Hurtin' each other, such fun

Bikram Vohra
Filed on October 1, 2020

Have you noticed how we all tend to surround ourselves with people who are not so nice about us? I have never understood how those who express warmth and affection get short shrift and are taken for granted, but the desire to please those who treat us badly and get some sort of beneficence from them is a sort of odd and absurd human paradox. Many of us then take that little cup of liquid nasty and sip from it without realising that we are pretty much into a Stockholm syndrome lite, where pleasing our captors becomes a priority. Thing is, here, it is not guns and cuffs, it is words and attitude.

In expatland, by virtue of its impermanence, people feel more secure when they can dump on somebody. There is a lava of glee flowing thickly through our relationships, be they at office or on the social front.

I thought I'd share with you my experience of the ways in which so many of us wield our long knives before we stick them into unsuspecting victims.

Oh, I hear you say, I am not like that. Do not kid yourself, be honest and you will find a reflection of the not-so-nice you somewhere in this article.

People who say they are doing this (whatever 'this' is) for your own good rank right up there with the worst of them followed by those who prefix their meanness with a 'nothing personal' exclamation or simply start off by saying: 'One day, you will thank me'. Oh sure, when we are 64.

Then, there are those who make you feel small and pathetic because they have learnt the art of spraying faint praise. This is, by far, the most popular expat sport. You are never outright nasty, you just dribble a little praise onto the person and watch it eat into his reputation like acid.

For example, in the office, when it is promotion time and you want to ensure that the contender is derailed, here are three sentiments you can express:

Good man, we should watch him for the future. Jacked.

I am grooming him for bigger things. Double jacked.

Let's give him a challenge and see if he has what it takes.

Any of these approaches in tandem or by themselves is enough to wreck or derail or delay a career and you still feel deliciously guiltless. It is hugely easy to be nasty and employ malice and prejudice while giving the impression of great fairness, like you are o wise one the fair play award goes to. So many of us play this game very skillfully in office, with friends, at home, you name it.

Taking it a step further, we gash the wound, draw the blood, then to assuage any residual guilt, we pretend we have the Band-Aid and rush to commiserate, even going as far as happily confessing you did your best, sorry you got sidelined.  

The other way to be nasty is to go fishing. That means you show your dislike by alternating between warmth and chill. One day, you are exceptionally nice, the next time you offer a cold shoulder. Like reeling in and reeling out. This has the other party completely off balance and you can thoroughly enjoy the discomfort you cause. At the more affluent levels, this exercise is engaged in with marked gusto. One day, it is all warmth and good cheer and the next, you face the frost.

Much of this depends on the chair you hold and your designation. This overnight shift can be hilarious if it wasn't so cruel.  

A third slice of nasty is the social event snub. This can be delivered by making sure the person knows you are having a few 'exclusive' friends over, but not inviting you know who. By making expattish remarks like 'we never mix company' or 'they won't fit in, not for this crowd', we can  really rub it in, mention the function or event in the presence of those you deliberately ignored... It is acceptable conduct. Nowhere else in the world do you hear people explaining why they did not invite you. Not just that, they even share this nugget with others in earshot like it was a medal of honour.

Then after the gossip has done the rounds and sogged in dirt, courtesy your 'don't tell anyone I told you', you throw them a lifejacket.

I like them, whatever anyone says, I am on their side, I hope everything works out, frankly, I detest these unfounded rumours,we should ignore such gossip.Yeah, sure.

bikram@khaleejtimes.com





 
 
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