“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”- Lyndon B Johnson, 36th US President from 1963 to 1969
Rigid organisations and rigid systems often break in the middle. Even rigid minds often come to grief. Religious beliefs too come under the scanner, if they are not flexible. Human history bears testimony to the fact that ritualisation and mechanisation of religious systems make them break into various factions.
The story remains the same whether it was Hinduism, Christianity or Islam. What was good five thousands years ago or two thousand years ago or even fourteen hundred years back in time, might not be a gospel truth in the year 2020. The rise of religious fundamentalism is an indicator of an ongoing conflict between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’. The message is crystal clear: alter, modify or adjust, or else be ready for extinction.
As the time changes, environs and norms undergo transformation. This demands individuals, organisations, systems and communities to change track. 'Absolutism' and self-acclaimed ‘Righteousness forever’ of any system or set of beliefs lead to a major catastrophe. Flexible systems and individuals definitely survive the onslaught of the vagaries of the times.
Most often leaders fail to deliver because they carry the baggage of their old value system. They remain engrossed in them, while the time has changed many times over and old values have become relics of the past.
Once, when reputed constitutional lawyer, late Ram Jethamalani was Urban and Housing Development Minister, during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government, in 1999-2004, he was reported to have replied to a journalist,” I have no time to waste on the wrong-doers activities of the past, I must move on and deliver” or words to that effect.
This should be the ‘Guru Mantra’ of an effective leader. Unfortunately, most human beings remain entangled in the past, whether good or bad, thus fail to carve out a better course of action for their future.
Invariably one hears most of the elderly people always honking about the good moral values of their past. They keep telling their children “In my times—we did this and we did that—“How sad to know that they remain stagnated in the whirlpool of antique times while the social values have overhauled themselves. This is the deep abyss in which most of us remain imprisoned. The essence of life is to move with time.
'Absolutism' and self-acclaimed 'Righteousness forever' of any system or set of beliefs lead to a major catastrophe. Flexible systems and individuals definitely survive the onslaught of the vagaries of the times.
Alvin Toffler, a renowned author of the trilogy of Future Shock, Third Wave and Power Shift reflects in his book, Third Wave, that the failure of modern leadership was not because of the lack of traits amongst modern leaders but the breakdown of the very institutions on which their power depends.
There is a deeper meaning in this observation. He talks about three pillars of Power i.e. Force, Money and Knowledge. He goes on to explain that there were three waves in human development and in each wave there were different moralities, dictated by the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of that wave.
First wave was agricultural society, whose USP was force, thus, social or political moralities revolved around the use of force. It lasted till about the 15th Century. Then came the Industrial revolution whose USP was money and the value system revolved around this. It lasted till the middle of the 20th Century.
Rapid advancement in technology and information, there after heralded the third wave of knowledge, also called the ‘Information Age’. The USP of this age is transparency and information.
As mankind moves further into the information or the knowledge age it is clear that old social moralities can no more be applied. We can not continue to harp that the “King was dead”; Long live the King, implying that the king did no wrong.
The iconic status which elders and the leaders, held in the past, can no more hold good. Today, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru or even Godly figures or prophets are under social scrutiny. Social media is playing an important role in tearing apart some of the best preserved secrets.
Bollywood movies like OMG or PK or even the Hollywood movie, Da Vinci code have questioned the imperfections of gods. This is the information age. Many, hitherto fore known truths are being ripped apart. Disturbing situations in France over the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed exposes the falsity of rigid minds.
In the modern age, success belongs to those who move with time. Narendra Modi won the 2014 and 2019 General Elections with the clever use of modern means of communications such as social media and internet.
Social media campaigns have given a new twist to the Goeblian principle of telling a lie one thousand times to make it appear as truth. Overflow of lies in social media do impact the targeted audience. Therefore old social moralities stand no chance. Today’s media everywhere is the master of misinformation.
Some twenty to thirty years back kissing was a taboo in Bollywood movies but today youngsters do it openly in public places. Advent of the internet age led to changing lifestyles and social obligations. Some words and phrases which were considered unparliamentary or socially incorrect, have entered the vocabulary and lexicon of modern youth and they are spoken to with ease. The “F-word is publicly used by boys and girls.
"Social media campaigns have given a new twist to the Goeblian principle of telling a lie one thousand times to make it appear as truth. Overflow of lies in social media do impact the targeted audience. Therefore old social moralities stand no chance."
Social structure has also been cracking. Break up of joint families are leading to nuclear families. The institution of Marriage is transforming into live-in relationships and single-parent families. Financial independence of the fairer sex is making institute of marriage irrelevant.
Stem cell technology is adding a new dimension to this. The hindi movie ‘Donor’ explained the theme behind the availability of off-the-shelf male sperms, thus giving a choice to the women to select a donor of her choice. Perhaps, time may come when children will be produced in human factories—of course, emotionless and desensitised. The theme of the ‘Universal Soldier’ franchise is something akin to it. We are marching into time when digitised human beings would rule the roost on this earth.
The above mentioned change in social, political, economic and intellectual life is inevitable. Therefore to keep crying over the relics of bygone times is fool-hardy. Board the bandwagon of the times or keep stagnating in your old moralities, which have decayed or are in the process of decaying.
Time is coming, when 203 nations of the world might split into 5,000 city states. This is what Alvin Toffler asserts in his book, Power Shift. It might turn into a reality in the next 100-150 years, if you view the ongoing separatist movements in the world.
Big nations or the confederations might break up into self sustaining but interdependent nodes. The idea of small being beautiful is gaining momentum. The rise of intra-dependant economic nodes, in the form of city states, are expected to replace the 18th century concept of a nation state.
The world will not only be flattened in a true sense but it might reach other habitable planets. So stop being obsessed with your past moralities and Move On — The future beckons you to come prepared for more future shocks. Traveling light is always advisable. Shed your unwanted, outdated and oversized baggage of the past.
(Col. Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into 3 Bihar. He is a battle-hardened veteran of the ’71 War & has served extensively in various counter insurgency environments across the country.
He is a renowned author, and a highly respected defence & national security expert and a regular contributor at the 'Fauji India' magazine, ‘Defence and Security Alert’ (DSA), the ‘Indian Defence Review’ (IDR) among others. You can reach him on Twitter: @RajeeKushwaha, Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')