Do you feel angry at the irresponsibility and apathy of people around you? Have you ever asked yourself – What makes people so inconsiderate? What makes them care so little?
I have felt this many times in the past few years. I stayed in New York for about 3 years and faced a lot of welcome changes compared to my previous lifestyle in India. Unlike India, no one threw trash on the roads, no one would be found peeing by the roadside. People mostly had better regards for cleanliness and a highly developed sense of social responsibility. No one tried to break in front of a queue. They followed traffic rules. They were friendly and respectful to everyone…
When I came back to India about a year ago, the differences seemed all the more pronounced. I have always known how things are here. I also believe that creating solutions is better than lamenting the bad state of things. But still, every so often, I have felt exasperated. For example, it seems obvious to me that if everyone was to follow traffic rules, it will make driving so much easier. There will be less stress, less cut throat competition on the roads, less bad feelings… it is so painfully clear that this is good in every way possible and to everyone possible. It sometimes drives me crazy to think why can’t people understand this simple thing and accept this easy and obviously good change?
Why don’t people accept simple and obviously positive changes?
I see a few thing at work here :
Collective consciousness. You must have noticed how people in different cities and towns have their own peculiar attitudes. These are not binding but something that you will see in most people there, something that you almost feel in the air of that place. You may find the people of a particular place more friendly, or more laid back, or more intolrant. etc etc. I can easily contrast the energy and attitudes of people in New York to that of Bangalore, of Bangalore to that of Delhi and of Delhi to that of Lucknow(the place where I grew up).
I feel the general apathy in India, as I see it, is part of the collective consciousness of the place. People here collectively don’t have faith in following rules and in each other. There is a sense of scarcity, of competition for even the smallest things, a fear of missing out. Some people consider breaking rules their birth right while others, who do believe in rules, feel hopeless about it and think they can’t make a difference even if they follow rules.
This is all they know. The difference between how they see things and how I see things, is also because I have lived in New York for 3 years and have experienced a different way of living. I have had the opportunity to compare and evaluate the Indian attitude against something. For most people here in India, the way they live is the only way they have ever known.
I don’t think this reason can totally excuse their apathy. Personally, I remember wanting these changes even before going to the US, although it did not bother me as much then. But still, experiencing a different society and then comparing will definitely make a difference in perceptions.
But that is only one way to look at it…
When I reflect further on this situation and my feelings, I see another way to look at it. What I am doing here is believing that my rules are the best to follow. I am believing that if people follow these, they will have a much better life. Now isn’t it true that everybody has his or her sense of the right rules? I am just assuming moral high ground here and expecting people to fall in with my ideas. I am assuming that I know better!
With such an attitude, bringing about change can neither be easy, nor fun. Infact, this attitude will ensure I alienate people and feel lonely. This is not how sustainable change, that happens with the consent of people(rather than forced down their throat) can be brought about.
What I see as an ideal life, may not be the same as what others see as ideal. I still remember that some Indians, whom I met in NY, didn’t like it at all and wanted to return to India.
People here in India, collectively, seem to be OK with their rules(or lack of them). They probably are not looking for the kind of change I want to bring about. It is I who wants to bring a New York into India.
Leaving moral high ground.
To bring about sustainable change for a better life, it helps if we take the majority together in making decisions.
We will have to connect with the collective of people. We will have to understand this collective and it’s aspirations. We will have to start at bringing about change from this level of collective. Even if we feel that this level is very low, even if we feel that things can be much better by going ‘our way’, we have to work with, and accept the level of collective. This is the only way to bring about change with goodwill. Otherwise their is anarchy and dictatorship.
I personally find it a bitter pill to take but then, as I understand today, this is the only way to go(or to go to New York!).
Not ready for this change?
If this idea of going to the level of the collective bothers you, I suppose their is nothing bad in letting go for now. This is explained beautifully by my friend Beejal Parmar :
The way forward is to remain socially conscious, do what you can, but NOT at the expense of your well-being. If being an activist, and making small changes does not bring you inner joy, then it’s time to move on. Let go of the inner conflicts, allow humanity to be what it wants and desires to be, do your part, but live your life with love, peace, joy… when you deviate from that, you deviate from your true self.
I’ll add that letting go does not mean you will never come back to it, it is not an escapist idea. It just means that you acknowledge you don’t have the tools to solve the problem right now. When you leave this problem and do other things, you will recuperate with the change, you confidence will rise as you succeed at them. You will learn and improve further with time, thus becoming better at initiating change, or your idea of the situation itself might change.
Later, if you still feel for this change and want to try afresh, you can always come back to it. You will be better equipped and will get better results than you are getting now.
Until next time…