On Politeness

I have long stuck with “politeness” even when I noticed that it often hurt my interests, probably because Nietzsche calls it “one of the four cardinal virtues”. But now I understand enough to say: my ‘politeness’ (the Indian politeness) is not the ‘politeness’ Nietzsche is talking about!

The Indian understanding of ‘politeness’ (which I imbibed) is far broader and village-y. (In the village life, everyone is completely into everyone else. Even now, a lot many people in India — and I hear, the rest of the Orient — don’t understand what is meant by ‘privacy’ and why some may find it desirable.) All slightly elder men are ‘भैया’ (in Hindi; “elder brother”), and much elder people are ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’. You are supposed to show warmth — talk without warmth is “impolite”. For elders, you are supposed to show respect — not showing respect and some deference to their wishes is “impolite”. Everyone back-bites everyone, of course, but the talk and bearing is supposed to show all that.

In the Nietzschean understanding of ‘politeness’ (and according to Heinlein, the Western understanding of it), politeness is merely the acknowledgment of another person as a human (and not “brother” or “uncle” or “aunt”). You acknowledge that others have feelings, that their feelings “may well be legitimate”, but you don’t have to show concern for their feelings, or even note them! Just a curt nod, and move on, and no “extraction of family history” (as it happens in the Orient).

The Indian politeness may well be necessary for preservation of the tribal/village life. The Western politeness is necessary as “the lubricant in social interactions” (both Nietzsche and Heinlein).

The Indian politeness hurts. It binds you to pay some deference to everyone’s wishes — which often overrides your interests. Besides, it is a one way street. I account for others’ interests, but almost always, the others won’t account for my interests. (People as a rule do not follow the “laws”, they just make a show of it. And further, merely pretending is often found sufficient by others! For example, if you aren’t “respectful to elders” or the authority figures, everyone is up in arms. {“अशिष्ट”} But if you show respect, and otherwise completely ignore their interests, it is perfectly all right — for that is what everyone does himself or herself!)

Another serious issue (though I haven’t yet fully understood the issue) is that considering random people deeply (“warmly”) corrupts your understanding of what you find legitimate and acceptable (e.g., “a legitimate response to a disturbance”). Warmth creates “company”, and the company shapes character!

P.S.: An exception can be made for being warm with children. Children appreciate it greatly, you may be able to teach them something, and the hierarchy is so firmly established that the interaction cannot harm you.

Nietzsche, “the four cardinal virtues”: The Dawn of Day, 556, 392.


A curious dream, and the Myth of Sisyphus

Saw a dream in the early morning where I first got lost in a large book fair, and then, while looking for the exit, found that I was in a tower that apparently ran for ever. (Just a staircase leading up and down. It was divided into floors, but all the exits, even windows, were closed, and could not be opened. I soon was unable to find where I had entered the tower.)

As soon as I thought up, “locked in an endless tower”, I thought, “this is the myth of Sisyphus!; now I am to run up (or down) in this for the whole of eternity”. But after running up for a couple of more floors, I thought, let me write about my myth-of-Sisyphus experience in my diary, and for that “got out” a pen and the diary — they just appeared. Then to get more comfortable for writing, I opened a window — and realized it after the act that it was “not allowed”. And perhaps a few more thoughtless violation of the condemnation rules.

And then I realized, I am not to get afraid, not to care for it. For one, I just have to confidently “open the door”, and I’d be out.

I woke up at this point.

And also, now I know how Sisyphus would have felt! After waking up, I realized that it would have been actually ok if the gods were “playing” with you (Loki style). Being even the plaything of a peevish, unfair, child-god would be ok. What is depressing about the Sisyphus story is that the gods will soon forget you, for the “spectacle” is not interesting enough — and you’d “fall out” of history. But you would be still alive, and you would have feelings. You’d still be engaged in a noble struggle, except that nobody would ever watch you, or care. (In other words, it is not the eternal struggle which is the terrible punishment, nor that “nothing gets constructed”. The terrible part is that even those who punish you won’t care for you anymore.)

“An epitaph”

An epitaph” (“to be hopefully used 70-80 years hence” — from my 2006 diary)

This guy cared not
whether his actions will bring
happiness or pain
to him or others.
He cared not
for the wisdom supplied
free of charge.
On a blank sheet of paper
he wrote his rules.
He saw ecstacy
he saw torture,
he explored every corner
of life.
And he died


On sex

The best sex:

There would be a feeling of Arriving; a feeling of the world being set right and beautiful; a feeling that no problem is too big or pointless to attempt to solve; of the ability and the need to pick up the biggest problems as those belonging to one’s right domain; the feeling of an ‘estoppel’ — putting a close to the ugly aspects of the past; a feeling of finding a pillar of strength that would last for the rest of your life; of finding an event or memory which is the right and most important brick you use to construct how you relate to the world.

And, in a special case of the above, a test:

After impregnating the woman, do you wake up the next day with tender joy, or do you wake up with the resolution to “fix up the destiny of Earth” (Nietzsche).


A note

And develop your own dreams, and work on them.” (link)

Not necessarily.

Größte Klugheit: eine große Bestimmung so wenig wie möglich in das Bewußtsein dringen lassen, — gegen sie die Scham bewahren

sich gegen sie durch Bescheidenheit, Mutwillen, Raffinement des Geschmacks, selbst durch Krankheits- und Schwäche-Zeiten gleichsam verstecken…

man muß nur ihre Gebote tun, nicht wissen wollen, was sie ist, wann sie befiehlt…

man muß keine Reden, keine Formeln, keine Attitüden für sie haben, — man muß leiden, ohne zu wissen, man muß das Beste tun, ohne sich darin zu verstehn…

[Nietzsche, NF-1888,24[7]]

[man muß leiden, ohne zu wissen: one must take a lot of care (do a lot of work), without understanding one’s own work

man muß das Beste tun, ohne sich darin zu verstehn: I think it means, “one must do a lot of good work, without hoping to see how it falls into a ‘plan'”.]

Also see Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Why I Am So Clever, 9.


krumm gehn große Menschen und Ströme,
krumm aber zu ihrem Ziele:
das ist ihr bester Mut,
sie fürchten sich vor krummen Wegen nicht.
[Nsh., NF-1888, 20[7]]

Also, Napoleon expresses similar sentiments.