CRISES OF MODERNITY
We live in post-modern world amidst enormous technological developments, scientific innovations embodying modernity. Modernity is synonymous to “ Newness”. It can be deduced, therefore, that whatever new is ‘ modern’. We are incessantly busy like a monkey and chasing after this ‘new phenomenon’ without considering effects of our pursuits. The zeitgeist is such that by all means necessary, we must ‘become’ modern. Indeed, the characteristic outlook of post-modernity demands us to be ultra-modern. It means to embrace complexities forsaking our primitive simplicity. Misguided and confounded by allures of modernity, we are engaged in hot pursuits after the golden chimera. Unaware, totally, that we are standing on quick sands, we are gradually losing our foundations and it is going to devour us. As such just for our selfish reasons, we are extraordinarily busy with adornments for self-aggrandizements, for our families and yes, also for our nationalistic fervors. Instead of co-operation, peaceful co-existence, we strive steadfastly to gaining, mindlessly, for the interests of our families, own society and for the causes of our nationalism yet at the cost of our collective interests. It is a slippery slope as though a mere inattention will result in a sure descent to an abyss, irretrievably.
We can notice that break-up of the Soviet system has galvanized our collective mistrust in the socialist system. The aftermath of disintegration of socialist economy heralded unshakeable trends for globalization. Globalization literally means free economic interactions across nations of the world. It also means free trade and freedom to explore global commercial enterprises. States or governments would have lesser controls on economic activities; instead, private enterprises and initiatives would direct and guide new market economy. In actuality, whether governments ought to have no controls on the economy is greatly debatable as we fail to understand, fully, the complexities of modern economy. By economy, we intrinsically mean factors of demand and supply in which our individual and collective wants for basic food, shelter and employments are mitigated, meaningfully. It seems to me, that general understanding of the consequences of globalization are geared to ameliorating our collective material well-being which would bring about common good for all segments of human population across nations. Inextricably related to economic developments, obviously, is the political stability of respective cultures. If we look at Soviet Union and China, we see on the one hand, astounding economic progress in China due to stable political system presided over by CCCP, and on the other, near bankrupt economic meltdown due to lack of viable political system in the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. What is discernable here is that success of globalization greatly depends on concurrent existence, growth and developments of political systems in which an agreed-upon procedure as to how to bring about changes in the governing body remains well defined and widely accepted. Therefore, periodic elections after certain times, representative Governments with ethical accountability, freedom of press, rules of law and individual subjugation under law and order, equal opportunity, due process of legal systems and above all, transparency define the normative political culture. For the sake of collective well-being and to ensure common good, nation-states must consider an equitable distribution of wealth so as to uplift the neglected corners of the society as moral and ethical imperatives. In a free market economy, freedom to engage in competition is mere tautological argument. It is a truism but such competition remains ill defined as its deleterious effects, unintended hopefully, manifest an uglier spectacle of inequality giving birth to wide spread discontents across cultures. Resultant imperfections due to free-market competition brings forth monopoly in profit making, widening disparities between rich and the poor, unequal distribution of wealth and opportunities and exacerbate existing East West dichotomy. A new kind of violence is being introduced by the free-market competition in the wake of globalization. While the new information age aided by technological innovations inundate us with all sorts of useful and also unnecessary knowledge, it must be admitted that such deluge of information does not yield any knowledge of our inward transformation. Look around, you will notice unjust; incurable ills afflict humanity in an inexorable pace, in their quotidian living. It is an old-fashion to talk about peaceful co-existence, communal harmony and human community. There has been a death-knell of amity. Enmity has replaced spirits of amity. Death comes as a natural process when it is augured by decline of internal conditions. It is also caused by extraneous forces accompanied by sheer animosity. There lies an irreconcilable difference by the ways in which death introduces a culmination. The later is a more insidious than the other. It is uglier, deadlier and fatal.
We remain busy in anticipating various form of terror. The more varieties of terror we can invent or imagine, the more endowed we feel in our mental and cerebral fecundity. We pay homage to individuals, groups, nations who have greater contributions to inflicting incalculable misery, it seems. Human rationality as a collective body is cowed into submission before instruments of violence and catastrophe. Normative concepts and definitions of greed, hatred and harmony have undergone a huge transformation. Those who claim to be the pillars of our society are redefining these age-old concepts and leave a stark reality for our future progenies in which unwholesome is to be greeted as welcome attributes forsaking our collective conscience and sense of ‘right’ and ‘ wrong’. The hiatus and interstices between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, as a consequence, has been gossamer. Impervious, impenetrable can no longer withstand the onslaughts of modernity. Where the humanity is being led to ? Society is being gradually dependent on these blind leaders who are devoid of visual power, yet in charge of providing directions to masses. Human without humaneness proliferate the ranks and figures of such leaders as these visionaries have banished humanity to the morgue. Reasonableness, moderation, rationality with profound sense of humanity characteristically interfere into the affairs of these leaders and create battles within, at times, presenting irreconcilable differences. We are familiar with the adage ‘ Man is the best creations’. It can be argued, therefore, that ‘ inhumanity is the worst of all creations’. We do not realize the fall extant of this adage as we gain a limited, insular view right after our birth and remain beholden a generational insularity in terms of being influenced by inherent presuppositions. The fact that we are limited in our perspectives has its genesis in our birthright to inherit certain religious-cultural views.
We need to broach our religious-cultural views of rational and universal viewpoints. These views have shaping influences on our conceptualization of meaning of ‘religion’. What religion is differs from individual to individual. An individual’s understanding of ‘religion’ is partly rooted in socio-cultural-societal upbringing. Yet there are universal values of a common humanity, which embody intrinsic definition of ‘religion’. In simple terms, religion means an internal discipline to contain and nurture certain ‘virtues’. These virtues are to be accepted practiced with sane and rational understanding of causations. Mankind has many religions only to hate each other, accurately observed by eminent English thinker, Dr. Samuel Johnson. Indeed, in order to have a proper understanding of what religion is, we need to have rational understanding of differences between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. It’s foundation must be based an scientific rationality and ought be devoid of any irrational quackery. An irrational exuberance with its hypnotic power can present deadly consequences; as such even a lunatic can claim to assume a fatal attraction with its misguided power. It is due to these differences in our beliefs; humanity is divided across nations as ‘minority’ and ‘majority’. It is in our failure to understand some fragile differences in our beliefs; we fail to understand the common humanity, which binds us, more than divides us exacerbating various societal cleavages, animosity and hostility towards each other. We have banished from our collective thinking the fact that this world does not belong to any particular group or clan. Therefore, we must engage in and share with amity, alacrity with each other. In reality, we are committed to doing entirely the ‘opposite’. In the name of modernity, we advance and demand our putrid self-interests at the cost of our collective well-beings, at times. Our hidden jealousy with mercenary thoughts is incessantly busy like a monkey in bringing about conflicts, unavoidable, with its unwholesome results. Conflicts, internally, between the head and the heart, between edifying ideals and putrid impulses, between ennobling ideas and assumed reality present fractured identities of humanity. So, in most cases, we can not recognize our true selves. The selves within ‘self’ are fragmented breeding cognitive dissonance. As a result, we desire amity with our enmity at heart. There remain a chasm between what we utter and what we practice; what we believe to be sane and sacrosanct at heart is not matched by our actions, which negate the very foundation of our beliefs. We are in dire need of ‘friendship’ and compassion without any preconditions. And it is a reciprocal process. As reciprocity is the central theme of interpersonal conducts, we must learn to treat each other the way we desire to be treated at heart. This is not an adage but a prescription grounded in reality. If we unaware of this, such hidden jealousy, animosity will result in catastrophic maelstrom as greed for power will continue to confront humanity in search of new conflicts and all too often, with new names and in multifold disguises.
Love for humanity, compassion, humanistic & altruistic values are clichéd words without any substances. We are accustomed, in actuality, in our hot pursuit for unethical luxury with super-abundant necessity, which we deem to have as essential for quotidian existence. Our collective responsibilities do not gather us to stand shoulder to shoulder with an indivisible sense of community. Our shoulders have been platforms to launch vicious attacks against each other just so we can annihilate others with the fastest and the most effective methods possible. We are deeply immersed in selfish pursuits which keep an demanding only ‘me’ ‘me’ and ‘me’ even at the cost of collective well-being. Heavy at heart with indomitable greed for self-aggrandizement, our holy books can not seep into and inculcate nobler, kinder values to uplift us with humanistic values. On the other, without humanistic values, practice of religion and religious ideals can mere create sects and segments in human society only to exacerbate animosity and hatred against each other. To be truly religious is to be constantly aware about edifying values which nurture an inviolable purity at heart which permeate strict sense of purpose at maintaining peace, amity and non-violence as a same member of a human community. It is irreligious exuberance to be involved in mindless, wanton killings in the name of religion, Religious violence is an oxymoron and actions stemming from it are fraught with cognitive dissonance.
In Capitalistic economy, rich becomes richer and the poor gets indigent. Segmentations of human labor permeate a class division in capitalistic economy as we come to know from Marxist views which have resonance in current reality. A diurnal demand for accumulation of ‘more’ and ‘more’ transform our sensitivities into dull and callous objects contributing only to inflate our ego with in-substantive consciousness in which cacophonies of endless chatter in the form of ‘me’, ‘me’ and ‘me’ only exacerbate conflicts and division without any ends in sight. The conflicts between idea and action, utterance and thoughts, truth and actuality continue unabated as we are bent upon nurturing, harnessing this constant drumbeats of ‘me’. We are engaged in deadly competitions to advance such self-aggrandizements in very insidious ways, at times, only attempting to attain the highest place in the annals of human history, despite undeservingly. What one desires to secure for oneself, one wants to deprive the other of the same, lest the other becomes equal in material and intangible values. The desire to ameliorate one’s material condition is coupled with one’s deliberate intentions to deny the other of similar goals. We do not desire to share with others in empathy, sympathy and in altruistic values. We derive pleasure in outsmarting others by shenanigans, by polemics and by using deliberate subterfuge. We seldom dare to wish others happiness and prosperity, even in our private thoughts. Our camouflaged identities maintain our insidious thoughts yet to project us as humanistic, philanthropic and ‘educated’ beings. It is doubtful to claim that we are truly ‘educated’. To be intrinsically educated is to be devoid of barbaric impulses, devoid of hidden jealousy, envy and putrid ideas to dominate others. A husband with true education can never yearn to impose his arbitrary wills upon his spouse despite objections. Similarly a wife ought not crave to exercise her filthy, abnormal and hostile tricks, even silently, if claims to be educated, upon her husband just to keep him under her so-called full control. We often see the deadly effects of such control and domination which transforms, visibly, a masculine force into an ineffectual, uxoriously meek, sheepish voice. Such transformation is not borne out of healthy introspection as the noticeable effect of seemingly inviolable serenity lasts only in the presence of the feared enforcer.
Only true education with right views can bring about durable transformations. We ought to remember that ‘hostility begets hostility’. So long we harbor unwholesome impulses towards each other; our society will remain engulfed in unholy celebrations in which disorder, distrust and decadence will become the diurnal occurrence depleting humanity of any semblances of normalcy, peace and respectful co-existence.
Sujan Kumar Barua