Sunday, April 11, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 8

Pot Calling Kettle... Do you copy?

Such a cliched saying that is... well... cliched and perhaps outdated. Or is it? We hate people who act like pots that label kettles black, especially when it sounds as if it could be a racist comment. In fact, we love to hate people who are self-righteous and act like they are in the "right" while everything and everyone against them is in the "wrong".

This issue attempts to understand the behavior that allows us to poison our surroundings. Why do we like to label kettles black?

I propose that the only reason is simply our ego and self-righteousness. The simple belief that everything we do and believe in is the right thing to do, and everything to the contrary is inferior. Because of that, when someone acts in a particular way that does not coincide with our standards of convention, we tend to develop a feeling of dissent towards that person, especially when we are unable to understand that person's motives.

Let us consider some simple examples. First, any driver in KL should know about the typical rudeness of KL drivers who have blatant disregard for the safety of other drivers as well as their own. They switch lanes back and forth on the highway without using their indicators in order to get to their destinations a few paltry minutes faster that they normally would. They weave in and out, pretending to be F1 drivers, not realizing that F1 drivers are not even supposed to weave, while gaining in time whatever they lose in petrol in the process of breaking and accelerating sharply. What's worse about these drivers is that, they feel it is OK when they cut into your lanes, but when you try to cut into their lanes, they speed up so that you have insufficient space to cut into their lane. The nerve of a pot.

The second example is somewhat longer. In the beginning, what started out as an affair for Jesse and Jenny appeared to be doomed when Jesse could not find the "heart" to dump his then girlfriend, Diana. Of course, Jesse and Jenny had been going out behind Diana's back and it was also inevitable that Jesse and Diana's relationship turned sour quickly. Despite the loss of feelings between them, Jesse and Diana did not break up. It was obvious that Diana still had strong feelings for Jesse while Jesse tried to be the noble one by insisting on providing a soft landing for Diana. While all this is happening, Jenny is fully aware of what is going on and what started out as discomfort gradually grew into anger, which was subsequently taken out on Jesse. In a fit, Jenny threw down an ultimatum, making Jesse choose Diana or herself, which scared Jesse away into giving Diana another shot at their relationship.

Jenny felt betrayed and swore never to associate herself with Jesse ever again. After all, what kind of girl would pine for a  two-timer like Jesse. As time grew by, Jenny drifted further away from Jesse, and continued to seek attention from other suitors. Meanwhile, Jesse is suffering from disillusion after trying to save a relationship that was doomed to fail. Seeing Jenny being pursued by other suitors, Jesse started to feel insecure and in a rash decision, decided to discard his clingy girlfriend to return to Jenny's side.

Jenny was more than pleased to have the security of Jesse's arms again as this time, Diana was no longer in the way, or so she thought. However, in his rashness, and perhaps due to his lack of certain male genitalia, he did not mention the true reason for breaking up with Diana, which consequently gave Diana false hope of getting back together with Jesse. While he tried to enjoy whatever relationship he was rebuilding with Jenny, he kept the safety net up for Diana, or so he says, but it was probably a safety net that he prepared for himself as well, as he knew that Jenny had complete possession of his testicles. After all, he had to promise her something, in order to return to her side.

So, Diana, playing the role of the perfectly clingy girlfriend, pursued the breadcrumb trail provided by Jesse. This then boiled the wrath of Jenny once again, but instead of being angry at Jesse, Jenny was furious at Diana's behavior of not leaving them alone. To Jenny, Jesse was now hers and Diana had no claim to Jesse. The obvious question in Jenny's mind was, "How do you expect to salvage a relationship with a guy who has feelings for another girl? Even if he were to leave that girl to return to you, could you trust him again?" Jenny went on for months, bashing on about the naivete of little Diana, who just couldn't let go.

But the question that pops out in this case is, what happened when Jenny swore never to associate herself with Jesse again? Jesse had left Jenny to be with Diana. Anyone could simply ask the same question to Jenny: "How do you expect to salvage a relationship with a guy who has feelings for another girl? Even if he were to leave that girl to return to you, could you trust him again?"

So of course, if such a question were posed to Jenny, I am most certain that she could give 1001 reasons why her situation was different and how she deserves to be treated "fairly". To return to the purpose of today's issue, we ask again, why do pots call kettles black?

These examples show the power of the mind. Our minds are able to justify every single one of our actions, despite previously condemning someone else for a similar gesture. Our ego serves as a self-reassurance mechanism to reinforce the idea that we are more right than others. Everyone, whether we express it or not, will feel threatened and defensive upon instinct if our ideas or beliefs are attacked. Only invertebrates would instinctively agree with a counterargument.

So this act of what appears to be hypocrisy arises from our insecurity. Our instinct calls upon our desire to be correct in order to feel superior to others. How cynical is that? Despite all that, I am not of the opinion that the pot should not be allowed to call the kettle black. As long as the pot realizes its own lack of chromo-magnificence, the pot can call the kettle and his friends and his neighbors black, and that should still be alright.

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