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Do We Need Facial Hair

Anthony Clavane poses this question in his article under the same title in the columns of the Times of India. And the ‘evidence’ produced and the ‘arguments’ advanced by him in the body of his article, leave no doubt about what the answer of an unwary reader should be. The first thing that catches one’s attention is the caricature of a face with a long beard, overgrown protruding teeth, a nose tilted flat to one side, and eyes almost missing. The obvious suggestion is that beard is not only itself ugly, but also leads to extra large size of teeth, deformity of nose and loss of eyes ! In all fairness, it must be acknowledged that he has not concealed his bias. However, to be able to endorse such a preposterous assumption, one would certainly need an extraordinary degree of ignorance.

But the author does not depend upon his artistic skill alone. He has furnished ‘evidence’, although it is more from history or annals of fun, than from any scientific study. He quotes a 1907 experiment in which two men kissed a young woman after walking through Paris. The incident is indeed interesting and makes his article readable. But it is difficult to call it an experiment, since it is lacking in practically every requirement of a scientific trial. There are no replications, and hence no data which could be subjected to statistical treatment. There is no information on the personal hygiene of the two main actors in the drama. Who was conducting the ‘experiment’ ? And with what purpose ? Did he not know that no valid conclusion can be drawn on the basis of a single trial ? And so on.

Any way, let us have a look at his conclusions. "Harmless yeast germs were found in the clean-shaven man’s solution, whereas the bearded man’s swarmed with malignant microbes." This is indeed very interesting. The two men walked the same street of the same city. It is natural to expect that they would catch more or less of both types - the harmless yeast germs and the malignant microbes. The author is suggesting, however, that the malignant microbes can distinguish between a bearded man and a clean-shaven man in order to swarm to the former, carefully avoiding the latter. If the malignant bacteria swarmed the beard of the bearded man, then where do you think they swarmed more in the case of the clean-shaven man ? If another test had been done to compare the alveoli of the lungs of the two men, the answer would be clear. For, these would be found in the lungs of the clean-shaven man, who had no beard to entrap them. This test was done in 1907, imagine if a similar one was done today ! Hail the beard ! It traps malignant bacteria from entering the lungs. Is it being suggested to remove the strainer for pouring tea, because it collects all the tea leaves ? Although the beard is not originally meant for this purpose, men can, in fact, benefit from it in the present day polluted environment.

While the structure of hair is such that it can trap bacteria, it does not provide any congenial or favourable conditions for their growth and multiplication. On the other hand, shaven skin is one of the best substrata for their survival and multiplication. Shaving, which has to be repeated at least once everyday, invariably result in cuts, some of which are microscopic - and that is all the malignant bacteria and dreaded viruses need to swarm to the interior of our bodies. (Or may be the microbes can distinguish between the cuts inflicted by shaving from other types of cuts !) A shaven face is rather unhygienic. In fact, it should not be called ‘clean-shaven’, but ‘unclean-shaven.’ We all know how important it is to maintain an intact skin in modern times, when fear of AIDS, hepatitis-B, etc., is writ large on the face of mankind.

If hair are really posing such a problem, we will have to train ourselves to shave off eyelashes, eyebrows, hair in the nostrils and ear canals, which otherwise have a definite protective role, but must also inevitably be swarmed by malignant microbes, following the results of the Paris experiment.

There is one solution to the problem by which we can retain all other hair on the body and lose only the beard and moustache - and that too from the roots, and for all times to come. And that is to stop the testes from producing the male hormone, testosterone. How would you like that? The only casualty of this would be the other male secondary sexual characters. These are only the unwanted deepening of voice, broadening of shoulders, growth and distribution of hair on body at puberty, enlarged and stronger skeletal muscles, development of accessory sex glands such as prostate and seminal vesicles, and sexual behaviour and the sex urge. But look what you have achieved - only the harmless yeast bacteria will come near you ! What a relief !

Since beard is an organ of the body, it is most ridiculous to place smoking and the keeping of beard together as habits. An addiction of the body cannot be compared with an organ of the body. Then what about other organs of the body, other than the beard, which are more ‘smelly’ and more of ‘a danger to public health’, such as , mouth, armpits, feet, and, sex organs. It is not any particular organ, but the hygienic standard that an individual maintains, which determines how much of a health hazard he is to society. The whole body needs cleansing regularly. We also wear clothes, which must harbour bacteria with time. Do we stop wearing them for that reason ? Why do not Ross Perots, Walt Disneys and Margaret Thatchers further prefer naked underlings to dressed ones ?

It is a fact that men who maintain beard are a minority (not ‘oppressed’, though), and may be 86% of women disapprove of beards, and that smooth chops are preferred as political candidates, but has it ever been proven that what the majority does, thinks or feels, is right ? Consider Rabindra Nath Tagore, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, George Bernard Shaw and other great man sporting charming beards, who belonged to this minority. Were they ‘obsessive’, ‘psychopathic’ or ‘impotent’ ? Did they have some other sexual problems, prescribed by Parker ? Nobody, not even a hundred per cent of people, can deny or challenge the accuracy, meaningfulness and wisdom of Nature’s decision. And there are women who find bearded men extremely handsome, and think that men without beard are not men. And also that shaven men look like dressed chickens or eunuchs. However, the fact remains that the location and growth of hair on the human body is a decision of Nature, and is not subject to an opinion poll amongst an ignorant population.

Great visionary artists like Michaelangelo and William Blake have depicted God with full flowing beard. To William Shakespeare, a beardless man was ‘barefaced’, which according to Oxford Dictionary means shameless and impudent. The Book of Knowledge states : "The thought of beards generally brings to mind learned professors, artists, or perhaps Father Christmas...". About the spiritual symbolism of the beard, The Encyclopaedia Britannica states : "The bearded races of mankind have commonly held the beard in high honour. It is the sign of full manhood ... Adam, the primal man, and the deities and prophets of many faiths have been traditionally pictured with beards, as were kings and nobles and dignitaries ... In India and Turkey, the beard was allowed to grow as a symbol of dignity and wisdom ... among Turks, slaves were shaved as a mark of servility." According to Anthony Clavane, even today some bosses prefer clean-shaven underlings !

Nature has decorated the male human being, as it has done many other species (lion, peacock and other birds, deer, etc.) And further, the beard and moustache have not been ‘retained’, but bestowed on man, as no other animal has this type of decoration. It is one of the many gifts of Nature to man, who, owing to these gifts, is the most evolved and intelligent species of animals today. Does a tree look better, when cut to a shape ? Will a lion or a peacock look better after having been to a barber ? Are these animals and many others suffering from ‘sexual anxiety’ or some ‘appalling personality defect’ ?

A psychological problem can only be associated with those who shave or style their beards, rather than with those who maintain them. To wear the beard in its natural form is the only natural, normal and logical thing to do. Having a beard is not being aggressive. In fact, it is a sign of living in harmony with Nature. On the other hand, it is shaving which is an act of aggression on Nature ! And such attacks are done in the erroneous belief that it beautifies man. How can we improve on God’s creation ? Can we paint the lily better ? If God wanted man without a beard, he could easily have created him as such (for example, has he not created him without a tail?). A man who shaves is an apostate violating God’s order, refusing His gift.

Actually, shaving of the beard is a wrong approach to the actual problem. What would be Anthony Clavane’s next suggestion ? Remove the lungs ? The real problem is pollution, which needs to be tackled. If the Taj Mahal or the buildings of London city are in the danger of being ruined with pollutants in the air, is it a solution to bring down these magnificent structures ? Will it solve any problems ? The grave problems that man faces today, such as acid rains, cancers, ozone depletion, greenhouse effect, etc., are all results of interfering with Nature. If only man would acknowledge his short-sightedness, so many problems would not arise. In view of short-term profits, deforestation started, and only then did we realise the importance of trees - when it was too late ! It is sad that inspite of so many obvious results of tampering with Nature, man has not learnt any lessons. Man calls himself wise (Homo sapiens), but when will wisdom dawn on mankind ! The farther we are moving from Nature, the closer we are getting to our own END.

As mentioned earlier, human hair or beard is an organ of the body, and discussion of this subject legitimately belongs to the discipline of biology. This author has drawn support from the like of Margaret Thatcher, Ross Perot, Walt Disney and Tupper. One may ask what are their credentials as biologists ? And what are the author’s own in pleading the barber’s cause?

The author also beneficently advocates ‘a little social engineering’ to change human behaviour, and would like to entrust this responsibility to Edith Sessions Tupper, who gave the verdict, 90 years ago : "If the 20th century should remove whiskers from the face of man, it will be glory enough for 100 years." God, save the society from such ‘social engineers’ who see nothing beyond nose (or beard) for glory of mankind over a full century !

Nature is a volume of which God is the author. (Harvey)

God has given you one face,

And you make yourselves another. (Shakespeare)

Guru Nanak’s noble religious ideology

Gave birth to a great Nation of Sikhs,

Whose greatness is reflected in their

Character and face. (Rabindra Nath Tagore)