Essential Precepts of Progress Whose Importance Has Increased Further in Recent Times

earth nature

All through human history there has been a quest for understanding what really constitutes betterment of human beings, indeed of all inhabitants of our planet. This quest still continues, at higher levels of sophistication, with one major difference. There is now increasing recognition that major environmental problems, accumulation of weapons of mass destruction and some other issues have combined to create for the first time a human-made survival crisis on earth.

Despite this major new development, arguably the most important issue of contemporary times, the essential precepts of betterment or progress remain the same as before. At the risk of some simplification, we may specifically identfy five such precepts of real progress.

Firstly, there is the commitment to justice and equality at all levels–economic, gender, racial etc. This is based on the concept of essential equality of all human beings. Of course there can never be total equality and various societies have to find their own satisfactory and sustainable norm of equality, but the overall commitment to equality and justice is a must for progress.

Secondly, moving towards better norms of democracy and transparency at various levels is an essential part of progress. This was supposed to become an area of great promise in the more recent phase of human history, but unfortunately there have been very major setbacks and regression, creating much despair.

Next, a sincere, abiding commitment to peace and non-violence is needed for any real progress. This includes peace within various societies as well as their peace with other societies. Resolving differences and disputes, an inevitable part of human existence, should be on the basis of non-violence.

The relationship with environment and all other species should be essentially a protective relationship. There can be room for interpreting this in different ways in different conditions by vatious societies, what is essential is that the overall thinking should be guided by a protective rather than an aggressive approach.

Last but not the least, there should be striving for harmony at various levels, best seen in the most immediate and intimate social relationships, which ultimately remain the most important factor for happiness (or distress) in daily life for most people. These relationships should be happy, loving, cooperative, fulfilling, preparing people also to be better world citizens.

Human societies must seek to achieve a situation in which more and more of their members make conscious efforts with continuity to live by these principles, to dicipline and train themselves and their children for this. Important institutions like family, school and college, community organisations, religious and spiritual organisations should help in this training, discipline and education.

These precepts may never have achieved the level of commitment these clearly deserve, but their significance has remaind undiminished through all the ups and downs of human history. The societies, communities and individuals who have given more sincere attention to these precepts have been happier and have contributed more to the welfare of world in more sustained ways.

Examples of such progress exist here and there in human history. Alas, there are few extended periods of sustained progress based on such precepts. Recent times cannot be called times of progress for the greater part of humanity has not been particularly close to these precepts. Hence, nothwihstanding impressive achievements of science and technology, massive human distress and even higher distress of other species have persisted and even increased in certain contexts.

Perhaps even more worrying is the increasing evidence that a serious survival crisis has emerged. This is defined variously, but most versions see this in terms about a dozen serious and inter-related environmental problems, topped by weapons of mass destruction including the possibility of space warfare.

Various solutions are being suggested, but it should be re-emphasized that these will work best only if a strong base is created by the five precepts whose significance has increased further in these times of survival crisis. Towards this end, a program of increasing commitment to these precepts should be pursued in a very big way with continuity.

In everyday life, commitment to these precepts can help much to reduce human distress. This in turn encourages for extending these precepts to a wider level from family to community to province. The more such grassroot efforts grow, the stronger the base for wider efforts of peace, justice, democracy and protection of environment will become at national and world level. This will prepare the ground for steady, broadbased human progress as well as for resolving the survival crisis in credible and sustainable ways before it is too late.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and India’s Quest for Sustainable Farming and Healthy Food.


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