The Oppressive Compulsive Philistines


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): An anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).

OCD is a disorder of order, of obsession with order, to maintain it, preserve it, repeat it, without much thought to any revisions to the process. The thing that skipped all of us, is that our world is an OCD, our society is suffering from it, but due to the absence of an external reference the disorder is nearly impossible to spot. There are age old customs, reinforced by glorification of atavistic tendencies, that keep repeating without reason, like the propagation of sacred myths till they become unquestionable truisms. The problem is, they are not, and more often, they are very far away from the ideal.

Imagine if a thousand years from now, the restrictions on twitter statuses were to overflow into all communication by random chance and all communication, without much reason, was happening in 140 characters at a time. It would feel stupid and inefficient, right? Yet there are societal structures in place in the world today that serve no purpose relevant to the post-modern, post-internet era we are living in. Things like religion, marriage, biased patriotism, etc are some that are consistently found across most existing cultures as redundancies that have a sanction so oppressively bold that it is nearly impossible to go against all of them all the time. But some do.

There are two types of people in the world: the Philistines (I intend a broader scope of the term than the culturally indifferent person it is supposed to mean: I intend a person that would tend to gravitate towards vindication of the things he/she’s been taught, or indoctrinated with, in childhood and selectively pick examples to curate and reinforce that worldview. The article would make it clearer what kind of person I am referring to as a Philistine), and the non-Philistines (for the purpose of this article, let’s call them the vanguard, for they are the cultural avant-garde). The vanguard is responsible for raising a hand when the OCD gets too much to justify and tolerate. Sometimes the vanguard is crushed and blown away, sometimes it succeeds a little, and sometimes the apple carts turn over (only to be replaced by another obsession). To give you some examples, feminists have to fight all the time to let others know that women are human; LGBT rights are languishing in the widespread homophobia; atheists get caught in the cross-winds of religious nutcases trying to blow each other off all the time; institutional racism prevents people of color from getting an equal footing everywhere; etc. I take it a bit further to say that the legal sanction of marriage, and the oppressively high importance placed on it in certain cultures (one of which is India’s, to which I belong), tends to marginalize the happiness of a large section of society which is not genetically designed to function in monogamous arrangements.

So are Philistines just a bother, or do they serve any purpose? Well they do. They establish order, function on algorithms, are predictable, and keep the machine running. If this compulsively established order were to disappear, inefficiencies would start to creep in everywhere, and the machine would become more local and less global (let’s just say a bad thing, in general, though a separate exposition on this complicated topic would be in order), and the progress of humanity towards removal of strife and misery would slow down and maybe stop altogether. That is why the majority must always be of the Philistines. But they need to be made aware of the minority.

Like people who fight societal structures would know, one of the most crucial elements in winning the battle and creating an equal ground is awareness. If the majority is aware of their privilege as a majority and they try not to trample too harshly the voices of the minority, the world is not insufferable. So the world needs to be made aware of the vanguard in all its forms. And a person who is a vanguard on one issue may be a philistine in the other, and it needs to be out there. Turning apple carts over shouldn’t be a violent struggle all the time, treating the OCD shouldn’t be unfathomable.

Living should be easy, compromises should be few.

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