Wednesday, April 20, 2005


At a friend's place the other day, I started browsing through some books she had. She gave me a book that she finds has relevant quotes for her everyday. I thought the following analysis of people's attitude towards problems (their own or others') made a lot of sense -

Possible the greatest crime we commit against each other is this daily show of normality. I have countless little conversations with a variety of people and the impression that most of them give is that they don't have problems. Even complainers present themselves as victims. They don't suggest that they may be participating. They are all right; it's the circumstances that are wrong.

The comment "Don't mind him, he's got a problem" illustrates this universal attitude toward personal difficulty. The implication his that having a problem is a strange and avoidable weakness. When I come in repeated contact with this daily facade of normality I begin to assume that I too deserve such a life, and I get annoyed with the present and look up my difficulties as unjust. And because I assume there is something unnatural about my having a problem, I too attempt to present a problem free appearance.

I started thinking about this and it is true. I am sensitive to other people and a good listener. Usually while talking to someone, I can sense her/his major concerns. Somehow people try to dismiss their problems, preferring to talk about good restaurants or bars rather than issues that are really bothering them. I probably could not give any good advice or help, but as my mom says - a problem gets lessened by sharing it. I guess people try to stick to the norm mentioned above.

Another concept that is prevalent in the US is the concept of independence. No one is independent; we all depend on others for companionship, love and care. This concept just undermines the importance of care people give each other. Individuality is given so much importance. I wonder why it is so in the US. The book "Global Women" (the same one that I've been reading for the past 2 months) gives a reason for it-

We are all dependent on others to varying degrees. A language that denies this fact fuels a system that obscures the ways in which other people care for us. Words such as independence, self-reliance, and self-made help create, and are created by, a dynamic within which people are ignored and devalued...

Independence is perhaps the most fundamental of our cultural myths; it supports the organization of our society and justifies the distribution of goods, real and idea. The labels independent and dependent, rather than reflecting empirial reality, are myths used to justify inequality."

Coming from India where the social support is tremendous and interdependence is valued, I find this particularly strange. Nothing could have highlighted the contrast more -- I did a search on google for social interdependence and the first link that came up was about India.

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