Enabling

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In 1993, Ramakrishna said:

“I want to keep LFIC, I want to keep Jyothi, I want to keep the house, let Blank and Manohar walk out if they want.”

What’s happening? A decision about “keep”ing two things and a house, and a decision about letting two people take a walk.

“I want to keep” can be analyzed in many ways. A person, finding a wallet on the sidewalk, and instead of trying to find the owner, may decide to keep it, for whatever reason. In the middle of a divorce, or after the death of a parent, divvying up property, we may hear: ‘I want to keep the silverware, you take the china’ or ‘I want to keep the house, you take the farm’.

‘I want to keep… you take a walk’ is not a part of a process of give and take, of a negotiation, but signals the end of that process where one keeps, the other is obliged to take a walk.

A person may acquire ownership in exchange for payment. Or by way of a gift. And by operation of law – such as inheritances or grants. Or a person can acquire ownership by simple taking – larceny, theft, five-finger discounts. When you say “I want to keep” in relation to a business or a house, and what follows is not an offer of something of value in return, but a ‘walk out’, you are looking at a form of taking.

In relation to a business, or even in the case of a house, a person may own or control a majority of the ownership shares and thus control management of the business. For some, it is easy to lose sight of the distinction between sole owner and part-owner/agent. The moral hazard of agency conflict, where people forget whether they are acting solely for themselves or on behalf of others, is a vast area of law, essential course-work in business schools worldwide, and is easily Googled.

Regardless of how ownership was acquired, what happens to the responsibilities that are attached to ownership? The responsibilities remain. Houses need maintenance, businesses need running. What if the person, having acquired ownership, by whatever means, doesn’t take responsibility for it? This is that story.

What flowed out of this ‘keeping’ or taking at a concrete, physical level, is what every landlord frets about – tenants who run down the property. These first few photos speak to the level of cleanliness Ramakrishna and his siblings were raised with, and the level of hygiene that he, and his siblings, keep in their own homes.

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Now fast forward from 1993 to 2009, and these pictures taken from Dec 2009 thru Dec 2014/Jan 2015.

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And so they go on. Both the above sets of pictures are, in fact, from 2009 thru 2015. Not a ‘before’ and ‘after’. When a clean person, Ramakrishna, who would squirm at the level of dirt in the second set does not experience cognitive dissonance, at seeing islands of clean in the midst of dirt and grime, and tolerates that dissonance on an ongoing basis, it begs a basic question – What’s going on here?

To a meticulously clean person, dirt and filth are like water and a towel to a prisoner in Abu Ghraib – the tools of a form of torture called water-boarding. Asserting ownership, or claim to exclusive use, with “I want to keep the house” brings with it the responsibilities, to maintain the house for one. But there is more….

A couple of hours after that video, Vidya Devi said to me: I’ll feed my family rat droppings if I want, who are you to interfere with my servants?

I am the Manohar that Ramakrishna referred to in the opening quote. I shut down the kitchen, and when the servants came in, instructed to resume using it only after all counters are wiped down twice with disinfectant and everything on the counters washed and washed a second time, all consumables on the counter be trashed. Those are my rules. A non-abusive person with questions about my standing to give any instructions at all may have simply said – Why are you giving  instructions directly to my servants?

Humiliation is integral to abusiveness. As is the perception of people as objects, husband and family as objects who will eat what they are given. You throw water at a sponge, it absorbs it; you spit at a sponge, it absorbs that too. The goal of abusiveness is to reduce the other person into passive, unquestioning submissiveness. I analyze the abusiveness of this incident in greater detail elsewhere. “I will feed my family rat droppings” rests on an assumptions that I will, like most people, be too embarrassed, mortified or humiliated to repeat it. A shop assistant who hints that maybe you cannot afford to buy the item they are trying to sell, often succeeds in their strategy. Over time, with minimal interaction, they get a sense for who will buy with blunt tactics, and who with subtle tactics, who will not buy if they don’t want to. Abusers, like shop assistants, are generally good at judging character – you cannot manipulate people if you don’t know which buttons to press. If the shop assistant wants you to leave the store, it is not difficult. Escalate the degree of insult and innuendo.

So what is “enabling”? If you give money to an alcoholic to buy more booze – you would be an enabler. In domestic violence and abusive relationships, “enabling” is doing something that allows the abuser to persist in their abusive behavior. I ‘enable’ you engage in behavior that is socially considered unacceptable by not revealing it. Protecting the abuser from the consequences of their behavior, in this case, social disapproval. They rely on the victim or bystander being too ashamed or embarrassed to say anything. If a stranger said or did the same thing – they would jump on the stranger and wallop them. But when the person is a husband, a wife, a sibling, or close relative, other variables come into play – suddenly they are ashamed – “what will people think?” So victims and bystanders participate in the cover-up that is essential for the abusive behavior to continue, and thus “enable” more abuse.

What’s wrong with this picture from Jan 13, 2015?

As far as cleanliness goes – nothing..

So what did Ramakrishna do, from 1993 till 2010 to keep the rest of the house in comparable condition and as clean as in the above video? Was there something he could do? Sure, take the responsibility for “keep”ing the house and for keeping it in reasonably livable condition – to the standard he and his siblings and extended family were raised, Did he do it? If you see Ramakrishna on the road, ask him.