Poor ostrich is often associated with the belief that it sticks its head in the sand during times of trouble. Of course this is a myth and no ostrich is foolish enough to do that. Thanks to the mankind, and his state of denial that he has attributed this term to the poor ostrich. I am sure ostriches and other animals must be calling this as ‘human effect.
(Ostrich effect is a term used in behavioural finance for the avoidance of apparently risky financial situations by pretending they do not exist.).
We human beings are the masters of denial. Whether it is health, finance, social, political situation—personal, or public we live in denial. We bury our heads in sand of denial of and on.
Who would know the bitter effects of denial than I myself. I still suffer from its guilt now almost a decade on.
On visiting my parents in Delhi in July 1997, I clearly remember how my mom begged to me that she felt that my Papa wasn’t well and he needed a thorough medical checkup. I took heed to her concern and talked to my father, that he needs to see a doctor. He scoffed off the idea that the sweating he gets while walking has nothing to do with his heart but due to humidity in the monsoon season. We went on long walks together, where his pace at 64 years of age was still faster than mine.
I continued to watch him with a side gaze, off and on, to see if I could get a trace of some unwell signs in him. He was radiant as ever, with barely few hair grey in the sideburns and and intact zest for life.
How can my Papa be having a ‘serious’ problem ? I questioned myself several times..
He convinced me that my mom was obsessed. We went for a basic blood test which was all well. Mom wasn’t convinced. But my confident Papa, shooed her idea of an echocardiography for the heart.
Twenty days after I left, I got the news that my Papa passed away, hale and hearty, while working on a computer, typing a chapter for his new book. He had a massive heart attack.
I have not forgiven myself ever since, for having lived in denial, to escape harsh reality. Had I faced the truth head-on, life would have been different.
In a wider context, all human beings live in denial—with just the difference in the degree. We deny everything and then wrap it in the garb of ‘conspiracy theory’.
A quote goes: ‘The abuse dies in a day, but the denial slays the life of the people, and entombs the hope of the race’.
On one extreme end are those who deny Holocaust, the landing of man on Moon, the 9/11 incident, even the Abbotabad operation in which Osama Bin Laden was nabbed and killed. The other milder extreme are those who express “ We have stopped watching news because it is very depressing.”
How can anyone close their eyes to what’s happening around? My mind often tickles.
In the local context, one sees that denial has become a way of life in Pakistan. There are many who refuse to accept the problems of Pakistan and pass the buck on others—most favoured excuse being America or India.
Twenty years ago when I was new to Pakistan, first ‘conspiracy theory’ hurled at me was that Pakistan’s big or small problems are because it wasn’t given the ‘right’ piece of land during partition. I remember having had frantic arguments, with myself as a new bride alone on one side, and many old and young, mostly men on the other.
And after that for whatever happened in Pakistan, some of my ‘friends’ and kin, in Pakistan made sure that I knew that all that was happening was due to India.
The latest being the PNS Mehran incident—in which a ‘friend’ of mine took pains to mail to me in India that it all happened because of the involvement of RAW agents and that the proof she had was that those men who came there were uncircumcised. I did not shock me, for I had heard the same explanation when the armed men had attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. And worse of all, many among my other kin and friends did not disagree with her.
I do not find these stories amusing any more. Mass denial has become a “National Sickness”. And conspiracy theory is it’s outward symptom. I fear that the way things are moving this sickness may lead to our demise as ‘thinking’ and ‘reasoning’ individuals.
So aptly has the following quote by Meredith Grey summed up ‘denial’ :
Sometimes reality has a way of sneaking up and biting us in the ass. And when the dam bursts, all you can do is swim. The world of pretend is a cage, not a cocoon. We can only lie to ourselves for so long. We are tired, we are scared, denying it doesn`t change the truth. Sooner or later we have to put aside our denial and face the world. Head on, guns blazing. De Nile. It`s not just a river in Egypt, it`s a freakin` ocean. So how do you keep from drowning in it?