic ‘ragger’/’raggee’, who ends up as a teacher, can do to the youngsters of this country?  What can we expect from the offspring of such a sadist ‘ragger’ if and when he/she becomes a parent?

I don’t think anyone in Sri Lanka, has even, tried to keep any records of the aftereffects of ‘ragging’ by analysing the behavioural changes in any of the ‘,raggees’ during their life after the ‘ragging’ season, or even gathering information about what has  happened to the people who gave up their opportunity to obtain a degree since they couldn’t tolerate the torture during the first year of the program.  Another important factor we should look into is the shameless attitudes and behavior of some of the ‘raggers’ who hated ‘ragging’ and [then] ‘raggers’ just one year ago, when they had to be the  ‘raggees’.  Is it because our society has taught and trained these young adults not to see anything wrong with indulging in the types of sadistic pleasures of inflicting these inhuman pain and suffering, on a group of innocent people of their own age as long as they can justify it by saying that “If we had to go through it then it is only fair if they go through it too”?  Can the general consensus of ‘seeking revenge’ which has become a common social norm in our society be a contributing factor for the psychopathic behaviour of the ‘raggers’? Multinational studies show that the most intense, cruel, violent and inhumane ragging/hazing/bullying was found to be in countries where violence and social intolerance are the norm in society. 

As we can see, ‘ragging’ is a common phenomenon in our society, even though it is highlighted from time to time as something that the state universities have to take care of, especially, when there is a major incident such as a serious injury or the death of a student, giving the impression that it is happening only in state universities.

It is probably not a big surprise to the reader then, as to why some people have expressed their doubts about the motives behind such negative propaganda about the state university system by certain factions of society, including some politicians, favouring a privatised higher education system in the country. They say that if the students are paying money for their education then they will feel the importance of getting the maximum value for their money and focus mainly on their studies rather than ’ragging’ others.  But what the citizens of the country should know is that most of these other countries experiencing similar epidemics in their schools and universities are countries which have privatised their higher education systems and that  they are struggling with these epidemics in state as well as private school systems in similar proportions. 

Therefore, I, for one, do not think that privatising higher education will have any effect on eradicating ‘ragging’ from the universities, since these same young adults entering those private institutions with the same mentalities and attitudes and living in the same society as they do now will, most certainly, behave in the same way towards other human beings. 

‘Raggers’ and their sympathisers sometimes try to rationalize ‘ragging’ by saying that it is done in order to maintain the social order and to ensure that no one from the new batch becomes more powerful than them and/or no one becomes confident enough to function as an individual outside their group.

This behaviour can be traced all the way back to our primate ancestors.  Humans have taken that even further with language, culture and technology where the ‘ragging’ and intimidations now start, even before the new students visit the physical premises of their respective universities in cyber space.  Social media has provided an excellent opportunity for these cowardly ‘raggers’ to be cruel to others without having to face any consequences due to weaknesses in our attitudes towards cyber-crimes and also due to  the weaknesses in the country’s legal code covering such crimes.

Even though socialisation and conformity are important traits for maintaining social order and consistency, torturing individuals whose behaviour is considered unusual or challenging by a group of psychopathic thugs is certainly going to destroy even the slightest opportunities our universities have in helping these youngsters to become creative independent thinkers and entrepreneurs. 

Another important factor we should keep in mind is that these young adults who are capable of making a conscious decision to torture their own brothers and sisters have been living in our homes, in our society, spending time with us in our schools, temples, churches, mosques and with our friends and family for over twenty years, before they came to the universities. Therefore, the responsibility of creating such monsters out of them would have to be shared by all of us.

I am yet to hear about a situation where the ’raggers’ voluntarily or under the orders of the authorities, had, at least in private settings, made an attempt to apologise to the ‘raggees’, especially, if the ‘raggees’ have been physically or mentally injured.  Usually, no one person or group, including the parents, teachers, administrative authorities of the schools, universities, the UGC or the ministries will take the responsibility of failing to prevent such blatant attacks, mental and physical torture including aggravated assaults, sexual assaults, rapes and murders of the innocent young adults of our society.

Organisations such as the WHO (World Health Organization), after recognising the threat to humanity imposed by such epidemics, decided to fund multinational projects such as the  HBSC (Health Behaviour of School-aged Children) and the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the USA and started studying these epidemics as public health crises through its newly formed ‘Division of Violence Prevention’.

As we know, ‘ragging’ has been a common occurrence in our state university system for more than fifty years.  Even as you read this today, one young man is struggling for his life in a hospital due to an injury resulting from ragging at one of the state universities.  This clearly shows that whatever we have been doing to stop this menace has not been effective at all and continuing with the same mindset will not produce a different result. Therefore, I think, the time has come for us to learn from the rest of the world and look at the ‘ragging/hazing/bullying/initiation’ epidemics through a different lens, perhaps, as ‘public health crises’.  ‘Raggers’ and ‘raggees’ both should be considered as victims of this particular virus called ‘ragging’, and we must come together as a country with genuine conviction and commitment of eradicating it not only from the state universities but also from our society and culture completely. 

I would like to end this six-part series sharing the following, possibly unrealistic, expectation with you.  That is: If the parents and spiritual leaders who guide them, grandparents, other relatives and friends, teachers, doctors, neighbours and of course the governing bodies of all the babies born in Sri Lanka, from today onwards, make a genuine commitment not only to make these babies grow up to be engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists and cricketers but also to be compassionate human beings who are not capable of even thinking of being’ raggers’ under any circumstances, then (and may be only then) can we  safely say that there won’t be any ‘ragging’ in our universities in the year 2040 and beyond.

(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])