"'Truth is strange," you know, "stranger than fiction' - besides being more to the point" - Edgar Allan Poe

June 09, 2005

Talk is cheap

It's been something that's been bothering me for a while. The only reason I've not put it into words is because I'm worried that I'll be guilty of the same sins. Comment gently.

Ok, one main sin. Of not being true to myself. Of being a pseudo. The rest are 'sub-sins' that are derivative of this one main sin, and should be treated repectively...

ShutupShutupShutup. Ok, let's try that again.

We go through phases in our lives, right, and at every phase we keep meeting people to associate with, to avoid, to trust, to defer to, and so on. Now I agree that everyone's unique and all that, but given a cross section of a suitably large sample of people, I think I'm justified in saying that it's possible to predict a lot of their characteristics.

Consider me for example. I'm a middle class boy from a coastal town in South India, brought up in a fairly broadminded family. Was exposed to cable TV around the mid 90's, surrounded by hajaar professional college students, and made it a point to read books. So I guess it would be obvious to say that I would've entered one of the big 3 - Engineering, Law or Medicine. That I would know the difference between Pop, Rock and Metal (Snap, Crackle, Fizz?) by the time I was 15, and that exposure is all right on TV, as long as long they covered the nipple (come to think of it, I still don't understand why. Hell, all I have to do is look inside my own shirt and voila, there it is! A reasonable facsimile.) I'll cut a long story short by saying that we all go through phases, and if you belong to my generation, you'd have read s.sheldon, the archers, watched the standard chick flicks, cheered on India at the right times (and bitched about them like hell when they sucked), watched Indian TV graduate from Surabhi and Turning point to The K-series, and so on. These provide you basic levels of ken for carrying out conversation, is my point.

Which brings me to the root of this rant. I like to call it the Appropriate Response Syndrome, or the Vegetated Toohey Syndrome, with due respect to Ms. Rand (and she deserves very little of it, but that's another story altogether). It's what I think has become the way of life with a lot of us nowadays. It's what governs that single most important activity of daily life - communication. It defines all the rules of how a conversation must go before it even begins. A couple of years ago, AKA and myself conducted a little social experiment amongst our own little social circus in college (ex-college now, but I'll reminisce later). Anyhow, the idea was to collect what we considered 'useful' sentences. Take any group with more than 3 people, and sit among them without saying a word. NOT ONE WORD. Then simply observe what every one's talking about. Anytime you hear one sentence that is truly an original opinion, a statement that has been thought about before being spoken, or simply an honest expression of an idea, you award one point in favour of that person. This experiment is NOT to be done under the influence of any intoxicants. And the other obvious constraints like anything that would disprove what I'm trying to prove here (Smirk). And after two years of random sampling, checking across a wide variety of 15-25 year olds, how many points did the entire world rack up?


I'm not making this up. Paradoxically, ALL the illuminating thoughts and admissions have been between TWO people. Or when junta're stoned out of their wits. Or random one line blogs. Or an sms in the middle of a busy day (I_, where've you gone?). I've heard a justification for this called the GCD theory- that when more than two people talk, they can only talk about what's common to all of them. Thus as more people join the group, this common denominator shrinks, soon reducing all talk to juvenile flirting. A nice hack, but certainly originality is enough to spark off interest with anybody!

Surely there's something wrong here. In a world that considers 'the da vinci code' to be the symbol of 21st century literature, and supermodels are promoted to be the role models for children everywhere, where 'Indian culture' is the universal excuse to chuck anything out of the country... we've begun creating what I think is the worst turn for mankind - pseudo intellectuals (PIs for short, and I'll take the wisecracks about it being dangerously close to my own name with a pinch of salt). Worse, unlike the 60's and 70's where these types were easily recognized and taunted, now we actually provide thes PIs the tools and power to spread their beliefs (Heard about a little thing called the Internet?). Yet, I don't really think they have any beliefs of their own. Let me explain.

Now that 'friendship' is such a valued commodity, we always want to hang around the 'best' of the lot. The smartest, the most beautiful, the coolest... you get the idea. And one well-proven method of winning company (or just being mildly accepted) is to be agreeable. Exibit A- AC. My college Steve Vai lookalike, also did a lot of the GD for the Vitruvian. Now this man will agree with you on ANYTHING! Your opinion could be plain bizarre, or stupidly wrong, this man will not just agree with it being right, but will assure that he's had the same thoughts before. ("Theek bataraha hai be tu, main bhi soch raha tha ki...") Thankfully the man's a sweetheart, harworking, and a good friend, so I guess it's kinda excusable. Anyway, this is what I consider Part1 of the Appropriate Response. Part2 is aptly demonstrated by a junior of mine SS. He uses a strategy, which I must admit I've used a lot before myself. Take the most normal thing in the world, and exaggerate it with words like 'brilliant', 'amazing' and so on. The idea is to (1) show that this piece of knowledge is uncommon, therefore must be cool (2) prove that you're smarter than the rest yet (3) in the process try to be humble, by trying to be as amazed and therefore trying to elicit the same level of amazement from you. ("Did you know that this guy brushes his teeth!!!") Part3 is in many ways the easiest, but usually requires Parts 1 and 2 to be completely successful; it's the belittle-all-others strat. An excellent example - PM, too funky for me. This man dies for public acceptance and will do pretty much anything for it. In the beginning it was the SympathyVote, then short stints as the aforementioned Parts1and2 until he found a little bunch of rejects and founded the 'yoimbangy' gang. It's quite easy- change your loyalties as often as your shirt. When you're with A, bitch on and on about B, and vice versas, and make sure the material spoken never gets

exchanger, ie- that either never find out about the other. And yeah, lay it on quite thick when you're with the women. You won't get lucky, but you sure can hope. Follow this 3 step strategy and watch the friends phone numbers multiply on your phone overnight.
Variations of the ATS are the 5minute conversations when you bump into someone else of the opposite sex, which would cumulatively have about 5 seconds of worthy talk, that part which says 'goodbye'. Or the rambling blogs which go on and on without a point to it, usually trying to be justified with a last line twist (I plead guilty, milord). And on and on.

So then what is the Vegetated Toohey Syndrome? If you've read that piece of shit book, the book that was hailed as 'one of the most influential books of the 20th century' (yuck), the fountainhead, there's one character called Ellsworth Toohey, shades of whom I see in lots of people around me now. These are people who lay judgement on anything and everything. From the latest movies to the oldest albums, to paintings and russian authors, to the skirt level of the college hottie. And thanks to the confidence they exhude, people actually fall for it. In droves! There's one everywhere now. Every second blog just complains and whines and blahblahblah. These are characters who've mastered the ATS to a point that they can now THEMSELVES define the Appropriate Response, meaning they'll be accepted as leaders and visionaries, and so on. Of course, these people have never contributed to these field sthemselves, and are going to remain critics all their lifes.

Ok, I'm getting bored typing this out for my single digit audience, so I'll wind up quick. I'm pissed. The ATS means that I'm highly bored nowadays, and no, this is not my ego getting ahead of myself. Also, I'm terribly worried that I'm a slave to all the above myself. The whole point of ranting like this was to recognize what it is. Maybe now I can cure myself of such bastardness. And yeah, VTS drones can go suck an egg or something, because I still have faith in the real world. I still believe that years downthe line they're going to be emptyheaded and unfulfilled. That their mediocrity will catch up with them and render them in tears when no one's looking. If this is the faith that awaits me, so be it. I deserve it, if at all it's true.

I really should continue this sometime, but I feel the urge for a smoke. Goodnight y'all.


citrus said...

you're probably honestER than most, but i think you already know that. if i had anything insightful to say, i probably would have said it already.i must say among other things,that i found the PI coincidence, funny ha ha and other observations aside i did in fact catch myself laughing at perfectly acceptable intervals.

Saturday Night Takeout said...

Another typo- it actually shortens down o ARS -Appropriate Response Syndrome, and since this is the age of cheap thrills, I recommend that the victims of this 'disease' be called the ARS Endowed, or ARSE for short. Giggle. Quite apt, if you think about it.

Finch said...

pfft. it didn't post the foist time.

well, me was saying that the last few lines reminded me of death of a salesman.

pfft. again.