Jallikattu feeds into the constant need of humans to dominate over the beast

If, for a moment, we walk away from the chaotic fallout of the jallikattu controversy and see things through the prism of the savage in all of us, we might get a different perspective. We are animals, too, and animals fight. It is instinctive. It is in the DNA — to mark territory —challenge and subdue.

The story of the scorpion fits perfectly. It asked a frog for a lift across the raging river. No way, said the frog, if I let you sit on my back you will sting me and kill me.

Why would I do that, said the scorpion, if I sting you, I'll drown and die, too.

 Jallikattu feeds into the constant need of humans to dominate over the beast

Representational image. AFP

Unable to combat the logic, the frog agreed and they set off across the water. Half way across, the scorpion stung the frog and as they were drowning, the frog croaked; why did you do that?

Sorry, said, the scorpion, it is in my nature.

Ergo, it is in our nature to be aggressive and physically violent. Thanks to the veneer of civilised conduct that is painted over Homo sapiens by Homo sapiens, courtesy their ability to articulate thought, we have given this 'beast' that lies dormant within us grand and romantic labels over the centuries. The warriors and the gladiators, the macho mania and the search for manhood, the proof needed to underscore our maleness, these tags have fed our wars and upped our bloodlust.

With a certain insidiousness, we have taken this love for hurting and made it acceptable by giving it a second coat of paint which we call culture. The rite of passage varies but it is firmly fixed in male bonding and a need to prove we are men of courage. Jallikattu is only one of scores of fixtures involving the beast in man and his ongoing battle for dominance over the beast per se.

We can go into denial as much as we want but the bloodspill never leaves us. That is why mixed martial arts have the highest viewership on TV. For this reason, we can watch bleeding noses and scream our visceral heritage of hatred on screens and not even flinch at the blood sprays. Ask the fox about the hounds.

As an aside have you ever seen women go berserk at a wrestling match? Even though we speak only of male macho, the beast lies in women, too, and if jallikattu was open to them they'd be no less enthusiastic to go for the 'kill.' Same DNA, same love for violence.

Another hap-hap-happy word. Sport. Car racing's climax is the hope of witnessing a wreck, the jockey might fall off the horse, wait for it, ice hockey might lead to an all out clash. Rugby could break a neck and we would be there.

Think of cinema without gratuitous violence as an element. It won't exist. All climaxes of a plot are violent.

Why are we so skittish about accepting that we like goats butting or fighting lions or wolves marking their territory. After all, don't we admire the killer instinct in those we look up to.

The Masai had to kill lions with a spear to prove their manhood. Tribals all over the world had to scalp a victim to make that rite of passage. The Mantawi tribe in Indonesia file their teeth to make them as sharp as daggers. The Fulani in Africa beat each other to a bloody mush with whips so that they can become men.

Cracked.com says: "The Mandan tribe really didn't mess around when it came to proving their manhood. Their rite of passage, called the okipa ceremony, basically came about when a bunch of them sat down to brainstorm the most horrible things that they could possibly do to a person."

Jallikattu is just one of many such activities which cater to that part of our nature. Promulgation will not stop us from cockfights and dogfights and bare knuckled wrestling...same thing, different animals. In the US, there is a $25,000 fine and 10 years in jail for arranging cockfights, but that hasn't stopped anyone.

Updated Date: Jan 25, 2017 14:50:27 IST