Against The Stream ~ YES, YES, NO,
WHAT DO WE MEAN when
we say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? It is
a valid question, not a flippant one, as many of us
seem to regard giving our word as unimportant; we
make appointments that we have no intention of keeping,
and say ‘Yes’ when we don’t mean
it, or even when we mean ‘no’.
Let us look into this somewhat, because
clear seeing can help us avoid unnecessary trouble,
and anything that does that is surely useful and good.
Why do we speak so lightly, without considering
the consequences of our words? Why are we such hypocrites?
Must we be so? Are we happy this way? Have we no choice
about it? See how a dog wags its tail: with its heart,
sincerely. Why are we less sincere instead or more
sincere than dogs?
Certainly we have some choice— not
as much as we think we have, and not as much as we
would like, perhaps, but certainly we have some. We
are not helpless victims unless we think we are and
then, of course, we conform to our beliefs and bring
upon ourselves that which we believe; it’s called
‘wish-fulfillment’; but it comes from
weak-mindedness and ignorance.
If someone makes an appointment with you
and then stands you up, how do you feel? You won’t
be very pleased, of course, even if you understand
that many things can happen to prevent the genuine
non-keeping of appointments. But there is little excuse
these days for not calling to say that we won’t
be able to make it, and apologize. And if that is
how we feel, we should be able to understand how others
feel if we do not keep our appointments with them;
it works both ways, and we have responsibilities to
observe, not just rights to enjoy.
We should beware of people whose ‘yesses’
and noes’ don’t indicate what they mean.
Either they are weak and dare not say what they mean
(they might think it’s polite, out of fear or
desire not to offend anyone), or they have no principles
and won’t commit themselves to a clear answer,
or they have ulterior motives. We may not have liked
Maggie Thatcher personally, for example, but she certainly
flew her flag for all to see, and left no-one in doubt
that when she said "No", that was exactly
what she meant. To that extent, at least, she could
be trusted. Silly Bill falls far below her standard!
Deep inside, we know what is right and wrong;
our criticism of others for doing wrong shows that
we know. But we often practice double-standards, and
blame others for things we ourselves are guilty of.
This is why we are hypocrites. But must we be like
this, even to the point of hating ourselves at times?
We sacrifice our integrity and willingly say and do
things we later regret, just to keep up appearances
and not upset others; our living is a performance,
a charade, a lie. It’s not surprising we are
unhappy, alienated and fragmented, when we always
live to impress others.
For some years, I’d known there was
little love between this lawyer and his wife, but
when he came and told me his wife had left him for
another man, he revealed another side of himself.
He asked me for advice on how to deal with this situation,
but it was clear that he just wanted to state his
point-of-view, and didn’t really want advice.
He held the other man responsible for "breaking
up my family" as he put it. I was not having
this, however, because although I'd never met his
wife, I knew that she, too, had her story. I told
him so, and asked if he thought she’d had no
choice in leaving him for the other man. If he felt
that the fellow had abducted her and was holding her
against her will, he should have recourse to the law
and bring him to justice, which should not be hard
to do. But, since his wife had gone off on her own
accord, this must be taken into account, and he should
ask himself if she was justified in leaving him. What
was she getting outside that she couldn’t or
didn’t get at home?
He persisted in claiming he’d been
maligned and wanted revenge, going so far as to ask
me what to do. It was then that I asked him if he’d
ever had an extra-marital relationship himself (as
stated elsewhere in this book, I play the role of
the Devil’s Advocate, don’t forget). He
admitted that he’d had, but said: "So what?
That’s beside the point". "No, it’s
very much to the point", I said. "How come
it is alright for you to philander, but not for your
wife? You are a lawyer, but are practicing double-standards.
Would your position stand up in court?"
Clearly, this is still a man’s world,
in which men have always assigned women second-place,
and for most part, women have submissively accepted
this. But is there any good and natural reason why
this should be so? Martin Luther, the founder of the
Protestant branch of Christianity, wrote, in 1533:
"Girls begin to talk and stand on their feet
sooner than boys because weeds always grow up quicker
than good crops". What is this but pure prejudice?!
In China and India, males have always been
regarded as higher and better than females, and female
infanticide is widespread; consequently, the greater
ratio of males to females now is productive of great
In India, there are many cases of what are
called ‘Dowry Murders’. Out of uncontrolled
greed, young wives are deliberately set on fire by
the husband or/and his mother, and the excuse given—
and usually accepted by the authorities— is
that the kerosene-stove exploded while she was cooking
and her clothes caught fire. Few of these murderers
are brought to justice and convicted, and the husband
is free to marry again and get another dowry.
The saddest thing about these awful crimes,
and the most difficult to understand, is that the
mother-in-law— who is probably the real culprit,
having instigated her son to do the dreadful deed—
has been a bride herself, so should know what it’s
like to be in that sad, unenviable position and sympathize
with her daughter-in-law! It is often women themselves,
therefore, who oppose and retard the lawful rights
of women as a whole, when they should be in the front
line! They betray their gender.
This, again, boils down to ignorance and
superstition. In what way is a man better than a woman?
There are things that men can do that women cannot
do, of course, but the opposite also holds true. And
most men claim to love women— some women, anyway,
and their wives in particular (until they get married,
at least; sorry for my cynicism; it’s not unfounded,
I feel)— but their treatment— instead
of defense— of women is an obvious contradiction
of this. How is it that men treat women so badly?
Is it because of fear of woman’s special ability
to bring forth new life? Is it because man feels diminished
by the realization that he depends upon woman to be
what he is? If so, there is really no need for it,
as he cannot change what is, unless he goes in for
cloning and bypasses the need for sexual reproduction
and the pleasure therefrom.
Who would like to live in a world only of
women, or only of men? Well, no doubt some would,
but most of us would not. Let us, therefore, try to
see things in a clearer perspective, recognizing that
we are not self-sufficient and that we cannot do without
others. To be honest and open enough to say, "I
need you" does not imply weakness or diminish
us, but is merely stating an obvious fact. Actually,
to acknowledge the truth implies strength and courage.
Who can do it?