Natural selection

Vaishali Dinakaran  /
22 Apr 2018 03:03:13 IST

The Germans have this wonderful ability to condense complex emotions, that one would ordinarily need whole sentences to describe, into single words. I was aware of this before I moved to Berlin, since a few such words have been appropriated into the English language. But the more familiar I became with German, the more astonished I grew with the number of such words in existence, and the sheer complexity of the emotions that they conveyed. Which is why it was immediately apparent, when I woke up one morning feeling somewhat listless, sick and bilious, what it was that ailed me. I was suffering, I knew at once, from an acute case of weltschmerz - the sense of sorrow one might feel about the state of the world. And I don't think that I can be blamed for feeling this way. Much is wrong with the world today. And much is wrong with all of us who inhabit it.

To escape, if only briefly, from the harsh realities of this somewhat cruel, depraved world that we live in, I turned to things that I love. I attempted to read, but even the laughs offered up by Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid failed to cheer me any. I channeled some of my righteous indignation into verse, that while not particularly good, provided some sort of catharsis. And I decided that I'd immerse myself in what promised to be a very packed motorsport weekend - F1 in Shanghai, WRX in Catalunya, Formula E in Rome, and a host of Indian drivers competing in events around the world. It seemed like it would be an easy fix. Dive right into motorsport, and shut out the rest of the world. At least for a little while. But I failed. My attention neither here, nor there, but instead down in some sort of rabbit-hole of putrid thoughts about our species.

See, I've known for a while that we are our own worst enemy. History shows that humans will only do what's best for them. We're the first of the domesticated beasts. In some cases we're barely domesticated. And sometimes this bestial nature of ours rears its ugly head in the most unfortunate of places - like a racing circuit. There's a fine line between our innate nature of always seeking victory, and the more venomous thought process of wanting to win at any cost. Perhaps the most dangerous of all is when a person believes he or she is above the law. It is when the lines blur between what is acceptable and what is not that anarchy breaks out. When those lines blur on a racetrack, the result is terrifying.

When we are faced with a scary situation like this, it makes little sense dig up instances from the past, about how someone had pulled a similar move years ago, but got away with it scot free. The point is to evaluate what happened now, why it happened, and ensure that it doesn't happen again. Maybe also realise that when XYZ brazenly crashed into his own team-mate years ago, and got away with it, it had a ripple effect that was not pleasant. Not only did a bitter feud play out in F1 for years, but the next generation of super-racer believed that that was "racing". Less than a decade later, someone else crashed into a rival. But lessons had been learned. The perpetrator was punished. The punishment fit the crime. And no one has committed such a blatantly kamikaze act since. I recollect an incident, more recently, in the lower rungs of single-seater racing, and even there, stern action was taken. The driver in question is only now making his motorsport comeback after serving out a two-year ban. My point is, at a racetrack, and out in the real world, the next generation is learning from the example set today. Which means that there is an obligation to ensure that the example that is being set is a good one.

It's no surprise that I've been thinking about good and bad behaviour on a racetrack so much, given what happened at the Argentina GP. If you want to read clearly thought out and well-worded arguments about the Marquez vs Rossi spat, go read what the likes of Freddie Spencer, Kevin Schwantz and Mat Oxley have said. They make infinite sense. We'd do well not to see such acts replicated in any manner of two-wheeler motorsport anywhere. Especially since as we so often prove, getting away with things only emboldens us, or, emboldens the next generation.

There's another more sobering thought. More than ever before, I am aware today of what a huge privilege motorsport is. The act of being involved in motorsport in some way, especially at world championship level, is a huge privilege. A luxury even. As is the act of following motorsport. It means that we have the option of being present at a racetrack, or following racing from the comforts of our homes. It means that in a crazy world, there are those of us who are far removed from what everyday reality is for very many people. And we'd all do well to remember that.

And we'd also do well to remember how similar we all are. Take away the leathers or the racing overalls, get rid of the motorhomes and the sponsorship logos, and you're left with just the blood, flesh and bone that makes up a person. And I'd like to believe that no piece of tarmac, and no tract of land elsewhere in the world, is worth the cost of a human life. Beastly creatures though we may all be.

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