Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just Another Brick in the Wall

The predictability of human interactions has become a bane for all those who seek excitement in meeting new people. I met someone recently for a formal interaction and there was an uncomfortable and overbearing sense of deja vu hanging in the air. The person was new and so was the ambience, but the conversation was extraordinarily drab. Talk of aspirations and personal or professional five-year goals only worsened my state of restlessness. I desperately needed a witty remark or a clever repartee to bring me back from the dead.

Where is the spontaneity now? Where is the naturalness gone? Why are we afraid to be different? How can we say we are unique when all we are doing is becoming someone who cannot be differentiated from another in a world teeming with a billion other you’s? Even our normal conversations are generously peppered with cliches and the chosen ten-fifteen words that form our vocabulary - “Awesome. Cool. Great. Cute.” We are becoming more unoriginal than ever. That’s all we can choose from to exclaim our excitement.

All of us seem to be rolling off the metaphorical conveyor belt of a mass production unit; we talk alike, dress alike, behave alike and sadly, even have begun to think alike. Our education system, right from the primary level doesn’t allow for exploration of concepts with an open mind. We are more used to the system of learning by rote and agreeing with whatever is told to us. We have grown so conditioned to this type of learning that now we rely on ready sources to tell us also how to act and react to questions, people and situations. We try to elicit responses of a certain kind, and in trying to be manipulative, we end up being predictable fools.

Consider this - you have a job interview to go to. You almost certainly know what kind of questions to expect - “What are your aspirations in life? Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Who is your idol?” and then some more. While these are perfectly valid questions, they also have become so commonplace, that  everyone has a well-rehearsed and well-thought-out answer to these well before the interview is even scheduled.

The mantra now is to create the impression that you are the best among the lot of rats squiggling their way to the “finish” line. Look around and you will see advertisements of courses that will help you crack the ultimate job interview, of counsellors who claim to rock your dating life, of personality development courses that help you make friends and enrich your social life, self help books to help you pitch your sales in the perfect manner and workshops to let you negotiate better business deals. We are all unaware, but eager participants in the rat race.

Ironically, having people speak, dress and behave similarly must make the process of evaluating people a more objective and easier task. Or does it?

It is a little alarming to realise how much of our behaviour is conditioned by these profit-making ventures. More alarming is the fact that while we are learning social etiquette, public speaking and acquiring charm and confidence, we have nothing left of our own that we can proudly stake a claim on; not even our impulses which are smartly conditioned to do the “right” thing at the “right” time. Political correctness rules. I do not disagree with the need to be smart and well-mannered. I have my problems with the umpteen replicas all around me.

We are all ultimately becoming like a set of actors rehearsing our lines and blurting them out at the opportune moment  What questions should the interviewer ask? How should the job applicant respond to it? What are the keywords, the catch phrases that slot you perfectly in an organisation’s recruitment database?
If you describe yourself as “dynamic young professional seeking to enhance his competencies in a reputed organisation of entrepreneurial culture while contributing to its multidimensional growth… (and all that blah!),” save it. All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.