Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Men and Women, part IV

Socialization and social roles, if too opposed to human nature, will lead to massive unhappiness. To act according to our natures is distinctly fulfilling, and if that is thwarted beyond a point, one wonders what is the meaning of life, after all.

In the state of alienation, when men are not allowed to be men, and women are asked to be not just women, men as well as women will not know themselves, and seek endlessly for a feeling of what essentially is their own nature, suppressed.

With the proliferation of the knowledge industry, jobs and homes are no longer stable or restricted to one place for long. While white collar jobs are alienating for reasons long known, it is also important to see what urban ghettoized nuclear living does to what I call fulfillment of gender roles.

We are born with the same genes that we've had for thousands of years, even though our environment has undergone a drastic change. Is there harm in wondering whether there is a limit to human adaptability? We may adapt, but there may be a steep psychological cost of that adaptation. We may survive or even seem to thrive, but we will not know what or where a home is.

By all indications, gender warfare is escalating. The genders loathe each other, but want to win each other's affections. This is leading to an epidemic of sociopathy.

Not only this, due to massive cultural programming (which I think is driven by complex factors, more on this later), women cannot easily admit to themselves that they want a protector-provider male, and men feel guilt at looking at a woman's body and seeing primarily sexual fulfillment. This leads to self-deception in relationships. Both genders (want to) think that they are pursuing "love" and not a biologically driven destination, not able to realize that the ideal of "love" is a fiction created by mass media.

One doesn't need to imagine too hard what happens when this fiction of "love" dissolves into a realization of what one actually wants and expects from the other, and what the other actually wants and expects from oneself. "Unconditional Love" between a man and a woman is such a fraudulent concept that even very otherwise aware people fall for it. There is always an expectation from the other. But it is politically and culturally incorrect for women as well as men to admit what they want. Hence, the confusion.

But why all this cultural re-programming? Why, day in and day out, are men being asked to be accepting and altruistic, and why are women being exhorted to be aggressive and demanding? I think it is naive to imagine that this is solely because of women "awakening" to their oppression, that this is perhaps a historical or a political reckoning.

That too, but one has to ask: why is the media so interested in this political upheaval? Mass media is never known for agenda of social consciousness and enlightenment. Why are magazines, television, movies, all so insistent on creating an empowered female, or for that matter, a sensitive new age metro-sexual guy? Statistically speaking, what does that empowered female do with her new-found enlightenment and power?

One word: consumption.

Analyze women's magazines, closely examine chick flicks (a horrendous recent example is Sex and the City 2), go through the newspaper color supplements, and what is the one thing that jumps out of all these? Happiness is to "feel good about yourself". And that "good feeling about oneself" presumably comes through spending and consuming and having no real goals beyond oneself.

And "love" is the ultimate commodity these days. The harder it economically becomes to actually love another human being (and emotionally it always was a chimera anyway), the more insistent is the message that we must find it, that everybody else (the characters in the movies, that is) is finding it without much difficulty.

But what happens when you are chasing a feeling which mass media is telling you is very important to find, but which may not really exist in the manner that you imagine it to be? You will become depressed and will feel bad about yourself.

And how to feel better about yourself, or to "be oneself" in this miasma of alienation? For that see the facing page of a woman's magazine article about love and "being yourself". Revlon.

Paulo Coelho and Cosmopolitan are saying the same thing. You just have to decipher their code.


Now, if we agree with the proposition that Fulfillment Through Love is a fiction created by propaganda (though the feeling of love certainly isn't a fiction), and that attraction between males and females is biologically driven and is intended to bring them together to have children, then the way out of this mess may become clear.

To be sure, this attraction can express itself in subtle ways, since we are undoubtedly more cognitively developed than other mammals. And this loving attraction is a great trigger to kick-start a relationship. But to mistake the initial spark of attraction with the stable warmth of a steady relationship is where the confusion reigns.

"Love" is a means, and provides strength, to a relationship. Limerence is a nice state, but not something that can be sustained, or something that should even be considered sustainable.

Men and Women need each other. Disregard the cultural programming that you can find happiness and fulfillment within yourself. That is not human nature. We are communal beings. Disregard even more vehemently the cultural message that the feeling of being loved is more important than the happiness of loving someone.

And believe at your peril the feminist rhetoric that gender roles are social constructions.


Darshan Chande said...

//Disregard even more vehemently the cultural message that the feeling of being loved is more important than the happiness of loving someone.

That's true.

Feeling of being loved is important as well as happiness of loving someone is. Because if we disregard the former we land on the idea of (giving) unconditional love, which is disastrous. And to keep wanting love without realizing that one's not giving enough in return is also bad.

More often than not I encounter thoughts in either-or terms. Those who reject the notion of unconditional love, become narcissistic. Those who've got burnt in narcissism fall on the notion of unconditional giving. (That's the origin of the idea of "unconditional", I think.) In the absurd, that's why we always have to strive for the balance in everything.

Now the problem is, when it's "understood", it seems like trade, and that destroys the potential happiness the transactions might hold. Best is when the transactions are left to be carried out intuitively; albeit, after first understanding the mechanism.

Hope I am making sense.

Anonymous said...

For some reason you seem fixated only on the man-woman failed relationship.
The world is in a continuous process of Change.(Jagat Mithya) .The window through which one views the scenery of the world is called "Ego". If the window moves as fast as the the outside scenery, nothing appears to change. So if egos are able to keep up with the changes of the external world, relationships survive.Some choose to live their lives anchored in these changes and adapt continuously.
Yet there are basic human Values common to all human beings and these remain constant over time(Satya).There are some who choose to live their lives anchored in these Constant Values. These often seek happiness within themselves and others seek to relate to them because they would like to be in the same state as them - happy within.
The unfortunately confused ones are the ones who alternate between the two modes of living. They do not know whether to live their lives by the constant unchanging Values or to live by accepting the changes happening outside. These have the hardest time living their life and managing relationships.

The first type of people are those who may have great social skills and be successful but often come accross as superficial, materialistic,flaky etc...
The second type are described as the "idealistic", spiritual etc...
Both these types have found their role to play.
The third type who are actually the ones most in need of love and guidance are the ones who land up by the wayside often discarded by society because they themselves have a hard time fitting in and finding a role to play.

Anonymous said...

"More often than not I encounter thoughts in either-or terms."

"Now the problem is, when it's 'understood', it seems like trade, and that destroys the potential happiness the transactions might hold."

Only if you think in terms of the trade benefiting either oneself or the other. But doesn't that miss the whole point that there is a third party involved, the relationship itself, which presumably you both felt was worth creating and supporting?

Anonymous said...

"One word: consumption."

But not the last word.
Without consumption this today globalized world - in a economical view - will go down in collapse. Without this tatics to increase and foment consumption no more services, no more jobs, no more food... No money, no honey, remember? Unemployement will be massive and this human world will break apart.
You and me actually need to sustain this consumption, because none want to cross that bridge (to understand this figure of language, watch "Melancholia" by Lars Von Triers).
It´s the end of the world as we know it... and I feel fine ;-)


Sridhar said...

Great insights. With regards to unconditional love, the only case where that's even possible is between a parent and a child (obviously there are exceptions to that as well).

What seems paradoxical to me is this - I read a lot about the problems of broken homes, single-moms, children turning to drugs and violence due to lack of a stable environment at home or absent fathers etc. And yet, the stable marriage, which has so much benefits to society, and any children that the union produces, conceals the possible misery that the man and woman might be experiencing by staying in the marriage. The interest of society and the individual seems to digress here?

Pankaj said...

Somehow this article reminds me of my boss' statement "3 of 10 users didn't complete the form, hence 30% of our users don't complete the form".

I think the argument makes too many leaps. For one, associating human intentions, or the "sources of human action", to "evolutionary goals" is a pseudo-science - a rather superficial attempt to approach a problem that is unimaginably complex.

The human consciousness, in any case, is not very interested in fulfilling evolutionary goals. It has its own goals - to find meaning? hedonistic pleasure? love? multiple goals?

How did these goals come to be? Evolution? Social conditioning? Historical flukes? The transcendental human nature? It is nearly impossible to answer these questions. The best one can do is chip away at them.

I think it makes sense to create a humanistic concept of humans - irrespective of gender.

To take a hard core materialistic approach is science and rationality at its most naive.

Harmanjit Singh said...


The human consciousness, in any case, is not very interested in fulfilling evolutionary goals. It has its own goals - to find meaning? hedonistic pleasure? love? multiple goals?

That's well said, and is the "problem" of modernity. Rejecting traditional or evolutionary goals has a psychological cost. That's all I am hinting at.

Anonymous said...

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” - GB Shaw

One has to decide whether to be reasonable or unreasonable.The ones who pay the heaviest psychological cost are those that cannot be reasonabale or unreasonable or are trying to be reasonable and unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Take Anna Hazare's relationship with the Govt and vice versa -- Both are trying to be unreasonable and reasonable with each other - look at the drama, conflict and confusion...........