The only thing we do is write angry posts about society and Government. Maybe it’s time we take some responsibility.
Why all these flies, why all these gliding ghosts, why birds and beasts, from quality and kind, why old men, fools and children calculate; why all these things change from their ordinance, their nature, and pre-formed faculties, to monstrous quality — why, you shall find that heaven hath infused them with these spirits to make them instruments of fear and warning unto some monstrous state,” asks Cassius in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He tries to suggest that when all the things around us cease to exhibit their regular or inherent qualities and take some horrible shape and form, it is a warning from heaven — the unnatural state of things warns us that something untoward is likely to happen.
In Julius Caesar, these were projections used to unnerve a gullible Casca into believing that Caesar’s rise to glory was what the heavens did not approve of. However, it can apply even to the world we live in today. The screaming headlines, the scary news reports full of spine-chilling details that we wake up to every morning suggest that something is rotten in our seven-decade-old democracy.
There are recurrent signs of our society going awry. Recently, three girls died of hunger in the nation’s Capital. In the same National Capital, members of one family were found dead under suspicious circumstances. Reports suggested that they were under duress. And why just the Capital? In July, Jharkhand saw six members of a family end their lives over similar reasons. And just two weeks later, in the same State, seven members of a family committed suicide, leaving a note which said that they were taking the extreme step because they were in debt. They had been unable to repay a substantial amount of money they had borrowed from different sources for the medical treatment of their child. Are we gradually drifting towards an orderless society? Has it become normal for us to read about people dying for such reasons or to find out about mobs lynching people in broad daylight?
The Nirbhaya case of December 2012 was, it now seems, just a precursor to the horrors that are now unfolding. Reports of gang rapes continue to appear, that too at a nauseating frequency. This tendency to treat women with violent contempt has brought India the kind of infamy that will take some time to be wiped off. Nirbhayas are wronged across the country on a daily basis — be it in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur or Haryana’s Jind. If the global opinion finds India among the most unsafe places for women, we have only ourselves to blame. Reports about sexual exploitation of more than 30 minor girls at a State-supported shelter home in Bihar scream of a collective failure for us as a society and a country. For how long and to what extent will this go on?
Rise in population and the resultant crowding that social scientists have been warning India against for quite some time, still continues. The fact that it is the cause of many evils has become common knowledge. And still, it persists to threaten us with more mind-numbingly dreadful incidents in store.
There is another aspect to the story that throws up a contrast. It is to do with the rise in the Gross Domestic Product and the growth prospects of a trillion dollar economy. Whether it is financial jugglery or fuzzy logic is besides the point. Because the fact is that even these seemingly promising statistics are hardly reassuring when one looks at the social evils staring us in the face. Because the question is, how is this kind of progress ever going to help us?
Governments have become the favourite whipping boy of all and sundry for any kind of problem that society faces. Maybe it provides some kind of catharsis, a vent for pent-up feelings that mount year after year. The frustrations, the angst, the failures, the lapses and of course the wasted opportunities — they all pile up and reflect in our statements about our Government. However, we need to introspect to find out if our ire is directed right. An honest evaluation will reflect that it is not. Had it been so, we would have rid ourselves of the problems that continue to bother us today at the same nagging pace even after we have had 16 Parliament Elections and chosen 14 Prime Ministers. We could not get the redressal of our grievances because we have been barking up the wrong tree. The Government is not the problem. The problem is somewhere else. In the society, which seems to have lost the fundamental human qualities of compassion, love, camaraderie and concern for fellow beings, a society that has turned paranoid, it is important to think hard about what it is that we are really angry about. We must try to find out the reasons for this derailment in society. It is a job cut out for social scientists. Why does even advancement in science and technology, or growth in economy, or improvement in school education fail to curb these basal tendencies?
The one word that can define the state of our society today is ‘anomie’. As self-interest gains precedence over national interest, the situation only worsens at every stage. Problems that earlier affected smaller areas and for shorter duration have acquired gargantuan proportions. For instance, floods used to be a regular feature in various areas of several States as swollen rivers would run amok. But with every passing year, boundaries of the areas affected by such a calamity keep expanding. There are areas where people have started to dread the rainy season. And the same applies to droughts. Only a couple of months ago, parched farm lands forced farmers to end their lives. Come winter and long duration of widespread fog affects life in many regions. We have not improved our handling of these problems. We have become more vulnerable. Because our standard response to this is complaining about the aid in the form cash and kind. It’s simply convenient to talk about the role of the Government, write some angry Facebook posts, and eventually forget about what happened. We fail to talk about the role of individuals in creating an environment for sustainable development, in identifying ways through which we can help our society and our economy progress simultaneously.
Commercialisation and commodification of everything has brought our society to an impasse. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp do indicate that people at least understand that something wrong has happened and that they want to create awareness about it. But it should not stop at just that. Our duty as individuals should not begin with reading those posts and end with forwarding them with one or two added comments. There is a need to think of the remedies to reinvent society. The first thing that is needed is ‘renovision’ — a different, perhaps more rational way, to look at the problems that face our society. We have been playing the blame game for far too long.
When we invoke the Constitution, our focus should not be on just the fundamental rights. It is about time we gave a thought to our fundamental duties, too. Our emphasis on technology-based education has, at some instances, come at the expense of inculcating the right values and inspiring interest in the social sciences. Progress cannot be guaranteed by technological advancement alone. It comes from a proper attitude. The attitude that guides one to think right and drives one to act right.
For decades, our focus has been on functional literacy. Computer literacy, too, quickly acquired a place of importance in our scheme of development. But in this process, we might have made the blunder of neglecting ethical literacy. It is time for us to go back to the basics. Ethics will form the very core of our development as a society. As individuals, we clearly and urgently need to get much better at being able to discriminate between right and wrong. As Swami Vivekananda once said: “So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!”
Writer: Pramod Pathak
Source: The Pioneer