Skip to main content

History: The cost of progress

The idea of progress came into being in the 18th century Europe, when the European society was advancing without any impediment. Popularised by anthropologists, this ‘Eurocentric’ concept of growth and development indicated the superiority of Europe over others.

With the discovery of America, Australia, New Zealand, Caribbean and the Pacific Islands, a variety of new cultures with alien customs and traditions came into the purview of European anthropologists who studied them and arrived at the conclusion that there was a difference in the development of each civilisation.

They observed that civilisations developed in stages. Some of these cultures were in the stage of infancy, while others had reached adulthood but had not fully matured yet. According to them the Western society matured after earlier development while the Chinese, Indian and Middle-Eastern civilisations had degenerated. They believed that the old civilisations of the East were exhausted, had lost their energy and vitality and were no longer in a position to compete with the West.

The idea of progress was strengthened by scientific, technological and philosophical development. The enlightenment movement produced new ideas and transformed the European society. The superiority of the West was further consolidated when European countries colonised Asian and African nations. The resources plundered from the colonies enriched Europe and accelerated progress.

The enlightened philosophers and thinkers admired the progressive era but there was one voice which disagreed with the whole process of civilisation. Rousseau (d.1796), the French thinker, wrote an essay for a competition and argued that instead of providing contentment, development in a civilisation damaged human beings, depriving them of their liberty and freedom.

According to him in the early period of history, the primitive man was free because there was no authority to control him. There were no gender rights issues, nor labour problems or turf wars. People enjoyed the beauty of nature at leisure. They could spend their time singing, dancing and entertaining themselves. But the development of civilisation ushered in competition, rivalry, envy, hostility and social, political and economic conflict which demotivated people.

In another essay on equality, he argued that the institution of private property led to inequality in a society and disturbed harmony and brotherhood among people.

Although Rousseau romanticised ancient society, he understood well that the society could not return to the past. He believed that it should be reformed in such a way that a greater number of people would benefit from development and progress.

Nietzsche (d.1900), the German philosopher also criticised the idea of progress. According to him, each generation received a cultural legacy from its predecessors and made advancements which wiped out the social class differences giving rise to democratic and liberal values.

In his view, progress damaged and harmed the talent and intellect of individuals, leaving no space for creativity. Nietzsche was against democracy and liberty which he believed equalised all individuals, depriving the talented ones from playing a constructive role.

Despite all the criticism, the development of civilisation flourished in science, technology and intellect. But in 1914, the concept of progress and development shattered when the rivalries among European nations led to one of the bloodiest conflicts of history: World War 1.

When the war ended, an entire generation had been laid waste and Europe was in shock. The European nations experienced the dismal results of new inventions such as tank, grenades, shells and poison gases. Millions of soldiers died in trenches and on the battlefront, thousands were wounded and maimed. People were disillusioned and those who thought that the progress of a civilisation would only bring peace and harmony were disappointed.

Little was gained in the war but as an outcome the freedom movement emerged in the colonised countries. It challenged the political hegemony of the West, heralding a new era for Asia and Africa. It was an end, yes, but also a new beginning.
By Mubarik Ali: http://www.dawn.com/news/1074070/past-present-the-cost-of-progress
Free-eBooks: http://goo.gl/2xpiv
Peace-Forum Video Channel: http://goo.gl/GLh75

Popular posts from this blog

A historic moment in the Arab world

لحظة تاريخية في العالم العربي
As a democratic revolution led by tech-empowered young people sweeps the Arab world, Wadah Khanfar, Al Jazeera's director-general, shares a profoundly optimistic view of what's happening in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and beyond. In the first talk posted online from the TED 2011 conference in California, Khanfar describes the powerful moment when people realised they could step out of their homes and ask for change. "كما ثورة ديمقراطية بقيادة الشباب التكنولوجيا ذات صلاحيات تجتاح العالم العربي ، وضاح خنفر ، الجزيرة المدير العام والأسهم وجهة نظر متفائلة بشكل كبير ما يحدث في مصر وتونس وليبيا وخارجها. وفي اول حديث له نشر على الانترنت من مؤتمر تيد 2011 في ولاية كاليفورنيا ، خنفر يصف لحظة قوية عند الناس أدركت أنها لا يمكن الخروج من منازلهم ونطلب من أجل التغيير."
http://www.ted.com/talks/wadah_khanfar_a_historic_moment_in_the_arab_world.html This talk was given on March 1, 2011 in Long Beach, California. TED 2011 is taking place between March 1 and Mar…

Our Captured, Wounded Hearts: Arundhati Roy On Balakot, Kashmir And India

With his reckless “pre-emptive” airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inadvertently undone what previous Indian governments almost miraculously, succeeded in doing for decades. Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an “internal matter.” By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalised the Kashmir dispute. He has demonstrated to the world that Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place on earth, the flash-point for nuclear war. Every person, country, and organisation that worries about the prospect of nuclear war has the right to intervene and do everything in its power to prevent it.  Keep reading  >>>>


India has built around itself an aura of a global power whose time has come. For at least the last t…

Kashmir Jihad - Analysis & Options

PDF: http://bit.ly/2k0Vqpm

Kashmir is an incomplete agenda of partition of India. Since 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars on this issue. According to UN resolutions, Kashmiris have to decide their accession to Pakistan or India through impartial plebiscite, which could not take place due to Indian reluctance. Recently, India revoked Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted special autonomous status to Kashmir, it was done to unilaterally integrate occupied Kashmir. This is a violation of the UN resolutions and the Simla bilateral agreement, which demands to maintain status quo until the final settlement. The US and world powers are emphasizing that Kashmir should be resolved bilaterally, though India has refused to hold talks with Pakistan. In the present scenario, while India has turned Kashmir into the largest prison of 9 million people, denying basic human rights and oppressing the Kashmiris' who want freedom from India, Pakistan cannot watch as a silent spec…