Monday, 19 May 2014

On Unsolicited Advice

 I want to print a t-shirt  that says "I am not kind to unsolicited advice. Give it at the risk of it landing in a trashcan." Can anybody suggest me something more curt, crisp and terse. In fact I intend to get multiple t-shirts printed with this message. One for each day of the week.

I am writing about a particular type of advice. I'll leave genuinely well meaning advice aside. Having said that I still prefer relationships where you can open up and share your truth with someone who acknowledges your problems and offers emotional support but no judgement or advice. A true friend knows when you need advice you will ask for it and resists the urge to fix your life.I am writing about unsolicited advice by people who consider themselves to be self proclaimed experts and like to exhort their own dogmas on hapless acquaintances and bystanders. You know you are a victim of unsolicited advice if  you get to hear, 'you should', 'you ought to', 'why don't you', 'it is about time', 'you have to', 'you must', 'that's how it is suppose to be'. The advice can range from how thin or fat you need to be to when you should get married, which school to pick for your yet to be born kids, how much jewellery to wear, which god to bow down to, which colors to avoid, which cream to smudge on your face to look fairer, how much, what and how to eat, how to greet, how to manage your finances, at what speed to drive, who all to be friends with and who to shun, which side of the bed to get up from, how much time to spend in the shower the list goes on.

I know I am going to ruffle a few feathers here but I find our fixation with bringing everybody's credence, proclivity and idiosyncrasies under one umbrella of culture, traditions and values repulsive to the core. There I said it. It is repulsive to poke your nose into someone's choices and way of life and then throw a tantrum because hey they are different from yours. How dare someone reject your paradigm of humbug felicity. How dare they not see the impeccability and exemplariness in your life. Even if it is exasperating for them because how dare they think of their own individual happiness . AG's (Advice giver's)happiness(and of the family's, neighbors, their cousins and entire community's) is more important and beyond judgement. How dare anybody strive for individual peace and satisfaction because these very elements are meant to be unattainable. Words like personal satisfaction are created only to be a sacrificial lamb at the altar of implausible traditions.

Now that I have vented my revulsion for unsolicited advice I have to admit I am not sure what goes in the mind of AGs. It could be either of the two

 a)One may argue it is just an innocuous habit they have never really paid attention to.

b) It could also be a deeply ingrained insecurity that makes them perceive people taking a different approach as a rejection of theirs.

 If you think it is the former I would like to get to the root of it. Where does it emanate from? I belive it is a manifestation of intolerance and dogmatism. Intolerance can manifest in seemingly harmless way of giving advice, coaxing, cajoling, manipulating or in a more aggressive and antagonizing manner of sitting on a moral high horse, preaching, intimidating and using threat or violence.They just differ in degree or scale.

 If it is latter then dear AGs let me counter your advice by reminding you that our paths are not mutually exclusive. Its not  my way or yours. We both can happily choose ours without being a threat to each other. Universe is vast enough to hold infinite choices. You may unclench your fist and iron out that frown. Be assured that the sun WILL rise tomorrow again inspite of people making uncustomary choices. Lets all find our place under it.

I believe there is only one rule to life and that is that there are no rules. Who has made these rules anyways? Humans who are susceptible to errors? Humans who are concerned about one set of people so much so that others must be put at a disadvantage to suit them. So you seize their choices and run it like that for centuries because something that is biased, vile or bigoted first grows as their fate and later metamorphoses into unimpeachable values and traditions so that someone opting out of them is put under an extreme duress of being judged, humiliated and ostracized. So how is one human viewed as altruistic for establishing rules for all and sundry and another heedless for making new ones only for himself. Who is being selfish here?While we have been taught to embrace people of all religions, castes, race, culture, ethnicity , the new age teaching should also include people exercising different choices in their personal or professional life.

Its easy to do lip service and show verbal support for causes which are fashionable and flaunt how progressive you are. But intolerance reveals itself in everyday life. How many of us would not ridicule a man who chooses to stay at home and look after children while the wife goes out to earn a living? How many of us would not judge a man for crying? Our prejudices and stereotypes are a mirror to centuries of conditioning and our inability to think independently of them. A woman who is single is judged for being pregnant while another woman is judged for not being pregnant after getting married. Why must a woman's womb be controlled by whims and fancies of the entire community? Why can't we accept a man or a woman who wants a child but not a marriage or marriage but not a child? Why are we not tolerant of women wearing what they want? Why are atheists coerced to visit places of worship just to keep appearances? Do their personal choices have any bearing on our day to day life?

Untill we dont become tolerant of each others choices we cannot stop rape and hate crime. Let us stop ourselves right where it begins. Let us stop being intolerant and respect people's space. Those who invade it by poking their nose are only a little better than those who use force.

For people who feel unnerved and overwhelmed by AGs and culturally sanctioned bullies keep your  head firmly on your shoulders, stand on your own two feet, keep your eyes focused on your goals and happiness and most important of all develop a thick skin. Just think of superfluous advice as a set of jumbled words and waste no time trying to decipher it. Words that have no meaning do not have power to hurt anybody. Once you start trying to put sense into them they take form of a menacing monster that will smother your inner voice. Love yourself and your choices.

Disclaimer : If this blog post turns out to be unsolicited advice for someone please feel free to tear it, stamp on it, shred it into pieces, flush it down the toilet, burn it or whatever is your style. No offense taken.The views are entirely of and for the author.

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