Withering World

Why hasn’t the world crumbled yet?

Seriously, why? You know that last scene in the movie, Men In Black – I? The one where aliens are seen playing a varied version of a football match with planets of the solar system? What if one of them could simply crush the blue-green ball they’re playing with, and end the story quickly with an “Oops”? At least, that way it would save me the trouble of writing this post. Sigh.

The consequences of caring, of not being callous:

I picture the afore-mentioned scene every night in my head, hoping it would come true someday soon. Although I have been instructed to think “nice”, and “happy” thoughts at the very least or to completely clear my mind at the very best before I go to bed, you’ve got to admit it’s hard, especially for a person like me. I’ve tried, not once but several times. It’s never worked, I tell you. It’s only made sleeping harder for a person who’s always been called a sleepyhead because she looks sleep-deprived! How mistaken are these people, the ones around me i.e.?

This isn’t the Sociologist in me talking, BTW. This is, for want of a more “appropriate” phrase, a cry for some form of help from a twenty-one year old who doesn’t confide her “secrets” or thoughts to any “personal” journal or a “best friend” but has decided today to make the following thoughts public. These won’t be confessions of course – I am no Mahatma-in-the-making to confess how I experiment with alcohol or consume meat in a foreign land only to realize that non-alcoholism (I am not a teetotaler for, I don’t advocate non-alcoholism) and vegetarianism constitute the “healthiest” form of diet (I admit that I may have misread Mahatma’s accounts in his autobiography. In my defense it was a long time back.). Nor do I have the results of the personal experiment I have been conducting lately – that of determining whether a homo economicus surpasses a homo sociologicus in leading a “true”, “content” and “happy” life.

Every post, barring very few, in this site appears to have been written while I was “bitter”. Or at least, that’s what people want me to say after they read the post and ask me out of concern (or it could be some other emotion; I have never been able to discern feelings in others let alone find out if what they are expressing is “genuine” – yes, you can question my choice of line of career now!), “did some incident in your life trigger this anger, this frustration?” That’s when I lie. Why? Because I need to be “civilized”, “polite”, “courteous”, “grateful for their concern”, don’t I? If I could only end conversations or indeed debates by putting my tongue out and making a face, I would not be any different from a child, or so say “they – the society”. Nor would I be different from a “barbarian” if I could “provide justice” now all by myself by punching a “douchebag”. No, no; that’s why we have the Judiciary now, don’t we? We are “civilized”, after all.

Time to refine our language, and redefine the way we live:

Writing this post is hard. Why? Because I need a new, “refined” language to express everything in my mind. I’ll elaborate. You notice how nearly all adjectives mentioned so far have been enclosed within quotation marks, don’t you? My issue with the human language is just that – adjectives, adverbs and “bullshit” descriptions! What I fail to comprehend is how “beautiful” is acceptable a description for a woman whereas “ugly” is not, how a child can be called “intelligent” whereas a “dumb” kid needs to be called a “late-bloomer”. As much as I appreciate society’s concern to be less and less “discriminatory” and to make this world a more “inclusive” place to live in, I do not understand why we simply don’t get rid of adjectives altogether? I mean, in a classroom, if a teacher “appreciated” the “intelligence” of one child, isn’t he implying that the rest of the class is “less intelligent” or in other words, “dumb”? When a parent “proudly” presents their only daughter as a “beautiful” girl to guests in the household, what exactly are these parents teaching their child? – is the daughter learning that it is important and therefore to strive to look what is conventionally referred to as “beautiful”, is the daughter reeling under the impression that she is the most “beautiful” girl in the world, does she grow to believe that her parents want their daughter to be “beautiful” and they are not to accept a “less beautiful” child, does the daughter think of herself as an “ugly” person but believes now that her parents want her to look “better” or are secretly disappointed that she is not any “prettier”?!

I don’t understand. If I am free to admire a person’s looks, how can it be “wrong” and “harsh” on my part to call somebody ugly and yet not “hurt their feelings” or come across as a “racist”? By calling one man among a herd of such a species “handsome”, am I not indirectly calling the others in the group “unpleasant” to look at? As long as we have these “supposedly positive semantic reinforcers”, we can’t create an “inclusive” society. By performing the simple act of “appreciating” “beauty” or “intelligence”, we are in fact only widening the chasm of “hatred” brewing unconsciously yet constantly among peoples.

Do we truly accept “differences”?

I am born with a facial “deformity”. I don’t want my parents to raise me with a patronizing it’s-okay-to-look-different attitude. “Different” from what, I ask! “Different” from the kind of human being that religious doctrines define? Or “different” from a “normal” human being that the society has been taught to “accept” all by itself? By calling one “different”, aren’t we only creating more differences in this world that already has very little tolerance for things unconventional? The very word “okay” uttered on so many different occasions is itself the cause for many disputes.

All these rubbish practices form an inherent part of our socialization process and that too from the day we’re born!

We all know how “fair” skin’s preferable to “unfair” skin, don’t we? And now, we’re not even allowed to have scars on our faces any more. It’s as though it’s a crime to have no “fair, lovely, and clear” skin! You’re asking me which world has such a junk of a social norm? Our very own!

An eight-year old girl in an advertisement I cannot find online cries because her little brother would no longer play with her. Why? Because she has a scar on her face – a souvenir from a bicycle accident. The mother, on her part, instead of teaching the son to be accommodative of people of all sorts, to learn to accept “differences”, to not treat his sister “differently” just because she has a scar on her face, “makes her daughter beautiful and happy by using a scar-removal cream”. The advertisement ends with the kids playing together oh-so-“happily”, and the beaming mother looking on with a lot of pride on her face!

Now, both girls and boys learn from a very young age scars are a no-no. Facial deformities are unacceptable. You canNOT look different.

As adolescence sets in, the situation only exacerbates – always made worse by a parent or a “supposedly concerned sibling” who either suggests (rather condescendingly) it’s “okay” to look different and discourages the use of a cosmetic or a “hygiene” product, or another “well-wisher” whose line of reasoning ends with “when something can be done to fix your face, why not use it?”, and thus, encourages the use of “Machiavellian” products.

And with the adult phase kicking in, from “fixing the face”, we “progress” to “fixing” the rest of the body – breasts, thighs, calf muscles, underarms, abdomen, jaws, nose, buttocks, and now the vulva too. Soon enough, we’ll have “penis enlargement” (is that the right terminology?) ads in mainstream media; for now, they are “only” pornographic advertisements. What’s the big deal, you ask me? For the benefit of those who haven’t seen the ad already, check this out.

We were all silent when the fairness cream advertisements and those of other products with make-everybody-fair-and-look-the-same kind of homogenizing effect on people were introduced. Father and son, mother and daughter, plus the transvestites and the transgenders alike – everybody!; everybody was quiet when the society was bombarded with “you look ugly and you stink; you’re unlucky and unsuccessful; use this cream or this deodorant; in seven days you’ll become fair, smell “wonderful”; “miracles” are bound to happen; you shall not only get a promotion at work but you shall also get laid – tada!” ads!

Who has gone too far?

The pertinent questions to be raised are: Have we let these “opportunist” and “unscrupulous” pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies go too far? Or have they already gotten away with their “cunning” ploy to create a world “increasingly” “intolerant” to “differences”? Or are you, my reader, so “apathetic” as to believe that I’m a “frustrated”, “paranoid” woman “overreacting” to “mere” advertisements? Am I stretching “feminism” to such an extent to serve my own purpose of periodic assault on a “patriarchal, fascist” society?

You are “ignorant” – as “foolish” as I was till a few years back when I too was a silent spectator to such “cunning” campaigns; actions and transgressing inactions that are only widening the divide between peoples.

Look at the bigger picture here – a society “genuinely” accepting heterogeneity without calling differences “differences”, without categorizing or compartmentalizing things or peoples, a world in all its sense and essence “truly” “inclusive”. If we simply have no words to point out differences with, where, might I ask, would “differences” arise from? If we begin now, won’t we have a place “much different” from ours in a little over a century at least?

Consider this very piece of writing. “Critics” of my work (haha! Yes! I’m very “imaginative” and “ambitious”!) would say I let my emotions drive my reasoning, and that I’ve got to be more “scientific”. How can I be “objective” and “refrain” from “romanticizing” pain and suffering if the English language is fraught with adjectives, adverbs and “bullshit” descriptions? I can see the look of concern and even confusion on your face – a world without appreciations and criticisms?; how are we to condemn a “heinous” act?; how are we to appreciate “beauty” or an act of “kindness”? Well, we can’t.

If you are to witness a man or a woman being raped, your action at that moment should define you. It should not be your blog post or a human interest story in the newspaper the following day or a public condemnation of the act under the “glaring” lights of the media that should tell me whether you are a “sinning silent spectator”, a “monster” or a “human” being.

Argument Summary:

The dual nature of the world is evident. Polarities exist. So, if there is light, there’s bound to be darkness. The presence of one thing is often defined by the absence of the related other, the “opposite”. Therefore, my argument is reinforcements cannot simply produce “positive” effects. They cause “negative” repercussions too. Appreciating beauty condemns non-beauty. I hypothesize that if we are to migrate from this superficial level to the next and deeper level of the mind, we will find that the “mere” use of words has created concepts in our heads – one of which is the concept that “beauty” is acceptable whereas anything “even slightly flawed” needs to be fixed – this is the consequence of socialisation. Within every concept, there is one aspect of the duality that is superior to the other. Such ideas then go on to define our very actions. And thus, we are engulfed in this complex mess of a hypocritical society trying to achieve inclusion. We all know that language undergoes transformation. Why can’t this change be deliberate? Such a methodical task of refining language to refine thoughts is not without precedence – language has increasingly been made less and less sexist. If what we say defines who we are, then I would argue that the time has come for us to rid our speech of these “discriminatory” words in order to create an “equitable” society and not a “beautiful” one.

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I thank Arun for challenging my idea with his views of the world and enabling me to refine my own argument.