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Evolving into a better today

We always speak fervently of the good old days, but were they so good? We connect the past to our childhood and view those days through the rose-tinted lenses of nostalgia.

The world, however, is a better place now than in the past. A vast majority of the youth are much superior than the previous generations in humanitarian values. Most people say that with age, they have evolved into better human beings. There are fewer wars than at any other period in history, hunger and poverty are at a low globally, education is widespread and quantum leaps in medicine and technology have extended and improved the quality of life.

As the years go by, moral values change. Can we even think of, let alone condone, the moral values of the 15th century or even later? Even one century makes a world of a difference. For instance, there was a time when slavery was the norm. And closer home, the caste system, with its oppression of vast sections of people, was considered normal. Long after slavery was abolished in the U.S., blacks were still not thought of as equals of whites; that change in thinking took much longer. Lincoln was responsible for the emancipation of slaves and we look up to him, but even he did not consider slaves to be equals of the whites. This has been deduced from his speeches. These were the prevailing notions at that time.

So the good old days may not have been that good. Indeed, today mankind is less brutal, violent and cruel. Wars do break out, but are nowhere near as terrible as the two Great Wars. All the holy books have passages which we do not care to imbibe in our daily lives today because we know them to be in direct contrast to our inner feelings of humanity and compassion.

Moral and ethical values change from time to time. What was punishable in the past has become legal today and vice versa. Equality for all men is rightfully the basis for our current morality. Hence it is incorrect to say that right and wrong are absolute — they are relative and change over time. Could we even think of same sex marriages half a century ago? The morality of the next century may evolve even further.

Here and now

These changes have absolutely nothing to do with religion or genetic evolution. It is in the very fabric of society and evolves from ordinary conversations people like you and me have and the books we read and opinions in newspapers and podcasts. We hear about ordinary people who do good and are inspired by them and we try to imitate them. It is a continuous slow wave of evolution in thinking.

Unfortunately, fundamentalists are trying to drag us backwards and that is something which any civilised society should resist. All fundamentalism is bad — religious, racial or any other. History gives us countless examples and has a way of repeating itself. Change is something we should all adapt to and fundamentalism will only serve to pull us back centuries. Flexibility of thought and tolerance are essential qualities of an evolved society and help to outgrow the past and adapt to the moral, ethical or more humane values of our current day.

After all nothing in this world is ever in black or white — they are all shades of grey! And the sooner we realise it the better.

drsheilabal@gmail.com


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:07:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/evolving-into-a-better-today/article34797619.ece

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