Saturday, September 24, 2005

The land of absolutes

You are my best friend.
I am having the best time of my life.
Thats absolutely wrong.
Thats the worst thing ever to happen to me.
Without you life is nothing.

We have seen these statements so many times. On t.v. By Friends, by lovers. even by ourselves. I am also prey to such absolutes like worst, best, greatest, highest, funniest etc. etc. Do we ever pause to think how ridiculous they sound ?

Absolutism is the outlook/tendancy to have a constant unchanging structure built to act us guiding post for conducting our life.

It is like visualising something so that we can reach it. Thats why people climb mountain peaks. If they dont reach the peak, the climb is incomplete right ? Do you see someone coming upto you and say "hey guess what, I climbed down the lowest point in town ?"

Why do we do that ? This is not unique to one culture or one set of people. Its not even unique to man, many animals do that. But Animals do that for securing mating rights (I know it sounds like mining rights )with the maximum number of females or to win the queen bee. I thought man has conquered that problem. Everyone who wants to mate has a chance to mate isnt it ? The rich, get married and so do the poor. What is then the source of absolutism.

It stems from the latent instinct man as any animal has. Thats comparison. Man has no use for this tool anymore. Afterall he has cracked the whole puzzle of mating. But he still has this tool as an instinct and this gets channelised into other areas of social behaviour unrelated to mating or in-conflict to intra-species norms of mating (Monogamy).

Lets take walrus. Two walruses off the coast of tiera-del-fugo (southernmost tip of south america) are fighting it out. First is the show of strength. Who is the taller one ? "Yeah me, says the one on the red corner". "So what, I have bigger tusks and I can dig deeper into your blubber", says the one on the blue corner. "Right, but before you can move your half a ton ass, I can nail your face cos I can move faster", retorts back the one in blue corner. When all comparisons of size, agility, length, stamina etc. etc. are done and all options exhausted the fight begins. Sometimes the fight is to death.

Well men are like walruses but with rules. You cant fight and kill. You do that, you would lose mating rights for minimum 12 years or maybe for ever. Men make rules, and other men are smarter. If I cant hit at you physically, I will do it mentally. A slow process of social comparison and superiority has been set forth.

You have big assed women of south africa now playing down their assets because the black man's perception of beauty has been terminally altered. Its no longer the healthy cushion next door, but the anaemic bony thing that walks on the ramp every night on Fashion t.v.

Then there are the fairness creams. They created a god who is fair (have you ever noticed Jesus an arab jew of sweltering middle east is a white, blue eyed, blonde ??) and have absolutely undesirable connotations associated with darker colour. This is big business for the L'Oreals. Afterall it is one biggest thing which has completely transformed a wish/want to concrete numbers and dollars.

Again as this superiority game became open and blatant there started a counter superiority movement. You see, whenever I see the stronger and obviously more endowed man/woman assert her superiority over the weaker male. I see myself from the weaker guy's shoes and I dont feel good. Now thats lesser money for the movie makers. "Damm I am like him a loser and see what happens to me". So the opinion makers decided to make the apparently weaker guy win. There was born "The underdog". The underdog phenomena kicked in quiet a few icons. Rocky, Revenge of the geeks. But essentially the message was the same. Win or lose.

This comparison mode is good, but it leaves people unfullfilled. People want ultimate victory, annhilation, a clear statement of "you are wrong and I am right". People also expect change and following. How happy were the christians when constantine of Rome converted to christianity ? ITs a vindication of right, and a purpose for existance. Here in, there are the always right guys and the new comers. The new comers are more than willing to accomodate to the rules of the old gaurd. And the old gaurd feels more than secure in numbers. Here the subtle "you are a better boxer than me or you have a better smile than her" doesent cut ice. The neanderthal world that existed thousands of years back provides a much attractive world of absolutes. The world of relegions.

God is good, Devil is evil. Do you see how clear the message is ??
God - Good
Devil - Evil.

I mean even an absolute dodo like me cant mistake devil for the good and god for the evil. Afterall everyone has learnt "match the words" in kindergarden. This structure of relegion is based on clear and concrete symbols which forms the foundation of our existance. The things that were taught to us right from our childhood. Dont steal, stealing is wrong. How ridiculous can this be ? Isnt it ridiculous to say stealing is wrong ??

Stealing at best is illegal. Its got its base on rules and not morals. But to take some of the fundamental rules that kids are taught as unchanging absolutes and build a moral framework, is what thats unique and ingeneous in relegious indoctrination. But man isnt foolish enough not to question those. There comes another set of absolutes. Heaven and hell. It takes care of the time aspect and reward/retribution aspect of behaviour. When Saddam asks the priest, he asks "If stealing is wrong ? why is George W Bush stealing oil". "Dont worry son, God is watching and he will punish George W Bush on judgement day, he will go to hell".
George W Bush hears this and approaches the priest. "Hey I dont want to go to hell, and its just ridiculous to say I stole. I just took what was mine". The priest replies, "Dont worry son, confess and accept Jesus christ into your hearts and all your sins would be pardoned because he already died for it. You will go to heaven". Here arithmatic works.

Who stands in judgement of who ? and why ? and how ? Relegious dogma is no different from "Lakme Fair and Lovely" or "Shahrukh Khan" or "We have to free the world from tyranny". Its all part of the same phenomena, same world. A world of absolutes.

So cant we not have absolutes ? We have to, but absolutes that change. "Wait a minute.. It cant be absolute if it changes". Maybe thats the problem.


At 1:15 AM, Blogger blogpromo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Archana said...

wowww....that was some analyzation there.
'A slow process of social comparison and superiority has been set forth'....absolutely!!

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Ramana Siddharth said...

there is a streak of anarchy in this one..and the questions u raise are at once philosophical and down 2 earth.u have got an original mind.

maybe we need a set of rules/constants to avoid total chaos?

At 3:54 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@Sid - The whole concept of world exists on balance... I think chaos/anarchy are part of the balance. There will always exist chaos, uncertainity and anarchy. Its quest of man to build an utopia that creates all the rules. Remember jurrasic park I ??

Life always finds a way.


At 8:27 AM, Blogger small squirrel said...

yes as humans first of all everything must be a zero sum game... for sure there must be a winner and a loser... we cannot stand the middle ground. the more powerful you are, the more you hate the middle. who knows how it got that way... it is absurd. but yes these absolutes change, and if you ar ethe one in power you can change that absolute to fit your needs.

I especially liked the bit about the blond-haird blue-eyed jesus. I mean, shit, the bible says the man had hair like lamb's wool. when is the last time you saw a lamb with long flowing silky hair? ridiculousness. but when you are the definer of the absolutes... jesus because europeanized. that is not a word, is it? shit. ah anglicized is the word, no? yet these people (well and apparently I am one of them) are perpetually seeking to darken their ultra fair skin... another absolute dichotomy making no sense.

it's not always might that makes right, though... sometimes brains outweigh brawn. we must hope for it. or we must hope that the people using thier brains in the way we agree with prevail.

my head is spinning, vasu.

At 2:28 AM, Blogger Sudarshan said...

You have taken it at face value? Its meant to guide us, how, we can interpret in our own sweet ways.
You hit the nail on the head when you said world exists on balance, Unfortunately, Absolutism is a part of the balance too.

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the aspect of schooling and values we are taught ahave always been fascinating for me.. taught mostly in absolutes and then u start living and realize that absolutes rarely work in the real world, its always middle ground.. sometimes a little to that side and sometimes a little to this.. where u draw the line that behaves like the fulcrum becomes that persons personal ethics..

lengthy and lovely analysis.. was an excellent read..

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Misreflection said...

Absolutism, I beleive there is no such thing.. its merely yardsticks , measures, which are changing as we speak. Granted we use it all the time.. only cos humans thrive on social boundaries and guidelines. We are not evolved enough to live without it. Religious dogma, agree wholeheartedly but how many are willing to make their own rules / guidelines. Sometimes its just easier to follow those before you.. the ones who deviate are never really understood and when they are its always too late..

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At 2:18 AM, Blogger Vodka said...

too much Mr.Vasu!!! too good,too..

nice analysis.

you know what i never understood? indian obsession with fair skin. i know lots of people who never go into the sun because they fear tanning.

what about the sheer joy of roasting under the sun?

At 5:10 AM, Blogger Vasu the terrible said...

@Squirril - very true indeed. This is one undesirable aspect of globalisation. Globalisation of culture which is ridiculous. Thats why our sensibilities have become so numb, that we listin to britney and madonna and have forgotten the folk lore of the nearby village. The key thing is, over a period of time most people realise that these symbols no more provide peace. What gives peace and happiness is the middle ground.

@Suddu - Absolutism is part of the equation. But the equation itself isnt absolute. Infact, I am experimenting with a life without absolutes and I have a feeling it would be less stressful.

@Kishore - I cannot but agree with you. Its the quest for the middle ground that endures peace and happiness.

@vodka - Indian obsession of fair skin has been instilled after years of pure indoctrination..

I am personally above all that.. Infact, I like women with interesting personalities and a postive outlook to life. Darker or lighter doesent matter..


At 11:07 AM, Blogger stella said...

great discussion!

i think everyone in the world who has any ego at all needs to feel validated in some way or another and we look to the extremes. being in the middle makes one, well, average. the irony is we want to feel the best in something, but society frowns upon people who go off on their own path, so we get conformity as the norm.

it's a battle, but the only solution seems to be letting go the ego and dropping our comparisons...

(which is easier said than done)

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