The Civilised Mankind
The concept of evolution is usually taught in school and so is the history of mankind. If my memory serves me well, they start with the pre-historic man and explain how over time he invented the wheel and fire and gradually became what we are now. Over these years, it is not just man that has evolved and changed, it is also his society that has changed. I do believe that I one should not lose touch with their roots as they bear us afterall. I often wonder if the way we are evolving is heading for good or bad. Having said that, who is to tell what is good and what is bad. According to Hinduism, time is divided into four eras and we are in the fourth one called ‘Kali Yuga’. This is the period in which morals will be at their lowest and the rulers will not care about their subjects anymore; people will commit murder for no reason and still justify; people will explicitly show animosity towards each other etc. This belief is also a good prompt for me to probe into where mankind is heading, atleast in my head.
Years back, when I was in school, I remember entering a poster competition and to tell you the truth my mom made the poster and it was her idea. She drew a man just covering his modesty roasting an animal he killed to eat and another man in hunting outfit and a gun killing an animal for the fun of it. The caption was ‘Who Is Civilised?’ and it was appreciated so much and I took all the credit! So many years later, this question still bothers me.
Years back, man recognised that he cannot be self sustained as the natural resources in this world are distributed and not everything is available everywhere. He then introduced the barter system where he would exchange his surplus for something he does not have. Possibly because the value of each item is only as much as it is perceived by the buyer, he came up with the concept of money. Some say ‘God made man; man made money, money made man mad’. How true this can be, I wonder. We created boundaries for ourselves and called them countries; then created money and attached ‘value’ to it and because of this perceived value for the printed paper some countries are deemed rich and some poor. It is a shame that on one side of the world we have people getting into fine dining restaurants, social drinking and partying while several people are dying of drought in another part of the world. Somalia for instance had a thriving civilisation and the country was strong enough to fight foreign invasion four times. It was finally defeated and like most other colonies, eventually gained independence. In the name of power and in the name of development of a portion of the world population, several are left to suffer. I wonder if the world would have let such a drought happen and people suffer in the Arab countries because afterall, rest of the world needs the oil so that makes it important to ‘support’ and ‘befriend’ these countries. Is mankind moving to a state where we do something if and only if we benefit from it?
I was appalled by some news I heard while watching a local Indian channel. It reported that some elephants have been bothering a few campers in a forest in a hilly region and they have been destroying their camps and scaring away people. The students who were camping were complaining about the elephant attack. When you go to a forest, what do you expect to see other than wild animals? If they were scared of elephants imagine how intimidated the elephants would have been seeing humans in their home. We encroach their place and expect to be welcomed and this makes me wonder if humans want only human race to flourish. It is time for us to realise that it is impossible for us alone to survive as it defies nature’s laws.
I am not a scholar by any means but my understanding of various religions is that they all suggest that people should not develop hatred, instead they should love each other and be tolerant to all. It is true that over the years, mankind has made more attempts to understand nature better and using the newly gained knowledge has also made ‘inventions’ that have been beneficial to the society. However, man’s desire to explain everything with science seems to mean that some refuse to accept religion or God saying it to lack scientific explanation. A simple example from my religion is how it says one should abstain from sex with anyone other than one’s spouse. Many would much rather wait until man discovered the HIV and also deciphered that it is sexually transmitted. Now it is waiting time for the vaccine to be developed. If only the time and energy could be spent on instilling the discipline outlined thousands of years back, we will not have to worry about this deadly infection.
Disregarding a set of disciplines laid down over thousands of years can only mean one learns the lessons the hard way. This is not the first time I am writing about how despite being so na?Ã¯Â¿Â½ve, mankind is so arrogant and boastful of technologies they have put together. If they are not able to give a scientific explanation to something, then it must not be true. Why do we forget that at one point in time we did not even know the earth is round and that goes to show that as we spend more years on this planet, we learn more. That is probably why our ancestors said what we know is fistful and what we do not know is as big as the earth. Technology growth is now becoming so important to every country that many have invested in nuclear technology and can destroy the world at the touch of a button. The sad part is each country is doing so to defend them from another and it is not like the other country is filled with beasts, even they are humans. In the name of self defence, we are happy to cause damage to the planet for years to come. The example of the Hiroshima Nagasaki bombing is a classic one where people are affected even now, years after the bombing. I wonder how many other species on earth actually go to this extent to defend or avenge.
With advent of technology I think there is more and more separation from real life. Recently I heard someone say that the next big thing in technology is networking of all gadgets in the house so they talk to each other and run at the optimum time and level so they are energy efficient. I could not help but laugh thinking of how the technology makes gadgets talk in the household while the family members do not talk to each other while holding their funky electronic kit. How far away are we drifting from our roots? Another piece of news that left me baffled was how countries are fighting for the most shares of whales they can fish from the ocean. They have been killed in such huge numbers that they are a threatened species now and yet countries are allowed to kill them illegally. How arrogant must humans be to sit down around a table and debate on how many whales one can kill in a given year. To me that seems to suggest humans are losing their unique characteristic – being human(e). We are probably becoming a fastidious race of people who are in constant pursuit of something, especially something that you can gain control of. What we probably do not realise is it is very important to appreciate what is on hand while looking for new things.
Here is the other school of thought – the theory of survival of the fittest makes me wonder if as a race we are heading towards extinction and there will really come a point as written in the scriptures when Kali Yuga will end, world comes to an end and new one created. It is scientifically established that the Ice Age did happen and change the landscape of the earth; the Pangea did break to form the continents we currently see; the dinosaurs did become extinct so maybe mankind will perish at some point and we are just paving the way for that. Even if you do not believe in God or the scriptures, science has clearly explained that such drastic changes have happened in the past and possibly, one such change is what brought humans to life. Is it then possible that what we are doing now is leading us to destruction, just how nature may have it planned or could it be that we are accelerating nature’s plans? Somehow, the idea of destroying one’s own home does not appeal to me. Having said all this, I must admit that I am not a person who does not use technology because the very fact that I am writing this article shows I embrace it. I am not suggesting that we go back to cave man days and live in our caves and hunt animals down for food and wear hides. While we make technological advancements and focus on ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’, we may need to be mindful of the fact that we are creating wider gap between people who do not even have food or water and those that have their gadgets talking to each other. If we fly too far from our home, not knowing how to come back, we will be lost. We should not get carried away and lose sight or control of our building blocks. In my mother tongue there is a proverb that means beyond a limit even ‘amrutham’ (the ultimate dessert) could become a poison.
Togetherness seems more common among animals than humans at this day and age. I would like to think that whether we rise or fall as we evolve; we should do so as a human race and not as countries. If man takes so much pride in being different and advanced than animals, then we should start showing that in our actions. It is very important to preserve the difference between animals and humans and bridge the difference between humans. Civilise means coming out of a savage; enlighten; refine according to the dictionary. It is time for man to have a re-think about whether our actions now are indeed civilised.
The Civilised Mankind