Do the people living inside the geographical confines of India think about the future? By future, we mean the collection of ‘yet-to-be arrived’ points in the timeline of one’s life, in which one’s body lives and dies. 

Future is a relatively new term in the Indian lexicon, due to the historical importance of eternal recurrence as per the Hindu/Buddhist  traditions and the ‘heaven’ for the Semitic religions. Future in the current world becomes important only when the emphasis shifts from atman/soul to the body i.e. the perishable body in which one currently resides. Expectations, utopias and apocalyptic visions exist in multitude, mainly in times of physical, mental, economic and spiritual suffering. A cursory look at the surroundings will be sufficient to show the all-pervading nature of suffering in all realms (‘Are the individuals ready to accept the existence of suffering?’ is a different question altogether).

As someone born in India, I am not privy to the pride that I myself carry with respect to the past era. But, I am also aware of the burden of the past. Among which, the caste system is the foremost among factors which cripple both the individual and the collective. The conviction carried by the majority that only the progress of the group (be it family, party, state or country) is of significance, has its origin in the water-tight rigidity of the caste system. Only the caste can move ahead in the social strata, not the individual. All our structures reinforce this belief. The word ‘belief’ is used to emphasise the scarce application of reason. Upon this belief is superimposed the onslaught of laissez fair capitalism which is the culmination of the ill effects of western materialism. In effect, what we have in hand is a situation, where the burden of the past made further heavier, driving the society into despair.

While Gautama Buddha, the crowning jewel of all spiritual endeavours by mankind, talked about renouncing desires, we are currently in an era, where inability to distinguish between desire and need is the norm.  Nonetheless, desires are created every day, not only by the influence of neighbours, friends and acquaintances but ‘market forces’.

This is not to say that one should renounce desires during their youth and lead an 'ascetic’s life. However, the complete lack of interest/environment in  understanding oneself is indeed disturbing. For someone belonging to the mainstream Western civilization, it is well within their cultural purview to be indulgent in only sensual pleasures, because this is where at least a few had the courage and the environment to proclaim the death of God. On the contrary, it is disconcerting, when the people of the land of mysticism resort to thoughtless materialism. There is not even an effort to stop, think and take the next step. The only apparent path is noisy, chaotic and mind-numbingly competitive. It is a race to reach a destination about which the participants are clueless. Therefore, we are looking at a distant, hazy future in which the only surety is losing oneself.

One cannot trivialize this threat – that of losing the only aspect we can be proud of. Assuming the ability to read a book as the criterion to estimate the percentage of people capable of  thinking freely, we can arrive at an optimistic figure of 10%, the rest are too involved in the struggle for day-to-day survival to be able to spend time on thinking. A more pessimistic view would  not be unjustified either, primarily because reason and critical reflection are not one of man’s outstanding peculiarities, more so in Asia where the various groups (divided in terms of ideology, religion or caste) are bigger. These organized groups crush out the reason and reflection of the individual. This is necessarily followed by ideological tyranny when powerful institutions like media or the state fall into the hands of special interest groups like the business class.

The quest for truth can be conducted with some possibility of success only when the emotions attached to a particular situation does not exceed a particular level. If the emotionality of a situation rises above this, the prospect of rational argument taking place ceases and is substituted by clamours and fantasies. The collective possession of any original idea leads to a certain trivialization which kills the prospect of its development, at its very birth. A situation arises when those elements whose existence is merely tolerated, comes to the top because of their ability to raise noisy slogans. These noises are very well identified by the majority as their own, because of their familiarity and expertise in making similar sounds. These sloganeers despite their small number in comparison to the population as a whole are sources of decadence, primarily because of the limited self-knowledge of the majority. This is proved by the prevalent trends in popular music and cinema.

Self-knowledge, as is commonly used, is the understanding of one’s ego, which forms only a part of the mind. What goes on in the  subconscious is not only unknown, but is susceptible to dangerous influences which are beyond the control of the conscious. We should be aware of the existence of the subconscious, at the least. We need to be aware of the inapplicable nature of any theory as a guide to self-knowledge. Theories are based on statistical averages; statistics is the last branch of science which should be applied to understand human psychology. The individual is one of his kind, a unique phenomenon. He cannot be known by analysis or compared with anyone else. However, statistical averages are used to educate, cloth, rule and amuse the collection of individuals. This becomes all the more pointless when the individuals are ‘raised’ to increase the revenues of a company or a Government, because the fruits of money/power are enjoyed by a select few, in turn used to amass more of it.  Businesses and Governments don’t need minds capable of judgement but specialist mouthpieces who are useless outside their line of business. The bigger the crowd, lesser the individual finds his life meaningful, because of its common nature and the substitutability of his role in the society – whoever follows this line of thinking is on the road to slavery. The man who looks only outside for suitable ways to imitate is rendered helpless by the futility of his search. Such futile searches are the norm in our society – one is apprised of his irrelevance if he does not join a group. On the contrary, the one who makes the loudest noise is seen as a representative of the masses and applauded.  It is debatable if the noise is the representation of the masses or his own creation. 

Under the prevailing circumstances, it is natural that the individual judgment grows hazy and the responsibility for its development is assigned to the society. Society in turn, is an abstract idea, based on which manipulative individuals use Government, business and other organizations as a camouflage to conjure benefits for themselves. As a first step, it might help to realise this fact, before embarking on the tortuous journey of self-realisation.

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