16.09 – Are we being fooled into giving ourselves a collective pat on the back?
The idea of progress attracts us because we are happiness-seeking beings and we are promised that progress will make us happier.
However, our current culture indoctrinates us with the narrow-minded notion that progress means material progress, which in turn means economic growth, technological advancement and cultural liberalization. When our society apparently achieves this kind of progress, we are urged to give ourselves a collective pat on the back.
But might such calls for self-congratulation be fooling us?
Because they distract us from asking the vital but uncomfortable question: has this progress really made us happier?
The negative answer becomes evident if we take a hard look at the mental and moral condition of humanity. Mental problems like stress, depression and suicidal urges afflict humanity at a scale never before seen in recorded human history. Moral violations like corruption, murders and sexual violence frequent the daily news with alarming regularity and in ever-increasing depravity.
The Bhagavad-gita (16.09) indicates that such a distressful state of affairs is the inevitable consequence of rejecting our spirituality and confining ourselves to the material level. We are souls who need fulfillment at the spiritual level. When deprived of that fulfillment, our innate craving for happiness makes us search for pleasure frantically at the material level. As all material pleasure is limited and temporary, more and more people violate moral boundaries in their bid for that scarce pleasure. Or they become mentally sick due to failing or fearing failure in the competition for that elusive pleasure. Or both.
What we need is not a collective pat on the back, but a corrective tap on the head, a tap that reminds us of our neglected spiritual side. Only by making spiritual progress can we fulfill our longing for happiness.