Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Our consciousness is agitated by all the troubles and problems surrounding us. We may even feel that perhaps never before was India laid so low as she is today. The corruption, dishonesty, strife, disparity, ignorance, poverty, exploitation, degradation of the soil, water and air, unemployment, frustration, crime, violence … The list could be endless.
Thinking about others, where this at all happens, has itself become something parochial, defined in oppositional terms to others, camouflaging the deep fissures within. We think from our petty rather than our enlightened self. It has become something provoking cynicism among most people, thanks to the poor example set by the so-called leaders in all sectors of society. For many, being concerned about others is something irrelevant, unnecessary, unjustified. The predominant urge is to look out for oneself, to try one’s best to fulfill one’s own aspirations, often without worrying too much about the means adopted. Then there are those whose professed concern for others only reflects their own vanity, arrogance, quest for power and domination over others.
Amidst all the competition, the sky-rocketing cost of living, the media images projecting superior life-styles, rising aspirations - little else concerns us other than ourselves and our own well-being. And so we blind ourselves to what is happening around us. When we are troubled or disturbed by something that we see or hear which we find offensive, or unjust, or shameful, we suffer doubly for our sense of impotence and ineffectuality against forces that appear too large, too abstract, too powerful for us to be able to do anything. This gives rise to a destructive rage within us, that is ultimately only self-destructive. Or we swallow this unease, maybe even vengefully seeking to become one with what offends us.
Meanwhile, much as we are full of ourselves within the country, the fact is that in the international arena, India is still a marginal entity. It would be difficult for any Indian to walk with his head erect in front of the world community. Things happen here that do not, would not, happen anywhere else. But they can happen here, with no difficulty.
Nowhere else is such illiteracy, disparity, injustice, apathy, impoverishment, suffering, wanton destruction of human potential and false arrogance to be found.
Not that this really matters to most people. We are all so full of ourselves, our own goals and targets, our thoughts and rationalisations, justifications and explanations. But for any outsider, we are irrevocably Indian. And for them, India is ultimately a land of poverty, destitution, ignorance, superstition, over-population, disease; a nation teetering on the edge of catastrophe.
Such views offend us. We want to have a positive feeling about ourselves – but without doing anything to really deserve that. We are satisfied with a false sense of achievement, superiority, pride. In fact, today it is truly difficult for any person of integrity to speak of our civilisational values, our ancient wisdom – our reality is too shameful to permit us to wax eloquent on this.
The sense of shame is also something basic to our make-up. Our need to feel upright, to be free from shame, in others’ and one’s own eyes, is perhaps our most fundamental urge as humans, as social beings, as thinking and feeling beings.