Month: December 2008

The most expensive trips

Why do people send those they love on guilt trips? What is the point in making someone feel so bad about himself? In a way this links to my previous post on passive aggression. Perhaps it is easier in the short run to make snide comments that seem completely random rather than just take the responsibility of conveying your true emotions and opinions. That way if the recipient of your coup de grace recognises it for the attack that it is and tries to address it, you can claim that you were joking, or that you just made a random comment. The worst part of this sort of malice is that you give the addressee no chance to explain his point of view. If he tries to do so regardless of your “it was just a joke” disclaimer, he ends up looking churlish. You, on the other hand, sit pretty on your conversational throne, relishing the glory of your moment.

With the added cost of emotional blackmail, guit trips are the most expensive of all. For the addressee in the short run. But for everyone involved in the long run. A trip to Paris would be much more satisfying and enriching. And well worth the money.

I am returning from a guilt trip today. Anyone want to meet me at the airport?



Arrested Development- the Indian albatross

sita-trial-by-fireI have been pondering (as I am wont to do) the state of the Indian woman, and have been struck by how much like a child she is treated, and expects to be treated. Yet she is also expected to rise to the occasion and mother everyone in certain situations, which makes her seem almost superhuman. This strange mix- the powerlessness of the child with the burden of the adult- results in a form of passive aggression that ensures the continuation of the vicious cycle, and women exchange one gilt cage for another when they get married. Just as they had to walk on eggshells around their fathers in order to get what they wanted they do the same with their husbands. Keep the peace, they are told. And the religion emphasises the hierarchy. The woman who dares to speak out is seen as a vituperative harpy, and is put in her place- subtly, but effectively. Thus in many Indian households, the women do not come straight out and talk about what is bothering them. They sulk, refuse to eat and make everyone who cares about them feel guilty, until someone figures out what it is that is bothering them and sets it right. However much grief this causes, it is seen as somehow more womanly than just telling people what they want, or getting it themselves  I know how this works, because I am an Indian woman. Yet it seems strange to me when I see it in action, and I lack the duplicity needed to engage in it myself.

Warren Farrell, in his book “The Myth of Male Power”, writes that society teaches women to act as helpless victims, and men as life-risking heroes. Thus while it looks as though men are all-powerful, in effect the social rules of a patriarchal society work as much against men as they do against women. One example- women attempt suicide more often than men do, but men successfully commit suicide more often than women do. Thus while women are generally crying out for attention with their suicide attempts, men genuinely believe that they will achieve more by dying than by living. Another example- women complain of a glass ceiling when it comes to corporate jobs and other high-profile careers, because these are dominated by men. Yet no one complains of gender discrimination in other male-dominated professions such as building construction and refuse disposal. There is, Farrell argues, a double standard at work here that clearly affects both men and women.

In the same manner, when the Indian Woman does what she is programmed to do- use emotional blackmail instead of direct communication- it hurts not only the woman, but the men who love her as well: husband, sons and brothers. It even hurts the other women in her life. In the same way that a child’s tantrum throws its parents into anxiety and fear, the woman-child’s array of tactics takes her whole family on a roller coaster of emotional turmoil.

I am not unaware of the dangers of generalisation- not all Indian women are trapped in this cycle, and among those who are ensnared in this way, not all are Indian. Neither are they all necessarily women. However, I insist on applying my Golden Rule here: my blog, my say.

The Heart of Things- some excerpts

Here are two passages from the book that I introduced in my last post. They seem especially apt in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks and other such examples of the viciousness that people blinded by misconceptions of religion and other ideologies are capable of.  



Pg 107- “When individuals get to know one another it is usually impossible for them to like or hate each other on the basis merely of generalities about race, religion or history. To hate successfully, you must hate an abstraction- the totality of Arabs or Jews or whomever- because once you put a face to a person, and with it a home, children, an enjoyment of hamburgers or football, all abstractions melt.”

Two Orange People Shaking Hands


Pg 150- “Each of the world’s current conflicts needs just two individuals, leaders on opposing sides, to stand up, meet, talk, keep clearly in view some image- a child blinded or limbless because of bombing, say- and to agree a fixed determination not to use large-scale murder as a way of managing differences. On that basis real hope can enter the picture. This is of course an extremely hard thing to achieve; but it is why such individuals, if they were to appear, would be heroes indeed.”

The Heart of Things

ac-graylings-the-heart-of-thingsThis is the title of the book that I am currently reading. AC Grayling ties philosophical concepts with modern problems in this gem of a book that gives an articulate voice to the thoughts that usually float around randomly in my head. Covering topics such as War, Poverty and even Indulgence, Grayling introduces us to classical philosophers as well as modern history, and shows us the connection between them so clearly that what seemed like two disparate entities before now looks more like (what should have been) a blinding flash of the obvious. I love this book. And if I have the energy I will post some excerpts from it over the next few weeks. I might even be using some of the chapters in class. This is why I find it so hard to plan out all my lessons for the year at one go. I see something brilliant like this and I just have to share it with my students (all of whom I am missing very much, by the way!).

elephant-readingWhat are you guys reading these holidays?