Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Decade needs a new maxim

The Times Of India's Speaking tree column today has a very relevant article to mark the end of the decade - Balance your desires to avoid suffering.

Consumerism, world over came of age in this decade. As our economy began to bear the fruits of liberalization, the Indian consumer too became obsessed with brands. Material greed and instant gratification summed up and characterized by "Live as if there is no tomorrow" meant that values, morals and ethics assumed a lesser importance relative to competition, profits, greed and progress.

There is nothing wrong in working towards fulfilling our desires but the question to be asked is - Is there a sense of proportion and balance? Let me try to illustrate...

  • Recession - Primary result of too much speculation assisted by negligence and oversight. (Remember the age when the word loan was not invented)
  • Climate Change - Product of "We will grow come what may!" Whatever be the cost to the environment, I shall consume meat and drive to work every single day/it is not my concern - whether the earth is a better place for my progeny- as long as I am happy. (Remember your neighbor in office who is planning his vehicle upgrade and who consumes meat day in and day out)
  • Tribal/indigenous populations' unrest - Same story: As long as bauxite and iron ore fetch money, to hell with landslides and flash floods/My country needs resources and I will procure them if not within our borders, then in far off Africa. (Remember China in Africa and wealthy corporations in tribal lands closer home)
  • Civil wars and the threat of terror - The law is an instrument that is open to interpretation based on the need of the hour. Yesteryear friends can be today's foes if it suits me and keeps my country safe. (Remember US support for fundamentalists against Soviets in Afghanistan and the aerial bombings now)
  • Technology infiltration - When was the last time you smiled to a stranger? (Remember how listening to music on a ipod is more important and satisfying than striking up a conversation with a stranger while traveling)
  • Change in the nature of hobbies - Shopping with an obsession for brands, splurging on food and movies and the like...
  • Erosion of roots - Our memories are becoming weak particularly in remembering the lessons taught by history. We are forgetting our roots and relegating past to the back-burner in the crazy urge to pursue the future.
All these problems have their root in "Live as if there is no tomorrow"taken to its extreme. The high levels of testosterone in every sphere, the triumph of the individual aspirations (Remember vulgar displays of wealth, reality television stars and instant celebrities) and an appalling disregard for conventional manners and values - these are all defended steadfastly as part of the RACE to emerge the winner, however momentary and fleeting that position might be.

What we need in the new decade is a new maxim to live our lives by. This should factor in the consequences of our present actions and give room for introspection. "Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!" - Viktor Frankl wrote in "Man's search for meaning", a book I recently got to read. He explains that this maxim essentially means "Imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed, and amended". How beautifully worded to factor the consequences of our actions beforehand!!

Here is hoping that the new year and the new decade is more gentle and empathetic. All of us, through our actions should resolve to strive and make the world a better place for our brethren in the remotest corners and for our future generations.


V.Haricharan said...

Fantastic Post... A very poignant one too...

My thoughts on para 5 -

Reality TV has reared its ugly head. I can see that being frank (read rude), and talking cool (read foul words) are now considered as the trademarks of a 'banda' or 'bandi'... Frankly speaking I'm feeling sick of it...

"Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now"

Great Quote there... !!!!

Shiva said...

Thanks buddy! If you liked the quote, you will love the book too...!

Anandrajm said...

Very good one da... the article reflected few things in my mind :)

Shiva said...

Thank you Anand! I can kind of guess those few things :)