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November 21, 2019

Less arrogance, please!

Creating harmony is an important factor in working for development of peace, trust, growth and collaboration in any organization or society.  Harmony is achieved through mutual respect, tolerance of differences, developing more equality, having understanding of problems faced by others, and appreciation of the contributions of others. Harmony is also consolidated through polite speech, acts of kindness, and building familiarity.
An important factor that destroys harmony is arrogance. Arrogance is extreme pride and unpleasant behaviour, arising from a feeling of superiority that one is more important than others, or that one knows more than other people. Arrogance may stem from extreme pride, status, authority, capability, wealth, unsuitable role models, bad upbringing, etc. Arrogance leads to poor social relations and fear and unhappiness in people who have to deal with such persons.
With the strengthening of democratic principles in the country and the recognition that power stems from the people, one would have expected a gradual reduction of arrogance and superiority complex in Myanmar.  However, the numbers of arrogant individuals and the degree of arrogance do not seem to have declined noticeably. Some members of the bureaucracy forget that they are public servants, and behave arrogantly towards the public, because they know that without their signature or blessing, some matters cannot be affected. They are as arrogant as before to their subordinates, because they know that their juniors are under their authority and require their recommendations for promotions and other benefits. So, they freely continue to hurl abuse and sometimes, things, which their subordinates have to tolerate due to fear and old habit.  Arrogance breeds arrogance, so in the same way, some junior bureaucrats imitate their seniors, and treat the public as disdainfully as they used, if not, with more contempt, as they have to be more discreet about taking bribes. Those who have whatever bit of authority, make full use of it, such as bus drivers and conductors who continue to treat passengers as rudely as they used to. There are also some people who behave arrogantly towards those who are dependent on them for advice or information due their expertise in some field. With the rise in the number of private enterprises, some persons ranging from magnates, managers, salespersons, and receptionists to security guards and car park attendants have also joined the ranks of arrogant persons. Some young people also stride about proudly in public, imitating the arrogant style of models who have become their role model. Even some young children, especially those who are enrolled at private schools, look down on other children and their elders, taking pride of their fluency in English and thinking that others cannot converse like them in broken English. Arrogance is very much in display in speech, tone, mannerism and action, knowingly or unknowingly, by the persons concerned.
If we think for a minute the ups and downs in life, we, and others face, and how easily and fast things can change, we will discover the impermanent nature of life easily, as the Buddha has pointed to us. One’s fortunes can change overnight in times of economic recession, and one can find oneself pushing a cart selling food instead of running a posh restaurant.  One can find oneself jobless long before one’s retiring age, if one makes a serious mistake, even if it has been done unintentionally.  One can suffer a serious stroke on getting up from bed to start a new day and be left unable to speak. One can die from food poisoning after eating the most exotic delicacies and drinking the most costly liquor. One can also contract new viruses like Ebola and H1N1which may be difficult to cure, while travelling abroad on a business trip.  One can be the innocent victim of terrorist acts while enjoying a scenic view abroad.  One can be bitten by a shark and lose one’s leg while having a swim in the sea. One can be left maimed or dead after an accident while travelling by bus, helicopter, or plane or while aboard a ship.  In this age of unbridled greed and desperate needs, one can be robbed and killed by people with whom one may be familiar. In addition, natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes can occur without warning and destroy the building one is sheltering in.
So, while we are striving to build a more developed, prosperous and harmonious nation through democracy for the benefit of all citizens, let us all remember that we are all human beings, and as fellow human beings, we all need to respect others as well as their opinions and contributions. Let us make our society a more equal, harmonious and secure place, if not in deed at least in speech and manners, so that all can enjoy a bit of happiness. Let us honestly examine our roots and sources of our good fortunes and assert self-control over ourselves and be less arrogant, so that we enjoy the same good luck in our next existence.  If we are persons of authority, let us become good role models by treating others the way we would like to be treated, and let us encourage and train those under our charge, be they members of one’s family, staff, or students, to be less arrogant and have more humility. If they do not realize that they are being arrogant, make them aware of their weakness and show them how to behave in the proper way. Let us also remember to be humble genuinely because if we are only pretending to be modest, like a snake provoked, it is very easy for arrogance to rear up its ugly head and strike. Finally, let us also try to leave behind some good memories and something nice to say about us, whether we depart this life tonight or in twenty years’ time.
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