Modernity of 21st century
“Life is to be lived, not controlled” (Barrack Obama)
“Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and choice, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.’ (Aristotle)
And to lead a happy life, –
“Keep your thought positive because your thought becomes your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
Paradox of modernity
George Carlin (‘O Tempora, O Mores’) has described beautifully the modernity of twenty first century and the life style of modern times –
“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait.
We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.
These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom.
Issac Newton has said, “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Modern world is full of confusions as per the saying of George Carlin (‘O Tempora, O Mores’) mentioned above. And the adverse effect of Modernity is visible all-over the world. Erosion of traditional values and decay of morality in ‘community life’ has been a matter of concern everyone. Leaders and intelligentsia now desire to restore the moral values back.
Mostly the children of twenty-first century are brought up and educated in such a way that they there learn to stand on their feet firmly, quite early in life. The youth living in western countries or brought up in western life-style become politically and economically independent better much earlier than their previous generation and counterparts living in eastern societies. However, quite often they end up “Bowling Alone” (in sociologist Robert Putnam’s memorable phrase) and unhappy.
Complexity of modern life
In-spite of having so much exposure to knowledge and technological developments, complexities in modern life-style are increasing every day. Cut-throat competition for being one-up kills the human values of ‘caring, sharing and accepting others heartily’. Instead it teaches an individual to care only for oneself. For achieving success in life, self-interest sometimes incites people to ‘Go and kill’ others in self-interest or.
Aversion to traditional values and systems
Amongst twenty-first century youth, there is gradual disappearance of the sense of morality. There is a trend of aversion to traditional values and systems. There is ruthless competition amongst them for material gains. Most of the time, their life-style is based on in-discipline. Chase for materialism in present consumerist world has lead them towards favoritism, violence, corruption has weakened the social fabric of a modern society beyond repair.
Scientific knowledge a source to preserve and destroy of power
Over and above all this, scientific and technological developments have endowed man with tremendous power both to ‘preserve and destroy’ anything. At slightest provocation, people do not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him. It has, once again, made the human life of modern society “nasty, brutish and short”.
Creation of civil society
Today there is an urgent need to make each and every society a civilized one. It requires a society/nation to reach to an advanced stage of mannerism and inculcate in its people eternal humanitarian values in all the spheres – intellectual, technological, cultural values. A civilized society/nation needs to create well-meaning systems for the benefit of the whole society.
Social norms/values/code of conduct
Based on experiences, traditions and customs, every society sets a code of conduct for all the members of a society, defines rights and duties of all all the sections society. It not only regulates behavior of individuals within the community, but also provides practical and useful vision/guidelines to be followed by its members everywhere, be it their personal, family, community, social, professional, national or universal life.
Basis for setting code of conduct
Social values are formed on the basis of specific needs, time-frame, mind-set of the people of that society and total atmosphere/circumstances of that place. Experiences of many generations form the basis to set code of conduct. In due course of time, it takes the shape of customs, traditions and rituals, which are observed by the common men living in that respective society. Efforts put by different social groups of a society at different point of time develop the attitude, aptitude and innate psycho-biological traits of its people. Over a period of time, all together set up the social norms/values of a society. Value system of a society does not remain static. It keeps on changing from place to place and time to time.
Difference between Morality vs. Moral-policing
There is difference between social values/code of conduct and moral policing. Morality preaches individuals to exercise self- restraint in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or social relationship.
- While social values/morality is concerned with self-discipline, moral policing is to discipline others.
- Unadulterated social values, morality, mannerism and norms based on reason and experiences help people to improve one’s own behavior by making conscious efforts for self-control, self-direction and self-discipline rather than forcing others to behave.
- Morality leads to peaceful co-existence, while moral policing generates agitation in people’s mind.
- Morality/social values cannot be taught like texts, nor tested in written examinations. They are learnt by living and practicing it in day to day life.
- Morality is not something which could be decided or opined at one point of time or propagated by self-styled Messiahs of a society or can be forced upon people.
- Morality believes in decentralized self-regulated system – be it in social, political religious or economic life of an individual.
Politicians, religious gurus or powerful lobby of elders or self-styled reformists cannot become the guardians of social values/culture. Their role in a civilized society is that of facilitators. They are supposed to inculcate positive attitude, good values and thinking by creating friendly atmosphere and arranging a sound system of education.
‘Born free but everywhere in Chains’
A human being is born free and desires to lead a free life. Now-a-days, in modern societies, there is too much emphasis on freedom and liberty of individuals. It is quite often said that an individual is born free and therefore, is entitled to lead an absolutely free life, – ‘I will do, what I want’ and ‘I do not care for anybody’ etc. etc. Everyone desires to have full liberty and freedom from all the liabilities/bondages.
Absolute freedom not possible
Total freedom or establishment of an absolutely free society is not possible, if one wants to live with other human beings. Where everybody lives/acts according to one’s own wishes without caring for other members of the society, a situation of lawlessness is created. In turn, lawlessness creates an atmosphere of a jungle, where ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the norm. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘law of jungle’ instinct can be accepted in a civilized society.
For survival, ‘law of jungle’ develops killer-instinct within a person’s mind It makes him very selfish and forget about others’ conveniences. Such a mindset makes the whole atmosphere tense/uncertain and makes human life, ‘nasty brutish and short’ (Hobbes).
How to create a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere?
In order to have a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere, creation of a civil society becomes necessary. In a civil society, no one is totally free to think or act according to his wishes. There people find themselves all the time in chains. Everybody has to live within frames, follow the ‘rule of law’ and observe in general the values, norms and systems created by the society. Nature has given enough wisdom to all the individuals. Only one has to listen to his/her conscience. It gives a human being enough power to escape from unruly/unwanted behavior.
Individual as a social being
As famous Greek philosopher Aristotle says, “A human being is a social animal. If he does not live with men or amongst men, then surely either he is god or a beast.” Living together peacefully is not an easy task. Dealing with some people is easy and natural, while with others complicated and difficult. People’s desire/need to live together peacefully in a harmonious atmosphere, a code of conduct is set for the people and is enforced by the authorities of that society or nation. Set norms and rules keep a control on laws of jungle and make the living of the people of society peaceful and harmonious and ultimately lead towards civilization.
Right balance between rights and duties
A civilized society needs to have a balanced outlook towards rights and duties. Keeping the right balance between the two is very difficult. To ensure that all people could enjoy their rights, liberty and freedom properly and equally, society sets some norms. It ensures that while enjoying one’s own rights, one should give due regards to others’ liberty and freedom as well, which in turn becomes his duties. One’s own rights binds others and becomes others duties, and other’s freedom binds him in return.
Due regards to others liberty, while exercising one’s own
Code of conduct teaches people to give due regards to others liberty and freedom while exercising one’s own liberty and freedom. An individual’s freedom binds others and other’s freedom binds him in return. Observance of norms and rules puts everybody ‘everywhere in chains’. It draws a line on human freedom and his behavior and keeps a control on the unruly behavior. It makes a person more humane. The whole atmosphere becomes peaceful and pleasant and ultimately leads a society to become more and more matured, cultured or civilized.
Foundation of human relationships, rights or duties?
In general, ‘Rights’ forms the natural foundation of human relationships in the societies of Western countries. Eastern societies have been evolved around the concept of ‘duties’. Too much importance to rights, though gives more opportunities to enjoy life, but it tends to make individuals selfish, arrogant and unmindful of others conveniences. More stress on duties tends to make people too humble, tolerant and submissive even to raise their voice against excesses and trains people in obedience without questioning.
Both the systems leaves something more to be desired. Advanced nations have succeeded in creating systems to keep an effective check on arbitrary behavior of people and developing respect for ‘rule of law’. Developing and underdeveloped nations, especially in eastern part of the word are still struggling to improve law and order position in their countries.
Culture of India
In principle – According to the tradition and culture of India, doctrines of Dharma and Karma define rights and duties of different sections of society. It gives to people an abiding sense of purpose to life, an aim to be actively striven for, cutting across class distinctions and regional boundaries, bridging the distance between rural and urban folk and between the illiterate and educated. Common men in India still regard doctrines of Dharma and Karma as norms and values of good conduct. These principles are applicable to everyone, show people follow the path of righteousness and develop harmonious relationship between different sections of society.
Observance of these principles in the past
In ancient India, sacrifice was regarded far more important than success and renunciation as the crowning achievement. On most of the occasions, stress on duties combined with the principle of inter-dependence ensured social harmony and prevented rivalries and jealousies between different sections of society. In the past, it helped the people to adjust themselves and adapt themselves slowly but steadily to changing times without much difficulty.
On the whole, the system worked so well that when the world was passing through the Dark Age, India was full of light. It had prevented people to exercise coercion against its working class, whereas in ancient Greece, Rome or other European countries, people were made to work under the threat of a whip, ancient India remained peaceful and ensured social harmony. Also, while other nations passed through many bloody revolutions in the past, India kept on adapting itself to changing times.
Undesirable developments in Indian society
At the dawn of twenty first century, India has become a land of paradoxes. Some unpleasant changes have taken place in the recent past, which are multiplying every day in the character, role and inter-relationship of these main constituent of the national elites – political executive, legislators, bureaucrats businessmen, media-persons, organized workers and surplus farmers. As the result, on one hand, common-men feel very insecure and confused. They have lost faith not only in governing authorities, but also in their fellow-beings and in them-selves as well. On the other hand, scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy. At slightest provocation, one does not hesitate to unleash destructive powers accessible to him.
Alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture
There exist alarming disparities of power, wealth and culture amongst different parts and sections of the nation. In the recent past, the black money has subverted the whole socio political structure of the nation. Glaring disparities between different sections have been a cause of great social, political and economic tension. Whereas, the cumulative wealth of India’s 10 richest people is 6% ($ 114.50 billion) of India’s GDP, the cumulative wealth of America’s 10 richest people is mere 2% (311.30 billion). On the other hand 60% of the Indian population lives below poverty line.
Sectional and regional imbalances
Sectional conflicts are increasing day by day. There are sectional and regional imbalances, which have led to ever-increasing conflicts in the society and generated different kinds of social and psychological tensions. Attempts for social changes superficially have made a virtue of narrow loyalties of class, caste, creed or religion, generating sub-cultures like favoritism, lure for easy money, nepotism and, in-discipline in the society.
Lure for easy money
Lure for easy money has degenerated work culture. Rule of law has got adversely affected due to under-currents of sectarian politics, which makes the task of governance difficult and ineffective.
Centralization of control systems
These developments have led to complete centralization of control systems in the hands of a few individuals/groups or nations having political, money or muscle power behind them, who rule and control destiny of millions of people. They try to reform people, the way they want.
A nation or money can be created overnight, but it takes several generations for a society or a nation to become cultured or civilized in its true sense. The downfall in the observance of human values/norms/mannerism has led India to its present position. It has become a land of paradoxes. Once again, India has to get rid of the undesirable elements of modernity like narrower viewpoints, decay of traditional values, prejudiced mindset, trouble in accepting others. shallow relationships, broken homes etc. The nation needs to reach up to advanced stage of mannerism in true sense and make developments all the spheres – intellectual, technological, cultural values and to create well-meaning systems, so that the whole society could taste the fruits of all-round development.
It can be concluded quoting Katha Upnishad 1.3.3-6,”Know that Self is the rider and body the chariot; intellect is the charioteer, and mind the reins. The senses are the horses; the roads they travel are the mazes of desire…” Keep the horses under control.
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