Of strengths and weaknesses

It is important to identify the weak links in advance so that suitable corrective measures could be taken timely for healing up the diseased areas before they infect the whole body.

By B Maria Kumar   |   Published: 2nd Nov 2017   3:38 pm
weeknesses
B Maria Kumar

Naturally, ensuring the management of both strengths and weaknesses in a human body or in any organization or for that matter even in any national economy, is obviously most desirable; but when assigning a priority between the two is inevitable, what should take precedence over the other? Should we focus more on strengths like strong muscle, well-laid infrastructure or vibrant high-tech sector than the weaknesses such as pestering mental agony or dwindling sales or emerging hunger scenario in rural sector? If we go by two episodes from ancient legends, the message is clear and self-explanatory.

In Mahabharata, just prior to great war, the villain in the epic Duryodhana is summoned without clothes in the middle of the night by his blind-folded mother Gandhari because she wants to make him invincible by touching his whole body with her magical hands. Tricked by Lord Krishna, who appears in disquise as an old man, Duryodhana feels shy of going naked in front of his mother, covers his groin with a piece of cloth and approaches her. Gandhari, who ties a band over her eyes since the days of her marriage to blind King Dhritarashtra, brushes her hands over her son’s body but his clothed pelvic part remains untouched, and hence becomes weak and vulnerable. Soon Duryodhana dies in a fight with Bheema who strikes him with his club at his groin, the weak spot.

On the same lines, is the story of Achilles, the hero of Homer’s Iliad. When he is born, an oracle foretells that he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis takes him, then an infant, to the river Styx, which is supposed to have the power of invulnerability against any violent attack, and dips his body into the water. But as Thetis holds him by right heel, it remains unwetted by the divine water. As a result, his right heel becomes weak part of his body.

Achilles grows up to be a great warrior and survives many battles. But at the end of Trojan war, he is shot by Paris with a poisonous Hydra–blood tipped arrow that pierces through his heel, killing him instantly. Here, the heel is the weak point of Achilles, despite his overall strength.

These stories carry a good lesson forewarning that any weakness in a body politic can potentially make the whole nation vulnerable. Relevant here is the question whether Duryodhana and Achilles are aware of their weaknesses ? If so, what protective precautions have they taken? If not, is it willful or unmindful ignorance? Such weaknesses pose as potential weak links in the chain of overall functional governance. The American economic sociologist Mark Granovetter worked out to confirm that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In order to keep the chain strong, it is important to identify the weak links in advance so that suitable corrective measures could be taken timely for healing up the diseased areas before they infect the whole body.