Summary: Modernity is the ability to move in step with the ever changing world.
|We have human beings who prefer to call themselves traditional or conservative or are so designated by their society. They are laggards in accepting a change and always try to preserve the existing order at any cost. It is probably because of their limited understanding that they are unable to comprehend a change or because of their satisfaction with existing order that they are reluctant to explore a change or because they failed every time they tried some change or they are simply stubborn and dogmatic. Every change haunts them with fear of unknown. At times, they prefer to be in fool’s paradise instead of attempting what is prudent and pragmatic.
There are human beings who claim to be Modern, meaning thereby freedom from all traditions and ‘relations’ whether good, bad or indifferent. Often nothing forbids them in taking any step in pursuit of their self interest. Their slogan is “This is my life”. They out-rightly deny/ignore their interdependence on their ecosystem. Many of the celebrities, particularly in the field of entertainment belong to this class. Their quest is for power and money and POPULISM is their religion. They reduce themselves to a branded product or service because that is what sells and is the road to material success. However, in my opinion their claims about being modern are dubious, since they are simply pursuing their self interest which is an ancient human sentiment as old as man on this planet. They do so by following what is in fashion or trend and manipulate themselves to a leadership position in the particular fashion or trend.
It is another matter that in pursuit of their self interest they often run in to conflict with their inner self and external environment since human beings are different from realities of the market place, become lonely and isolated and have to lead a cocooned existence within an image/brand of their own creation. They often become victims of their own image. Some of them realize their mistake but by then it is generally too late. It is generally not possible for them to strike a balance between realities of the market place and the human being that they are. Means to happiness have become the ends and there is an eternal conflict between means and ends within them.
Truly modern people either provide intellectual leadership in their domain without succumbing to the prevalent values, ideologies and pressure of influential groups or social leadership by providing innovative solutions to age old problems of their society for example Mahatma Gandhi in leading Indian Freedom Movement. They are not following a trend. They are only trying to do what they think is right, irrespective of materialistic considerations.
There is yet another class of human beings who claim to be modern, yet traditional. To this class belong the majority of human beings. They want to enjoy the best of both – the richness of the old world and allurements of the new world. They are generally a confused lot since they do not know how to reconcile old world with new world. Because of their internal confusion they often wander from one pole to another and ultimately settle down as a traditionalist who may prefer to keep the mask of modernity. When you scratch them hard, often you will find a traditionalist masquerading as a modernist. They are simply unable to find their place in the new world order.
We all know that it is an ever changing world for one or the other reason, yet there are several aspects of human existence that do not change with changing world such as human sentiments, biological needs etc. Commensurate with it several of the human needs also have not changed. During the present times and the past century technology has led the change in human society by changing ways and means humans use to satisfy their needs. So change is principally in the means and not the ends. From the perspective of human sentiments, needs have remained the same. Even approach to satisfy the needs has not changed much and is largely sentiments driven. Therefore, it is not surprising that the markets, especially the stock markets are largely sentiments driven. All the scientific and technological advances have failed to change human needs significantly or to make man wiser or prudent and pragmatic.
Today, whatever one needs materially is available in the market place for a price. So, no need to be bothered about family, friends and society. One can make and break relations as per the needs at the spur of the moment. No need to hang around with old and obsolete stuff. No need to carry the historical baggage.
Therefore social websites like face book are a resounding success. But somewhere along the path, the issue of branding or reputation creeps in. So you can not open your heart out. You have to keep your brand image. You are always scared that if any of your human weaknesses is revealed before your face book friends, you stand disgraced. Your age old ego does not allow you to afford that. The old values you wanted to break free from haunt you. So you create boundaries or distances between your real self and your face book friends. So you isolate yourself and continue to be lonely as ever. You have no body to help you move up the learning curve or to negotiate a change or a need. There is none to share adverse moments/sentiments/feelings. There is none to provide social support system except probably your own family, relatives and your real friends in bone and flesh whom you have discarded since long. There is none even to celebrate moments of sudden joy. So ultimately you realize that your facebook friends are not real friends because you can’t afford to connect to them truly and sentimentally.
On one hand image appears to be real since it is your branding – your keys to success in this material world and you have to preserve it at any cost, whatever it may cost you as a human being. On the other hand you are a human being with all the emotional and material needs every human being has had since the days of Adam and Eve. So you can’t totally abandon the human in you and your biological self.
The key sentiment underlying modernity is desire and need to move in line with the times and the key issue is how to reconcile the human in you with the rapidly changing, science and technology driven human society. It is a question of reconciliation of past, present and future so that you can swiftly move through changing times without disturbing your peace and tranquility and without phobia of unknown. This is a never ending gigantic intellectual effort since life poses its challenges every day and you have be too ready to happily meet them. One has to live every day. This is probably the right way to keep body, mind and soul harmony. What really is of help is our understanding of the world at large. Both, life and existence are perpetually balancing acts. There is nothing like static equilibrium. We are always in a state of dynamic equilibrium.
Nature has gifted man with the faculty of awareness or voluntary intelligence with the hope that wisdom shall prevail in life of human beings. Unfortunately, looking at the way man has put technology to use and suffered fragmentation of human society in return for his selfishness, it is not difficult to conclude that human behavior is still largely sentiments driven, far from prudence and pragmatism.
Therefore modernity would lie in striking balance between past, present and future and it can’t be acquired by sentiments alone. It requires proper understanding. The keys lie in detached objective critical analysis and holistic thinking starting from whatever station of life you are in. Accept no limitations to your intellect. Think beyond dogma, tradition and boundaries of your current domain. Develop a proper understanding of things and events. Cognition and differential response are the keys to what is right and just. There is no use in blindly following tradition or dogma. We must appreciate that we are largely rational entities and not historical entities. Rationality is the common thread underlying past, present and future.
Therefore to be modern means to be wise, prudent, pragmatic, fair, just, reasonable etc. while keeping one’s dynamic equilibrium. The one who blindly follows what is in fashion or in trend only to masquerade as modern can’t be regarded as truly modern.
Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor has written the book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. “What is modernity?” is in line with author’s understanding of nature.