Article by Dr. Jernail Singh Anand

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Dr. Jernail Singh Anand

“Moving forward while lacking back in time impairs future perspectives”

“We are so much obsessed with history that it keeps repeating itself”.

[This article brings into focus the ethicality of overemphasis on the past glory and pasting it on the Present, without making necessary inputs in the Present times, so that we can have a future-ready civilization. Another question is: why we are always looking backward? The figure of Sisyphus appears in my mind and I feel he was carrying on his back the load of the past, which led to his tumbling down the mountain, again and again]

Past becomes past only when it becomes irrelevant in the present. And if you wish to drag the past into our present, it will only impair our prospectus in the future. But we are diehard fans of our tradition and culture, and don’t wish anything to turn yore.  In a way, our looking back and back cuts on the space for the present and leaves none for the future. Culture is something which has been already cooked, in the oil of some values which have now turned over. I sometimes wonder how tenets which were formed a thousand years ago, can be held valid in this highly advanced age of science and technology.  Religions, which are ultra-resistant to change, and don’t believe in transformation, have seen the emergence of ‘babas’ or ‘demi-gods’ who give the people a comparative freedom to move and think, which again is a trap. The countries which are looking backward to their old culture, old values, old thinking, old tenets, – whether under the spell of culture, or religion, – are trying to extend the past over into the future. If we do not let the past lie in its grave, and if we drag it again and again, and make it stand in front of us, can we take rational decisions for our present situation? Things which force us to look back, will they ever allow us to peep into the future and take decisions which are necessary for the coming generations?

Tradition is a continuous flow, and even T.S. Eliot believed that individuals only modify that tradition. We stand at the head of a running steam and our thought only adds to that tradition. In other words, what we write today, will become a part of the tradition tomorrow. In a way, tradition is the backdrop from which we emerge, play our part, and go down. And past is the wisdom pool of humanity on which we draw as per our requirements in the present time. Actually, there is no harm if we seek guidance from our past, from our traditions and our culture, but putting the past ahead of us can be counterproductive. We can afford to allow ten percent space to tradition and culture, but allowing ninety percent to the past has proved suicidal for a modern society which is negotiating the future. Religion, tradition and culture – are valuable assets of mankind, which ensure its continuity and offer valuable guidelines which help mankind tread forward. But it has to be seen how much of these elements should be allowed to occupy the space  in the Present? If Past overlaps our present hundred percent, if we put forward our old culture as the best model – I wonder we shall be able to keep pace with the present, and receive the future with a ready mind. Everything that past holds,  is not good, so much is deadwood, which needs to be discarded. It seems we have erred here in favour of past traditions and this is one reason why we find a dichotomy between what we have been and what we are today. Unhappy.

I have seen universities and colleges, instead of giving the students lessons in present and future, are forcing their gaze back on the have-beens, on past, on culture which is no more relevant today. Day in and day out, they are engaged in folk dances, so as to keep their culture alive. We waste the precious moments of our young students in pursuing old traditions, old culture not only through the syllabus of the universities, but also through our films. I have seen so many films which are projecting old culture, old values. All these things are wastage of the time of young students and people who should have spent their time in better company.

It is often held out that there is much which is precious in our tradition. And culture has a distinct personality of a people. Of course, these things cannot be discarded wholly. A friend once commented that the baby cannot be thrown out with the bathwater. And, some think that all wisdom has its roots in the tradition and culture of mankind. It is beyond debate. The only issue that is debated is here: should we be past centric or future centric? Past as it has turned over, should be brought in, only to give proper direction to the present generations. Old culture and old values had a lot of good in them. But everything was not good. Those who love old culture, will they like to go back to that cart and bull days? How we treated the women folk in those days? Our folk songs are remnants of those times when patriarchy was at its peak, and women had no voice. Can we invite those times today? This is precisely what we are doing when we are overdoing our old culture and traditions.

In fact, we need a break with the past. A selective break. Let not what was wrong filter into the consciousness of the young people. The traditions which work against human freedom, and culture which kills human initiative, need to be given the go by. We should not forget that if western nations like USA and Canada made progress, it was because they were not bogged down by culture or tradition. Even religion is not such a  blinding force in these countries. The results are obvious. Everybody craves for PR in Canada or a Green Card in US. Even from the most theistic countries.

Traditions and culture as symbols of our past need to be preserved in  Museums,  and we must march on to the Present, with a mind prepared for tomorrow. I wish the governments who are spending millions on reviving the past glory, better make the present glorious so that a bright future could be conceived for mankind. Instead of making people look back, it would be more appropriate if people are trained to look into the future, if the nation’s time is spent on finding ways how society could have a better set up in times to come. It is a pity we ignore the present, and, as we are pampering our past, it seems we have no future at all. We are so much obsessed with history that it keeps repeating itself.

Author: Dr. Jernail Singh Anand is Founder Chairperson of The Ethical Universe, the International Academy of Ethics, a think-tank of Poets, Philosophers, Thinkers, Scientists and Social Scientists.  He is Professor Emeritus with the European Institute of the Roma Studies, Belgrade and Honorary Member of the Serbian Writers Association. Dr. Anand has authored 150 books which include 9 epics which are considered  world classics. He has innovated the theory of Bio-text in critical theory. The Univ. of Neyshabur, Iran has conducted a Research Project on his Poetry comparing it with Iranian Poets, under Dr. Roghayeh Farsi. His works have been translated into 20 world languages. Contact:  [email protected]