Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Defining Progress

Photo: Benjamin

What is progress? Does it mean production of more machines or better machines? Does ability to buy more or the mere availability of options constitute progress? Although "progress" is heavily used in generic term, it is very difficult to define it in true sense.

Broadly speaking progress means moving forward, but it is vital that we know the difference between moving towards a better place to that of end of cliff. For more than 90 percent of human history man has been a hunter-gatherer. But in past couple of hundreds of years we have taken a huge leap whether it's in terms of social, economic or industrial level. It's like running a marathon without looking back or front, just running as fast as possible to reach the destination. But problem is he doesn't know where the end line is and ends up running in an endless loop exhausting himself to death.

Our growth in terms of science and technology has been exponential but the core nature of human behaviour hasn't changed much since stone age. What separates us from that of other animals is our inquisitive nature. We don't just stop at knowing how things work but we have a need to know why. And this has acted as a double edged sword to us since we are now in a position where we are too powerful for our own good. Unfortunately we are in a state where what we do not only effects humankind but the entire planet.

If we were to look at history, a common trait witnessed is that civilizations thrived when natural resources were in abundance. And the moment there was scarcity, survival depended on spreading the settlement to the further corners of the world were those requirements were met. Otherwise leading to the downfall of the entire civilization in a short period. But current scenario is very different than ancient times because today we are one civilization. There is no segregation like -Roman civilization or Indus valley or Mesopotamian civilization, if we go down then entire human species are at stake. And soon we will find that we have no more place to spread to (unless you are counting on moving to different planet), which leaves us in a very critical crossroad.

With our limited resources and unlimited needs we are on the brink of losing balance. It is easier to think that solution to any problem is - money. All you got to do is earn more and buy more, but sadly it is not as simple- much like water lilies. When we see a pond full of lilies it is very pleasing to the eyes but do you know that they kill fishes and pretty much everything else in the pond? They grow at alarming rate if not monitored, cut-off sunlight and oxygen supply leading to the death of other living organisms.

When was the last time you bought something you never intended? Don't worry you are just one among the millions, victims of a planned trap- a materialistic culture built by investors and business moguls across the world who make sure you keep spending. Which has led to the problem of overproduction and over-consumption which like water lilies looks alluring from outside but when unmonitored what it does is eat up the entire civilization.

There is nothing wrong with being materialistic but it is important that you know what is it that you want, otherwise you would be just chasing wind but at a far greater peril to the world. If we are indeed the most intelligent species on the planet then why are we ignoring the problems we are facing? Unless of course we accept that we are selfish in nature, and that we don't care if future of our species is in jeopardy.

Progress doesn't mean building bigger houses or buying faster cars, it means evolving to realize what is it we really want. Final goal is never to have lot of money, it is what you want once you have that money. So in that sense progress means different things to different people. But essentially progress should make you feel happy. And that is the question you should ask yourself before undertaking any step towards "progress". Real progress would be to reform ourselves, fight against that inner animal nature and evolve into better human beings.

"Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man."
                                                                                                                       ― C.S. Lewis

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