Can we expect a better future?

Whoever one talks to these days cannot but feel a certain sense of despondency about what the future holds for us both individually and collectively

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future.
– Swami Vivekananda

Whoever one talks to these days cannot but feel a certain sense of despondency about what the future holds for us both individually and collectively. Obviously the widespread negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has done little to mitigate this pessimism and the foreboding of more doom to come. This is despite the announcement that the vaccines that have been announced and have started to be rolled out (in the UK and the US) represent a hopeful beginning in the eventual control of the epidemic. Nevertheless, as the authorities have cautiously reminded us the reality is that it is still going to be hard times ahead for a couple of years more. But all told, past experience tells us that in these matters it is better not to make any predictions, so we still have to keep our fingers crossed.

“‘Mindless violence stalks the world. Crime rules the roost. At all levels shameless corruption has become a way of life.’ These lines were written in 2000, but they could as well have been written yesterday, when we realize that the chilling realities that they describe are being played out around the world, right now in fact, and for how long more nobody seems to know. Unless we change our mindset and our course towards MAD: mutually assured destruction.” Photo – Financial Times


What is one the do faced with this situation? A good start is to draw some courage and inspiration from our sages. I have always found the quotation by Swami Vivekananda cited above to be of tremendous help. It applies to individuals as well as countries, for Swami Vivekananda always meant his messages for mankind in general, although he always emphasized individual understanding and initiative. Quite naturally of course because if we have to change mankind we have to begin with man.

In modern times we have been heavily influenced by a Freudian concept of the mind, which is basically that it is a store of repressed urges that cannot wait to get out and take hold of our lives. We are hapless victims of these impulses, and in order to understand ourselves we need to undergo psycho-analysis. This will reveal the devious rages that drive us, and by understanding them – during costly couch sessions – we should be able to reorder our lives.

The predicament of our present so-called civilization with screaming war-mongers at the helm is evidence that this method has failed. Urges continue to dominate our lives, in line with which we have tended to think of life as a disease to be cured instead of being an opportunity to express the beautiful side of our nature. Is it any wonder that we should be tottering on the brink of collective madness?

In ‘Learn to live,’ a publication of the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai, we read: ‘This is the best of times and perhaps also the worst. On the one hand the marvellous advance of science and technology is showering on us comforts and luxuries galore…The reverse of the coin, however, is terribly grim. Mindless violence stalks the world. Crime rules the roost. The exploitation of the “have-nots” by the “haves” is terrifying. At all levels shameless corruption has become a way of life.’

These lines were written in 2000, but they could as well have been written yesterday, when we realize that the chilling realities that they describe are being played out around the world and at home too daily, right now in fact, and for how long more nobody seems to know.

Unless…

Unless we change our mindset and our course towards MAD: mutually assured destruction. ‘Learn to live’ is particularly concerned about and addressed to the rising generations who are ‘caught in this whirpool,’ and whose greatest needs of the hour are ‘proper ideas, inspiring models and appropriate guidance.’

Leaders who rule the world today are locked in a seemingly unending spiral of violence. Through the bloody clash of the societies over which they preside or tele-control, triggered and sustained by the monster of terrorism and similar destructive impulses that arise from their dark insides, they are dragging along with them the rest of the world which wants to live in peace. All the billions that are being squandered to destroy people, countries and trust, and to constantly threaten each other could have been put to better use to feed, clothe, house, save from disease and treat the nearly two billion people who live in poverty.

On the local scene, where are the role models that we can recommend to the youth? They are to be found neither in the highest forum, the National Assembly, whence examples of gutter language and cheap jibes have been regularly reported – and now also seen on the television courtesy direct transmission for a number of years — , and which prevent debate at a level which would do Mauritian citizens proud.

Nor are they to be found amongst those whose underhand and shady dealings are hidden by the veneer of their educational and professional backgrounds, something that would lead the youth to expect from them a standard of behaviour that they would wish to emulate. The tragedy and irony is that such people are found in the key sectors of our society, in all professions, and at levels of society responsible for providing the multitude of public and private services on which the foundations of a smooth-running and just society depend.

To stop the rot from turning into deadly gangrene we need to understand ourselves as human beings whose essential nature is goodness. We have allowed this goodness to be damped down by layers of expectations and desires that, sure enough, arise in our minds. We must therefore go beyond the mind to what is meant to guide it, the buddhi (loosely translated as intellect) which can discriminate not only between right and wrong but also between the good and the bad when properly trained, that is, fed with good thoughts and filtered information especially that which is freely available on the internet and social media. It is only with this level of understanding and knowledge that we shall be able to tap the ‘strength and succour’ that is within ourselves, change ourselves as individuals for the better and impact upon others positively, and collectively prepare the future for our coming generations.

The cliché GIGO applies here: garbage in garbage out. We have seen how the minds of many young people around the world are being fed with radicalizing, ideological garbage that is leading to terrorist and other types of violence, resulting in the destruction of innocent lives in so many countries. As if the ravages wrought by the Covid pandemic were not enough. On the other hand, at the more mundane level there is an overload of consumerist information that builds up to excessive levels at this time of the year, a time of frenzied buying and spending – which will still be pursued Covid notwithstanding!

That is all the more reason why we need the discriminating power to spend wisely, among other things, and be wary of indulgence in matters of food and drink in particular. Enjoyment does not mean that we must ruin our bodies through excessive and improper consumption. If we care to reflect but a moment, we will realise that ‘making our own future’ starts by caring for our physical body and feeding our minds also with right thoughts, for a sound mind makes for a sound body: mens sana in corpore sano. Something to keep… in mind as we rush towards the festive season, dampened though it may be by the epidemic.


* Published in print edition on 15 December 2020

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