They say the meanness of people should be taken as their madness for otherwise it becomes impossible to retain your own sanity. Meanness means malice, the nastiness that certain people display through their attitude and actions, reducing them into a villain. Such people don’t suffer from any ailment, apparently. They are quite conscious of their acts.
Madness, on the contrary, is insanity, a mental sickness where people lose their senses and fail to judge. It is a manifestation of a diseased mind. Therefore, taking meanness as madness sounds somewhat silly.
However, it can be argued that meanness is actually an upshot of the misuse of a normal mind. When a normal mind starts functioning in a sly manner, benchmarks transform and discretion power gets corrupted. In a way, a mean person fails to use his/her mind rightly and starts behaving like a brute, pouncing and vandalizing all the treasures of humanity.
Why do some people turn villainous? So much so that meanness appears madness? The reasons can be manifold, from personal to social grooming. All factors contribute to making a savage out of a human soul. In a family unit, where the material is accentuated more, good rearing takes a backseat since concentration remains on temporal matters. In a society, where corruption and every kind of misdemeanor is glamorized and granted social acceptance, a holocaust is but natural. Nonetheless, all this does not all the time influence all the people to be mean. Perhaps, there are always some inner aspects of a personality that remain hidden from others and are triggered due to one or the other reason, and depending on the kind of exposure, get moulded into a very villainous frame.
In her debut novel The Center of Everything, Laura Moriarty, the contemporary American female novelist writes, “The only reason people are ever mean—they have something hurting inside of them, a claw of unhappiness scratching at their hearts, and it hurts them so much that sometimes they have to push it right out of their mouths to scratch someone else, just to give themselves a rest, a moment of relief.”
If it is so, then mean people are really in distress. They are psychological patients who turn out to be sadists by releasing their venom to damage others. However, the kind of respite they derive from such behavior proves quite ephemeral. The ‘damaged’ recovers eventually, but the ‘damager’ continues to live in a vicious cycle of malice. And becomes habitually spiteful.
But not every mean person is a wounded soul; some are so because their personality carries an inseparable bug of wickedness. They become unhappy over the happiness of others; they get sad over the success of others. They have no reason to be in distress but they are compelled to be so. They have no ground to hurt people but they cannot help. Like Iago, of Othello, the vilest of Shakespeare’s characters, who is emblematic of all meanness that a human mind cannot even imagine of! And corroborates the same in his famous dialogue—
“But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at : I am not what I am.”
In a riveting as well as comic short story A Good Man is Hard to Find by famous American novelist/short story writer Mary Flannery O’Connor, the main character is the dotty grandma. She faces a problem of salvation. She confronts a dangerous murderer Misfit (ala Iago) and a neglected four-year-old boy looking for the Kingdom of Christ in the fast-flowing waters of the river. Granny, all through the story, tries to locate the elusive categorization of “good” and in the process, she applies the label of “good” randomly, blurring the definition of a “good man” until the label loses its connotation completely.
In a way, when meanness dominates, it is difficult to define goodness. When mistrust manifests, faith fades out. When rules are meant only for fools, even wicked get upset. When sexploitation gets official patronage, even notoriety is offended. When theatre of absurd plays political antics, blood brims over brutally. When dirty dramas get enacted endlessly, the shock also smothers. When lies are processed and packaged repeatedly, Goebbels too turns in his grave. When something unworkable becomes an attainable slogan, even sycophancy is mortified. When adversity is morphed into an opportunity, even mad get madder.
Of course, there is a story of kindness that also runs parallel to the poignant tale of meanness. The small acts of compassion, care, sincerity and sacrifice. All that which, however, rarely proves powerful enough to conquer meanness. Sadly. That’s why, in the fledgling kindness story, the recurring theme of meanness remains. Getting the cure of this meanness seems a mammoth task, especially for the ongoing survival struggle in Kashmir where everything from social to political is turning too nasty because of latter-day Iagos. And, this surely is not good news!