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Finding Grey

Any dictionary would give you a very different meaning to the words ‘hypocrite’, ‘politically correct’ and ‘pragmatist’; however I feel these words are often used interchangeably in today’s world. I took a course last semester, it told me a lot about how languages are formed and how they are transformed. Much like human beings they are living and breathing creatures, much like us when they come to this world they mean nothing; they have no personality or character which defines them. They are molded by the society they ‘grow up’ in. A mathematics professor I had the pleasure of knowing used to say that we as species are by the very virtue of our existence, lazy, we tend to find the easy way out of most problems. I believe centuries of lethargy have led us to an age where we see things only in binaries; we like our options black and white, conveniently ignoring the million shades of grey in between. Either you’re fake or real, mature or immature, honest or hypocritical.

The three words I mentioned in the beginning are being tossed a lot lately, I feel. The curse of not being ignorant is knowing that binaries in today’s world are non-existent, the line between what’s moral/virtuous/honest and what’s hypocritical has become so blurred that it is impossible for a person to stay sane and walk on the better side simultaneously. Say after thoughtful consideration and taking all the facts into consideration, you make a decision which you think is logically sound, you hit all the right nodes on your moral graph and you seem to be content. But wait, something you did not account for (or perhaps did not want to account for) was that the world is full of people who are waiting to judge you, keyboards in hand they know just what to say at just the right moment; what according to you is pragmatic is, according to some self-proclaimed higher moral authority , blatant hypocrisy. Again the word I have an issue with here is ‘blatant’ not hypocrisy, for the latter converts the act into a binary. It provides us with an oversimplification of a plethora of haphazardly rounded up facts and variable which in turn are much easier for us to digest.

And so the moral border has been adjusted again, your compass commands you to drastically change your trajectory so you may achieve that level of oneness with your decision that you once so merrily proclaimed. But it’s not there anymore; you’ve been robbed of a level head by the opinions of wolves which slipped by the guard of your eardrums and impacted directly on the grey of your brain.

Growing up you are fed a diet of strong ideals and morals, you’re told what’s right and what’s wrong. The cartoons you watch and the books you read are all centered around the idea of binary oppositions, one side is right and the other is wrong. But as you grow older you’re discouraged to live by the same ideals you were brought up on, you’re told repeatedly by the world that you’re ‘untactful’ and ‘naive’ and whatever synonyms for the word they can conjure up, the worst one being ‘immature’.  But you learn, you stumble and fall a couple of times in the process but you get there eventually, I did. Recently I was put in a situation where my political correctness and maturity was put to the test, I was asked by an interviewer, someone who was to hire me for an executive level position that how would I react if there arises a certain situation where he (being the head of the organization) makes a decision everyone disagrees with and the decision also goes against my morals, would I rebel? I did not respond for a while, for an entire minute I stared at the clock behind his chair.

Understanding that morality was a subjective concept (what’s morally correct for me might be wrong according to your morals) I replied, carefully articulating every word ‘If it’s my morals versus stability in the organization I would have to sacrifice my values for the bigger picture, I would hate myself for it but I’d have to do it, the organization showing a unified stance is of utmost importance’.  Pragmatic is the word I would choose to describe my response, hypocritical is the word others’ used.

Sometime has passed since that interview, I’ve spent a great amount of nights mulling over what I said. In retrospect I believe my response  was neither black nor white, for it was grey. Not as sinister as black and not clean enough to be white, eternally stuck in limbo between two opposing binaries and that presents a problem for most people because I cannot be labeled now (though some might call me confused after reading this), and when you can’t put something in a tidy little box your head hurts.

I however, endorse the color grey; I endorse the area between 1 and 0. Sure it may hinder productivity, it may cause a machine to malfunction, and it may cause a ‘computer science’ major to stay up till 4 am in the morning while he tries to find out what hypocrisy really is. But unless we’re not thinking about grey we’re not really ‘thinking’. The verb thinking here referring to something only a human being is capable of doing. If we abandon grey then we’re a lot like China, where you’re either right or wrong. Of course you’re really productive and have a monopoly over world trade, but I don’t want to live in China, do you?



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