“Sorry, but it’s not my fault”

I have neglected my blog for weeks, even months. A couple of people — which just about covers the entire readership of this blog — noticed and even wrote to me asking after my health. I wish to apologize to the two of you and say, “Sorry, but it’s not my fault.” You may find it somewhat incredible but allow me to explain.

It’s not my fault that I did not find time to write. Circumstances compelled me. First there are those awful distractions. The web is full of very interesting stuff to read and watch and listen to. People keep emailing me links to visit. They are to blame. That’s a black hole that sucks in huge chunks of time. You couldn’t blame me, could you?

Then I had visitors. I think they were important visitors although you may disagree. In any case, major time sinks. Blame those visitors, not me. Then of course there’s my roommate. The guy does not pull his weight around the apartment and I have to take care of things around the house. He’s to blame.

You may say that perhaps I should be prioritizing better. You may say that I should know how I should allocate my time better and not waste it on surfing the web. But really I am an innocent victim of circumstance. Yeah, that’s it. I am a victim. I am the injured party, and I claim “the holiness of always being the injured party” as Maya Angelou so eloquently put it.

At this point you may object saying that I am making excuses, rather transparent and flimsy ones at that. Perhaps you’re right but I am taking my cues from very important and famous people. I learn from examples. My greatest inspiration is our dearly beloved fearless leader, Dr. Manmohan Singh. He is unable to do the right thing because he is — as he readily and frequently asserts — bound by circumstances.

It’s never his fault. Every crappy thing he does, he does because he is a victim of this, that or the other. He’s in control but he is not in control. He is the most powerful political figure in India and yet he is powerless to do anything at all. If you notice the contradiction in that, you are one step ahead of Dr Singh. And may I remind you that he is a shining example of probity and moral excellence. I am merely following his example in attributing his failures to everyone and everything else. I refuse to take responsibility and with that I absolve myself of taking any corrective actions whatsoever.

This refusal to take responsibility is not limited to the high and the mighty. Perfectly ordinary people do it too. A few years ago a good friend of mine came to me with his tale of woe. His marriage had hit a rough patch. His wife, Urvashi (not the actual name, to protect the utterly blameless) had arrived at the totally reasoned position that my friend was the cause of all her troubles, personal and professional. According to her, she was perfect and was an ideal wife, while he was the personification of evil. She was the victim of an evil genius. The marriage was on the rocks because he needed to change. She, on the other hand, being perfect, had nothing to change. After all, who can reasonably expect her to step down from her perfection and make changes, eh?

It does not take a marriage counselor to guess that that marriage did not end up happily.

Just recently another friend told me about her teenage son. The son was the “victim” of unreasonable parents, messed up teachers, corporate greed (cell phone companies and the makers of electronic gadgets), and so on. It was all a massive conspiracy arrayed against him and it threatened his very existence. The universe owed him happiness and it was not delivering. As he was a victim, he was blameless and he could not take any responsibilities for fixing the situation.

There are endless examples of people blaming others for their troubles. No doubt you have given in to the temptation of declaring yourself a victim some time or the other. I know I have, and I feel ashamed for doing it. It’s an universal human failing to deflect blame from oneself, “an admirable evasion,” as Shakespeare put it so beautifully. “This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.”

Playing the victim part in the great game of life isn’t just for individuals. Groups do it often enough and do it quite successfully — if success is appropriately defined. Entire collectives of people make it a way of life, of accusing others of oppressing them. Sometimes the claimed oppression cuts across great swathes of geography and centuries of time. Minorities, we are told in India, are victims, and they have been victims for hundreds of years. And having donned the mantle of the oppressed, they can not only do no wrong but are not required to do anything to help themselves. They are simply entitled, and as the aforementioned erudite and wise prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh — let’s not forget a victim by his own estimation and in his own right — said, “the minorities have a first claim to India’s prosperity.”

Being oppressed at once sanctifies one’s existence and relieves one of any responsibility at all. That responsibility is the burden of the other. My roommate or my spouse, or my co-workers, or my friends — they are responsible for the disaster that my life is. If only they took their responsibility seriously, I would be a success.

The immorality of this victim position aside, the consequences of this attitude are serious. Successful people don’t play the victim. Not only they don’t play the victim, they refuse to be victims. Successful people take responsibility for their failures and their shortcomings. They are in control. They choose how and on what terms they meet the world. It is not that successful people never make mistakes. They do, but built into the responsibility-taking mechanism is the way to correct for their mistakes and continue to be in control. Successful people don’t whine and complain that the universe owes them.

Unsuccessful people play the victim and, in time, consent to being victims because that’s how they define themselves. They don’t see themselves as winners but compete to be losers. They loudly proclaim that they are more oppressed, more poor, more powerless, more worthless — and therefore more deserving of charity, more deserving of consideration, more deserving of handouts — more deserving and “more equal” than others.

This attitude of being helpless innocent victims of external forces simultaneously absolves them of any responsibility for their sorry predicament and excuses them from exerting any effort in solving their own problems. They themselves block their way out of trap of their own making.

It seems to me that success and ability to assume responsibility are causally related, and the direction of causality is from being responsible to being successful. I should hasten to add that by “successful” I do not mean that one is rich, although being materially comfortably off is a necessary — but not the only — component of being successful. One does not have to be a millionaire to be successful. Success, as I see it, is that state of being where one is not in conflict with oneself, with others, and with nature — in that order. It is quite feasible to be only modestly materially well off and yet be successful in the sense defined above; conversely, one can be fabulously wealthy and still be miserable due to conflicts, internal or external.

To be a victim, one has to be party to a conflict. The relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor is not one of amicable friendship. If one is determined to be a victim, one has to be engaged in conflict — and manufacture a conflict if there isn’t one. Absent conflict, there would not be a victim.

The world is not, and never has been, a place of unfettered peace and tranquility. There have been and there will continue to be conflict. The modern world is unique in the sense that it has given rise to conditions that conflicts are manufactured for the sole purpose of manufacturing victims. Being a victim is good business in some parts of the world and thus comes into being the industry that manufactures victims and victim-hood by the truckloads.

The manufacturing victim-hood industry is large and flourishing. It has a superbly efficient supply chain, stretching from the highest political peaks to the lowliest man on the journalism totem pole. The prime minister Dr Singh has figured out that not only is he a powerless victim, but he is also the protector of hundreds of millions of other victims. The top journalists generally don’t claim to be victims themselves (unless they get caught with their pants down, in which case they squeal like stuck pigs) but do declare loudly whole sections of the population to be victims. These people make an enviably decent living from the culture of manufactured victim-hood.

Just a couple of days ago I was reminded of how lucrative this victim-hood industry is. I was asked on twitter to comment on a talk by P. Sainath. The video is on YouTube. I watched it — the whole hour and fifteen excruciating minutes of it. I watched it because I am like that only — a victim of the demands that people make on my time. But since I have watched it, I will comment on it tomorrow.

Sorry but I will have to call it quits for now. Don’t blame me. I am not at fault. I am just a victim of the tyranny of time.

20 thoughts on ““Sorry, but it’s not my fault”

  1. 1. Many parts reminded me (yet again) of what Ayn Rand writes in Atlas shrugged.

    2. On taking a ‘broader’ view, I do tend to believe that it is **not** the so-called victim’s fault that things would be wrong. I say this in context of lack of belief in existence of free will.

    3. Just like you mentioned conflict & victims, I’ve thought of contests & ‘losers’ (or winners). I feel in many areas of life there need be no contest between individuals or groups, but people are obsessed with idea of stratifying (individuals/groups) to find ‘losers’ to look down upon. I know this thing I said is not relevant, but the redundancy of conflicts & contests & the grief they cause to people are the common points.

    4. Liked the precision with which you could define ‘success’ for yourself. Striking in it was absence of others’ perception of you, which is what I like so much about you. 🙂

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  2. Perhaps you could have simply said – ‘The Congress Party and Antonia Maino and her family are evil and should be destroyed. Congress must go. The joker PM must go. Raul Vinci and his whore of a mother Antonia must die.”

    That would have done it.

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  3. Perhaps you could have simply said – ‘The Congress Party and Antonia Maino and her family are evil and should be destroyed. Congress must go. The joker PM must go. Raul Vinci and his whore of a mother Antonia must die.”

    That would have done it.

    Huh?

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  4. “Minorities, we are told in India, are victims, and they have been victims for hundreds of years. And having donned the mantle of the oppressed, they can not only do no wrong but are not required to do anything to help themselves.”

    Yeah, the majority Indians (Hindus, I presume) have been persecuting the Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs and the few Jews for too long now. This has got to stop. 😉

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  5. “Yeah, the majority Indians (Hindus, I presume) have been persecuting the Jains, Buddhists, Parsis, Sikhs and the few Jews for too long now. This has got to stop.”

    No, the higher caste Hindus were persecuting lower-caste Hindus for centuries. Many of the latter got so fed up that they chose to become Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.

    But shiva shiva (slap, slap), how could Hindus do any wrong! It’s just a big conspiracy against the docile Hindus. They are the victims of the evil secular India.

    Oh the irony!

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  6. Ashish: What an odd argument. Hinduism does not call for an institutionalized caste system of any form (as you ‘rational’ secularists so often bellyache). If any modern day nation-state does not provide for a certain class of citizens as per their wishes, does that mean they start identifying and working for an enemy nation-state/group, or work to better their condition and fight for their rights as a member of the group they belong to? What a world you must live in….

    And it is highly amusing you think that these conversions – so often forced, back in the day by throwing meat in wells etc and today done by the tens of thousands under duress – have done even an iota to better the conditions of those it has supposedly bettered. Too bad your version also conveniently ignores the fact that the vast majority of those that live in poverty and socioeconomic prison are Hindu, as are those who have been slaughtered and marginalized over India’s history… and yet, somehow, I am sure you will find a way to connect the ‘plight’ of the converts to why they are so peaceful!!

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  7. A

    That’s precisely the whipping up of victim hood sentiment that Mr. Day ranted against above.

    “Thou art thy greatest friend; thou art thy greatest enemy”, as a certain Vivekananda once said. Wonder how he would respond to your whining.

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  8. And by the way, Hinduism doesn’t call for institutionalised discrimination doesn’t mean Hindus didn’t institutionally discriminate. If you don’t agree, then you have your head buried in deep sand.

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  9. “If any modern day nation-state does not provide for a certain class of citizens as per their wishes, does that mean they start identifying and working for an enemy nation-state/group,”

    Wow didn’t know Buddhism is an “enemy nation state/group”. Even Christianity or Islam for that matter but I will not get into the latter two as I know you’ve been sufficiently brainwashed.

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  10. “And it is highly amusing you think that these conversions – so often forced,”

    And how many people did Dr. Ambedkar “force into conversion by throwing meat on them?”

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  11. “Too bad your version also conveniently ignores the fact that the vast majority of those that live in poverty and socioeconomic prison are Hindu, as are those who have been slaughtered and marginalized over India’s history…”

    I hear the screams of victim hood loud and clear!

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    1. A –

      Sorry but I cannot make out which bits you wish to BLOCKQUOTE since those bits are missing. Please resubmit with the tags “<blockquote>” and “</blockquote>” surrounding the bits you wish to quote.

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  12. Ashish: one clear, steady response, my friend, would make your responses seem a little less frenetic and scatter-brained. Don’t want to speak for Atanu, but if I were running a site, I would certainly appreciate less kachra, clutter than what minimum must be tolerated.

    Now, my responses to your points:

    That’s precisely the whipping up of victim hood sentiment that Mr. Day ranted against above.

    “Thou art thy greatest friend; thou art thy greatest enemy”, as a certain Vivekananda once said. Wonder how he would respond to your whining.

    1. Decrying someone else’s false, voluntary victimhood does not mean that said former person/group is demanding victimhood for themselves. Your profound logic is indicative of the state of this false victimhood – any introduction of facts means that the previous victims are not being properly kowtowed to!

    And by the way, Hinduism doesn’t call for institutionalised discrimination doesn’t mean Hindus didn’t institutionally discriminate. If you don’t agree, then you have your head buried in deep sand.

    2. I never said Hindus were not discriminated against by their co-religionists – in fact, I think my analogy acknowledged that a certain cohort of Hindus was systematically ignored and under-provided for by their society. No need for strong words there. But even if there was institutionalized discrimination, there is a strong, marked difference between scenario one where a group of Hindus within a particular historical, socioeconomic context discriminated, and scenario two, where the doctrine – in any context, period, or application – clearly calls for subjugation of a class, whether they be considered part of your own group, or a lowly, disgusting kaffir.

    Wow didn’t know Buddhism is an “enemy nation state/group”. Even Christianity or Islam for that matter but I will not get into the latter two as I know you’ve been sufficiently brainwashed.

    3. I will assume that the extraordinary self-education that has brought you far, far above the pathetic condition of us brainwashed monkeys has, or will, in due time, introduce you to the concepts of Islamic theocracies, Christian theocracies, Western separation of church and state, etc. vs. “Hindu regimes'” m.o. under Chhatrapati Shivaji, etc.

    And how many people did Dr. Ambedkar “force into conversion by throwing meat on them?”

    4. I am not familiar with what you might be speaking of – I only know Dr. Ambedkar as one of the primary framers of the Constitution, and an advocate against plight of untouchables. Please do educate me….

    Also, I will assume you are just cleverly ignoring this/playing semantics for your own convenience – even if Ambedkar himself converted one person by convert’s own will, it doesn’t erase the circumstances under which majority of conversions were done historically and continue to be done. Google nearly any American/Canadian/European church or conservative political group to learn more!

    I hear the screams of victim hood loud and clear!

    Ah, it must be so nice to be able to be a minority/supporter of minorities in India – always right, with no fact-check. Just like Atanu said, caught with your pants down, and start squealing like a pig! Why don’t you do me the favor of substantiating your victimhood in this particular instance with some facts…

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  13. 1. Ah so you don’t feel victimised then. Fair enough. I somehow felt that your comment about a majority of those living in poverty, socio-economic prisons etc. being Hindus was whipping up victim hood. Silly me 🙂

    2. No my friend. They were not ignored and under-provided for. They were institutionally, systematically discriminated against. There’s a marked difference. And when you institutionally discriminate against one group, it doesn’t matter whether the source of that discrimination is religious books or cultural norms. Just because your religious books don’t condone discrimination doesn’t make it okay!

    3. Ha!

    4. Dr. Ambedkar led an entire section of India’s population to Buddhism. That remains the single largest mass conversion in India’s history to date. A Dalit himself, he adopted Buddhism to protest against the discrimination and injustice meted out to Dalits and called on people to join him. Most former Dalits, at least in Maharashtra, are now Buddhists and Christians. They chose those religions not because they were forced into them but because they were forced out of their earlier ones – Hinduism.

    5. Errrr?

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  14. Anyway, defying your dictat about posting only one comment for one reply, I must say that I don’t suppose you condone discrimination, even that committed by Hindus. I agree with you that ancient Indian philosophies don’t call for nor condone discrimination in any form. I also agree with you that many people in India, especially from minority communities, have made victim hood a lifestyle choice.

    Having said all that, I take exception to generalising people. Just because they belong to a certain community doesn’t mean that they always cry foul. That’s never the case and we should be vigilant against making such generalisations.

    Injustice happens to everyone – i know, being born in a Hindu Brahmin family. Most people live with it, many moan about it, some fight against it. I know many Muslims who fight against discrimination with a smile on their face and I know many others who moan about it. Ditto for Hindus, Christians and so on.

    The most I could do in my individual capacity is treat everyone equally – not discriminate either positively or negatively. I believe that’s what we as collective must do too. Unfortunately, that’s not our state policy and I take it that you have a problem with that too.

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  15. easily your best write up

    victimhood, feeling cheated are so easy and hence practiced big time

    taking responsibility and getting things done is tuff and hence rarely practiced

    Like

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