Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Does your struggle define you?

Social media inevitably puts us in touch with what people want us to know about them. Some of them want us to know that they are having fun, have wonderful relationships, have the soundest possible beliefs, are succeeding beyond expectations and/or are overcoming incredible odds. Good for them. If you are able to keep jealousy at bay, you have the opportunity here to get exposed to the real and imagined joys of the world. Nothing wrong with that per se.
But today, I want to focus on those who want us to know them through their struggles. All of us have such friends on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. You and I, too, might belong to this mass of humanity in one context or another. But here, too, we aren't looking at a monolithic segment. Those who struggle are usually victims or crusaders. Sometimes, they are an odd combination of the two.

Self-styled strugglers indulge in an over-identification with their struggle. A gender-bias victim has to balance the gender equation. A sexually-abused victim has to proclaim the intrinsic injustices of the social framework, just as a political crusader has to point out the intrinsic injustices in the political framework. Meanwhile, a lonely person has to talk about the apathy of society. So every tweet and post of theirs will drip with this ideological imbalance. Once the notion of injustice/inequality/imbalance grips our minds, we tend to perceive the world through the prism of the said injustice/inequality/imbalance. Lest I sound belittling, let me do a quick course correction.

Are these struggles difficult? Of course, they are. Are they important? Undoubtedly so. I identify with so many of them. I feel the dire need to correct many imbalances in the system. The only difference is that I don't identify with them beyond a point. The reasons are quite simple:

  1. I existed much before I identified with my struggle(s). So I am not my struggle. Many dimensions of my life exist irrespective of the struggle. For instance, the daily grind cannot rob me of my ability to enjoy an evening out unless I allow it to.
  2. I am aware that somewhere in the world, there exists at least one human being (perhaps millions of them) who has been a victim in the exact opposite manner. For instance:
  • A feminist can learn that men can be victims too, just as a masculist can learn that women can be victims too.
  • A lonely person can learn that too many intimate relationships can threaten free will, just as a housewife with seven kids can learn that a packed life can save one from the burden of too much introspection.
  • A capitalist can learn that communism/socialism has the potential for more compassion, just as a socialist can learn that free enterprise can lead to more innovation.
Acknowledging the opposite immediately gives me a more objective perspective and my emotional investment in my struggle will, therefore, be smaller.

But with our blinkers on, and our arrogant wisdom goading us, we pretend to understand the nature of the universe. We are convinced that we have decoded the secrets therein using our six senses. And with this conviction, we prowl our night skies, wearing a mask and zooming in our glitzy vehicle of (in)justice. All we need is a Christopher Nolan to make us superheroes.
We are our struggles, we tell ourselves, as we allow the darkness to swallow us whole.


  1. This article is so sublimely soothing..also struggles need not define define oneself could be a struggle by itself ;), eg...recognition of "existential aloneness" is one thing..(that simply means that human existence is unavoidably predicated on being alone with ones own unique feelings and thoughts..) this recognition could be very freeing or highly enslaving...however the choice is to making it work for oneself and making it a freeing to make it and the very process is also a struggle...and of course that definitely need not define oneself, since its a positive struggle could we name it a superhero/heroine struggle?? :) thanks for this beautiful insightful literary tapestry Eshwar

    1. Nice comment. Thanks for posting it, Sowmya.

  2. A very insightful read indeed. Sometimes the struggles that we go though are so overwhelming that we start associating everything we do with it. Also the one thing that I found very interesting is that the realization that somewhere someone might be struggling with the exact opposite of what we are going through gives a fresh perspective on our own struggles. Thank you for writing this article and giving fodder to my brain to think :)

    1. Thank you for dropping by and letting me know your views, "Changing Times" :)