Friday, 04 July 2014 02:41



"By Modernism I mean the positive rejection of the past and the belief in the process of change, in novelty for its own sake, in the idea that progress through time equates with cultural progress; in the cult of individuality, originality and self-expression." Cruickshank, Dan

Modernization is not a simple single wave movement, its processes that have been going on for past three to four centuries and even before that previous two centuries were spent in preparation of society for modernization. Genesis of modernization was in deep dissatisfaction with institutionalization of backwardness and blind beliefs in society during dark ages in Europe. That dissatisfaction was reflected during renaissance period (15th and 16th century) when emphasis on classical art and science set the foundation for Enlightenment. Then with Age of Enlightenment in next century emphasis on education, culture, reason set the foundations for Epoch of Modernization which is still in operation.

By modernization we simply mean "current" (from Latin root "modernus"), which means a break from past, (then meant a break from roman past to Christian present when roman emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as state religion) however in social terms it means a cultural, political and scientific movement which brought in profound changes like individual consciousness, idea of nation state, acceptance of change, industrial revolution, rejection of normative and acceptance of actual.

In political arena first modern ideas were promulgated by Niccolò Machiavelli, when he separated ethics from statecraft. In arena of music it's considered to begin with Rossini, Beethoven and Bach as they mathematically structured their symphonies to produce beautiful music from equations. Similarly in paintings it's considered to begin with Jacques David Louis of France and later defined by Van Gogh's portrayal of dark side of human life i.e. portraying life as it is instead of portraying normative beauty and romance.

However it's the social aspects of modernity that we are most concerned with; which are defined by three pillars of Reason, Individuality and Progress. In case of India, modernity is considered to begin with introduction of western education in India which brought consciousness towards backwardness of our dogmas and doctrines and culture. This in turn brought cultural reform movement, women emancipation movement by western educated intellect- uals like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chander Vidya Sagar, and M. G. Ranade. Most important contribution of such movements was to secure dignity of individual's life over and above one's social life and commitments. For example 'Sati' system was one of the most exploitative system, where women's life has no other meaning than serving her husband and no existence after his death. Such disrespect for an individual life was a big blot and matter of shame for Indian society and that's why it became the first target of all the social reformers.

Similarly, apart from such movements other important contribution of modernity in our society was to introduce culture of reason and scientific inquiry instead of belief in superstition. This movement is still in operation and has not been completely successful yet. But with Universalization of education and spread of scientific ideas into common man's daily life it is likely to be achieved soon.

Thus, we can say that modernization was brought to India and other non European countries by introduction of western modern education and almost all of its modern tenets were developed and pioneered in Western Europe. But that does not mean "all that is western is modern and all that is modern is western", as even western society also suffers from same problems of backwardness, male chauvinism, although in a different and complex manner. What was explicit in other societies is subtle and implicit in western society. Modern myths, urban legends, celebrity worship and cults of personality haunt western society far more than they affect other societies. Latest addition to it is cult of violence promoted by Hollywood, gun culture, violent video games in USA and Europe.

Similarly modern intellectuals in west criticize their own society for dehumanization and too much individualization; similarly they deny presence of any grand truths or mega doctrines under the present movement called post modernism which has risen as critique to western style of modernization. It is trying to inculcate fresh ideas like green development, human rights, sustainable development, compassion and embrace of new ideas from Eastern wisdom and African naturalism and animism. We can also see the changes this movement has brought in west, where people are more considerate and open to other cultures and ideas and embracing new practices like Yoga, Meditation and Mysticism.

Thus it would be sad if we under the belief that "all western is modern" are embracing even the ills of western life like too much individualism, Death metal music (which is more of an expression of frustration than creativity), drugs cult etc.

Western civilization certainly did have profound impact on us, and brought western industrial modernity to the world and it would be great if today instead of embracing the west blindly we can synthesize the west and east picking up best of both and then fusing it to create a new universal culture and expression. We must strive for excellence like ancient Greeks, Romans and Indians instead of accepting mediocrity in name of acceptance of self and actual which has became the common practice in modern times. People search the books by best seller tag, music by chartbuster tag and art by price tag; whereby none of these characteristics define the quality of work. Thus accepting mediocrity in name of popularity would destroy scholarship and will bring non researched facts and beliefs in people's sub-consciousness and over time will become  new doctrines and dogmas thus bringing new type of backwardness to society. That's exactly is what Hollywood and pop culture doing to west and we must be careful to avoid it. Sitting in McDonalds sipping coca-cola and eating burgers won't make anyone modern, similarly neither watching FRIENDS on star world or violent and shameless reality shows will do that. West brought modernity to itself by reviving its ancient Greco-Roman aesthetics, arts and reason. similarly we also must dig into our past and must bring alive our ancient wisdom and aesthetics to enlighten our future.