The Battle of the Boys
It’s that time again – the big match season. And for some, it’s the one time they look forward to each year. When they can reminisce and sort of vicariously slip back into their 16 year old selves and behave in all ways unacceptable except in the context of the “big match” and “tradition”.
I totally get that feel – matches are super fun. The papare bands, the people and the general atmosphere is one of great enjoyment. The alcohol gives spiritual upliftment of a different kind and resultant Dutch courage releases many inhibitions. It’s also furthered by the inherent human competitiveness which is played out in the field of sport – in this instance – cricket.
Sports are a great source of character building. It’s one of the only things my mother insisted I do and I understand why. You learn so much – team work with people not from your own ilk, learning to work together through challenges, failing, falling and getting up again. The victory is truly sweetest if one has fallen to their lowest and risen from the dead. Any seasoned sportsperson can attest to this. Hence the big match is important in that sense.
But with it comes a load of other things – a lot of activities that are rooted in history and tradition. And while history and tradition are important, it is also important to examine these in the context of today, especially since some of these traditions are almost half a century or older and would not always be the best to follow, knowing what we do today.
Sri Lanka has a huge problem with sexual harassment be it in the bus or workplace, sexual assault, domestic violence and basics in things like consent. We have a national cricketer accused in Australia for not understanding what consent is in a modern context.
In this context, what is the message we give young boys when we tell them that jumping into a girls’ school is fine and it’s not just jumping in. There has been vandalism over the years from breaking property to injuring themselves as well in the process and sexual harassment of a grope and a grab. Yes, it’s tradition and yes it’s fun. In the same way that underage drinking & smoking is fun. Till the shit hits the fan.
If this is tradition, can it not be organised in a better way? I remember, about 8 years ago, I was teaching in a girls’ school in Colombo and what they did was to allow the boys to run into the quadrangle, chant some school name and go back. It wasn’t violent but it was a bit nerve wracking. Coz they come shouting from the outside. It’s a mob mentality and it gives women a flight or fight response which is what we do, and have been doing all our lives and all our generations.
My experience in school was that we were glad the boys interrupted boring classes and gave us a good distraction for about an hour. The nuns were excited – as primitive as that is – and so were the teachers. Excited coz we still follow a segregated school system and somehow boys equated demons in some macabre Puritanical Christian sense. Though some of us had sensible parents, many girls are brought up sheltered and away from the prying eyes of “boys”. This very segregation is problematic & unnatural. But that’s for another day. I do remember the Thomians singing Quit Playing Games with my Heart after they were chased off by the police. It was sweet and sad at the same time. Perhaps we should just have big parties during the match season where all school kids can mingle and just be.
Cycle parades, trucking, is fine. But there have been instances where young boys have been driving with no licenses, driving drunk they have had accidents, been speeding, graffitying walls, holding up disgusting signs like “Show Bobs” and basically behaving like primitive animals in heat. Somehow the Stag nights must be heralding this primitive instinct, but my question to the men out there is, are you this primitive? Aren’t you insulted that you are treated like an animal with no conscience? Do you not know that it is our mind, conscience and logical reasoning that separates us from animals? Or do you prefer to be an animal? In this context, it would make sense then why women dressing a certain way would trigger your animal instinct to attack, assault and claim. Is that accurate? I sincerely hope not.
Another rather scary and sad thing is that so many men seem to feel their school years were the best, even when they are 45+ and that they need to go back to relive that life. I loved school and I had a damn good time there – achieved, stood up against and stood for things. But at almost 40 if my greatest achievement was what I did at 16, then I really need to re-evaluate what my life is and take a good look at how I have lived. And that seems to be the sentiment these big matches bring out in many.
Then the general overall sentiment of one school being better than another is ridiculous & childish. I was privy to a chat group of athletes where men were openly justifying how they could tell a Royalist or Thomian by the way he walks, the way he behaves etc. What utter cock. The school does not make the man. The man maketh the man. Your home, your values and your choices will denote and define you. Your school will either enable, encourage or be a barrier to some of these things. That’s what a school does. It merely provides guidance and a path. And every school has nice people as well as shit people. So then how does this school maketh the person argument hold? Rubbish.
And what of those who found school to be stifling, horrid and full of bullies?
Boys’ schools are notorious for their bullying, ragging by prefects and sports teams. I have heard enough stories of boys being injured for life by being made to do things – scaling walls, lighting farts, enacting porn – as an initiation into the fold. This is tradition of course. But it’s primitive in its very premise. Why do these exist? To further insecurities in boys who grow up to be insecure men, who in turn bully and terrorise the people they live with, work with and lead? Do you not know that childhood trauma defines your adult life? That it doesn’t leave unless you undergo intense therapy. And tell me which man in this blessed country is willingly going for therapy? A handful. That’s it.
These are problematic aspects that must be addressed. A lot of things are fun till you realise the consequences. And a lot of things cause long term damage without many of us realising it. That is why these need to be looked at and re-evaluated. By all means celebrate the sport, enjoy and have fun but understand that some of those things need to be either eliminated or restructured if they are to make sense in today’s context. No point perpetuating a cycle that is detrimental.