Should We Bend or Break?

Dec 23, 2010

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the life is bound in shallows and miseries.

- William Shakespeare, English dramatic poet (1564-1616) in Julius Caesar.
As we approach Christmas (for Christians) and New Year (for all), we are apt to introspect and resolve to dump our bad baggage and follow the straight and narrow path of virtue and righteousness.  One process in this journey is making and sticking to resolutions – especially from New Year. These involve making a clean break from the past and dumping vices.

Talking of vices Alexander Pope, English poet and critic (1688-1744) said:

Vice is a matter of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
Experience since Pope strongly confirms this situation. This is particularly true of the so-called minor vices (venal sins) like drinking, smoking and gambling. What Pope said is a far cry from St. Augustine’s observation, made 1500 years ago, that "We make a ladder for ourselves of our vices if we trample those same vices under foot."
But, what St. Augustine referred to as trampling, is now considered as suppression or bottling up. The reason is not far to seek. Life today is full of competition, stress and strain. The resulting tension is reflected in widespread incidents of nervous breakdowns, high blood pressure, deaths due to cardiac failure and even suicides.
So, modern psychology, and even medicine, prescribes unwinding and letting off of steam (like the pressure cooker) to maintain physical and mental equilibrium in this world of stress and strain. The choice, it is said, is between bending and breaking. And on this logic ride merrily a number of vices. As it turns out, more men than women take advantage (abuse?) of this argument. If the logic holds good, it should have applied equally to men and women. However, it is men who mainly have recourse to this line of argument with a sadistic pleasure. Why not women?
Men are ready with the answer! Women, largely being not in the forefront of life’s battles, are not exposed, unlike men, to the competitive world marked by stress and strain. Besides, when things go wrong for women, they shed copious tears – relieving their stress in the process. Men are not only not given to  ready tears themselves, but have to lend their shoulders for their female near and dear ones to cry on. In the process, they absorb the stress of the females.
It is not characteristic for men to cry on women’s shoulders. They have to find their own devices to let off steam. And the well-known devices are minor vices like drinking, smoking and gambling. Looked at from this angle, vices seem to have their justifications and uses. Or, at least, men would like their vices to be viewed from this angle and invoke Shakespeare (in Romeo and Juliet) in support:

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
And vice sometimes by action dignified.
That is why men resent women who nag about the minor vices they indulge in. Men complain of lack of understanding on the part of women on the compulsions men face.
Yet, is the male logic in justification of their vices beyond question? Swedish diplomat-writer, Gunnar Myrdal, author of Asian Drama, had said that if excuses were edible Asians need not have to starve. Is the choice between bend and break an absolute one? Or, is it just an excuse to cover up lack of discipline and self-control?
Besides, bend or break choice does not take into account anyone beyond self. According to one social observer, what maintains one vice could bring up two children. So, we have to consider the cost of bending. Besides, when men bend, their spouses and children might break. So, the logic of bend or break approach does not take the total situation into account.
To bend without breaking, the divide and rule doctrine of the British Raj is relevant and handy. Vices come in bunches. For instance, when you gamble, say at a game of flush or rummy, you are apt to smoke and you will light up a cigarette if you are dealt a good hand to control your excitement, another to celebrate if you win and yet another to drown your sorrow if you lose a hand. So, you end up being a sitting chimney emitting non-stop smoke. The gambling table also tends to be a bar. Here also you bend your elbow and reach for the glass for the same reason as cited for smoking.
The divide and rule doctrine calls for indulging in one vice at a time and have control mechanisms for each. The end purpose of gambling, if you ignore the phony excuse of time-pass, is getting rich without exertion. Even if God wants you to be millionaire overnight, he should be given a chance. So, it is prudent to buy lottery tickets or play Madka and save yourself the physical tie-up to the gambling table for endless hours – and the temptation to indulge in the associated vices of drinking and smoking.
Similarly, one can divorce drinking from smoking. As to drinking, the sundowner need not commence as the red ball is sinking and can wait for a couple of hours. One can restrict it to certain days in a week, limit it to certain number of pegs (without cheating with Patiala pegs), not drink alone. The last condition may tempt to manipulate visiting friends and guests who, apart from straining the drink budget, might be resented by the Memsaheb as partners in crime. As for smoke, the number can be cut down by resolving not to smoke in bed, or while seated or at home and office This will require outdoor smoking and may be a healthy walk.
Finally, does bending necessarily to be done through the minor vices route? How about yoga, hobby or some wholesome recreation? Our males wouldn’t want these? If these healthy pastimes are accepted, how would men justify their resort to drinking, smoking and gambling? In the final analysis, the issues involved are complex and do not lend themselves to neat answers. The only safe guide is one’s own personal experience, observation and resolve. What is it in your case? Chew on this!

John B Monteiro, author and journalist, is the editor of his website (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).


John Monteiro - Recent Archives:

By John B Monteiro
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • Lavanya Kamath, Mangalore

    Sun, Dec 26 2010

    "the last phrase u mentioned CHEW ON ARTICLE" I found the article really boring, chewwy and fibrous, want to ask the author, why does he mention so many quotes.I had to skip the quotes and then read the article.I would like to read article with minimum quotes-Take it as positive note and criticism.

  • Anwesha, Mangalore/Dublin

    Fri, Dec 24 2010

    You are absolutely right Vazir, his articles are full of quotes...while reading this one, actually I lost track of my reading so I had to read it all over again. I just felt this article was only for men........really sexist piece of information....May be its an indication that you havea colum for MEN ONLY.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Thu, Dec 23 2010

    If our emotions are not vented, it will create greater emotional
    distress and imbalnce in life,
    which can cause a lot of physical
    and mental disorders. In reality,
    in our health and sickness,
    emotions play a key role.

  • Vazir, Bangalore

    Thu, Dec 23 2010

    If you like quotations, read this author. I remember the comments from several persons over his last article. This article too quotes some six persons. Just out of curisity, I checked his website and behold it too is full of these quotations. Obviously, this author seems to be obsessed with quotations.

  • imran, mangalore/dubai

    Wed, Dec 22 2010

    Good Article,keep up the good job.

Leave a Comment

Title: Should We Bend or Break?

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.