What is modernity, or modern civilization? It is not a thing or substance. It is a way of believing, thinking, and acting which is now consuming the whole modern world.
Modernity is based upon western civilizational thought and behaviour. Its main characteristics are:
1. An economic system based on the thoughts and theories of Adam Smith who said that a greedy pursuit of making money by everybody is needed in society.
2. A social system based on the thoughts and theories of Charles Darwin, who said 'only the fittest shall survive', and therefore, life is a constant struggle; each one has to fight others for superiority.
3. A science system based on measurement and quantification; i.e. what can be measured by man exists, what cannot be measured by man does not exist.
Such a way of believing, thinking, and acting is modernity, or modern civilization. We may not be aware of it, but if one looks at one's own environment, we can see that this is evident in all our endeavours. Look at our schools. We send our children to school so that they can be made ready 'for the market', to get money, to fight for success. Values and ethics are not measurable, and therefore ignored - this builds their 'scientific temperament'. The same is true of our office jobs, of our bureaucracy, of business and of the political system itself - all these we have directly copied from English civilization. In each of these, the system is designed to increase insecurity, not lessen it. Greed for reward is used for survival and growth. One fights others so as to get ahead. And the only measurement is of things material - sales, profits and personal gain.
1. Fear and Greed are undesirable.
2. Society be harmonious such that it helps man know himself, so that he rises above greed and fear.
3. The soul, which cannot be measured, is far more important than the body. Peace and happiness, which cannot be measured and quantified, are more important than creature comforts and possessions.
Such a way of believing, thinking, and acting would constitute the Indian way of living.
We can see now that based upon these two sets of foundational thinking, the form and structure of society would develop along vastly different lines.
In modern civilization, a greed-based economy implies big and powerful businesses. Millions of people are naukars or employees. Everyone is constantly hungry. There are no limits to growth. Any activity making money is justified, even anti-health, anti-peace, anti-environment activities.
In Indian civilization, a need-based economy implies self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency propels self-employment and local entrepreunership. The aim would be to produce most goods needed within the community itself, for itself, and not for global domination. Producers and consumers live together, so there would be no economic activity which is socially or environmentally disruptive.
So we can see that both models have economic systems of production and exchange, but they will be different. This will also be reflected in their social rules of behaviour. In modern civilization, it is each man for himself; society is a collection of separate individuals, each of whom has 'rights' to collect property and materials, according to individual goals. Whereas in the community model, society or community is a collection of producing families. Every person has duties and responsibilities, for the goal of common good.
If one goes to the very core, the difference in the two models is that systems of modern civilization are based on the pleasure of the body, which is why it has been called materialism; the needs of the body are only material. Whereas Indian civilization is spiritualism; it is based upon needs of the soul, which are peace and happiness. These are two different world-views, ways of perceiving the world, and we have to be clear about what we are. If we indeed are following the western, materialistic model, are we aware of it, is there a national consensus on it? Going this route means we are preparing for large scale destruction of village communities and natural resources, and creating an insecure, greedy and violent society. I think many of us are making a great mistake in assuming that we can use the modern civilizational model and still achieve the goals of Indian civilization. That this is a blunder can be seen in our experimentation of the last 65 years, and especially of the last 20 years. An unthinking copying of the English followed by a foolish copying of the Americans has created great turmoil in the nation. We have a political and business elite which is ugly in its greed and grab role, and we have an academic and scientific elite which is fearful and pitiable in its chamcha role. We are less happy, less generous, and more insecure and more violent than we were in 1947.
The reason is that modern civilizational society has the desire and spirit of colonisation, which is exploitation of others for personal profit. Modern democracy must be seen in this light; it is the political vehicle to achieve the commercial ends of a ruling elite. Parliaments, therefore, have become pawns of business corporations. If we desire the qualities of the asura, it will be foolish to hope for a society full of devas.
So what can we do now? In India, we have seen traditional Indian society develop over two thousand years. It is not difficult at all for us to strengthen that if we wanted to. This is not to say that we have to live in the image of the past. We can give full wings to our creativity, enterprise and energy using the achievements of the contemporary age. The important point is the decision about which model we want as the basis for our socio-economic systems. We have listed the points at the beginning, please see them again and decide which would you want as the basis for a society for your children and grand children. Also remember that even though we are now copying the modern model, more than 80 per cent of India is still Bharat, with a traditional structure conducive to our way of civilizational thinking. I know that the ten per cent of English-speaking urban elite may find what I have said here somewhat unusual, but that is because they have lost touch with Bharat. This is not their fault, that's the way our society has panned out. This is one reason this blog is in English, and posted on the internet - it is addressed to this ten per cent who are today's elite, or rather, trapped as today's elite in India. They deserve to know the whole truth, the fundamentals of where we are standing, and where we are headed.
If indeed we want a society where the objective of the education and development of man is to attain a state of peace and happiness in a harmonious society, it is in our hands to build such a society. Its key words will be sustainable communities.
What is this concept of community? It will be worth exploring this next.