English Vocab

Have we Lost Our Way?
It is becoming hazardous to read Indian newspapers these days. Cancer patients being told by a Health Minister that their suffering is divine justice for past sins; the chilling demand by an elected member of a legislative assembly to behead an actor; Muslim clerics beaten mercilessly for no reason. And to top it all, the soul-destroying incident of a four-year-old — yes, a toddler — sexually assaulting his class mate. Have we lost our way as a country, a society, a civilisation?

And please don’t think that I am about to pounce on (notice and take swift advantage of a mistake or sign of weakness.) the party currently in power, although politics undeniably has some role to play in this. I worry about the profound social and cultural malaise that afflicts all of us and the damage such incidents inflict on our collectivepsyche (the human soul, mind, or spirit.).
Internal and external goods
To give a comprehensive picture of all the causes for this cultural and moral mess is beyond my capacity. I mention just two that come immediately to mind, in the hope that this opens a space for further discussion. Both depend on a distinction made by the Scottish philosopher, Alasdair MacIntyre, between external and internal goods of practice. First, an overwhelming focus on external goods takes attention away from the internal goods of social practices. Second, unpleasant human attributes that accompany the relentless pursuit of external goods severely (grievously) diminish those ethical and moral qualities without which human life is quite poor, nasty (very bad or unpleasant.) and brutish (showing lack of human sensibility), even if not exactly short or entirely solitary (isolated). I take each in turn.
Every practice is driven by an internal good. Take fiction-writing. One of its many internal goods is to imaginatively give us a vivid sense of the dilemmas (a difficult situation or problem) and moral complexity of human life, to tighten our grasp over the human predicament (a difficult, unpleasant, or embarrassing situation.); the internal good of legal practice is to deliver justice; of medical practice, to cure, heal, help people live a healthy life; of democratic politics, to enhance the collective good, benefit every single citizen. And, of ordinary morality, to never harm, if not always do good to others. Internal goods are intrinsic to the practice, give it its point and partly define what it is. These internal goods cannot be realised if standards of excellence, appropriate to each practice, are not followed. Plenty of hard work goes into perfecting them. Furthermore, when achieved, internal goods extend the powers of the entire community, indeed enrich everyone.
Take an example from cricket: when Ranjitsinhji invented the leg glance, when Tendulkar perfected (burnished) the upper cut, or Pakistani bowlers developed the reverse swing, they not only enhanced the quality of their own game but benefitted the entire cricketing community. Here, healthy competition over excellence enhances everyone’s game. The more innovations there are in cricket, the more these shared goods are collectively enjoyed. I believe this is virtually true of all excellence-driven human practices — farming, cooking, shoe-making, carpentry, writing, dancing, playing football, architecture, law, democratic politics and so on. Whatever they generate can be possessed or enjoyed by everyone. One can either excel at them or not, there is always room for improvement, and they can never be practised enough. Indeed, if you don’t put these skills to use, pick up bad habits on the way, go astray (away from the correct path or direction.), you will lose them altogether. And their loss is collective too.
This precisely is where external goods come into the picture. All these practices can also bring with them goods that are external to these practices — money, fame, power. They are external because they can be achieved even outside each practice. Diseases can rarely be cured outside medical practice, but to earn money, one need not be a medical doctor. Nor are specific standards of excellence (prowess) necessary for securing them. Indeed, they are frequently achieved only by neglecting them. Not all famous or rich lawyers or doctors are good at what they do. Of course, if these external goods are achieved as a byproduct of the pursuit of excellence, one need not shun (persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.) them. The point is that if one follows a career in cricket, law or politics with the primary
 aim of making money, exercising power or gaining fame, then the internal goods of these practices will never be achieved. And when that happens, the entire humanity loses. To single-mindedly pursue external goods at the expense of internal goods is bad enough but to lose the very distinction between the two does irreparable damage to everyone. It is this trend in our society of fudging (present or deal with (something) in a vague or inadequate way) this crucial distinction that is deeply troublesome.
Negative emotions
The pure pursuit of external goods has another terrible consequence. An obsession (idée fixe) with them undermines our capacity for self-reflection and cultivation,strangles (hamper or hinder the development or activity of.) our imagination and induces thoughtlessness, narrow-mindedness and prejudice. Moreover, these goods are individual possessions and because one has them at the expense of others, they promote self-seeking. The more power, money or fame one has, the less these are possessed by others. This promotes negative emotions such as jealousy, envy and malice and considerably diminishes our capacity for empathy, care and compassion. They corrode the moral and ethical fabric of a society and in the end, brutalise us and our children.
I see inscribed in these incidents a chilling brutalization, and in the naked pursuit of power, money and two minutes of fame, the triumph of external over internal goods — an inexorable march towards a fall from the deepest values of humanity.

1. Pounce (verb): (Wait in hiding to attack/ notice and take swift advantage of a mistake or sign of weakness.) (आक्रमण करने के लिये छिपा होना)
Synonyms: Ambush, Bushwhack, Attack, Take Advantage (Of Someone’s Misfortune)
Antonyms: Protect, Save, Guard.
Example: Most predators wait to pounce until they are sure their prey isn’t paying attention.
Verb forms: Pounce, Pounced, Pounced.

2. Solitary (adjective): ((Of a place) secluded or isolated.) (दूरस्थ/निर्जन)

Synonyms: Isolated, Remote, Unreachable, Faraway, Far-Flung, Secluded.
Antonyms: Sociable, Common.
Example: Because people left the village before the volcano erupted, the lava destroyed only a solitary community.
Related words:
Solitarily (adverb) – अकेले
Origin: from Latin solus ‘alone’.

3. Astray (adverb): (Away from the correct path or direction.) (भटक जाना/गुमराह)
Synonyms: Wide of the mark, Awry, Off course, Off track, Adrift
Antonyms: On course, On track.
Example: Rick’s plan for becoming a professional basketball player went astray after he suffered a devastating injury.

4. Prowess (noun): (Skill or expertise in a particular activity or field.) (कौशल)
Synonyms: Skill, Expertise, Effectiveness, Mastery, Talent, Adroitness, Adeptness
Antonyms: Inability, Incapacity, Weakness
Example: With a prowess for writing, the promising author wrote a fiction novel of nine-hundred-pages.
Related words:
Origin:  from French prou ‘valiant’(in war)

5. Shun (verb): (Persistently avoid, ignore, or reject (someone or something) through antipathy or caution.) (अलग रहना)
Synonyms: Avoid, evade, Eschew, Steer clear of, Give a wide berth, Keep away from
Antonyms: Accept, Confront, Encounter, Face
Example: Because of his delicate eyes, Ben tends to shun rooms that are too brightly lit up.
Verb forms: Shun, Shunned, Shunned.

6. Strangle (verb): (Hamper or hinder the development or activity of.) (दमन करना)
Synonyms: Suppress, Smother, Stifle, Repress, Impede, Restrict, Inhibit.
Antonyms: Free, Release, Let Go.
Example: According to economists, the high rate of unemployment will continue tostrangle economic growth.
Verb forms: Strangle, Strangled, Strangled.
Origin: from Greek strangalē ‘halter’

7. Idée fixe (noun): (An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.(ग्रस्तता)
Synonyms: Obsession, Fixation, Addiction, Compulsion, Monomania.
Antonyms: Hate, Dislike.
Example: Parents grew concerned when their teenager’s cell phone seemed to be more of an idée fixe than just a useful device.

8. Burnish (verb): Literally (polish (something) by rubbing.) Metaphorically (enhance or improve.) (चमकाना/उठाना)
Synonyms: Enhance, Improve, Furbish, Revamp, Ameliorate
Antonyms: Decline, Deteriorate
Example: John always tries to take the advantage of any opportunity to burnish his image.
Verb forms: Burnish, Burnished, Burnished

9. Dilemma (noun): (A difficult situation or problem/ A situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable.) (असमंजस/दुविधा)
Synonyms: Confusion, Irresoluteness, Quandary, Predicament, Puzzle, Conundrum
Antonyms: Breakthrough, Solution
Example: Our teacher presented us with a dilemma when he shared that we could choose where to take our yearly field trip.
Origin: from Greek dilēmma, from di- ‘twice’ + lēmma ‘premise’.

10. Grievously (adverb): (To a very severe or serious degree.) (कष्टदायक ढंग से/उद्वेग सहित)
Synonyms: Seriously, Gravely, Critically, Severally, Acutely, Sorely.
Antonyms: Mildly, Lightly.
Example: Since she is very emotional, she was affected Grievously after her break up.
Related words:
Grievous (adjective): Very serious and often causing a lot of pain or suffering
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