Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Modernity - A new definition

What is modernity? Is it the way we dress? or is it in the way we socialize.. like mingling with the opposite sex? Breaking away from tradition is considered modern by some. But is this really modernity?

Well, I was talking to a friend of mine and discussing about modernity... and this is what his views were......

Modernity, in my opinion, is heralded by the coming of a new way of seeing the world. The world view in which we see clear demarcations between different kinds of identities.

Consider the following two examples:

I belong to a traditional family in a remote village of Tamil nadu. My family migrates to some place in Maharashtra. In my new neighbourhood, there is a temple of a goddess. This goddess is considered very powerful by the local people of that region. What would my “religious” mother do? She would visit the temple and pray there as it is considered powerful. Will she think that the goddess does not belong to her “religion”, because she has never worshipped her before? No. She wont. I would cite an example here. We here a lot nowadays about santhoshimata. This god I don’t think existed in tamil nadu till sometime back. It should have been some village goddess somewhere in north India. But what has happened now? There are so many people worshipping her in tamil nadu? Reason, we feel we are one people and don’t have any qualms in worshipped the “Gods and Goddesses” of “another” group of people here.

Now another situation: My family migrates to Mecca instead of Maharashtra. The locals there consider a stone in the heart of the grand mosque as sacred and powerful. Will my mother go there to worship it? Will she give offerings? No. Why, because it is a “muslim place of worship”.

Consider the second scenario with a difference. About two thousand years back. My family migrates to Mecca. The grand mosque still stands there (It is a pre-islamic structure). The stone is still there. It is sacred. Will my mother go there? In all probability she would, because it is something similar to the first situation. Why? The concept of the “other” did not exist then. An average human being from India did not see it as “alien”. Yes, people would still be others. But we would see them as people belonging to another village with another village God. Not as people of a different religion.

This is the change that modernity is all about. Differences always exist and will exist for ever. But the way we see differences is what matters. The borders have gotten more rigid now. They seem impossible to change. This is modernity. When one person thinks the other is incorrigible. When one thinks the other is wrong. The inability to think wide. This is modernity. The same disease is there in the “most modern” nation USA. The same disease plagues the most modern religion too. A basic intolerance towards what is defined as the “other”.

So far I was under the impression that modernity means breaking barriers. But this explanation that he gave got me thinking on what modernity really meant......
PS: These views expressed are just one angle of looking at the term "modernity".. each one has his definition and I guess I could write a book and still not come to conclusion on what it really is


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Arvind said...

Well, there is a definition of 'modern' - which we all agree...

But what goes around, comes around too ! :-) so, is anything modern...the answer is no ! - the highest level of metaphysical answer ! ;)