It is only defeatism. You can live your entire life giving up before you’ve even tried, die the same way, and not know the baloney of any of it. The bubble you breathe in helps you masquerade as a simple-minded, undemanding, reasonable person. But you’re not that, are you?
Defeatism — an attitude demonstrating the acceptance of or resignation to defeat without a fight — takes time to besiege, and then to vanquish your natural instinct to better the challenge. Oh yes, it takes time. It isn’t like many other emotions that can steal into your soul overnight. It tramples the first tissue in you, deliberately and with an unsurpassed finesse, then moves on to the next, then to the next, and continues for years, until you say (but never openly), “I lose.”
We’re not looking at defeatism in war here. We’re looking at coming down on knees against the other challenges life throws at us. But before you begin to think of what is termed as fear of the adventure or danger, let me steer you towards the mundane, every-day demands such as social interaction, do-it-yourself tasks, changing routine. With time, a defeatist becomes adept at illustrating just why the particular demand is not worth fighting against. Or for.
To make the distinction slightly clearer between fear and defeatism in real life, allow me to become the scapegoat to exemplify the two.
Danny was my first ride. He was a white mule with liquid black eyes and a kohl-lining around them that would make Rimmel the Eye Make-Up People die in shame. I was eight. He was two arms taller than me. He was mulish (no surprises there). I was hopeful. The first rule of horse-riding classes was to feed the equine partner, and then pat him and then mount him. I did that with an expertise my parents would be proud of. Danny was trained to first walk with the beginner, to let her get the bearings of horse (in this case, mule) riding. But he had some tricks to boggle a little girl’s mind. He traced half the circuit, then walked to his favourite corner of the bamboo fence and just stood there, looking out towards the pastures beyond. And refused to move. Everyone around implored one by one, politely hiding their amusement, but Danny didn’t oblige. Only when I got off him did he agree to budge. This went on day after day after day. My skilful feeding and patting continued through all this. I was hopeful.
Just when he was getting to know how sweet a person I was, Vanita, the station’s best rider, fell down from Koel, the station’s best mare. She, Vanita, came the next day to school with a fractured ankle and fifteen other broken bones. (I am sure it must have been fifteen. Or perhaps eighteen.) And oh, a black eye. My routine? It continued as before, with just a slight change. I went to Danny, fed him, patted him, and went and sat down against the bamboo fence, refusing to ride again. Ever. I have kept my word since. One Vanita was enough. That’s fear for you. Fear of a black eye and fifteen broken bones. Wouldn’t you say?
Defeatism, on the other hand, is a subtler killer.
I spent a lot of my early childhood picnicking with friends and parents’ friends and extended family. I wasn’t easy to spot, because I would usually stand or sit in one obscure corner, looking at nature’s wonders. Now looking at the leaves dripping the last hour’s rain, now letting the flower over there show me an entire universe inside it. These were surely more interesting than those silly people laughing over nothing! And eating unnecessarily. I haven’t picnicked in a long time, but my interaction with people largely remains at the same level. I no longer sit in an obscure corner, never fear. But I am normally in my own universe, or in the one I saw in that long-ago flower. The reason, to a romantic reasoner, could be that I am a dreamer. Or a painfully creative person. To a neutral analyser of defeatism, I am perhaps an incorrigible recluse, who believes it is not worth attempting to explain the universes in my mind to anyone because no one would understand anyway. That I have accepted my defeat without trying to open my heart. That I choose to remain un-merry, and hide it under the various garbs I select as the situation demands — snootiness, boredom, superiority.
But why just talk about me? Let’s see what Vanita did. She got healed in a few months and went on to ride more rides, and won many awards at regional and national level. And experienced many more painful falls from horses. Fool. Look at me. Never had a broken bone in my life.