Selfish as a nature

I am. Not at all proud of it. Add privileged, small-hearted, insincere to it.

Yesterday, at a friends place for brunch, we indulged in the ‘ intelligent’ debate about the recent suicide of a Dalit student. Some people flat out denied that him being a Dalit had anything to do with his suicide. Most of them had an opinion that being Dalit is not a modern handicap anymore in modern India. These same people had, a couple of months ago, debated furiously with me, husband and a friend about reservations in India. As we three again went on- and an hour later- everyone including us three agreed that this noon shouldn’t be spent getting in fights- but enjoying the food- and went on to discuss a recent celebrity divorce, it struck me for the first time how vehemently self centred my life has become. And then it struck me that not that it ‘has become’, but that it was always that way, leading slowly to the ultimate privileged and small hearted insincerity.

What actually disturbed me was that this sharp realisation, which I had voiced several times before, chiefly to self , husband and brother- didn’t hurt me anymore. A few years ago, I still felt guilty about many things. I reasoned that since I am not in the league of people who refuse the necessity of reservations- this moral conviction must be proof of some small goodness in me. I thought, quite honestly, that I was a liberal, progressive person who cared about social injustice.

But yesterday, I embraced the fact that my life has been and most likely will be small and mediocre even in intent. That the goodness in me was limited to an extremely small circle of my life- most of which has seen little to no challenges to this goodness.

It might sound delusional to a more committed and sincere person- she might point out that I should have realised this long time ago. After all , haven’t I made these choices which have shaped my life?

And she is right. This liberal delusion is nothing, but my own squashed pride at thinking of myself better than others, thinking of myself as more evolved simply because I thought on the right track without ever choosing anything that doesn’t immediately benefit my small world.

What I am unable to figure out, and again this is extremely self-centred and passive- is what am I going to do with this realisation?

I very much doubt that I am going to change. So what is this realisation worth? Yet another pat on the back for self?

I don’t know.


4 thoughts on “Selfish as a nature

  1. Yes. It’s so disappointing to know that we are selfish people. Because I am generally quite annoyed with selfish people. Now that I think of it, may be I’m not annoyed of their selfishness but of the fact that I am not a benefactor of the times when they are not selfish. Like I can be selfless for a very closed circle of people, but am very selfish in the larger context.

    A few months back I realized that I wasn’t giving back to the society in general in any way. So I decided to set aside a certain amount ever time I had a new job, or got some extra money. But then I realized that I was doing it with a very selfish intent: That it made be feel good about myself. I have still decided to continue, since irrespective of how good I feel, money has its use.

  2. “What I am unable to figure out, and again this is extremely self-centred and passive- is what am I going to do with this realisation?” Not being able to figure out what to do with realizations is my exact beef about myself. I am bloody brilliant at doing my own psycho-analysis, to the extent that I know exactly when I am pretending to be nice and caring, when in my head I am blaming myself for feeling this need to do something that doesn’t come naturally to me, just for some sort of social and ethical validation. But all my realizations are just that. Realizations without any action to reverse the negatives.

    Maybe it’s our privileged upbringing? We come from such secure, open-minded families, that we take for granted most things that people have to struggle to achieve. So we can try and sympathize but it’s almost impossible to empathize.

    Husband and I were discussing this suicide yesterday and we felt really bad for a few minutes about how nothing has changed. The feeling bad lasted only for a few minutes since we were headed out to dinner at our favorite place. And I realized our insincere (or maybe sincere but time-bound, and unproductive sadness) feelings just now as I read your post. 😦 And even I don’t know what to do with this realization.

    • Yes, maybe what you say is right. It could be privilege seeped in our nerves. But then several privileged people turn to broad hearted. And then, like many other things, shouldn’t we be more open and kind- since we can afford to? Since we haven’t had to fight basic battles, shouldn’t we be motivated to at least fight to some extent for others?

      I suspect it is actually plain selfish small heartedness. Maybe it is true of most people that they don’t open their hearts unless crisis comes personally to them. I don’t know.

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