New-year spells an uncanny magic. It’s the time we reflect, introspect and look backward and forward. In fact January comes from Janus – the god with two faces, presumably looking at the past and the future at once. No wonder then that the new-year stops us in our tracks for a short while.
Let’s take a close look at our immediate context – the context of our relationships. The people around us, the ones we live and interact with have a great impact on us. We also exert a certain amount of influence upon them. It’s this equation with others, which determines the nature of our interpersonal relationships.
Times have changed. The web of relationships which bound people together is loosening slowly and steadily. The intimate family bonds and even bonds of friendship are getting weaker these days.
What are the factors that cause this decline in the quality of relationships all around? A few prominent factors can be easily identified.
Our material prosperity has created in us an exaggerated sense of independence and self-importance. We have reached a stage of well-being which gives us a false sense of security and a feeling that we are no more dependent on anybody. In other words we have become too individualistic that we do not consider others very important. We may use the word ‘ego’ to be blunt about this. This egoism often erodes human relationships. Ego acts like a wall – a barrier to relationships.
We build walls and fences all around us, when it is bridges that we need to connect with people. Every good word that we utter and every good act that we perform are like bridges. Conversely, every harsh word that we utter and every malicious act on our part is equivalent to building walls. These walls, unlike physical walls, become impenetrable.
Technology has come in a big way to distance people. Whereas technology should enable easier and faster modes of communication, it’s indeed an irony that the same technology now has widened the gap between people. Even within a family, communication between people has diminished considerably. The mobile phone and social media are now used widely to connect with unknown people, and for frivolous reasons. They are not much used in connecting with people who matter more to us. This is the huge paradox of the present times.
Empathy is the glue that connects people. It comes from mutual respect. Civility and empathy go hand in hand. It’s lack of empathy that comes in the way of enduring relationships.
The amount of violence that happens in our society can also be attributed to the low priority human relationships are given today. Violence on women and children has assumed alarming proportions. This also manifests the lack of humanity in the people who perpetrate such violence.
Thus in our family circles, in our immediate neighbourhood, and in our communities and finally in our country itself there is a decline in the quality of human relationships. A peaceful and prosperous nation which is our dream can become a reality only when we develop a broader perspective and a more humane attitude towards men and matters.
Countries like Singapore have achieved enormous strides with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Dubai which is only one of the emirates of the UAE has achieved phenomenal success in its brief history though they have only around 10% natives and the rest of them are from some 150 or more countries of the world. They made this possible because of their farsightedness and vision which went beyond narrow domestic walls and parochial considerations. They have observed 2019 as the year of tolerance. We have a lot to learn from different countries who have welcomed people from all over the world for their progress and welfare. Such inclusiveness is the way forward for countries like India. Exclusivity and nativism are archaic concepts most unsuited to the new millennium. We live in the age of immigrants where all are citizens of the world transcending narrow domestic boundaries.
Are we as a nation doing enough to progress as a modern nation with imagination and vision? Can we build a nation where justice and fairness is available to every citizen without any discrimination? If we use all our energies in building a modern nation with the active involvement of all its human resources, where peace and good-will prevails among the different communities, we can turn all the apparent diversities into a fine tapestry of a powerful nation. We need to get our priorities right. Building a strong nation needs peace and unity. Strife and conflict is the last thing we need. Let’s hope that our leaders show enough maturity and wisdom to build a strong and peaceful nation by uniting all sections of people, and desist from doing anything that divides or polarizes our society for whatever reasons. The earlier it’s done the better for all of us. 2020 is aptly poised to herald this movement.
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