Sympathy is a crime and so is empathy, go figure!

Author’s Note: I got a lot of feedback on this article and apparently it’s not the words but the ‘tone’ that the statements were made that was hurtful. Condescending, judgmental, dismissive etc. these are the emotions that infuriate and offend. No one has a problem with genuine emotions, which should have huge doses of respect for the individual if not unconditional love. However, the superior attitude or the ‘know it all’ attitude that most carry around them is what irks most when going through a crisis. Then there is the bunch who when emotionally troubled hate to bump into the ever smiling, flower smelling, diddy singing optimist. They have an emotional range far wider than just happy or sad and they find obsessing only about these two extremes vexing. While I do not understand that, I get it, I really do. We all have the right to feel whatever we do and it doesn’t need to be justified to anyone. My optimism infuriates another and their morose outlook baffles me, perfectly fine, it’s all part of being human. The confusion, the hurt, the misunderstandings, the passion, the trauma and all the drama, that is what is life and such is the journey we are forced to traverse and not always with our consent. 

An 1894 painting by Walter Langley
An 1894 painting by Walter Langley

I was reading an article and I was surprised to find two comments that were listed as hurtful.

“You should pray!”

“Relax, it will be all right.”

The mention was from someone who was facing a personal problem and had listed all the comments that well-meaning friends and relatives had often touted when made aware of her plight, before a doctor was called in for proper diagnosis.

The reason these two comments stirred me is because I mouth them, quite often and it shocked me that people would find it hurtful or offensive. I agree that they are not diagnostic in nature but one comment asks that we seek help from God, the one who raises the dead kind of powerful and the other is to ease the stress and the pain, a sort of don’t be too hard on yourself.

The only way I find it hurtful is if one recommends praying to an atheist and if a doctor quips that one should relax instead of offering proper advice or medication.

I can’t image the opposite to be recommended.

“Don’t bother praying it’s hopeless!”

“Yeah, you’re right that does sound like something is terribly wrong with you!”

Makes me think that maybe when people are that sensitive perhaps they shouldn’t talk about ‘problems’ to friends and family and seek medical counsel instead. You can’t possibly expect ordinary well wishing family and friends to be updated on all the latest medical conditions and ailments. If I have a friend who calls me up saying she has a headache, my first rhetoric will be to ask if she has taken any panadol and my advice to her will be to relax and take it easy. I won’t be mouthing recommendations for an MRI, CT scan or start drumming about blood clots in the brain or tumours. Does my general assumption that things are not catastrophic make me insensitive and rude? Sorry for my optimism.

It brought to mind an incident a few years back. I had met a woman at a parenting session she remarked that her son did not start speaking until he turned two. I told her that neither did my son and we never had any reason to worry. She was offended with my comment, staying that I was ‘not helping’ by telling her that it was OK, her son apparently has an issue that needs to be dealt with. I apologised but I kept shut about letting her know that people only relate information that they experience themselves, what course of action she takes for her son cannot be based on what other people have experienced but instead on her instinct as a parent and on the recommendations of her doctors.

My point being, only you know the depth and extent of your situation. Family and friends can support you in whatever decision you take and can offer advice that they would apply on themselves, they cannot offer medical or legal counsel (unless they are qualified to do so) and it is wrong for you to expect otherwise. If you take a wrong decision because you choose to accept an advice from a friend or relative that was wrong, is it really their fault? In this day and age when the Internet abounds with information, how hard is it to Google a query and come up with all the various issues relating to your condition. To speak to a few friends and base life changing decisions on their counsel is foolish and placing the blame on them for any wrong decisions taken, even more so.

Seriously speaking when was the last time anyone actually did what parents, friends or relatives, recommended? We all know an Aunt Bertha who wanted us to become a doctor or an uncle Jim who felt being a charted accountant was the way to go. How many times have friends told us not to date so and so or to seriously stop doing something, for our own good and yet we have ignored their advice time and time again?

Regarding being hurt or offended, when one faces a sensitive issue everything gets perceived in the wrong light. Even common sense can seem rude and insensitive. If you comment you can get perceived as nosy and if you don’t you get labelled as someone who just doesn’t care. Apparently the rule is only those who have personally undergone that particular crisis has the right to comment.

To all the people who were hurt when asked to pray about a crisis in their life, are you guilty about something? Do you feel that bringing God into the equation means that you are going to be judged or that you are being punished?

Let me clarify, God is love and he does not punish, unless you are a dictator who has killed thousands and often they live long happy lives and people tend to lament, “why is God not dealing with him/her?” Asking God for help does not mean that you are going to get judged or that you have to account for all your sins. All it means is that if all fails, he is always there and he is quite merciful.

To all the people who were upset about being told that all will be well, next time seek out the pessimistic lot, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

In lieu of the new information the aforementioned article has brought to light, my new comment to all queries from friends, family, strangers and everyone in general will be, “Seek profession advice, I am not qualified to comment.”

Free speech or just an excuse to be insensitive?

English: Kids at shore
English: Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Humour at the cost of hurting another individual, that’s cool? Really? How is it ‘Free speech’ if it costs a tear and stabbing pain to another? Here is an excerpt that got me agitated, again.

I’m not surprised you get along well with all the other neighbours. If you put fifty children with Down’s syndrome in a room there is going to be a lot of hugging.

The only way the writer could ‘get back’ at a mean neighbour is to compare him to someone with disability? So according to the writer people with challenges are to be looked down upon, ridiculed, basically the children of the lesser God? I have worked with Down syndrome children and I assure you there is nothing derogatory in being compared to them. They are sensitive, kind, honest and the gentlest creatures on God’s Earth.

I know he was trying to be funny and was exercising his ‘Free Speech’, but I beg to differ. It isn’t ‘free’ if another pays the cost of expressing it, with tears and pain. I love humour and often do indulge in a little ‘smart alec’ dialogue delivery where the recipient, usually my mom, decides to chase me with her rolling-pin. However, I do respect the fine line between hilarious and insensitive. I was once laughing my head off at a Friends episode when my elder brother walked in, took me aside and spoke these words to me, “It’s ok to laugh with someone but never at someone. Is this entertainment for you, laughing AT someone.”

I know he was being a little too critical, since these characters were universally loved for being comical and not because they were ‘stupid’. However, it did highlight something in my mind, the fine line between respect and entertainment. I never watched another episode of friends again, as I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that I was laughing at someone, even if that was someone I loved and admired. In hindsight, it should read, especially because it’s someone whom I love and respect.

I had a friend who rationalised her name calling as, ‘it isn’t mean if it’s true’. For e.g., A horrid teacher can be labelled a B*&^% if she truly is mean and obnoxious. I agreed with that reasoning until I met a dog lover who remarked, “Who says female dogs, a bitch is mean or obnoxious?” That got me thinking and I realised that dogs are faithful and basically a man’s best friend, it isn’t an insult to call a man a dog but it’s insulting to the dog if the man is horrid. Unless off course, if you consider dogs to be repulsive or to be despised.

Which is exactly what the writer is equating people with Down syndrome to be, despised. If you meant to insult someone and you did it by comparing them to people with disability you are insulting people with disability, that’s not free speech that’s mean, rude, backward and unintelligent. You can’t justify your statement saying it was targeted towards the mean person and you meant no disrespect to the people with disabilities. You just compared them to a mean and obnoxious person, how is that not insulting?

Wake up people, just think before you speak or write and if you do, then have the humility to apologise and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realise what I was doing.” There is nothing more painful than someone justifying his or her wrong; it’s like being hurt all over again. Spread a little love people, I’m done with the hatred and the name calling, aren’t you?

Academia, why it’s out-dated and why we do nothing about it!

educationSuccinct, concise, to the point please!Everything I am not! I love to talk and you will often find me striking up a conversation with a stranger if they have a few minutes to spare! Chatting with people from different walks of life and different cultures is what I miss most about my old job. What annoys my colleagues is that this trait has seeped into my writing as well, in my defence, have you ever met a writer of a few words?

I walked over to my husband a few weeks back and I could hear him, “Yeah, sorry about that, my wife she just loves to write! I’ll get her to summarise the email in a few points, yeah, don’t bother wasting your time reading it, yeah I’ll get her to send it right away! Nah! No problem, I totally understand!”

Why thank you darling, your support is touching! Honestly, I get it and offcourse I now bullet point my emails and then go into detail, just in case! This incident got me thinking; no, it doesn’t take much for my grey cells to start working. It is our current academia that is to blame. I am a science student; I studied zoology, microbiology, chemistry and biochemistry. I can assure you that you would not pass your course if all you filled in your answer sheets were bullet points. You had to fill pages and pages with the history, the discovery, the analysis, the testing, the reasoning behind the procedure, the result, the inference that you drew form these and finally how all this distilled into your final answer of yes or No. The general consensus was the more you knew or understood, the more you wrote. Only a third rate dummy came up with bullet points!

Enter the work force where everyone is racing against time itself, every project was due yesterday, every requirement even if it’s a skinny latte for the CEO is wanted A.S.A.P. Our education system should empower students to succeed in the work force, we shouldn’t end up unlearning everything we were ever taught just to survive day one. No wonder the global economy is on the verge of a break down and the most successful entrepreneurs are homemakers with no prior experience and college/high school drops outs.
Our assembly line education system is out-dated and detrimental to our survival. Only mavericks that refuse to be magnetised and brainwashed into following the heard mentality are successful in life. Book worms or very knowledgeable people who can only tell you, by rote, what they have read, heard or learnt are not very charismatic and end up back in the very system that produced them, the educational system. Rarely is there a marriage between knowledge and personal insight; enter the pioneers of new thinking.
So why do we still rush to sign our kids to kindy, school and college? For the fundamental reason that we humans love routine. We find security and stability in routine; our DNA is engineered to adapt to a cycle, a system a method. What did you think the Stockholm syndrome was all about, hostages ending up sympathetic towards their very captors and resisting being saved? That’s human DNA working overtime and to ones own destruction. Every dictator, oppressive regime, warlord, king, authority figure, is in power not because they are any better or smarter but because of this innate human tendency to be controlled. It’s how our ancestors survived in the past, we are all sheep looking for our shepherd and lost if we don’t find one.
In light of my tendency to ramble on, this discussion will be continued in the next post where I talk about why abused women and men remain in such relationships, why abusive and powerful men and women are into dominatrix. These are my views and if you disagree, please leave a comment. I love a good intellectual repose!

Thinking Blogger Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Where have the villages gone?

A joke from my husband over a delightful dinner with friends got me rattled into a passionate speech about our loss of village culture and the impact it has on our youth. My husband, a perpetual toastmaster, had us all guffawing with his jokes when one particular ‘joke’ plucked a nerve.

A 1960 versus 2012, Johnny helps himself to some leftover firecrackers from guy Fawkes and blows up a wasp’s nest.

1960: wasps die

2012: bomb squad arrives, parents and siblings taken into questioning, Johnny charged with domestic terrorism… the details are a little lost on me. This set the pace, but the following one really touched a nerve.

Johnny falls down while playing and hurt his knee, Ms. Mary (I think) his teacher gives him a hug and helps him up.

1960: Johnny goes on to become a great football player.

2012: Miss. Mary is charged for inappropriate contact and subsequently dismissed from her role as teacher and Johnny is made to undergo five years psychological counselling and ends up gay.

 

While I understand that this world in not safe and the threat of sexual child predators and terrorism is very real and as a mother of three I appreciate the social concern to protect the vulnerable, but I cannot condone the extent at which this protection has exceeded. While this is a rather extreme portrayal of the current political correctness culture and government national security protocol, it might end up a reality in the not too distant future. Our continual ‘evolution’ towards a more socially, morally and culturally policed human race will no doubt be our undoing.

 

Is it really wise to replace all acts of humanity with a cold and distant politically correct decorum? To incarcerate every juvenile mistake with life debilitating consequences is taking things a little too far. I remember how as a child while walking down the street I would come across an old ‘aunty’ yelling at the town rowdies, “stop your tom foolery Johnny or I’ll be dropping by tonight to have a chat with you father.” Johnny would immediately stop his ‘actions’ and sheepishly apologise and even help aunty with her shopping bags.

Everyone knew everyone and cared about each other. The grand Aunties and uncles had implicit authority to reprimand youngsters on sight and parents had no choice but to take responsibility for their young. No foster homes just the community pitching in to help whichever family was on the brink of collapse. I remember making rounds with my mum to visit some strange family just to inquire as to how they were coping with some terrible loss that was alien to me.

Peacemakers abounded at every alley and gossipers who kept track of everyone’s whereabouts in a strange way policed the morality of the youth and vulnerable adults. The politically correct stalwarts of 2012 would be appalled at the dictator ship attitude of the grand aunties and uncles, the blatant disregard of personal privacy of the gossipers and the social norm accepting such behaviour. No, it was far from perfect, nothing human ever is, but the village community spirit reinforced humanity in each and every one of us. We were subconsciously programmed to forgive, harbour love for our neighbour, concern that had to result in action and to always expect to be judged, all this invariably strengthened the resolve to be good. The only draw back being that the social authority figures, your grand aunties and uncles, had to be decent, caring individuals. They could ruin lives and breed disharmony if they were anything short of decent humans. However, there was an invisible control, public support that prevailed only for decent individuals keeping this prominent role out of reach for undeserving individuals.

The dawn of the 21st century destroyed the village community spirit, with the death of the last grand Aunty and uncle began the slow and painful death of humanity. Horrific incidents of abuse, rape, and molestation became the norm instead of the exception, freedom is unbiased, and it can free both the victim and the hidden predator.

Freedom without morality is the advent of hell on earth. The demand for political correctness and liberal thought gave birth to the impersonal, irrelevant and absolute disregard for the community spirit. Blind justice cannot and should not replace compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Robots and even animals can be cold, cruel and indifferent, only humans have the ability to sacrifice, motivate, help, and most importantly forgive.

Evolution is not about being politically correct and culturally tolerant, it is about inspiring greatness, practicing humility, serving mankind selflessly and learning from suffering. In the past, our medieval ancestors, glorified the honourable and venerated saints; today we debase these heroes and saints as liars and charlatans, insisting that it is very human to live to just to satisfy one’s needs and do as one pleases, a human birth right.

Often, as I visit an aged or lonely neighbour, I am asked what joy could I possibly get from such an interaction. I cannot put in words the sense of comfort I receive when I engage with the elderly, listen to their sincere advice or hear of their wonderful anecdotes. It’s the only time, apart form when I play with my little children, that I actually ‘feel’ human, connected of sorts with some great cosmos. Perhaps this is what is missing from all those troubled youths or those suicidal individuals, the inability to feel belonged, cared for and part of this great human race?

A can of Worms

Humans, the variety amazes me! It’s the varying levels of morality and honesty that amazes me. Having had close and often painful experiences with the worst kind has led to the penning of this article.

I was brought up with a very strict sense of right and wrong and like every human I have been less than faithful to that code. What raises my eyebrows and makes me gawk, is how some people have a very opinionated demure towards everyone but themselves. While they are vitriolic in their comments about the failings of others, they seem to think nothing of their own actions.

Even saints don’t measure up to their standards and yet they blatantly lie, manipulate, insult and hurt anyone in their orbit. Every action is justifiable to them when they are the perpetrators. Standard rules of etiquette, decency, and morality just don’t apply to them, and yet everyone else’s gesture, dialogue and sometimes-even timing is analyzed and ultimately condemned.

Hypocrisy to such a degree would not bother me, given that I believe in every human’s basic right of personality. What does get under my skin, so to speak, is when they act like suffering souls wronged by one and all and take advantage of another’s kindness.

Yes, I happen to be that gullible soul who chanced an encounter with such a morbid personality. A friend of seventeen years, whom I met during college, lived in the same hostel for three years and later kept in touch through emails and phone.

She entered my life and straight into my home as a torn, wounded and wronged woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life in a supportive and loving environment. I cajoled my husband into providing her employment in his business while I helped her heal and rediscover her strengths.

Within the first fifteen minutes of her arrival sparks of her personality began to “fly” straight into my eyes, frightening me. There were episodes of, “I do not appreciate anyone telling me what I can or cannot do. I know what I am capable of and I will not be told otherwise.” This was in retaliation to a negative response regarding her query of finding employment in her field.

I swallowed this outburst as a defensive mechanism of a woman suppressed for far too long by an overtly negative, faultfinding, and belittling mother. I placated her by rewording the negative response with lots of praises for her abilities and highlighting the zero demand for her profession.

What was mostly startling was that she had wormed into my home by portraying her self as jobless, broke, miserable, helpless, and almost suicidal. The person I met at the airport was arrogant, selfish and was constantly complaining of how she had to give away her precious belongings as she had excess baggage! Never mind that we paid for her ticket.

The next few days saw her snapping at me with caustic remarks whenever I tried to make her cease her wallowing in self-pity and constant complaining of people and incidents.  She was forever trying to impose on me how bad her life had been and how lucky I was. Even God was not spared from her list of wrongdoers. She had a firm belief that she was good, God and the rest of humanity was bad.

She slept late and woke when half the day had passed, a thyroid condition I was told. Makes her tired, sluggish and disrupts her sleep cycle. Forever on her laptop checking her mails and Facebook.  She spent her time earnestly watching and monitoring everyone’s activity and criticized him or her for every word and apostrophe.

Needless to say my husband had her packing after she decided to enlighten him of his faults with the rudest of dialogue. Especially after she cleared the air that she did not accept favors and we were not to think we did any by providing her free food, boarding and a job!

What really got me pondering was whether she did indeed have a mental condition as she so convincingly claimed or was she a case of an exceptionally well-read intelligent woman mimicking the symptoms? I would love to hear what her therapists had to say in the matter.

This incident really opened a can of worms for me. It got me questioning a whole set of notions that I had come to live by. I was brought up old school, spare the rod and spoil the child. My father had overdone the smacking to the point of abuse and this made me a fervent advocate of sparing the rod.

I believed, at least until I met her, that people with issues and difficulties were to be loved, appreciated and gently encouraged to aspire to overcome their obstacles. Now, I am beginning to question this lets be accepting and sensitive attitude.

It is obvious; she was a conniving, manipulative and downright selfish woman who was clearly taking advantage of this belief of mine. Who is to say there aren’t others doing the same and not to mention the scary fact that those with genuine issues using this as an excuse to live off the generosity of others?

I am not generalizing that every one claiming to be disadvantaged are crying wolf or taking advantage. Neither am I stating that we should revert to the old school method of discrimination. What I am trying to figure out is what is the best course of action, if any? How does one weed out the fakers?

I was born with severe dyslexia, I remember writing backwards, jumping sentences whilst reading, always getting my math’s sums wrong as the numbers danced! My mum believed a good smack would make me write, read and learn straight. Every day was a nightmare with my screams echoing down the corridors of our building with neighbors dropping in to tell my mum to ease off.

She didn’t and today I have a degree, double major in Chemistry-Biochemistry and my ambition is to become a writer, an impossible achievement and ambition for a dyslexic.  I still can’t catch a ball, or ride a cycle, or drive but then again my mum didn’t think these were important.

I have a wonderful relationship with my mum and dad; we just don’t talk about the past. My mum even took a year off to stay with me and help me raise my three kids. Of course I had to keep reminding her that I didn’t want them smacked, even though it’s good for them.

This incident with my friend has thrown all that into the bin. Her parents never laid a finger on her and always “droned” on as to the reasons for being good. If we could swap homes, I wonder how we would have turned out. Would I be able to get over my dyslexia? Would I have a degree? Or would I have turned into her, using my disability as an excuse to be lazy, and turn into a leech?

Would she have, given her intelligence, become a highly educated and successful professional, a woman of integrity and character? Would the roles have swapped, with me scrounging off her? Given my propensity towards the easy route, I mean I did never master the art of catching a ball or riding a bike and now driving. More troublingly am I the best parent for my kids? Is my pacifist, loving and nurturing attitude going to turn my kids, already brats, into lazy, unhappy and selfish adults?

Life is all about choices, whilst some are born with the desire to succeed no matter what disability, disadvantage or obstacle, the rest of us like sheep tend to lead passive lives. Some are motivated out of this lethargy, some like me are smacked out of it and some are angered (when discriminated) out of it.  Except for the ones who are motivated, we all have issues of hurt which when counterbalanced with success eases the sting.

I always wished that my parents had been gentler in their upbringing and secretly nursed a bruised heart but after this episode I don’t want to change a thing. If that is what it took to keep me from becoming her then I thank God and especially my parents for my past.

I enjoy walking with my head held high, being a woman of integrity, having a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. I am proud, not arrogant or boastful, of the fact that I have lived life as an equal and never used my dyslexia as an excuse in school, college or work. I must admit it is gratifying never having to mention it, because I am so much more than that. It doesn’t define me, hard working, helpful, God fearing, loving and sincere is what defines me.

What threw a wrench in the machinery of me is what kind of parent should I be?  I am grateful to my parents and I love them but do I want to become them? Even a toned down version makes me shirk in fear. Which highlights another question, is it about the kids or me? Do I choose my parenting style purely out of love and concern for my kids or is it for my own ego? After all a hard and strict parent rarely gets the love and admiration of a loving, anything goes type.  Raised by emotionally distant parents, makes me crave for love and I enjoy the cuddles and kisses I get from my kids. Am I using my kids to fulfill my needs instead of doing it the other way around?

Like I said, I have been pondering……………