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Friday, November 19, 2004
Glen Hoddle does not deserve to be lumped in with Aragonés. For the most part Simon Barnes in the Times writes well and fairly about the controversy over racist remarks by Luis Aragonés, head coach for the Spanish football team. Or rather the controversy in Britain and lack of controversy in Spain.
But there was one part of his article that I thought was unfair. I quote:
Glenn Hoddle was dismissed as England coach because he said things about the disabled that provoked a heart-felt reaction across the country. The head of the England football team just can’t go around saying things like that.No, he can't. And that has the unfortunate consequence, particularly for those who oppose racism as Simon Barnes does, that until things change we can never have a Hindu coach for our football team. Hoddle's belief in reincarnation and that misfortune in this life is the result of bad behaviour in past lives may be unusual for a white Briton but is orthodox for thousands of Britons of the Hindu religion. I have no doubt that Hoddle's sacking had a chilling effect on Hindus striving for public eminence in all sorts of fields, not limited to sport.
Perhaps the greatest, the most heartfelt, of all questions is: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Closely related to it is another question: "How can a good God allow such suffering?"
"There is no God," say the atheists, "and hence no reason why." For those who still hope, there have been two great religious answers; the Free Will of the Judeo-Christian religions (combined with the belief in a future state where "every tear shall be wiped away"), and the Law of Karma proposed by the Buddhists, Jains and Hindus.
It is not my answer. I do not believe in reincarnation. But it is a seriously considered answer with millenia of intellectual tradition behind it. This article by a Canadian Hindu defends the religion against the charge that it is anti-disabled.
The person with the disability is indeed entitled to ask the perennial question, "Why me?" And, for him or her, karma and reincarnation provides an answer: it is a result of your own past deeds. This serves two ends. First, it keeps the one disabled from concluding that we live in a Godless, capricious universe and are victims of a purposeless fate. Second, one can now look to the future, for the doctrine of karma does not end with the proposition that what happens to us is the result of what we have done. It equally advances the proposition that we create our future by how we act now. So, do not wallow in self-pity but strive for a better future, an endeavor in which all others should readily help.The article also stresses that it is the duty of others to help the sick and disabled in order to help their own karma. C.S. Lewis quoted a Hindu text that said, "Children, old men, the poor, and the sick, should be considered as the lords of the atmosphere."
I wish more prominent British Hindus had spoken out about this at the time of Hoddle's exit - but I find it hard to blame them for their silence, given that it had just been demonstrated that people with their beliefs could be sacked for them to popular acclaim.