The Age of Moral Decline

Food for Thought

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The year was 1970 and I was in my final year of medicine. I went to visit a friend and his family who had recently moved from Calcutta to Bokaro, where his father had been appointed financial adviser to the Bokaro Steel Plant newly constructed with Russian aid.

One morning he and I set out for a hike in the adjoining Damodar River Valley region. It was summer, and at about 2 pm, exhausted and thirsty, having consumed all the sandwiches and water his mum had packed for us, we crossed a dry small riverbed and walked up a sloping bank to find ourselves on a bare earth narrow path that led to a small village. We stopped at a low-roofed hut-like structure that turned out to be a little shop.

Moral Decline. Pic – Getty Images

We greeted the man behind the counter and my friend asked him whether we could have some tea, to which he replied that he didn’t sell tea, but we could have water and some snacks. So, we sat down on a wooden bench against the wall next to the entrance and assuaged our hunger and thirst. After about fifteen minutes we got up and my friend paid the bill – about 25 paise (equivalent to our cents then), and we started to leave.

Curtly, the man told us, ‘Wait, where are you going? Didn’t you ask for tea?’

‘But you said you don’t sell tea,’ replied my friend.

‘I said I don’t sell tea, but I didn’t say you can’t have tea,’ he rejoined, even as his wife called as she held out a small tray bearing two small earthenware cups containing hot tea.

After drinking the tea, we got up and before leaving asked to pay. ‘I said I don’t sell tea,’ repeated the man in a tone of implied rebuke –‘How dare you offer me money!’

By all metrics this man was poor. And yet, he had a much greater wealth: a generous heart. It allowed him to forego the 10 paise or so that the tea cost, 10 paise which was a lot for him compared to what it represented for us. 

He was the rare soul, the kind that we would have to look for with a searchlight nowadays. Indeed, we are living in times not only of conspicuous and often unnecessary and unhealthy consumption, but also everyone seems to be in a race for more and ever more of everything, but especially of money and by any means fair or foul. Inevitably at some point in this frenetic pursuit the latter predominates. The result is the panoply of scandals that have plagued us both globally and locally, bringing about crisis situations at all levels of society.

Gosh, whatever does one need all those zillions for?! I hope that the culprits who were behind bars in the wake of the mega financial crisis of 2008-2009 gave some serious thought to that. I recall reading at the time a 4/5-page article in the Newsweek magazine on that scandal. After a lengthy analysis, the author summed up the causes(s) in one word: GREED.

Almost daily, wherever one goes, we are sure to hear that there is a decline in moral values, a diagnosis that is also made across the world, and its most exposed aspect is corruption. No country seems to be exempt, and unsurprisingly but curiously the higher one goes in the socio-economic scale the higher seems to be the level of corruption.

Formerly one heard about millions; now it’s only about hundreds of millions if not billions. Curiously – because those involved are already materially so well-off, not lacking anything whatsoever for their own and their families’ creature comforts. One would think that they would have some of the generosity of heart of that poor man in the outback of a vast country.

No, they don’t. Everywhere we see vast developments taking place, what we could call the hardware aspects of living – luxurious buildings vying in style with each other, transport and other physical infrastructure, shopping malls that are inculcating lifestyle changes that are not necessarily all conducive to better physical and mental health, for even the socializing that they foster has an air of artificiality about it.

Our social, political, and in some cases even religious leaders are no longer the role models that that they are expected to be, worthy of emulation by the youth. As the latter tend to imitate their elders, it’s no wonder therefore that they too are apt to fall into the bad ways that are on public display.

Alas, this is going to continue for a long time more, for we are living in what in the Indian tradition is known as the ‘kaliyuga’ era, one of moral decline that has followed the three earlier eras – satyuga, tretayuga and dwaparyuga – when divine incarnations, saints, sages and good people predominated.

Kaliyuga is characterized by the sins of: kama (lust), krodha (hate), lobha (greed), moha(delusion), mada (pride) and matsarya (malice) – note: the ‘a’ at the end is silent. It hardly requires any effort to appreciate that they are all present to a superlative degree nowadays.

Neha Borkar in Culture (April 2017) compiled a list of some predictions made more than 5000 years ago by the Indian sage Ved Vyasa in the Srimad Bhagavatam. He is bang on, as a few of them cited below will show:

  • In Kali Yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behaviour and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.
  • Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex.
  • As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of the social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.
  • The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.
  • Men will no longer protect their elderly parents.
  • Cities will be dominated by thieves, political leaders will virtually consume the citizens, and the so-called priests and intellectuals will be devotees of their bellies and genitals.
  • In Kaliyuga men will develop hatred for each other even over a few coins. Giving up all friendly relations, they will be ready to lose their own lives and kill even their own relatives.
  • Those who know nothing about religion will mount a high seat and presume to speak on religious principles.

Our only hope is the arrival of Avatar Bhagavan Sri Krishna, as He affirmed in the Bhagavad Gita: ‘Whenever there is a decline of righteousness [dharma] and rise of unrighteousness then I send forth Myself. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age.’

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 21 April 2023

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