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 Blooming Stars

Passive, Aggressive, Assertive

            Passiveness, aggressiveness, and assertiveness are personality characteristics. While passiveness and aggressiveness are at the opposite poles, assertiveness is in the middle range. An aggressive personality is arrogant, imposing, overbearing, and obnoxious. A passive personality is submissive ever striving to yield, please, and placate. A person with an assertive personality is well-adjusted, resilient, tolerant, balanced, and fearless yet sensitive. An aggressive person acts out and takes out on others; he/she disregards others’ rights and alienates them. A passive person acts in, and often silently suffers swallowing disagreeable stuff. An assertive person expresses what is on mind and holds one’s own ground often agreeing to disagree in an agreeable way.

            In a world that is becoming more and more aggressive, demanding, and self-righteously insisting on one’s rights while neglecting one’s obligations, assertive skills are very much in need. At the risk of broad and stereotypical generalizations, I venture a few comments. While western personality tends to be aggressive-aggressive, eastern personality tends to be passive-aggressive. The western personality tends to look for immediate gratification; the eastern personality tends to unduly delay gratification of desires. The delay of gratification in the East is often due to lack of resources or opportunities. The immediate gratification as well as undue delay of gratification brings in its wake distinctive emotional and mental problems. There is a physical and an emotional cost for both.

            With an aggressive-aggressive personality, a person is likely to relentlessly take an aggressive course often without thinking through, and causes grave damage to all including self. An aggressive person is like a bull in a china shop; destroys everything in its path. The passive-aggressive person keeps on absorbing negative and bad feelings, builds up until he/she cannot contain anymore, and finally blows up in a great explosion causing harm to all. With the world shrinking fast at an exponential rate, and becoming a global park as a result of massive communication and connectivity, the comments above may be dated. The younger generations in India appear to be markedly more aggressive than the older ones. Westernization often appears to be mistaken for modernization. It is of paramount importance that we retain our best eastern values while assimilating the best in the West.

             Historically the West ventured out exploring and aggressively colonizing, enslaving, and exploiting peoples, and expanding and occupying territories. The East committed aggression on its own people, say, through the ugly and cruel institution of caste system. The West committed aggression on its own people through racism and enslavement. The West seems to be in the pursuit of outer space; the East seems to be in the pursuit of inner space. While the Judeo-Christian West received a mandate from the scriptures of multiplying and subduing the earth, the East (especially in India) through its scriptures focused on the mastery of the inner self. Both approaches are complementary, and required for the optimal survival of the human race.

            Things, of course, are fast changing in this age of communication, tourism, and movement of people out of their countries for job and education opportunities. In this era of internationalization characterized by equity, equality, and compassionate relating, assertive skills are more necessary than ever for orderly human development. There is no place for passive or aggressive stance among persons or nations that work cooperatively and sensitively. An assertive person expresses his/her views honestly respecting others and without pressuring them. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. are outstanding examples of assertive persons opting to suffer for their cause non-violently, and achieve their goals rather than inflict pain on others.

             Neither the East nor the West has the moral high ground to preach morality to anyone. The West has historically and ruthlessly exploited the rest of the world, and transferred wealth to their countries after centuries of occupation. Also as the West conquered over centuries vast territories of the world often decimating the native peoples, and occupied and still own and occupy world’s land and resources scandalously disproportionate to its relatively small world population, it has a moral and legal obligation to compensate the rest of the world that lives in indescribable poverty and misery. This is an issue of conscience involving gross injustice, abuse, and violence that need to be healed before humanity can be made whole.

            Constituting an international tribunal in the style of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa to rectify gross violation of human rights by Western countries during the colonial and slavery era to start healing on a global basis is very highly recommended. World leaders are reluctant to talk about these injustices of the past. If nothing else a strong and open acknowledgement of these indescribable abuses may greatly contribute toward a better global understanding and forgiveness. Some nations still shelter and foster self-centered, power-hungry politicians for their own vested interests that go against the unity of humanity. Aggression committed by any nation or group on others needs to be investigated as there should not be any statute of limitations for such crimes on humanity. This will be a lesson for all.

             It may also be stated that depression in the world is rising at an alarming rate as resources of the world are concentrated in a handful of individuals and nations. A clinical observation is that the wide-spread mental disorder of depression is incompatible with an assertive stance. So it is good to express our ideas especially our disagreements appropriately and assertively in a timely fashion when needed.


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