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The Year of Moderation

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Humankind needs to moderate its consumption excesses now, and save the earth

February 17, 2019, marks 150 years of the formulation of the Periodic Table by Dmitri Mendeleev, which had a seminal impact on our understanding of Chemistry. To commemorate the occasion, the United Nations has decided to celebrate 2019 as the International Years of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. Meanwhile, 2019 is also being observed as the International Year of Moderation.

The resolution for this was introduced by Malaysia in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly “to promote moderation as a tool to prevent the rise of extremism and terrorism” and “to promote the values of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.” Apart from the formal significance of it, moderation is a ‘virtue’ that needs to be imbibed by every individual. And it has strong Indian roots.

The relentless quest for everlasting money, unhindered growth, the never-ending vicious cycle of goals and targets and deadlines and the rat race to be in the first spot, the cut-throat competition under the shadow of being “left behind” in the market, the frenzied urbanisation and thoughtless assimilation – all needs moderation. We need to take a pause somewhere; we need to take a deep breath; we need to regulate our lives. If optimising, rather than maximising, could increase profits of a company for a long time, think about the benefits of optimising, and not maximising, in our lives!

The whole notion of moderation is what lies at the core of the discussion surrounding climate change, one of the gravest threats faced by humanity. Incessant consumerism and the insatiable thirst for more and more consumption have led to the unprecedented exploitation of every available resource in every possible way, which has damaged Nature irreversibly. The global action, among others, is centred on sustainable development, with responsible consumption (SDG 12) being one of its 17 goals. There is no other holistic way to make it happen, than to moderate our life styles.

The thirst for absolute individualism, ego-centrism and narcissism aided by the leviathan of social media are other domains that need to be moderated. There is this urge to capture oneself in the moment, more often before or even without relishing the moment in reality. The narrowing time duration between clicking of pictures and uploading them on the internet could one day beat the speed of algo-trading on stock exchanges! Dear Instagram stories, you need to take a chill pill.

Our contemporary socio-political narratives across the globe are in dire need to be moderated, including India. The fierce battle to put forth one’s agenda at the cost of the other is depriving us of our vital humaneness. From petty vote bank politics, to social dominance, left untouched, these narratives would definitely head us towards Jingostan.

Moderation needs to become an integral part of our lives, right from our childhood, right from our education system. Consider, for example, an excerpt from history textbook for Class 4 in Maharashtra: “Murarbaji’s Incomparable Valour: … Murarbaji was hacking the soldiers to pieces. His sword moved like lightning, cut throats, broke heads and pierced the hearts of the enemy…Whoever tried to obstruct him was cut to pieces….released an arrow which pierced Murarbaji’s neck.” Now, isn’t it a bit violent for a nine-year-old? Can we tone it down please? Moreover, the notions of valour, courage, sacrifice and heroism had a different connotation in medieval times than they have today. Can we moderate them down a little to make sense in 2019?

One thing that needs to be clarified here is that moderation is not passivity, indifference or status quoism. It does not refer to inactivity or stagnation. These things would lead to decay and would hinder development. Moderation, instead, is the middle ground, the golden mean between two extremes. It is the balance in Force of Star Wars, the harmony in Yin-Yang of Taoism and it is the Madhyam Marg of Buddha. Moderation is Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), the mean between the feverish Rajas (passion, active, confused) and the indolent Tamas (darkness, sloth, indifferent).

In other words, moderation is what Korg, the pile of rocks from Thor: Ragnarok (2017) says, waving at you: “Hey, hey, hey. Hey. Take it easy, man!”

As we adopt moderation as a way of life for peaceful coexistence, let’s not forget to wish our periodic table a happy sesquicentennial.

sac.jadhav93@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 12:25:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-year-of-moderation/article26290907.ece

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