Monthly Archives: November 2015

Honorable disrespect

A wife is calling a husband to dinner . Below are three general types of interactions that can happen : 1- positive, 2- neutral, 3- negative

Type1 : Positive

wife: Dinner is ready , dear

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes sweetheart.

type 2: Neutral

wife: Dinner is ready

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes.

type 3: Negative / shows inequality of gender

wife: Dinner is ready oh-human-deserving-of-respect

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes female-who-is-inferior-to-me

That last one is quite a mouthful…Isn’t it? But it won’t be if you talk Tamil.

Tamil – or rather KondunTamil as the version in use is appropriately called – is a language that makes showing gender and other social inequality in everyday conversations a breeze. Tamil uses Honorific suffixes of all kinds- some showing respect and some showing disrespect. (More about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_honorifics)

This language reflects the culture of a society that promotes overt display of social hierarchy, in social and interpersonal relationships, where in every interaction the power balance between the two parties conversing is expected to be shown. This language is the vehicle societies ride on to propagate inequality in age,gender,socio-economic status, power and caste.

Are honorific suffixes bad? Not necessarily. Suffixes that allow the show of mutual respect , love and intimacy is  a good thing. But using suffixes to show disrespect  is in my opinion undesirable.

Moreover, this honorific suffix usage promotes gender inequality in a marriage , validates male privilege and propagates the “culture of abuse“. Which is obviously my main area of focus in this article.

It is to be noted that not all humans who speak this Tamil language avail themselves to the ‘privilege’ of showing disrespect even though they ‘can’ under societal norms. I have witnessed many – male and female alike – address younger or  people in lesser status then them  with respect – using respectful honorific suffixes- and I applaud them for them for their dignity. These people bring out the beauty in the language and are role models for others to follow suit. But they are still in the minority.

Now, How do these honorific suffixes work and then how do they promote a culture of abuse?

For illustration ,let’s take  Tamil’s honorific suffixes: “di”  and “da”

“Di”  suffix is informal, denotes that a  female of lesser or equal status  is being addressed.

“Da”  suffix is the male counterpart.

So for example, if you want to call your younger brother towards you, you can say :

” Enga va da

The rough translation for the Tamil trans-literation sentence is:

Come here “you male who is inferior than me in either age or social status or power or all”

Or it can also be:

Come here “you male who is  equal to me because you are also allowed to respond back with a “di” or “da” “.

This latter ‘equal’ usage is the case in informal friendly /intimate relationships, where both the parties considers themselves equal, irrespective of age/socio-economic status.

The “da” or “di” gets translated into disrespect showing  the subtle inequality of the relationship when the person addressed with this suffix is not allowed to respond back with the “di/da” suffix in their response to the speaker.

E.g. A person can address his servant , disrespectfully, with “da” but the servant cannot use “da” towards his employer (if he expects to be gainfully employed). Instead he is expected to use another honorific suffix that shows respect like “ar” or “enga”- which denotes respect and reinforces his lesser economic status relative to his employer.

Some husbands use the suffix “Di”  when talking to their wives: publicly and privately. Wives are not allowed/expected to respond back or use the “Da” – they may do that in private (who knows?) but publicly it’s a huge ‘no-no’. The conversation between husband and wife  is expected to follow the pattern of the man/servant relationship, setting the stage for gender inequality – male superiority.

This “Di”, that husbands use when talking to their wives,  is  like an annoying sibling eating grapes and spitting the seeds at you – through out your lifetime.  It’s an offence where if you go to court and say “he spit a grape seed at me five times a day , 7 days a week” , and ask for justice everyone will laugh at you and ask you come back only when your limbs are broken.

The “Di” is like a vaccine – with a slightly ineffective virus – that builds immunity so when the real virus hits the nervous system – the body is prepared to deal with it.  As an immunized person may not even know that a deadly virus entered their body and was dealt with deftly – the female soul immunized with “Di”  doesn’t even feel much difference when an explicit disrespect is thrown at her. Say for example she is called a ‘bitch’ or to say in Tamil “nÃy” .

“Di” is just   a simple syllable- an innocuous reminder in every interaction that you are lesser than your husband and he deserves more respect than you get. A mere trifle of disrespect that is expected to roll off women’s back like water on a fish’s.

Some may argue that the usage of “Di” shows the intimate nature of the relationship between husband and wife and therefore “Di” expresses a romantic undertone. But if those same people, frown upon the wife’s usage of the “Da” and do not consider that usage romantic – their argument is not valid.

This  in-equal “Di” is just one example of a honorific in language usage that establishes the power structure within a marriage – and accepting this societal norm as normal  is to accept that women are lesser than men and therefore entitled to verbal abuse.

Honorific or not , gender inequality is conveyed in speech of all languages depending on how it is used and more importantly in the tone that it is delivered. Tamil and such languages that use honorific are not at fault . Fault if any lies in the society that uses it and normalizes disrespect towards one gender.

The issue in particular with honorific languages is that it makes showing overt disrespect easy, while cloaking the intent of disrespect under the ambiguity of grammar/societal norms of usage.  Whereas in non-honorific languages showing disrespect has to be explicit ,showing intent. e.g. ” I will be there in 5 minutes female-who-is-inferior-to-me” or  a short-cut  “I will be there in 5 minutes bitch”

Husband and wife (or Partners) should both bring love and respect to the marriage table and to their language. Bringing  love and expecting more than love (servile respect) in return is not fair. Bringing nothing but expecting both love and respect is even worse.  Our language is only an outward expression of these subtleties of inequality.

So how can we banish  “Di” and other such disrespectful words/inequality from our speech? Maybe we should switch mother tongues – move from Tamil to say English (or any other language that does not have honorific)  at least temporarily – and try to convey the whole message – subject/verb and honorific (and mainly the intent of respect or disrespect).

Since there are no such simple honorific suffixes substitutes in English as in Tamil – except maybe  “Sir/ Madam” or “Your highness” perhaps? –  in order to bring over all the inequality  to English we have to use more words than necessary ,making intent very clear and sentence structure very complicated. We would no longer be able to hide under the ambiguous shadow of honorific suffixes then.

Switching to English , carrying the baggage of honorific over , will be hard work.  Or we can make a true effort to have every interaction a positive one in our own mother tongues – turning Koduntamil (corrupt Tamil) into SenTamil (pure Tamil) . That will be harder work if one is not willing to let go of privilege, easy if one realizes that all humans- male are female-  are  equal.

Now , you may ask why all the fuss about one word ? How will discontinuing the usage of  honorific ,say  in-equal “Di” by a husband ,change the inequality of their relationship? What prevents the husband from taking the more explicit route to express disrespect for his wife if “Di” is banished?  Won’t “Di” be a more honourable disrespect (there’s a new oxymoron for you) than ,say, ‘bitch’?

I agree that eliminating the usage of a gender in-equality honorific suffix will not change the world , in itself. But it can do three things:

1- Those who take the subterfuge under the honorific today will be forced to be chose from the 3 word choices: explicitly disrespectful  ,neutral or respectful. Many will choose neutral without the  grey area of “honourable disrespect” to chose from.

2- It brings the enemy out of the shadows in to the open – the intent of disrespect will be explicit. It is easy to confront the enemy when he’s in front of you – easy to assess the threat- easy to formulate a defence strategy.  The fight comes out in the open. Today a father can tolerate his daughter being called “Di” by her husband in front of him – but will not tolerate the unwarranted and explicit disrespect of ‘bitch’ or ‘fool’ or any such thing.

3- It sets the societal expectation that both genders in a marriage are equal. Female babies are not born with the sense of inferiority , ready to accept verbal abuse, they learn that from the interactions they see playing in everyday life, day after day after day, at their homes, in the TV and around them. Neither are male babies born with the sense of superiority , ready to abuse. The girls see, father using “Di” and mother not using “Da” and intuitively learn that they should not use “Da”. The boys learn that they should use “Di” and not expect a “Da” back.  If they grow up seeing mutual respect in their parents language  and in the society around them then a new positive culture is formed- gender inequality and the evils associated with it will slowly fade away.

While this may seem applicable to only one segment of the world population that uses honorific suffixes, the basic premise  is respectful communication and being aware of  gender in-equality in language and the impact it has not only on relationships but on culture as a whole.

So, respected-reader-who-is-equal-to-me, what do you think?

Note: There are many other languages in the world that use honorific devices to show social hierarchy with more degrees of complexity…Tamil is the only one I speak, so I have used this as an example.

Disclaimers: (to keep trolls in bay) The intent of this post is to show the gender in-equality inherent in the usage of some languages today  not to put down any particular language. I do put down certain cultural norms that treats women as inferior though.

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Irrational faith to Rational belief

Source: Irrational faith to Rational belief

Relax

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

“So, what are you going to do after dinner?”

“Nothing. Maybe relax with a book”

” What ?! There is so much to do. We have only 7 days left before our 2 day vacation”

“I just booked the hotel. We are all set. What else is there to do?”

“Well here’s a list for you…while I work on my list”

  1. Hold mail
  2. pack bags
  3. call dog-sitter
  4. buy sunscreen
  5. book a shuttle to airport
  6. inform neighbourhood watch
  7. empty fridge
  8. set up timer lights
  9. blah blah

 

“Got it…So , what are we going to do at the beach?”

“Nothing. Maybe relax with a book”

 

—-end —-

Anyone else feel that preparing for a short vacation away from home – to do “nothing” –  is sometimes not really worth the stress and effort and cost?

Happy thanksgiving to those in the US – whatever the origins of this holiday, I’m thankful for a day off.

This  100 word story was written in response to a 100 word photo challenge  posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields each week. PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Click on the ‘blue frog’  below to read other amazing takes on the same photo prompt:

Irrational faith to Rational belief

“Jayji”, Grandma points out the hanging light-bulb to 3 month old crying baby ,  in an attempt to console and distract the baby.

All forms of light were “Jayji” – “Jayji” was baby-talk . “Jayji” meant God – a benevolent, soft God.

When the baby is 6 months old and able to sit on her own and is learning to use her hands,  the grandmother sits in front of the baby and gently claps chanting “Ram. Ram, Sita -Ram”. The baby smiles at her . Grandma reaches forward takes the little chubby hands in her own weathered hands and teaches the baby how its done. The baby learns and claps on her own – mimicking grandma and keenly watches the grandma’s mouth that continues to chant ” Ram. Ram. Sita-Ram”. “Jayji” now gets a name. The baby’s brain records the attention and nurturing from a adult..the sense of fun..the sense of safety…and associates it with the chanting ” Ram. Ram. Sita-Ram” and the vibrations that sound creates.

Then when the hand coordination skill increases the baby is encouraged to steep the hands together in prayer to “Jayji” in front of the idols.  “Pray to Jayji”, grandma coos.  “jayji” is no longer light and now has a specific solid form. And when baby responds with the right gesture the baby is rewarded with a hug and praise: “what a smart child. She learnt it so quickly”. All the adults congregate to witness this event and the child basks in the adoration the simple task of putting palms together, generates.  The brain’s paths to the social reward centre is strengthened.

Add to this the positive reinforcement of special sweet food on religious holidays, new clothes and other fun events- the package is complete – the brain’s pleasure circuits are ablaze with sugary religious fervour.

Religion and tradition were fed to us through our mother’s milk, grandparent’s hugs ever since birth. Our brains were hard-wired with religious beliefs  by the time we realize that we are separate entities – different from our family – and before we are capable of thought.

I have woken up to find “viboodhi” (sacred ash)  on my forehead when I was a child. Grandma said that I was screaming in my sleep and they had to put this sacred ash on my forehead to ward away the evil spirits. My brain didn’t question this “fact”. It simply recorded that the viboodhi is a magical elixir that wards of danger. It becomes a panacea.  It’s only later that we read about and learn the power of the placebo but by then the brain circuits are welded in place.

These are just a few of the hundreds of such interactions that we have with those who care for us and protect us – that drive the myths, superstitions and habits of religious beliefs and traditions deep into the psyche.

As one grows older God- He/She- is no longer a benevolent “Jayji” now, but an egoistical god who is angry at  minor transgressions. God becomes an exacting school teacher who deducts half a point for every spelling mistake. A feared  algebra teacher who doesn’t care that you got the answer right but deducts marks for not showing all the steps or showing too may steps.

Now fear joins pleasure to drive adherence to religious practices. Fast on Monday – No meat on Saturday – Light lamp everyday – Make ‘x’ prasadams (food offering) to offer to god – where ‘x’ is an integer equal to  3,5,7, 9 or 11…, never 2,4,6 or 8…. ) the list goes on.

Religion and the adherence to rituals becomes  a familiar heuristic solution to all of life’s problem- all our fears, all our doubts.

This was how my religious and spiritual framework was built too.  It served me for many years and then one day it didn’t.  A small glass house can support and protect an young oak tree from a unseasonal frost but it would also prevent it from reaching it’s true growth if left there permanently. Religion and rituals is a glass house…atleast to me.

It’s not easy to break that which comforted you and nurtured you. Not easy to reconfigure the neural pathways that were laid since babyhood – from blind irrational faith based in pleasure and fear to a rational belief based in logic and love.

As I sit in a pooja that we have performed several times at home …my son – now grown up enough to have independent thought -whispers in my ear : ” what a fickle god”. He is referring to the story in the Sathyanarayana pooja that goes like… “God then killed the merchant’s son-in-law because his daughter, Kalavati,  ran to the river bank to meet her husband who she hadn’t seen in years and forgot to eat the prasadam- which was the last step of the pooja.”.

Is God really that fickle? Probably no. The answer better be no! I Hope it’s no! Pray ,no!!!  I took a deep breath to calm the panic ,” It’s the humans who are fickle”, I tell him.

The explanation given for this vengeful act of god is:

“Prasāda is symbolic of God’s Grace which Kalāvatī ignored as she learned of her husband’s safe return. One can understand her eagerness in wanting to be re-united with her beloved, but one must understand that if one forgets to be thankful for gifts received from the Lord, one would have to go through another test until one remembers to remember.”

Anyone see the uncanny resemblances of God to teachers?

I also wondered why such a story came about and maybe it did to reinforce the need to follow protocol and keeping up the terms of an agreement

If a doctor needs to follow a protocol during surgery- remember to take the scissors out of the stomach , failure to follow can result in death of the patient and then maybe a lawsuit and the doctor’s life can be ruined.  Failure to follow prescribed steps – keep up promises – could result in death/disaster in many life situations and every individual in society needs to have that mindfulness and focus when doing a task so that the world operates efficiently.

Mindfulness and following agreed upon protocols/agreements are  good message to reinforce . But did we  have to make the God  “fickle” to reinforce that message?  Maybe the fear tactic  works for children and immature adults….but if you are an self-aware and mature individual should such stories scare you -Put you into an panic if you were unable to have the prasadam? Blame any catastrophe on that one act –  example:” not eating prasadam” – without thinking through root causes logically?

How good is a religion that only causes fear and panic and a sense of doom if it’s rituals are not able to be followed? Can we have religion without the fear of non-adherence to rituals? Can we reconfigure neural pathways of pleasure and fear to rational thought ? Can God become “Jayji” again ? That soft benevolent light without shape or form or name?

Can God , of all religions, become just pure love again?

 

A lost sole

PHOTO PROMPT © C.E. Ayr

Dear Ex,

We went through so much together;

You and me.

Through Hell; Through Heaven;

And everything in between.

All together,

As soul mates.

 

 

We were going places.

You and me.

Until you thought we were not made for each other.

That you were way better than me.

You said that I was a ‘nothing’ without you by my side:

Useless. Trash. You were right.

 

The last time I saw you, you said you had a lot more places to go.

You said I was holding you back.

Yesterday, I heard that you were found in a gutter…

—-end —

This less than 100 word story/letter was written in response to a 100 word photo challenge  posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields each week.

Click on the ‘blue frog’  below to read other amazing takes on the same photo prompt:

God’s salesman

JHC5

“There’s a 2 sq.ft hole in our church floor. School needs expansion…” , the secretary lists the Church’s needs eyeing the once-upon-a-time snake-oil salesman turned Reverend.

“That unused cemetery acre, Mrs.McGrave’s plot? Can’t we use that? Surely she will understand the needs of poor children…”

“She hates children”

“I’ll talk to her”.

After service, the Reverend walks up to the frail old Mrs.McGrave. “How lovely to see you my dear….”

— A few months later —

A new 2 sq.ft plaque , covering the once-upon-a-time hole on the church floor reads: “Herein rests Emma McGrave….”

Outside the construction crews were busy building the McGrave wing.

— end —

This 99 word story  is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge  posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields each week.  This week’s photo prompt – © J Hardy Carroll

Click on the ‘blue frog’  below to read other amazing takes on the same photo prompt:

Basic needs

PHOTO PROMPT - © Connie Gayer (Mrs. Russell)

The leader waits for the restless crowd to quieten:

“We evolved, to look like twigs , to remain hidden from our  predators. Our cover was eventually exposed.

We evolved again , to look like leaves.  We thrived . But trees are now extinct.”

Dissenting voices rise- “so are our predators” .

“Are you forgetting the one predator left?”

The sobering truth sinks in. The leader has their attention. He pulls out a cable wire.

“If we evolved to look like this, we can thrive. Our predator would dig delicately around us, leave us alone,  because they live in mortal fear of losing …………. internet connection.”

—– End —-

This 100 word story  is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge  posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields each week.  This week’s photo was provided by Mrs. Connie Russell.

Click on the ‘blue frog’  below to read other amazing takes on the same photo prompt: