To err is human… and so on, endless platitudes.
I’ve listed in the USA for over 20 years, and I’ve observed more often than not that there is a disproportionate amount of Indians who use pithy proverbs and platitudes as lame excuses to justify just about anything.
Reminds me of leftist pseudo-intellectuals who, when they write up any article, is sprinkled with quotes from Western philosophers (a bit of Nietzsche, Kant, Plato, etc) as well as loads of platitudes.
Here are some of the ones I hear so often:
- We are all one
To justify pacifist policies. Try telling a Christian or Muslim that we are all one, that their religious beliefs deep down are same as Hindu beliefs. Not only will they not accept it, but deeper you go into their religion, you’ll see just how far different it is from Hinduism.
- Pride/Identity is a Dangerous Thing
If you see the most progressive countries in the world, they all take great pride in their identity: USA, Russia, Germany, France, Japan, China, Singapore, etc. Each of these nations have tremendous social issues and human rights violations, including a very long history of violence, but they don’t let all that trump their pride.
- To Err is Human
People who use this platitude are those who especially keep repeating the same mistakes endlessly, and expect to be forgiven endlessly, not understanding that the burden of the headache of handling the outcome of the mistake falls on the forgiver each time (which can be an entire team in a company, making up for one guy’s repeated mistakes, and his failure to improve himself by going through the appropriate amount of training or tapas). Eventually, the forgiver will draw the line and this “to err is human” is not going to hold any water,
- To Forgive is Divine
Same as above.
- Be a Roman in Rome
Used as justification for conformity. People think stripping off their cultures is the best way to integrate into the mainstream. That eventually leaves a land deprived of any culture (which is what has happened in the USA, and hence their thirst for the cultural experience – even if it means traveling to remote parts of the world to find it or building theme parks to simulate it). One can keep one’s culture and still integrate (share, communicate, invite, etc.) into the mainstream.
- Ignorance is bliss
Used as justification for stupidity, in-action, or apathy. It’s one of those sayings where one fool said it, and a thousand dingbats quotes it. Ignorance is not bliss. Detachment under full awareness/knowing is bliss.
- Curiosity killed the cat
Used as justification that asking too many questions or thinking too much into certain matters, is bad for you. Most of the conflicts in the world are due to ignorance.
- Patience/Tolerance/Forgiveness is a virtue
That doesn’t mean you should tolerate something or someone especially at the expense of others . Give them a chance (3-4 strikes) to redeem themselves, and if they still repeat, then you just distance yourself (unless they approach you for advise, it’s not really your job to fix them either).
- Accept everything as they are
This is a Buddhist quote, and is meant to be applied to himself. People are more quick to tell others this than to apply it to themselves first. This quote (like all others) also has the potential to be abused, by using it as a excuse to shun responsibility. Like one can throw trash on the road, or create a lot of noise, and just say one should just learn to “accept everything as they are”.
- Not everyone can be like that
Though not a proverb, even at the simplest behest, like very basic civic or environmental sense or ethics, you’ll get the apathetic response “not everyone can be like that”. Conveniently forgetting Gandhi’s saying “be the change you want to see in the world”.
- In India what you’re expecting [i.e. level of standards] can never happen
I bet ten years ago you’d say the same about ISRO, you’d never have dreamed they’d reach the level of perfection to launch a mission to the Moon or to Mars, or launch 93 satellites in one go. Or even the fact that there are electricians/plumbers/painters today that are several times detail oriented and better than those ten years ago. Or the fact that back in the 1980’s and 1990’s my dad kept his lab at the standards of hygiene seen only in the USA (which you’d say even now can never happen in India). Or the fact that organics have taken off in India, which happened because of people like me sought after it to happen paying double/triple the price. Hindu spiritual organizations (Jaggi Vasudev, Ammachi, etc) have planted millions of trees. I bet you’d say that would never happen in India. I believe even hospitals will change once people take to social media starts exposing them as well. I believe in change, and raising the bar to a higher standard, which means doing my part in taking the extra bit of effort… while you believe in having a sorry excuse to not do so. As Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in the world. Either contribute, or get out of the way and let those who want to set that new standard do their job.
- Nobody can be perfect1
People use this phrase as an excuse for doing half-baked work, while at the same time expecting things around them to work with perfection, and will complain when it doesn’t. Very few human beings can produce things with 99% perfection. That is why we have quality control (in fact several layers of quality control in things which need 99.99% perfection – such as air traffic control, a satellite launch, nuclear plant, etc). But the assumption for it to work is that each person is doing his job to at least a certain minimum level of quality (as opposed to half-baked).
- Opposites attract
Another overused phrase. This law applies, when you are talking about polarities (whether it be electricity, magnetism, or gender). These are universal laws of nature. This does not apply to any other entity (may it be the human mind, ideas, societies, nations,…). Taking “opposites attract” literally has two logical fallacies: one is generalization beyond the original domain, second is anthropomorphizing physical principles. Opposites can attract if they are complementary forces, not opposing forces.
- One should enjoy life / live a balanced life
Quoted by people who have a shallow definition of “enjoyment”. One man’s enjoyment is another man’s poison. For instance, for a mathematician enjoyment would be mathematics, for scientist it would be his undying thirst to seek and discover, for an artist the passion to create or paint, for an engineer the passion to create things, for a monk to discover the answers to life’s mysterious questions, for musician to play music, for a dancer to dance. For some, enjoying life may mean reveling in everything that life has to offer (like rampant consumerism) without thinking about the consequences (like impact on environment).
- You can’t straighten a dogs tail
Used as justification for any bad habits. It might be true that one cannot easily change certain habits, but most of these excuses refer to the remaining 99% that can be changed. I can dismiss the excuse in one shot: promise of a large reward (money, promotion, recognition) or punishment (like a demotion) will straighten out ones tail in no time. Even a simple change in environment makes a difference. For example, a person might find it easier to control certain bad habits at work than at home (like smoking and drinking) – probably because one is more self-conscious in a company, as a matter of professionalism (or else suffer the consequences).
- I don’t want to be controversial
There are those who take the bull by the horns and engage in debate. Then there are those spineless people who either don’t have the guts to engage in debate, or whose brains have been “softened” by leftist influence, to not stand up for anything they believe in, and they cop-out by saying “oh I don’t want to be controversial”. And yet, later they will cry (or blame it on someone else) when their bread is stolen. Where were you when the debate was on?
1Note: The word perfection itself is a man-made construct very relativistic to human experience. In contrast, many of the great spiritual masters were known as the “Perfected Ones”, not because they reached a state of perfection by any material measure, but because they reached a state of being or awareness which goes beyond measures of human experience where life, death, joy, suffering, and perfection are meaningless. A state of contentedness where everything simply “is”. Where everything is just is according the natural laws of the universe – atoms, planets, people, cultures – all colliding, clashing, fusing, dying, manifesting, evolving, devolving, etc. There is nothing to change or to perfect. The witness, that which is witnessed, and the act of witnessing all become One, as in Pure Awareness.