Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Why Beauty is the Greatest Deceiver in Rational Thought

When you see a person before you, what is the first thing that you notice? Well honestly, the first thing you will notice would be a person. Then the details come into the picture. You notice from his/ her features the gender. Then you notice whether the person is noticeably attractive, and if so, are there signs of him/ her being attracted to you. Your eyes will often also digress to notice the colour of his/ her skin, the tell-tale signs of his/her religion, the labels pronouncing his/her status and lot of other things that can be discerned just by appearance.

pic courtesy: Business Insider
If you shrink by the statement and take offence at the shallowness so portrayed, think twice. While buying clothes, do you randomly pick up anything off the rack and get it billed? You take your picks, then try on the fit and only when you are satisfied, would you finally end up buying that piece of cloth. Even if you are not bothered by all the steps, you still manage to buy clothes that, dictated by your tastes, look suitable to you. Now, if you are not judging others by their appearances, would you be bothered to even seek variety? Would any designer be even bothered to make anything remotely different from factory line goods? Such being not the case, we all end up voluntarily or involuntarily judging people by their appearances and passing personal judgments about such persons in our minds.

Now, the question is not whether one should do it or not. That is not for anyone to dictate or sermonise. But the point is how far one is actually capable of calling out a person by mere appearance. We all know Sherlock could do that. But as a popular illustration would show, if Sherlock were to see one of the famous serial Bahus, he will not be able to ever predict what their purpose is behind those heavy layers of makeup and jewellery.

Thus when we judge a person based on appearances, there is very little of his/ her countenance involved in such a verdict. We all understand that clothes and personal appearance play a major part in our mating rituals or whatever it has come to under the shroud of layers and layers of civilisation but how far one ought to take it at face value is quite questionable.

For example, as we have seen numerous times, attractive people by popular standards are often narcissists and would not generally be swayed by emotions other than their own. Now by saying this, I am not trying to generalise the fact the all attractive people are conceited and self-obsessed. That is evidently not true. Attractiveness may give people certain leverage in life but personality also goes a long way. Moreover, both can be developed over time with modern technology and training.

So, what are those instincts that we can trust in order to discern whether a person is genuine or not?

There can be no definite answer to that.

A lot of psychoanalyst and psychologists are seeking the answer to the question thus innocently posed before us. Why do we keep bothering with appearances and how it affects us in our lives? Industries thrive on our insecurities. The basic premise of marketing in a capitalist society is perhaps preying on the insecurities of common people. As long as you can make people believe that the article is essential for a good living experience, the article will be sold out irrespective of its effectiveness.

The entire designing industry thrives on making us believe that we need certain things in our lives or we need to look a certain way to be acceptable in the society. In fact are not our most basic instincts clothed under civilian garbs to make it more acceptable for others? This concept of acceptability has reached a pinnacle in the age of social media and networking.

Uniformity in appearance and yet the hint of diversity to stand out in the crowd is the word of the day. We spend millions to make ourselves look the part so as to be taken seriously. There can be no protest there as these rules are ratified every day by millions conforming to their dictatorship. And these rules are the ones that have made the entire fashion industry thrive.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive. Attracting others is probably the basest of our instincts which has over time modified itself to finally manifest in this age as social ratification via likes and reblogs. However, judging a person based on appearance may have more grave consequences than we think.

The entire concept of shaming had its inception in social acceptability. When a person is different, he/she is chastened to conform to the norm or be an outcast. In modern day and age, it is quite easy to be an outcast and yet have a normal life as the means of existence are not so socially controlled as it was maybe two centuries ago. Laws are there to protect against discrimination. However, shaming as a concept has also climbed new scales in these days and time. People on social media with unrealistic representations easily conceived with photo editing apps are setting the trend. That has a lot of adverse effects. You see so many YouTube channels competing with each other that at some point the idea of authenticity has been replaced by viewership.

Similarly, many other platforms have succumbed to the pressure of sustenance. However, it would hardly do anybody justice to generalise this idea. It is true that people tend to gravitate towards a certain idea of beauty. In fact, the very idea has razed civilisations to dust. It would perhaps be fair to say in this age of mutability, the idea of beauty should be deeper than the skin. However, the fact remains that it has not changed much over the ages.

Body shaming is one of the most potent tools for bullies attempting to increase their social standing using peer pressure mechanism. This is only afforded to them because of our instinct of judging others by the popularly contrives standards of appearance. Clothes being an externality can still be considered mutable. However, human bodies in which a person is born is hardly changeable. Thus to judge someone for something one is born with is not the sign of a strong mind.

We all agree that by natural laws we find certain traits attractive and by similar natural laws, we will find certain people attractive. However, this attraction should not be limited to appearances only. Has it only been limited to potential mates, such a policy would not have been questionable as genetics detect compatibility through appearance or at least that has been the norm in the wild. Moreover, had we been in our sheerest forms, the attraction would have probably not been judged by anything other than looks and that would have been a fair verdict. However, since we are not, and this concept is not limited only to attracting potential mates but is extended to many other interactions, forming an opinion based on appearances is quite baseless. Many jobs interviews would have gone quite differently had there not been appearances at play.

Appearance is the most deceptive fa├žade a person can assume. Thus subjecting oneself potentially to such bias is not only baseless but might prove adverse to even the person making the judgment. So many serial killers could attract their preys using only on their appearance and subtle charms as weapons. While it may be difficult to know a person by their behaviour as not all of us would be adept at being such good observers, but it is essential as an individual to disregard appearances, especially of the material sort, while taking decisions.

And while a rose by any other name would still have the same fragrance, a rose by any other appearance would not probably be as charming despite its fragrance. However, for a bee, the fragrance is an important thing to be drawn to pollination. Hence, it is often only to our perception shaped by the society that we value certain things not for what they are but for what they are made out to be. We should try and avoid such biases and take rational decisions as logical beings. If we cannot isolate our primal instincts in taking at least inconsequential decisions we shall face doom in the hands of enchanters armed with nothing but innate charm.

Thus would fall many Troys in aiding several Parises enchanted by the popular idea of beauty.

Written by Sayantani Saha
Writer, dreamer of world exploration and lover of high fantasy

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