|Contemporary Indian rock album art. Among the finest bands, this.|
There is no denying we are living in times of great moral darkness. Globally and nationally, human welfare has been reduced to just another item on election manifestos, and ethical living is popularly considered to be the refuge of the incompetent. Popular art and culture has almost entirely been hijacked by commercialism, sometimes even in the garb of conscious capitalism. Education has been institutionalized into an industry. The news media is no longer the watchdog of the citizens but panders primarily to the needs of those who garnish their salads. The good news is this widespread degeneration of civilization can only mean one thing – great good is on its way.
I was born long after India became independent, so my knowledge of how India came together as a people to claim independence is entirely from books and from hearing about it. And no, I don’t mean Rushdie and Guha, in case you are nodding your heads. I believe, as a people, we somehow connected to the fire within during those days. In the seven decades since, somehow we have lost that connection, and perhaps the fire itself. The richness of our culture, the depth of our philosophy and the respect for human life that is part of our spiritual identity as a nation, has also been dampened significantly along with that connection and the fire.
When we see the corruption around us, we complain but accept it. We still vote for candidates and parties whose track records show no commitment to human welfare or to honesty or integrity. We throng to the theaters to watch films that portray women as objects, and pacify ourselves it is just entertainment, and nobody learns lessons from movies anyway. With Devank, I no longer know if the television programming is more dangerous than the commercial breaks. I can go on without any fear of being branded anti-progress and anti-modernism. If this be progress and modernism, I can live with the branding. It will add to my “brand value” perhaps.
Where then, do I see hope? I see three developments that are of great importance. While the outcome of these developments might still seem uncertain, the ball has been set rolling. The world that will emerge as we suffer and learn our lessons might seem utopian and impossible, but then, if you read early 20th century commentary, we didn’t think we would get this far either.
The first is the emergence of instant broadcasting of thought and opinion through the tools of technology. The penetration of communication technology to ever increasing numbers has several benefits. The most obvious is the fact that it is no longer easy to suppress or censor information or opinion. You bulldoze your way through one court; a hundred other “courts” are waiting to deliver due consequence to you.
The second is the ability to share know how without being constrained by government or corporate regulations. Innovations and hacks can benefits millions with negligible cost of communication and bypassing all red-tape. The days when a select few could own and profit from ideas are on their way out. The ones who are still clinging on to “this is my idea” are in for a jolt. Whether you like it or not, we are going to “regress” to common ownership of resources.
The third is the sharing of aspirations. Communities or people are no longer insulated from the benefits that others are privileged to. The rise of the social media as an agent of change has been phenomenal, and in spite of big business trying to cash in on it by using it to promote their version of what is cool, it is easily the most powerful tool for human society to take itself to the next level.
Of course, it is not as simple as waking up one Wednesday to a fairer world. The Arab spring, the Occupy movement and the series of frothing-at-the-mouth issues in India have shown us how fraught with danger the path is. Frothing at the mouth has produced little more than froth. Acche din has been reduced to Shuruaat Anek. But what fills me with hope is the fact that now we have the tools we need to rationally navigate the trail that has been blazed. In my opinion, the spirit of man the world over is right now licking its wounds, regrouping and preparing a fresh gauntlet to throw to the forces that reduce us to greedy, selfish and vain animals.
Instead of looking at all that is not to our liking, it helps if we can see them as essential to our journey. We are not leopards. Nature seeks balance in everything, and great benefit cannot come without equivalent resistance. Instead of losing hope and cursing our times, if we can be filled with certitude of a brighter tomorrow and do what we can with the new tools that we have, we will sleep better, rise with greater determination, and be celebrant about what life puts on our plate. And from a personal perspective, I think gratitude helps you make better tea.
Damn, that was some tea I made this morning! For some reason, this piece chose me this morning. I will try gain the upper hand tomorrow. Till then, stay in touch.
[This piece is straight out of the keyboard, E&OE. Hitting publish as I log in five minutes late for my next thang!]
In the series so far:
An Arist's Date With Self Doubt
An Arist's Date With Laziness
An Arist's Date With Great Good
An Artist's Date With Writing
An Artist's Date With Tea
An Artist's Date With Reading
An Artist's Date with Good