We have been raised as pets.
It’s true! We have all been trained to match the societal norms. Our parents teach us to behave, talk, walk, eat, sleep in a certain way that is accepted by the society that they live in. And they have been taught the same thing by their parents, who had been taught by their parents and so on. Belief systems have been a product of how an individual has been raised. This makes everything very dynamic.
You are the pet that every parent raises to walk the respectable streets of this society. And every pet is raised differently. A set of rules is handed out to you the moment you are born; a rule book: a set of rules made up of faith, religion, morals, beliefs and education. Now, you would be inevitably hardwired to pass on this knowledge to your progeny, who would either blindly follow it or create a conflict by rejecting it.
And this is how we create our world view of “What’s right or what’s wrong.” But do we really weigh our life in just black or white?
What’s the rulebook?
The rulebook is not just the faith or religion that you are born into. The rulebook also consists of your parents’ experiences, prejudices, and assumptions. The rulebook is also governed by education (or lack of education in many cases).
But largely, the world has been conditioned by two major players: religion and education.
Religion is one of the biggest social norms. If you don’t follow this rule, you will be damned to hell forever; our God is the only god; our god is better than your god; we are purer than you are. But in fact, religion is nothing but a mere accident of birth.
If you are born into a poor Dalit Hindu family, and you somehow do well for yourself, go through the struggles of getting educated, earn the highest degree and start earning well; you will still be questioned for your faith to go to a temple.
If you are born into a rich Muslim family, which is highly educated and modern, you might still get a Fatwa for, perhaps, supporting Homosexuality.
If you are born in a Hindu Punjabi family, not very religious, just doing their humble jobs, you would still be directed by what those chaar-log (four people) would say if you want to marry out of your said faction.
Why? Because of your accident of your birth into these particular families. And there are endless examples.
“This is not because of reason, logic, or evidence, but rather the mere luck of the draw in terms of where a person is born. This, therefore, undermines the notion that a person’s religion is anything other than the product of her environment,”Shane Scott, https://focusmagazine.org/is-religion-purely-the-product-of-social-conditioning.php
So, there is no doubt that the religious beliefs each person has, is because of what they have been taught in their immediate environment. It’s not something they believe. It was fed to them when they were born.
Education is another societal conditioning method.
“A 20th-century education emphasised compliance and conformity over creativity, two skills that were necessary to do well in a professional or corporate environment and to hold down a good job for decades. The system results in a population with similar skills in a narrow spectrum of talentshttps://thinkstrategicforschools.com/education-21st-century/
Kids all across the world are trained exactly the way the governments want it. In the UK, the history of the British Empire and its cruelties aren’t even mentioned in their school curriculum.
“The literature read by North Korean students is carefully censored. Most writers remain obscure and their biographical details are concealed. Stories usually revolve around upholding socialism and the care the Kims have given the literary world”https://borgenproject.org/top-10-facts-about-education-in-north-korea/
The best way to control a person is to kill their confidence.
Once their confidence is gone, you can control them as you please; you can tell them whatever you want and they will believe you. And this my friend, is how society functions. That is exactly how our cultures and countries function.
It’s no use to tell someone that they are not allowed to do something. The repercussions are exactly the opposite of what you would want: Rebellion.
You enslave us, we will rebel. It’s simple. But if you simply tell them how worthless their idea is, it simply shatters them.
Unfortunately, we end up doing what our society has been doing to us to our loved ones as well.
We create a rulebook for relationships.
My kid should be a doctor, my girlfriend shouldn’t talk to other guys, my wife should cook well, my husband should earn more than me, my best friend should support me and the list goes on. But can you expect to map all attributes of your loved ones to your made-up list of ideals?
Let’s face it, you don’t even know yourself. So, be rest assured that you won’t be able to know the other person any better than what you have already experienced.
Why are we so affected by our social conditioning and our rulebook, that we end up moulding our relationships to how it suits us?
We have all seen it, experienced it and we cannot deny it. Our parents do it to us. Our best friends and partners do it to us. We do it to them.
My mother once told me, “if you love me you will do as I say.” No! That’s not how relationships work. That’s how the Hitlers of the world work.
“If you are a Jew, I will kill you”. No valid reason at all.
That’s not how you love someone, it’s how you rule and control someone! Many of us do not even realise that loving someone and controlling someone are two very different things.
You cannot command your partner to love you, just because you want it. This is also one of the reasons why romantic relationships have shorter lifespans today. The moment we realise that we are being conditioned into yet another set of ideals, we try to cut loose. Our expectations kill the relationship.
But then, there are some relationships you cannot even abandon. Even if you never talk to your dad ever again, he is still your dad. He will always be your dad. And he will always be the root of your conditioning. You cannot break away from it, so you create your own.
How do we beak the social conditioning loop?
I think this should probably change with the way we parent our kids. Even though we are hardwired for it, we must try to give the offspring a chance to question the rulebook.
Philosopher Dan Dennett, in his TED talk, calls for all religions to be taught at school, so that kids can understand them as a “natural phenomenon.” This makes perfect sense. You teach your kid not just your rulebook but all the others.
Now, I know this seems ridiculous. Why would a Christian man teach his kid about Islam? He completely detests it. He would tell him to stay far away from it.
The rulebook doesn’t even have to be about religion. It can range from certain behaviour that is expected out of you or the way you dress up; what time you wake up; or what food you eat. Honestly, people can judge and question you on anything and everything.
We tend to be offended by something we do not understand or know about much about. That is the crux of how our cultures work. Conflict of opinion and understanding creates a void. This void can either be a room for discussion where both parties try to understand each other. Or it can be a battleground. Leaders across the world have benefited from this void of conflict and controlled the confused masses for years together.
Is there a way to break free? Not in the political scene today. “Because we don’t have much power to do anything about it,” you would say. Yes. True. We are truly helpless in making people around us understand the political propaganda of the world. We don’t understand them either.
But we can be better in our relationships. All the of above is reflecting in our relationships as well.
So, how do we then ensure that our kids develop their understanding of the world? How do we ensure that our relationships are healthy? How do we ensure our kids get the world view of things?
How does a person understand the people they love and bring the discussion to the void of conflict?
- LISTEN to the human.: Someone once told me that you must ask the right questions to know me. But I think listening is more important than just asking the right questions. The “art of listening” does not only involve listening to what the other is saying, but also what they are not saying. Confused? Well, the art of listening is nothing but your involvement with the other person: listen to their stories, listen to their reactions, listen to their eyes, listen to their feet tap when they are anxious, listen to them stammer when they are nervous. Just listen to their emotions. Look at your loved one as an entire life form of emotional vibrations. Once you understand those vibrations, once you understand what makes their eyes sparkle, what makes their face go red, what makes them tick: you have found a way to the to their heart!
- Stop using OLD USE CASES on humans: Humans tend to find a similar feeling, or experience from the past to understand the current one. But I have come to realise that it doesn’t help. Every experience and every person is very different. You might find yourself in similar situations from time to time. You might try to figure out what you did the last time, and apply the same solution again. But what if it doesn’t work for this person? You must have noticed that most of your past use-cases have failed with new people. Because every person is different! And they respond to things differently. So for god’s sake! STOP DOING IT. You are not your parents and neither are your kids you! Old methods would never work.
- Stop ASSUMING Things: You do not and cannot know things you aren’t familiar with. Right? So, why assume? Assumption is good for science not for relationships. Just talk to them and clear things out. But this would require courage and courage comes from overcoming vulnerabilities. Fix your shit every day and then fix your relationship too.
- They Are Equally VALUABLE: Your mental health and your choices are important. But same goes for the other person. Value them. Try to hear them out, try to reach out. We need more empathy in this world, why not start at home?
- Keep your PREJUDICES aside: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist,” a simple message through a beautiful movie couldn’t have taught you better. No, all terrorists are NOT Muslim. And not all Muslims are terrorists! Black people are NOT just Africans and they ARE NOT a lower being. No, NOT all people with small eyes and certain accent, Chinese or “Chinki”. NOT all people from Bihar, uneducated! Marriage DOES NOT mean unlimited CONSENT! (I don’t even know if that comes under prejudices but you get the drift!). Stop stereotyping and stop being so prejudiced!
- TIME doesn’t define ANYTHING: Time is a human construct. It was defined by capitalists to get more productive man-hours and it has moulded the way we plan our lives entirely. Your relationships cannot be dependent on how many years you invested in them. If you were into a contract (which most marriages in India are), then you cannot define it as a relationship. Your feelings, your emotions, your self-respect matter, the amount time you spent together does not!
- Clichéd but true: LOVE YOURSELF: I have come to realise that once you garner enough love and respect for yourself, the opinions of others would not hurt you. And once you know about yourself, you will be more open to listen to others. Most conflicts arise to due self-doubts, insecurity and inferiority complex. When we are at peace that we all are equally valuable and no one really wants to hurt our sentiments, or beliefs we can be more open to discussions.
I have come to realise that even after so much observation, discussions, research and experiences, I still cannot define how human relationships develop and sustain. Yet, there’s always time to rediscover and reconsider the way we connect with people. You need to define your own set of dimensions at the end. No one can tell you how to handle your relationships because nobody knows! But all I can say is that, it is NOT written in concrete, it is NOT a predefined function, but you CAN change the way your relationships foster: be it personal or professional.