BOTH the collective and the individual personalities of Kashmiris are a paradox. There is a disconnect between hospitable people. This spills on over to the social domain; again here we are n ice, social, sociable and hospitable. But the dynamic changes when it comes to the public sphere: we can be nasty, pushy, hypocritical and mean. In terms of dealing with outsiders(non Kashmiris), we can be too warm, too open and even too intimate to the point of grovelling. At the same time, a Kashmiri can be ruthlessly critical of fellow Kashmiris. Consider an example: a staple of conversations in coffee shops, post dinner conversations, social gatherings, or at corner stores (wane piend) is how bad fellow Kashmiris are. The idiom in which this collective flagellation is articulated is moral, ethical and other related themes. The implication of these conversations is that Kashmiris have stooped to a very low level in every facet of life. Be it trade, business, personal morality, work, society and social relationship, every Kashmiri criticizes Kashmir and fellow Kashmiris. However, while we do this, an irony is lost on us we see wrong and evil in everything and everyone (except outsiders , of course) but our own selves.
The point of delineating these facets of our collective and individual selves is to illustrate a point: our weird behaviours suggest that we are either a very self absorbed or a self loathing people. Until only recently, I had assumed or believed that we were a self loathing people. That is, in reality, our bizarre behaviours and contradictions in our collective and individual selves , reflected a deep and visceral , hatred of our selves-individual which then spilled on over to the collective.I, however, am reviewing this assessment. We appear to be a supremely self absorbed people. Our self absorption borders on the narcissistic. If, I would posit, it were not for the structuring context of Islam overlaid or defined by a Sufi ingress, we would have long qualified to be narcissistic. I may be wrong or right in my assessment but evidentiary examples of our personalities (individual and collective) and the behaviours that stem from these unfortunately suggest that we are indeed a self absorbed people.
Consider the traits of a self absorbed people. That we display these traits abundantly may come as a surprise for all of us. Research has demonstrated that self absorbed people are characterized by:
Grandiosity, self importance and self absorption; Obsessive fantasies of ones own omnipotence, brilliance and rightness in all things; Conviction of ones own uniqueness which can only be understood by, or expected to interact with, other special, high status people and/or institutions; Excessive craving for attention and admiration; or, failing that, for notoriety and the need to be feared; A sense of entitlement to special or favourable treatment, as well as to full compliance with ones own expectations, especially from subordinates; Interpersonally exploitative behaviour ruthlessly using, or preying upon, other people for ones own ends; Total lack of empathy and interest in, or concern for, the feelings and needs of others, together with an inability to say either thank you or Im sorry; Chronic envy of others, together with a conviction of others envy of oneself; Arrogant and haughty conduct, coupled with rage and punishing treatment of others when frustrated, contradicted or confronted (received as narcissistic injury this occurs when someone fails to act as a dependable narcissistic feed, by challenging or disagreeing with the individual)( Spence C: 2008).
Each of these personality characteristic corresponds to our behaviours- individually and collectively. Consider a factual: when(ever) we argue, we neither listen to the person we argue with nor do we care to do so; all we are interested in is convincing to prove the correctness of our point of view regardless of the merits or strengths of arguments. (These arguments often devolve into shouting or even slanging matches). We hardly say sorry when we are in the wrong. When drivers commuting on the road(s) feel slighted or have accidents( serious or small), an apology , which can defuse a situation is never forthcoming. We are churlish and defensive when confronted and we have, unfortunately, lost our sensibility and empathy over a period of time.
This condition is as alarming as can be and needs to be remedied. Remedy warrants an assessment and analysis of the conditions that have led to this self absorption. Some say that prolonged conflict and the uncertainty thereof has led to our self absorption; others allege that we have always been like this and conflict has merely exacerbated this tendency or condition. Opinion , therefore, is divided on this issue. Having said this, it is extremely important for us to course correct and review our self absorption. A society and a culture is as good as its characteristics and traits. I would like to think that we are a nice, caring and a good people and that our self absorption is an aberration that is eminently open to remedy and redressal. The question is how?
The answer, given that I am no expert, can only be tentative.
It is perhaps only by turning to the essence of our psycho-social and religious moorings that we can revert or be a good, caring and nice society and culture. I have in mind the great and sublime Sufi ethos that has historically defined Kashmir and Kashmiris. The Sufi ethos and consciousness emanating from it can cure us of all our maladies and render us a normal, caring and good society. Lest we become indelibly and incurably self absorbed and selfish both as a society and individuals, we must make haste quickly , course correct and undergo a comprehensive review. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine. Dilly dallying, delay and postponing may be too costly.
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