After many centuries, life on this planet has arrived at the 21st century. There may be unsettled doubts about how the universe was created or life came to exist on this planet, but a couple of things are certain; the growing population and the depleting natural resources are causing worry.
The world has been witnessing, for ages, a divide between the rulers and the ruled, or the drivers and the driven. Whether political leaders dominate the scene or the religious, is not important but what is important is that both are placed at a pedestal from where they dictate the life of citizens. In their pursuit of sustaining empires, politicians have consumed the natural resources and left the citizens in the lurch. In the pursuit of following and the dominance, the religious leaders have created windmills in the minds of individuals. There is a distinct divide in the human population of 7 billion, the divide of the interests, the conflict of thought and the polarisation of society on different parameters. How much of this global village should be integrated or united, and how much allowed disunited is the question that we must address, if we desire a comfortable world for ourselves.
We the residents of this universe, always have two questions in mind. What is the purpose of our lives, and what our position is with respect to this universe? Can we associate any relationship between our consciousness (Purusha – our being alive) and the universe (prakriti – the phenomenal realm of matter)? Sometimes we wonder if God is a reality or virtuality. He is stated to be controlling the existence and movements of stars and planets in the universe. And if He is real, then is He the single God of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity or Islam, or the polytheist gods or deities of the Hindus. To what extent is our living guided by free will and by the laws of Karma? Some ask even deeper questions. In the realm of matter, they ask what existed before this universe, and what would follow it. And in the domain of humans, they wonder why the evolution of mind has made people more suspicious and distrustful of the others than they were before.
In the domain of matter and energy, we have other predicaments. Environment is becoming less worthy of natural living due to various reasons. Different forms of chemical and nuclear pollution, the greenhouse gas effect and above all the wasteful squandering of natural resources may bring life to a grinding halt. Our attention should be directed towards biotic resources obtained from the biosphere such as forests and their products, animals, birds, fish, flora and fauna, as well as towards abiotic or non-living resources such as land, water, air, energy, radio spectrum, underground or underwater minerals.
If population continues to rise and natural resources decline, sustenance of life may become a challenge. Large corporations, who grab natural resources for furthering business interests, cannot be expected to work for their preservation. And any solutions that they might offer for resurrection of these may only be contrary to the interests of citizens. On the other hand, the fear that resources may decline to alarmingly low level, has awakened the scientific community and the international forums like the United Nations, to look for alternatives. Scientists are improving the techniques of recycling and the advanced researchers have turned attention to the mining of materials from seabed and asteroids. But we do not see the religions with the maximum following, ie Islam or Christianity, budging an inch from their belief against population control. This standpoint of theirs, suits the political leaders driven by the vote bank politics, and they too remain silent on the population issue.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, what appeared to be succeeding was capitalism. Most of countries took the cue from this event, and pushed the throttle so that development could be carried out and wealth created at frenzied pace. Economic growth attracted attention and it was to be achieved at any cost. Global warming, food and energy crisis, ecological disorders, climatic changes are the prices we are paying for this mission. Some of us do not like this trend, but the empire builders are at it with all their might. If capitalism was merely unbridled we could live with it, but alas, it has gone to a higher level that of crony capitalism that may destroy us.
This economic model of turbocharged development and profit maximisation at the cost of personal health, family, social cohesion, environment etc is not a sustainable process. We must stop it ourselves; otherwise, the nature may oblige us. Leaders and rulers, on whom citizens depend for living, have other priorities. They are engrossed in safeguarding dynasties or building empires that should last forever. Their urge for greed is apparent from the perpetually increasing taxation that they impose or the coercion of regulations (insurances, rationing, essential utilities etc) they introduce. They promote polarisation and segmentation of the society to facilitate discrimination, and they encourage cronyism. Sometime they resort to the rule of stick to support their cause. For them, surprisingly, the issue of future sustenance of life is of no concern. They have hardly any time to think about the future of the nation.
The brunt of whatever unfolds in the future would fall in the lap of the citizens, for example the impact of the resources crunch. The financial meltdown, caused by strategically articulated mismanagement of crony corporations, sweeps citizens off the ground. The benevolently sounding term financial bailout is actually a justifiable and more or less acceptable method of diverting taxpayers’ money to the corporations. The amazing part of this story is that only large corporations having the most coveted management team suffer this catastrophe, with active participation of the government! Citizens can do no more than watch helplessly the conversion of society from capitalism to crony-capitalism.
Citizens are actually entrapped in fruitless struggle for survival. They would like to, but they are ill equipped, to bring about a change in the model of governance or in the people who are at the helm of affairs. The constitutions do not provide for mechanisms for the recall of elected representatives, and these representatives by themselves, would never include such a provision in the enacted law. Demonstrations of citizens that gather to let out steam are branded illegal or non-constitutional and are crushed by brutal force. In this case, too, the citizens suffer the brutalities, and the rulers usher out only public statements.
Old timers expect judiciary to be the saviour against all sins committed in the society. The proponents of jurisprudence expect judges to use personal wisdom on ethics and morality to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Even the citizens hope that the judiciary will restore the rule of law. But when the guilt lies in the domain of the legislative or executive, who prevails, these or the judiciary, is a million dollar question. The relationship between the individual, society, and the three wings of governance ie the legislative, executive and the judiciary, is now as volatile as the fundamental tenets of democracy, equality, freedom and the rule of law. So whether it is a financial bailout, an unjustifiable police action or a natural calamity like the tsunami, citizens are on citizen’s own.
Life in the 21st century can take a turn towards hope or towards despair, depending on how much physical and mental strength the citizens can muster. No one can predict the future, but everyone can analyse the past and learn from it. We have to revisit the philosophic works of Chanakya, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and many others to determine what needs to be adopted and what must change. The relationship between the individuals and the society that they perceived is not the same anymore, because the society has transcended the geographic and cultural boundaries of countries. The evolving global environment places complex demands and constraints on both individuals and the governments.
The thrust of our exploration should be towards investigating and understanding the framework of interests and counter-interests, both of the individual and the nations. Only then, befitting solutions can be incorporated. It is necessary to reiterate that the major chunk of problems within a country, are created by individuals in their personal capacities and in the role that they play in the society, therefore only individuals can rectify the situation. However, in the context of cosmopolitan living, where advanced nations might use advanced nuclear and/or bio-nano technologies to emphasise their dominance, the national character needs to be strengthened to the level of deterrence.
Life in this century will be dominated by the struggle to win the race against declining resources. Whether we do it by reducing consumption, regenerating the used up resources or by finding new resources; on this planet or elsewhere, depends on our will and skill. If we fail to settle the balance between growing population and depleting resources, powerful nations would consume the weaker ones.