The other day I happened to catch a new (in India) reality show called the Moment of Truth. And yet again, I was amazed at how people are willingly to ruthlessly sacrifice everything - their self respect, relationships, dignity in the quest of big bucks.
To give a brief background, the contestant is strapped to a polygraph and asked a series of personal question in escalating order of repercussions ( from a relatively innocuous quirks to potentially life altering ones), for increasing sums of money. The polygraph evaluates whether the person has responded truthfully and accordingly he/she can progress to the next level.
And here is the beauty of it, even if the contestant has won x-amount of money, it can be wiped away at the blink of an eye if a false answer is detected by the polygraph. So essentially one is not only gambling the deepest, murkiest aspects of one's life for money, sometimes one is risking it for nothing at all. Not to mention any future monetary implications (a physical trainer being asked whether he had “touched his female clients more than strictly necessary” –heck, who is going to get trained by him after that?)
To give a flavour of the kind of stuff we are talking about, the episode I watched, One man was asked questions in this vein "Have you done anything after marriage which might make your wife stop trusting you anymore - if she knew about it" and the even more brutal, " Is it true that you have delayed having kids so far because you’re not sure whether your wife is going to be your life partner for the long haul" and the wife who had come in looking all bubbly and ebullient, well you could see her face transforming and wilting and getting that tightly controlled, wounded look of hurt and mortification and yes,the humiliation.
Which brings me to the million dollar question, how much are these, the non tangible, aspects of your life worth anyways? For how much money, is one willing to potentially incurably damage your relationships, one’s position in the social circle? Is there a price one can put on a bond one has with siblings, with parents, with kids? Is there a value one can put on peace of mind? What is the 'market rate' for self esteem?
One could argue that if a relationship or a position is based on a foundation of lies and half truths, it is not real at all, and is bound to burst sooner or later. Perhaps that is true.
But let’s face it, in most cases; what are thoughts cannot be necessarily called “truths” - whether it’s a fairly harmless passing attraction to a hot colleague, or a thought in the tune of I-should-have-married-my-old-fiancé or even a I-had-to-give-up-a-flourishing-career-because-I-had-a-kid. Most of the times they are just that. Random thoughts which cross the mind in a moment of pique, or anxiety, or worry, or frustration. Most of the time its just confusion. And even assuming they ARE inalterable realities, and often, hurtful realities, how right is it to expose them in such a contrived situation for the world to watch?
I used to wonder, if I ever watched an Oprah-type show, that this particular brand of voyeurism was the effect of a capitalistic society – where the value one placed on money was higher than the price on placed on honour. I used to think that the older cultures, the respect and standing was desperately held on to even after the monies were long gone ( which was that Hindi short story one studied in school – “Parda”?) Not any more. After the gamut of reality shows where it’s fashionable to let “all hang” literally and figuratively and self respect can pretty much go out of the window.
I can’t make up my mind whether it’s myopia which drives these people or is it a completely different set of priorities. If it is the latter, than how does one establish a price for it? “For X money, I am willing to stake my marriage, for Y money, I will sacrifice my kids love and respect... “
Hmm. Maybe I am just old fashioned.