December 03, 2008

The Mean-world syndrome

Today, I was shocked to see some facts about terrorist attacks in India. “12,540 terrorist-related fatalities in India between 1970 and 2004 - an average of almost 360 fatalities per year from terrorism in India”! This is just a fraction of the problem that India is facing, with so many natural calamities every year, surviving tsunami, earth-quakes, floods, uncountable number of spreading diseases, corrupted government and poverty etc. etc. All these facts should make an Indian live in a chronic depression, on contrary we live with an immense pride about the nation and overwhelming optimism about the future. I am sure anyone who travel in India can notice this contrast, can notice lots of smiles among the slum dwellers. How on earth is this possible? The only other place where I noticed people with overwhelming confidence and optimism was in Israel. Do we need threats on everyday basis to be 'happy'?

Here in Paris, I often heard people talking about “how mean the world is”! Compare to India, people here face ‘less’ problems, at least most of the people’s basic needs are guaranteed. Then why there is a dissatisfaction and disbelief with life? May be as a result of “Mean-world syndrome”? When people start collecting facts about the world through mass media (television and Internet) and being less social can lead to creation of a virtual reality, the mean-world! After all “reality is a less threatening place than the world of television”! Both believing the facts shown by media blindly (leading to mean-world syndrome) and disbelieving them blindly, leading the conspiracy theories and in turn result in the mean-world syndrome. So, is there an escape from the virtual reality that we create by accepting/refusing the media 'facts'? May be travelling and socializing can force us to do some reality check, and can add some confidence and optimism in our lives, after all the world is not as mean as we imagine it to be!


Anonymous said...

Indians 'achieve' despite the problems surrounding them. Achievements make people happy. If there ain't resistance, do we get a sense of satisfaction???
Moreover, somewhere some study suggested that 'Happiness' is a trait; there can be small periods of perceived happiness or sadness, which fades after few moments/days, but the average 'happiness quotient' of a person is based on his own attitude and is an inherent and largely unchangeable factor...Whatever, it is I could also think of more reasons why Indians are happier & positive. It is probably the socialising factor you mentioned, but with a pinch of love, care and secure feeling...I have come across many people in my life who are very sad in India, but not for their own problems, but because they care for someone's problem. I can't agree more in your accusation on the media imposed seclusion and still trying to find a reason why people fall in to the traps, be it a melancholy soap or unfortunate incidents telecasted with a prejudice...
In pursuit of 'happiness' in an illusionary 'mean world' I am yet to understand what basic needs are. They seem to be different in the West and East, but, should we clause love, affection, care as basic necessity?

I am confused!!!

Uma said...

The basic necessity I meant was food, water and shelter. Love, affection, care are also the basic necessity, like the oxygen for life, but we take this for granted, at least we rarely feel the shortage of this, both in the west and east! Thanks to our friends and family!

Well! I am one such ‘sad’ Indian, sometime sad for the ‘basic necessity’ too. Will I have food and shelter after my contract finishes? But the love and affection I get from the friends and families helps me to get rid of that fear! Sometimes sad because of the ideological conflicts I have with friends and family, whatever the reason may be I am not sad because the world I live in is “mean”! In spite of seeing and experiencing horrible things around me, I feel happy and optimistic in the presence of my friends, the strong shoulder which supports me! The arguments that I have with my friends and the social life I have are the good reality check and give me lots of optimism to survive the bitter reality!

I totally agree “average 'happiness quotient' of a person is based on his own attitude”! The purpose of this blog entry was to question, why some of us lack this attitude! Does the society that we live shape our attitude? Also, I felt so heavy and sad after reading a conspiracy theory article stating that the “Mumbai attacks done by Hindu Zionist, with the help of western Zionist”! That made me read about the psychology behind the conspiracy theories and thus landed on “the mean-world syndrome” page. I have seen such people my real life, which made write about it!

Thanks a lot for your thoughts!

anton said...

Regarding psychology, another very interesting topic is "denial", as I know you know. Some facts are so overwhelmingly shocking that we need to dismiss them as "bullshit" or "extremist view". We humans are so intelligent, but then end up using our intelligence to come up with rationalizations to justify why we do what we do, or to cancel or silence things that upset us in excess. I wonder how bad things have to get before most of us admit that the present world situation is essentially calamitous. It doesnt take a lot of thinking or studying, it's just a matter of breaking our mind's protective layers. Those who were born in the shit either die or get out of it, so they have the sense of achievement that allows humans to go on and smile. Those who were born in a rosy situation and beat denial eventually feel their situation is degrading, or even that they are causing the sufferings of the poor. We're in for a roller-coaster that westerners cannot imagine, but well, let's go buy us some presents, Christmas is coming.