Friday, September 28, 2012

What is Wrong with the World Today

      If you start out thinking in your mind that the answer to the above question is "nothing", then this post is obviously not aimed at you, for you have through great austerities reached a mental equilibrium where no external forces can disturb your peace, or have been simply to lucky to have been unexposed to sorrow or to have been blind to social injustice. However, I, as a commoner wonder what other people think is wrong with the world today, and whether their answers will go on to prove my own theories.
    To state the answer simply, people have no principles anymore. We have forgotten what principles actually mean, and people who exert strong opinions on the claims of uncompromising principles are just deluded in self created blur over principles and pleasures. Let me first present my case to people who do actually believe that there has to be some reason or rhyme to this existence of ours, albeit incomprehensible. I shall pose a few questions towards the end of  this blog to those who believe otherwise.
      When we set our "principles", what do they really achieve? "Good" people are principled in that they do not steal, or lie, or break the law. So far, so good. But, why do we believe that these qualities comprise good principles? Because, they help us to be better people, and we presumably care about becoming better people because we are not endowed with intelligence and wisdom, and put onto this Earth simply to lead depraved and indolent lives. But, today's society is far more complex than it was 4000 years ago, when these simple virtues were substantial to define a man's character, and by extension, the society's character. Today, we seem to have formulated and unquestioningly accepted a new standard for principles which no longer seek to improve our personal integrity, character, or contribute in anyway to making this life of ours more meaningful or at least move towards something that could hope to make this life more meaningful. These "principles" now address the need to be more economically, and socially powerful. For example, many "good" people believe and accept that social drinking is not only acceptable, but necessary because it is rude not to do so in a gathering and might hurt our status among our peers and colleagues, thereby affecting our chances to move up the fabled corporate ladders. Some argue that this is morally no different from adopting the prescribed dress code at work or in society even when this was not our preferred choice of attire. Unfortunately this only reinforces my understanding that we have completely blurred out the meaning of "principles". 
      I see no need to quote any scripture of any religion to exert that stealing and lying are despicable traits. For as long as history can remember, humans across continents and over thousands of years have expostulated through laws and religions that these are unfavorable and punishable traits. This is a self- realized truth, or in mathematical terms, a Law of human nature.
    Back to my example, we have to work, because we need to clothe and feed ourselves to live in this world.  It is an inevitable need of existence. Compromising something as superficial as a choice of clothing only to follow a work-code is a compromise of one's pleasure in order to facilitate one's basic function for an existence in the physical world. However, drinking is a matter of pleasure, and in some hypocritical cases only to elevate oneself in the workforce by appearing contemporary. Drinking is however slow poison to our bodies, quick death to our minds and cobweb over the brain. (Being drunk is an extreme situation not relevant to me. One does not need to be drunk in order to diminish these faculties; three sips are enough to initiate the process). All three faculties in that order are essential to us in understanding and moving towards a more meaningful existence. I urge my reader to understand that my issue here is not with people's drinking habits, but it has been used as an example to show how our principles in general are not concerned with making us into more moral or duty-bound people. When people deny the relevance of any act in impeding this progress, they testify my statement that people have no principles. When people justify the necessity of an act in the context of economic and social progress, they have blurred the lines between principles and pleasures, as defined in the preceding paragraph.
  Let me now redefine good people as those who are committed to the progress of man’s very existence, not single-mindedly involved in mundane idiosyncrasies.  The issue of drinking is only one tip of many icebergs. If we assess the relevance and necessity of every single act of our lives, we will be forced to conclude that a majority of them are in pursuit of pleasures. In other words, society as a whole is increasingly moving away from a path of inherent progress. With this as the fundamental nature of today’s society, we have no right to expect anything other than the sorrows and anomalies we perceive around us. 
     For those who do not believe that life has any greater purpose other than the attainment of self established goals and the “pursuit of happiness”, why do you believe that it is only your goals and your pursuit of happiness that has been sanctioned? Why is the thief down the alley not allowed to pursue his own happiness and his own fancies? What is the need for the law and order in our society, if there was no meaning to being good or being bad? Acting according to one’s own conscience seems to be the general laughable norm of this age; (I wonder what defines conscience and who defines it) if this is the right way of living, why is there so much suffering and unhappiness among conscientious people? Conscience should not be defined as a product of any scriptures or religious texts, for it is unscientific to reject their rhetoric on purpose of one's life but accept the means to achieve that very purpose. This only creates a paradoxical situation inducing one to redefine portions of "prescribed right way of life" according to one's own convenience. If conscience was another self-evident "Law of human nature", no two people should disagree on what is right and what is wrong. On the contrary, no two people completely agree on every single right and wrong in this world. The problem with conscience is that it is an exceptionally relative term, and as of today, there are 6 billion frames of reference for conscience, with a different value in each frame of reference. How can this then be an acceptable universal value of life?
      This is what is wrong with the world today: a mangled understanding of principles, and self-placating desire to act according to one’s own conscience instead of evaluating our progress towards making every individual life count for their time on this planet.



Lakshmipriya p s said...

This was a comment I received via email:
Nicely written Lakshmi . . . . actually does make one retrospect a lot about why things happe the way they do with logical people behaving eccentically in weird setups . . . . I guess the biggest problem with ethics and principles is that there is no real "Unified" Perspective with which they can be seen . . . .

I guess this is why the Mahabharata makes such a fascinating read . . . with all the seeming contradictions at every stage, conflicts within people and between people . . . . the fierce battles raging in the heads of various characters . . . . And yet, towards the very end, the Lord says clearly that Dharma is a natural process that any takes care of itself and the seeming winners in the world are those who can recognize the patterns of Dharma . . . . . the very fact that Dharma as a concept is a prophecy by itself allows us to focus on our longterm goals particularly on the emotional, intellectual and spiritual fronts . . . And all of that while still pursuing our materialistic goals . . . . What a gift from our scriptures!!!!

Lakshmipriya p s said...

My response:
i sort of skimmed the surface on why there is no "unified " perspective on what our ethics and principles today must be, each individual's goals are different, based completely on convenience, social and economic motivations. We placate ourselves by picking and choosing amongst scriptures to see what suits us, and try and apply those to ourselves, deluding that we are being good people and scientific and rational at the same time. The result is that we can all have different opinions, and hence started this nonsense about " There is no real right or wrong", and "as long as one does not betray his conscience, he is ok". If there is a god just and kind, none of these millions of conscientious people should not suffer in this world. Well if there is no god, there is also no real definition of good and bad...

Since you bring up the material pursuits that our scriptures have sanctioned us, I do not think that is true..Krishna sanctions pursuits in a material world (which is different from material goals), but he points the way with this verse,, right at the beginning in chapter 2, which I think is really THE most relevant one , and almost impossible to practice but where in lies the way to setting everything right with this world.

Karmanye vaadhikaaraste maafaleshu kadaachana
makarmafala heturbhoomatesangostvakaramani.

you have only the right to action , not to the fruit. LET NOT THE FRUIT OF ACTION BE THY MOTIVE, nor let thy attachment be to inaction.

Imagine you, me, manmohan Singh , Obama, everybody doing their job as an offering of love for the job, and only focused on doing it right, would there be so much disorder and discontent in the world. It is the attachment to the fruit of our actions that dictate our ethics, principles and understanding of life. If one can truly let go of that, one can progress . The spiritual progress is apparent, but all of a sudden it would seem the material progress would occur too if that was not the goal (Funny, isnt it?)

but, i try, and try...Krishna says do every action for me, I think one has to try with small things like cooking, eating, watering a plant, but even that is not easy, but it can only come with constant trying.

We keep hearing the refrain from our elders " do your best, and don't worry about anything else", but really we never do that. We do our best to achieve something material, a promotion, a raise, an award; but never because God has given us the ability, and it would simply be a shame to not do our best.