I have always been a contrarian. From as far back as I can remember in my conscious life, the opposite standpoint has always been my default stance. It did not matter whether the context was a family discussion or a meeting or just ordinary conversations with friends and associates. In my younger days, I often was the ‘abenugan’ in many contexts and, in fairness, given my basic impatient nature, too many times, I knew what was wrong with a position and voiced it before I permitted myself to appreciate what was right about it. It requires no deep imagination to see that it was not a position that endeared me to many nor was it one that enabled me to make positive impressions on people at first meetings. Those with whom I have been priviledged to have relations that survived my often brusque introductions to them have, over the years, found me worthy of their friendship which means living with my contrarian proclivities.
Have I always known that I was a contrarian? Absolutely no! Had I known that, I surely would have had a less unhappy pubescence and early adulthood. Only with the approach of middle age and the never-ceasing self-doubt that is one of the hallmarks of a contrarian have I been able to come to an awareness of, and be at peace with, being a denizen of the contrarian community.
Needless to say, I cannot say that I became a contrarian because I knew what being a contrarian is or how to become one. This is one situation where lived experience led back to a concern with definitions; where the deed was enacted before it was formulated in words.
Being at peace with always or most often being opposite, fully aware of being in error on not a few occasions while being cognizant that today’s wisdom might turn out to be next year’s folly, I propose to write a column in which, my editors permitting, I share with my readers my opposite takes on events, ideas, processes, practices, institutions, and personalities. As should be obvious by now, this column does not proceed from a need to be provocative. If what it offers is ever provocative, it is not so by design. I call it as I see it and, given the preceding rendering of who I am, it is to be expected that it would often end up dancing to the beat of a different drummer.
I am fully aware that ours is not a society that is very kind to heterodoxy or one that celebrates difference. If you often and unwaveringly oppose accepted wisdom in our society, your associates—family, friends, coworkers, students—never fail to remind you that the one whose head is used to crack the coconut never gets to partake of it; that no one is an island; that the occasional opposition is okay, and so on. Yet, we all know that there is no instance in history where a society, culture, or civilization has moved forward with widespread conformity. Humanity has progressed thanks largely to its meager supply of never-say-die oppositionists.
No, I do not seek to don the mantle of a world-changer. But if what I write in these pages forces even a handful of readers to become aware that more than one road leads to the town square and be desirous of exploring those alternate routes, my purpose shall have been served. If in the process I lead my readers to some cul de sacs, I offer my apologies in advance; but that will be par for the course. I can only hope that that does not happen too often and when it does, dear readers, you can be sure that it is not part of the plan.
For the rest, I look forward to a feast of ideas to which my readers are expected to contribute even as they partake of what is on offer.