We are not happy as our forefathers were
The subject is ambivalent and applies to the present age with special significance. The reasons are not too obscure to scan. It is an age when tradition and progress stand almost fact to face. The bourgeoning young generation bred in the culture of electronics, computers and meta-urbanism sniff at the past generation as one of idle meditation, rusticity and values that have fallen into disuse. In actual reality, both are correct as well as incorrect.
Our ancestors lived in a quieter and more stable world. Science and its advantages played only second fiddle to human values: traditional aspects of human life, like the joint family. Respect for elders, love and affection for juniors and compassion for the disabled and those relatively in penury. Superstitions die hard rituals, inhibitions and mass illiteracy hung like a millstone round the neck of the society, no doubt. But evils like air-pollution, random fatal diseases, political violence, and terrorism were not even round the corner. Men lived in peace and amity. Trains, roads and other media of transportation were not crowded to suffocation. Men of older generations today complain about dearth of space and time. Their old age is generally spent within walled, narrow apartments; they cannot stir out in relaxed mood as the roads teem with vehicles. Let alone cities and big towns, in the evening, even small towns become overlade with smoke and petro-fumes, thanks to the vehicle explosion of the modern industry.
But the life in the olden times was not an unmixed blessing, the modern youths would say. The March and progress of science in the modern age has brought the earth and even the sky close together. The marvels of science, like the cordless telephone, fax, speed post and electronic mails, have speeded up the rate and volume of research. The satellites have expanded the panorama of human knowledge. Meteorologists are more accurate about weather and we can know ground conditions for plantation and agriculture more surely. As against this our ancestors lived a life of miserable complacency, they would complain. They would lean on their time-worn ideas and lead the life of a drudge.
The above argument is too powerful to be gainsaid. It is the law of nature, itself, that when a particular system becomes spent up, exploration begins on further quest. It applies equally to literature, society as also to science. Thus the modern age has taken its birth on the past systems and values that are moribund, now fashions, knowledge, know-how travel faster. The world today is thinking to live like a family of the human genus from where the narrowness of nationalism, chauvinism shall be banished. It is the light of modernism that has illuminated the Dark Continent, removed colour-bar, and a new pan-humanism has come to stay.
It is true that today science has bounded forward, but one regrets, too forward. The untrammelled atomic tests and explorations into the space have also brought in its wake some fatal curses like ozone layer, green-house effects. The consequences are too horrifying to recount. Fatal diseases like cancer, physical deformities and unnatural births are let loose like a monstrous menace. The balance is lost and we are reminded of the famous lines of W.B.Yeats.”Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
So we better not fall out with our ancestors over the advantages and disadvantages of our conditions of living; nor should they with ours. We should, rather formulate that tradition and progresses are not mutually exclusive. But an axiom of all civilizations is writ large today too powerfully: the humans, the flora and the fauna have to live within a balanced parameter, or woe betides our race!
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