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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

‘Modernity’ of the Twenty First Century

          “Life is to be lived, not controlled” (Barrack Obama)

 And to lead a happy life, one should –

“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.”  

Introduction

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.

Issue

Complexity of modern life

Modernity has adversely affected the societies, especially of western countries in many ways. Erosion of traditional values and decay of ‘community life’ has been a matter of concern there. Leaders and people there desire to restore it back. Children brought up and educated there learn to stand on their feet more firmly. They become politically and economically independent better than their counterparts living in eastern societies, but quite often they end up “Bowling Alone” (in sociologist Robert Putnam’s memorable phrase) and unhappy.

In-spite of having so much exposure to knowledge and technological developments, complexities in modern life-style are increasing every day. Cut-throat competition to be one-up incites individuals not to care for others and to ‘Go and kill’ them in self-interest or for achieving success in life.

The gradual disappearance of the sense of morality, aversion to traditional values and systems and chase for materialism in present consumerist world, based on increasingly ruthless competition, favoritism, in-discipline, violence, corruption has weakened the social fabric of a modern society beyond repair.

Over and above all this, scientific progress has endowed man with tremendous power both to preserve and destroy. At slightest provocation, a person does 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

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 attains an advanced stage 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 the sections of 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. 

Experiences of many generations form the basis to set code of conduct in the form of customs, traditions and rituals for common men living in a society. 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.

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.

Morality vs. Moral-policing

There is difference between social values/norms and moral policing. While social values/morality is concerned with self-discipline, moral policing forces discipline on others.

Unadulterated social values, morality, mannerism and norms based on reason and experiences help people to improve ones 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 preaches individuals to exercise self restraint in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or social relationship.

Morality/social values can not be taught like texts, nor tested in written examinations. They are learnt by living and practicing it in day to day life. It 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.

Many politicians, religious gurus or powerful lobby of elders or self-styled reformists can not become the guardian 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, modern societies lay 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.

Such an attitude can be accepted in, where ‘survival of the fittest’ is the norm and ‘law of jungle’ prevails. For survival, ‘law of jungle’ encourages killer-instinct, which tends to make human life, ‘nasty brutish and short’ (Hobbes) and makes the whole atmosphere tense. 

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. The instinct of survival develops killer-instinct within a person and makes him fit to think and care only of him and not to care for others’ conveniences. Such a mindset makes the whole atmosphere tense/uncertain. 

In order to have a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere, creation of a civil society becomes necessary. While living in a civil society an individual finds himself in chains all the time. No one is totally free to think or act according to one’s wishes. 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.

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.

Balance between rights and duties

A civilized society needs to have a balanced outlook towards rights and duties, which is a difficult job to do. 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 becomes his duties. One’s own rights binds others and becomes others duties, and other’s freedom binds him in return.

Culture of India

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’. Both the systems leaves something more to be desired. 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. Advanced nations have succeeded in creating systems to keep an effective check on arbitrary behavior of people and developing respect for ‘rule of law’.

More stress on duties tends to make peopletoo humble, tolerant and submissiveeven toraise their voice against excesses and trains people in obedience without questioning. 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 regard doctrines of Dharma and Karma as norms and values of good conduct. It is applicable to everyone. It teaches individuals follow the path of righteousness. It develops harmonious relationship between different sections of society.

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 hadprevented 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 paradox. 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, organised 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.

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 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 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.

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.

Conclusion

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. Social values/norms/mannerism indicates how cultured/advanced or backward a society is. 

When a society/nation reaches to advanced stage of mannerism and attains an advanced stage intellectual, technological, cultural values and creates well-meaning systems for the benefit of whole society, then only it may be called a civil or cultured society in its true sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                       

June 26, 2012 Posted by | General | , | 192 Comments

   

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