Friday, March 30, 2018

Are You a Victim of the Tall Poppy Syndrome...?

Ramblings of a Retired Mind

In the inimitable war novel Catch-22 – there is a character called “Major Major Major Major”

(For brevity – let’s call him “Major Major”)

“Major Major” is a simple amiable officer who is liked by everyone – officers and enlisted men.  

One day – the Squadron Commander Major Duluth is killed in action – and – “Major Major” is appointed the Squadron Commander.

Suddenly – everything changes for “Major Major”.

The very same people who earlier loved “Major Major” – now – their attitude towards “Major Major” changes drastically – and – everyone starts resenting his success

Many of his fellow officers have feelings of envy and animosity towards “Major Major” once he is promoted to Squadron Commander.

The most acrimonious and spiteful of them is Captain Black – who believes that he himself was the logical choice to replace Major Duluth as Squadron Commander – and – grave injustice has been done by appointing “Major Major” as Squadron Commander.

Captain Black makes every effort to discredit and disparage “Major Major”

Captain Black uses various stratagems to sabotage and humiliate “Major Major” – and – cut him down to size.

This is an example of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

Thanks to his “success” – “Major Major” is a victim of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” – which results in hostility towards successful people.  

The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is a culture where “successful” people are resented, attacked, cut down or criticized because of their success.

Successful People are called “Tall Poppies”. 

And – cutting them down to size is called “Tall Poppying”…

In an organization – the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” can cause in destructive feelings in the colleagues of the successful person – which can lead to resentment, hostility – and “envy attacks” on the “successful” person. 

In the Defence Services – some “passed over” (superseded) officers feel a sense of resentment towards those successful officers who have been promoted – and sometimes – this resentment can metamorphose into “Tall Poppy Syndrome” (hostility towards the successful person). 

The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is visible in personal relationships too – in families, friend-circles and in society – where we often see a tendency to resent and disparage successful people due to envy.

In a nutshell – the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is hostility towards successful people and manifestations of that resentment.


There are many mythical stories about the origins of the term “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

In one such apocryphal story – a young son of a King conquers a new land.

The young son asks the King for advice on how to deal with the newly conquered kingdom.

The King – who is strolling in the garden in a grove of poppies – draws his sword – and – with his sword – the King strikes off the heads of the tallest poppies in the grove.

The King’s son gets the message – and he methodically proceeds to kill all the prominent men (the “tallest poppies”) in the newly conquered land.

Once the influential men are eliminated – the son is able to easily govern the conquered land.

The term “Tall Poppy Syndrome” may have been probably derived from this apocryphal story.

Another fable hints that the underlying premise of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” is that the tallest plants be cut down to the same size of all the others (cutting down to size)

So – in today’s world – “Tall Poppying” successful persons means trying to “cut them down to size”.

Don’t we see examples of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” all around us…?

I saw plenty of instances of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” in the Defence Services – where career prospects are limited due to the pyramidal hierarchy structure – and – it is very difficult to get promoted to high rank – which results in a large number of deserving officers getting “superseded” or “passed over” for promotion.

Many “superseded” officers feel a sense of resentment and envy towards their successful course-mates and try to “Tall Poppy” them.

You will see plenty of examples of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” everywhere – in politics, in the corporate sector, in society, in families and personal life too.

The “Tall Poppy Syndrome” manifests at the societal level too.

One example is the cultural resentment against “migrants” who are more “successful” than the original inhabitants of a country.

Information Technology has been a catalyst in proliferation of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

Nowadays – the Social Media has become a ubiquitous medium for “Tall Poppying”

People can easily express their resentment against “successful” persons on the Social Media – and such online “Tall Poppying” of an individual on the Social Media can go “viral” very fast and have a devastating effect on the victim.

What is the root cause of the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” …?

Is the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” a manifestation of “Crab Mentality” …?

(If I can’t have it – neither can you)

Or – is it an offshoot of “The Dog in the Manger” Syndrome …?

(People frequently begrudge something to others – that they themselves cannot enjoy. 

Even if it does them no good – they won’t let others have it – like the mythical dog in fable – the dog in the manger – who did not eat the grain – but – who nevertheless prevented the horse from eating the grain either...)

Or – is it just basic human nature…?

Well – I really don’t know – but – I have been on both sides of the fence as far as the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” syndrome is concerned.

Dear Reader:

Have you experienced the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” – as a “victim” – or – as a “perpetrator”…? 

Do you feel a sense of resentment against successful people...? 

If you are a successful person – do you feel others are hostile towards you...? 

Do tell us about it. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.
Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved) 

Repost of My Article Written By Me in 04 Feb 2017 and Posted on My Blogs. Links to my original post in my Blog Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve:  and  and etc 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Is “Utility Value” the only Value...?

Musings of a Veteran

In materialistic world of today 
 you must have a motive for doing something. 

You must “gain” something from doing an activity.

After all  you are investing your precious time, talent and effort in the activity.

So  you must get your RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

If you spend your time and effort pursuing some activity  you must derive some material gain from doing that activity.

There is a “Utility Value attached to everything.

You must “gain” something tangible  it can be POWER, WEALTH or FAME.

Mostly – it is Wealth or Money. 

Yes  in most cases the motive is MONEY (Wealth).

Many people ask me why I am wasting all my time and so much effort Blogging and Writing  when the same time and effort could be put to “good” use by me – doing something worthwhile to earn money. 

“You spend so much time and effort blogging... they say. 

And then 
 they ask me: 

What do you gain from blogging...? 

Other well-wishers say: 

Why don
t you monetize your blog...? At least you will earn some money for your efforts. 

Do people write and blog only to earn money...? 

Can’t people do things for self-actualization...? 

Is the aim of education solely to get a job...? 

Yes  that is the utility value of education. 

But – what about the joys of learning...? 

Doesnt education expose you to the joys of learning...?

Why can
t people understand that a person can do something for the sheer enjoyment of doing it 
 without any material gain or ulterior motive. 

Another person used to asked me why I spent so much time with my pet dog Sherry and why I looked after her so lovingly. (you can see Sherry with me in my profile picture)

“Are you making money by selling her pups..? he asked – and he was surprised when I told him that I did not have any intention of mating my dog.

Maybe – he had seen some persons who keep dogs as a business – and use their dogs as a means to make money by breeding them.

He could not believe it when I told him that I keep a dog just for the sheer love the dog bestows on me.

“But  what is the use of love...? What do you gain from love...? he asked me. 

This question got me thinking. 

What is the use of love...? 

What do I gain from love...? 

Well – love creates positive vibes in me – love generates inner happiness.

Why do we try and analyse the utility value in each and every thing  even love...?

Does love have a utility value...?

What is the “Utility Value of Love...?

Let me quote an Urdu couplet I heard long back. 

(I cannot translate it exactly – but I will try to give you the gist)

Someone asked a lover:

इश्क का क्या फायदा  (What do you gain from love...?)

The lover replied:

फायदे का क्या फायदा  (What do you gain from gain...?)

Why do we look for profit or reward in anything we do...? 

Why do we have expectations in a relationship...?

Yes  even in relationships we see a utility value.

Why do we always expect a RETURN ON INVESTMENT...? 

Why can
t we do something just for the sake of doing it  for the sheer enjoyment of that activity  just like we do  in the case of true love or इश्क 

Do we look for Return on Investment when we love someone...? 

What do you gain from love...? 

What do you gain from gain”...?

इश्क का क्या फायदा ...?

फायदे का क्या फायदा ...?

Would some connoisseur of Urdu Sher-Shairi (philosophical poet) be so good as to translate and interpret this couplet for us in a better way please. 

Dear Reader: 

Do you look for utility value in everything...? 

I eagerly await your comments. 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Monday, March 26, 2018

My Favourite Short Stories Revisited – Old Man At The Bridge by Ernest Hemingway

My Favorite Fiction Short Stories Revisited by Vikram Karve

Review of OLD MAN AT THE BRIDGE By Ernest Hemingway

The writing style of Ernest Hemingway is often described by the term Iceberg Theory. 

At first sight his stories seem like just an exchange of dialogues with minimal explanations. 

The meaning of the story is not immediately evident, because the crux of the story lies below the surface, just as most of the mass of a real iceberg similarly lies beneath the surface of the sea.

Hemingway elaborated on the Iceberg Theory thus:

If it is any use to know it, I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. 

There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows. 

Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. 

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. 

The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.

One of the finest examples of the Iceberg Theory is the short story OLD MAN AT THE BRIDGE in which Ernest Hemingway demonstrates his superb narrative skills. 

He takes a seemingly ordinary event and by the art of story-telling transforms it into a powerful story about the tragedy of war. 

This simple story succeeds in capturing those pedestrian yet profound aspects of war that people often forget.

Old Man at the Bridge is one of Hemingway's shortest stories. 

First published in 1938 it is a sensitive story about refugees displaced by the Spanish Civil War and even though it is a quick read, the story is an insightful commentary on the effects of war on innocents and how war disrupts lives, of both people and animals.

OLD MAN AT THE BRIDGE is freely available to read on the internet. I am giving a link to the story below and also posting the story (from the link mentioned) below for your convenience to read.

Old Man At The Bridge
Ernest Hemingway

An old man with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and children were crossing it. The mule-drawn carts staggered up the steep bank from the bridge with soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels. The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all and the peasants plodded along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was too tired to go any farther. 

It was my business to cross the bridge, explore the bridgehead beyond and find out to what point the enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge. There were not so many carts now and very few people on foot, but the old man was still there.
"Where do you come from?" I asked him.
"From San Carlos," he said, and smiled. 

That was his native town and so it gave him pleasure to mention it and he smiled.
"I was taking care of animals," he explained. "Oh," I said, not quite understanding.
"Yes," he said, "I stayed, you see, taking care of animals. I was the last one to leave the town of San Carlos."  

He did not look like a shepherd nor a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his grey dusty face and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, "What animals were they?" 

"Various animals," he said, and shook his head. "I had to leave them." 

I was watching the bridge and the African looking country of the Ebro Delta and wondering how long now it would be before we would see the enemy, and listening all the while for the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious event called contact, and the old man still sat there. 

"What animals were they?" I asked.
"There were three animals altogether," he explained. "There were two goats and a cat and then there were four pairs of pigeons." 

"And you had to leave them?" I asked. 

"Yes. Because of the artillery. The captain told me to go because of the artillery." 

"And you have no family?" I asked, watching the far end of the bridge where a few last carts were hurrying down the slope of the bank. 

"No," he said, "only the animals I stated. The cat, of course, will be all right. A cat can look out for itself, but I cannot think what will become of the others." 

"What politics have you?" I asked. 

"I am without politics," he said. "I am seventy-six years old. I have come twelve kilometres now and I think now I can go no further."

"This is not a good place to stop," I said. "If you can make it, there are trucks up the road where it forks for Tortosa." 

"I will wait a while," he said, "and then I will go. Where do the trucks go?"
"Towards Barcelona," I told him. 

"I know no one in that direction," he said, "but thank you very much. Thank you again very much." 

He looked at me very blankly and tiredly, then said, having to share his worry with some one, "The cat will be all right, I am sure. There is no need to be unquiet about the cat. But the others. Now what do you think about the others?" 

"Why they'll probably come through it all right." 

"You think so?" 

"Why not," I said, watching the far bank where now there were no carts. 

"But what will they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the artillery?" 

"Did you leave the dove cage unlocked?" I asked. "Yes." 

"Then they'll fly." 

"Yes, certainly they'll fly. But the others. It's better not to think about the others," he said.
"If you are rested I would go," I urged. "Get up and try to walk now." 

"Thank you," he said and got to his feet, swayed from side to side and then sat down backwards in the dust. 

"I was taking care of animals," he said dully, but no longer to me. "I was only taking care of animals." 

There was nothing to do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the Ebro. It was a grey overcast day with a low ceiling so their planes were not up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old man would ever have.


Hemingway succinctly captures those aspects of war that people often forget. 

The author reminds us human life is not the only life disrupted by war. 

All living beings, in fact the entire nature, is adversely affected by war. 

The old man symbolizes the victims of war. 

He talks about the animals under his care who he was forced to leave behind to fend for themselves. 

He has a cat which can probably flee. 

She is a symbol of the survivor because she has nine lives. 

He has pigeons which can fly away, so they can also flee. 

They are a symbol of peace. 

But the old man is neither like the cat nor the pigeons because he cannot flee like them. 

He is like the third animal he owns, the goat. 

He cannot escape and is a victim of the war like the goat.

The story OLD MAN AT  THE BRIDGE succinctly encapsulates the tragedy  of all those voiceless innocent men, women and children who are the victims of wars they neither support nor understand.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my favourite authors and so many of his inimitable short stories are my favourites. 

I will certainly tell you about them, and my other favourite fiction short stories, in my blog.

Happy Reading

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

This Story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.