Shernaz Wadia
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Election time is when we witness a deluge of mud-slinging. It is negative advertising. There are some naive hopefuls who believe that the end of elections is the end of that repulsive activity. It never is...neither in high places nor in our own little spheres. Politicians are only human; and most human beings it appears, are born with muck-rakes in their hands. This muck-raking is ugly. It is evil. It is unbearable. It is disgusting. But it goes on. And it unfortunately works!

Twitter is the modern means used for slamming opponents but the tongue, only 10cms. long and about 57gms. in weight has been a perennial and effective instrument for this perverse activity. Unlike most other organs of the body, “this unruly evil” grows keener with age, and cuts its way through life, often slicing through others’ characters, emotions and psyches. When we let this acid tongue make sieves of reputations we must stop to ask ourselves - Why?

 Some of the answers to that three-letter question are –

 To elevate ourselves. People with inflated egos are invariable faultfinders. Their high self-opinion makes them look down on others. They feel ‘great’ by denigrating those, who according to them are full of defects. In reality, these are people with shaky self-confidence. They try to climb high on the crest of public opinion, not on the merit of their own talents or virtues, but by dragging others down. They often endow others’ characters and achievements with blemishes that do not exist. Does that truly add to their reputations? Teaching others to sneer by hinting at a fault or insinuating dislike for another, we teach them to sneer at us and discolour our own personality. Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting, says Emmet Fox

To project our miseries. Imagined or exaggerated misery leads to self-pity and jealousy. We can endure neither our own despair nor another’s hope and good fortune. A failure in life will not smile at another’s success. On the contrary he will hold the successful rival responsible for his failure. My father’s words always ring in my ears: Jealous people are twice unhappy. Firstly because they do not have what somebody else has and again because they cannot see the other person happy or successful.

Anita always makes any not-so beautiful pair of legs the butt of her jokes. Poorly disguised by her sarcasm is the soft but distinct echo of envy. She is bandy-legged and has to hide those crooked limbs under a sari. She is like a weed that criticises flowers, forgetting that weeds too have a place in the general scheme of things.

To drown out guilt. That of which we are guilty or troubled by is what drives us to criticise loudest. When a person’s conduct gives room for talk he will be the first to assail others. In an attempt to quiet down the buzz of gossip started by his questionable behaviour, he resorts to out-shouting others, to being morally judgmental. He tries to ease his conscience by showing others in poor light. If we were without faults we would not take such insidious pleasure in noticing them in others. When we point a finger at someone we must remember that three are pointing back at us. “Things that thou dost in others see are the most prevalent in thee. For wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself.”

Women are universally accused of being malicious, of ripping apart characters, of finding faults where none exist. Take Hindi television’s sas-bahu serials and the way women are portrayed in them and my point will be understood. But it is not entirely a woman’s domain. Men are equally culpable. They too delight in drawing a cold, calculating graph of others’ merits and faults. The difference is they call a sneer a joke; and personal, off-shoulder slurs served snidely, are euphemised as ‘just pulling your leg’. But who is more derisive of others, is inconsequential. No matter what sex we belong to, next time before we whet our tongue on another’s good name, let us pause, think and delve deep within to find the guilt or personal defect that holds out this lure. Fault-finding, no matter what our intentions, tends to drive people apart and away from one another. Fact finding is better than fault finding, so let us stay with realities and let others live in peace. As soon as we concern ourselves with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in others, we allow meanness to enter our hearts. We create an atmosphere for self-defeat by weakening our integrity.

Contrarily, for those of us who are unfortunate targets of frequent derision, here is consolation in these words from the Bible: Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you.

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