Personal Politics of the Man Without Qualities

I borrowed Robert Musil’s title “The Man Without Qualities”. If there is one title that intrigues me the most now, it is that one.

A Man Without Qualities.

Of the few people I interact with, it has become fashionable to say “I used to do that…but now I am world-weary. I do it privately and don’t engage in it publicly because the world is not good enough.”

For example, a common refrain is “I used to talk about politics and religion, but I don’t anymore because the world is not good enough“.

Said with sufficient gravity you can get all kinds of people nodding in agreement. That is because we all are sure that our personal politics is well thought out and rational when compared to the crude variety the rest of the world has adopted.

When I hear statements that I interpret as vastly diverging in sensibility from mine, I put it down to a difference in personal politics. A personal set of value system that has been inherited or built or a combination thereof.

Over time I suspect I have created such a system of values within me. I say suspect because I haven’t thought it through. I find myself nodding or shaking my head whenever I encounter anything interesting. I think they all go and reshape, or reinforce, the nests and branches of this value system within me.

I also suspect this morphing system of values distorts my behavior. Where there should be predictability in reacting to certain social or emotional stimuli it makes me react in an outwardly unpredictable manner, turning me, if not into a man without qualities, at the very least, a man with indeterminate qualities.

You would think this is a romanticized notion, but no, it actually leads to quite a few cooling of relations. Unpredictability is not a good thing apparently, because, as you guessed it, the world is not good enough. 

I kid.

I understand that unpredictability is unnerving and annoying at times. But that is exactly what I am trying to justify. Once you understand or get an idea of someone’s personal politics their actions seem a lot more rational and accessible.

I am realizing that this is turning out to be a very self-referential post. but I figured I’d put it out anyways. It might make for a dry and rasping read.

For that, I don’t apologize.

Meaningless apologies abound. Why add to it?

I remember once, long back, one of my friend’s father passed away suddenly. He had to leave in a state of shock. After three weeks of absence, he came back. I was sitting on the parapet wall at night, dangling my legs over a 30 feet drop, smoking a cigarette when he walked up to me and recounted his trauma of losing his parent. It was touching. This was a young adult (so was I at that time) who had lost someone he had looked up to all his life. Someone whose loss he wanted to share with.

“So what?” I asked.

I did not mean any harm, but I could not fathom why the death of a man should affect another so profoundly. I have since absorbed enough social knowledge to know there are many many ways how someone affects another person at a deep level.

Needless to say, he took it as a personal affront.

At other times I look at divorcees as happy people.

To me, their current state must be better than when they were married. Even with all their past emotional drain, the abuse, the disillusionment, the wasted years, the bitterness, somehow their current state must have seemed more appealing to one or both the spouses. I tend to see divorces as happy endings to a bad union. Not the sad ending to a sadder marriage. When someone says they are divorced I have to force myself not to gush “good for you” in earnest.

There are so many walks of life where I happily exist in the divergences. There are even more issues where I am bitterly irrational based on my past and present.

Slowly I am understanding the vagaries of the human mind and the pleasure of inconsistencies.

It makes me understand people just a bit more.

In as much as I want to harmonize my skewed belief system with that of the world, I end up trying to assert cohesion. In matters where it is of trivial importance, I let go. In cases where I feel the other is a better person than me, I let go. In times I feel are more trying than not, I let go. I let go often times, just enough times that when I insist on something, I feel justified and entitled to the insistence.

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