|HUMAN PROGRESS AND RELEVANT THOUGHTS
by Pranab RayChaudhuri
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We hear a lot about progress – human progress or progress of mankind. We even hear someone or
some class or people of some countries are more progressed or less progressed compared to others.
Hence, to discuss about progress we should first analyze what is progress and the unit of its
measurement. Since, the basic instinct of a human, or for that matter any animal, is to live happily (less
difficulty in struggling for existence should also mean more happiness) and for as much time as
possible, human progress should mean the advancement of a particular man or class or mankind, as a
whole, from the initial prehistoric almost-ape-just-man stage in terms of happy-living with increased
longevity and the unit of measurement of progress should, then, be ‘content of happiness’.
In case, these definitions of progress and unit of its measurement are taken as base, if we want to
progress we should increase our ‘content of happiness’. Now, we shall have to analyze how we can
This can be increased materialistically by increasing our ‘content of comfort’ or mentally by increasing
our ‘content of peace’. In other words if, we increase our ‘C.O.C’ we become happier in life which
means we become progressed. Taking a crude example, at one time in the prehistoric age, man was
living in jungles in the open with other animals. Naturally, he always had to face the calamities like sun,
rain, wind, cold, heat etc. Moreover, he had to protect himself from other animals or may be other men.
So, once one of these men discovered utility of caves and started living there, this very fact increased
their ‘C.O.C’ and in turn, they became more progressed. Then, some years later, some from them
discovered that they could sleep well if they had some objects behind their heads and used some
stone or wood or something else as pillows which increased their ‘C.O.C.’ and hence, these people
became more progressed. In these days also if, I can afford a car for traveling, I am more comfortable
compared to someone who travels by public transport. Then, even within car-owners, person owning
Mercedes Benz can travel more comfortably compared to a person having Ambassador or Fiat.
Similarly, a person can increase his ‘content of happiness’ by increasing his ‘content of peace’
spiritually or by such other means. A sage has more peace compared to a social man. So, a sage is
more progressed. However, history tells us that all the persons, who have tried to increase happiness
by the process of increasing mental peace, have either themselves gone out of the society or the
society has driven them out. This discussion is about progress of mankind or of social man only and
the way of increasing happiness by increasing mental peace is not suitable for a man who wants to be
in the society.
Hence, the only way remains for a social man to be more progressed or to increase his ‘C.O.H.’, is by
increasing his ‘C.O.C.’. Alas! This is fallacious since the peace-content does not remain the same and
in fact, goes down as comfort increases. You may ask how and why?
Increase in ‘C.O.C.’ actually means we have added some materialistic amenity in our life. Like, in
summer, if we have movement of air around us, we feel comfort and in turn, become happy. To have
movement of air around us in the room, we fit a ceiling fan. It boils down to the fact that addition of
ceiling fan has increased our comfort and thereby our happiness and made us more progressed. But,
now that we have the ceiling fan, we have to run it with electricity. So, we shall have to make sure that
we get power-supply without any interruption involving money and other activities, some of which are in
our control and some are beyond our control. We shall have to maintain the ceiling fan servicing it
frequently, repairing when needed, replacing spare parts or even the whole fan, if need arises, which
again involves money and other botherations. Moreover, after some time we become habituated with
this comfort i.e. artificial movement of air around us and have real hardship if, the fan does not run.
So, we always remain worried whether we will be able to keep the ceiling fan running whenever wanted.
These things altogether create an anxiety, which is in mental level and acts opposite to peace.
Mathematically, if we wish to increase ‘C.O.C.’ by X, adding an amenity, it creates an anxiety of Y,
which reduces our ‘C.O.P.’ by this amount. Now X and Y are in two different planes. Vectorialy, we can
say if earlier ‘C.O.C.’ was A and ‘C.O.P.’ was B, ‘C.O.H.’ would have been √ (A²+ B²) [for simplicity,
angle in-between considered 90º]. Now, after addition of an amenity to increase ‘ C.O.C.’ by X
reducing ‘C.O.P.’ by Y, the ‘C.O.H.’ will be √ [(A+X ) ² + (B - Y) ² ] where Y is directly proportional to X
or Y = KxX, K being a constant.
Now, in the prehistoric age, man had no amenity for comfort. Hence, he had no anxiety and his ‘C.O.P.’
was the maximum. So, initially he kept on increasing his comforts whereby though ‘C.O.P.’ decreased
due to resultant anxiety, ‘C.O.H.’ increased. As a result, men became more and more progressed. The
process went on. ‘C.O.C.’ kept on increasing thereby reducing peace content. There is an optimum
level of increase in comfort to increase happiness, as after that any increase in comfort will create
such anxiety that the resultant peace-decrease will make the ultimate ‘C.O.H.’ less than what it was
earlier before the increase of that comfort element. There is again another point worth considering
here. The rate of anxiety increase by increasing comfort or for that matter, value of constant K is not
universally same. This depends on the social, environmental, as well as general and overall standard
of a particular or group of human beings at a particular time as well as individual capability. This
means, addition of the same anxiety may not create any appreciable anxiety to someone but may
create enormous anxiety to someone else. So, for the first man ‘C.O.H.’ may increase but for the
second man it may decrease appreciably. Hence, it is better to judge one’s capabilities socially,
economically and in all such spheres before adding any amenity for comfort to make it sure that this
does not create an anxiety to such a level that it reduces his ‘C.O.H.’
We say urban people are more progressed compared to villagers. We say the tribal people are less
progressed than the civilized people. Are we correct? We are not, because; actual progress depends
on the ‘C.O.H.’ and not on the standard of living or the economical level, educational level etc. If a
villager is happier compared to a city- dweller, he should be more progressed. In fact, when life
becomes complicated, happiness reduces and instead of progress, we regress. A simple-living person
with bare necessities, not aspiring for costly and cumbersome comfort amenities, will be able to sleep
well and be happy compared to a man living fast life with all available comfort amenities but always
aspiring for more. So, the first person is more progressed than the second person. Before trying to do
good to the rural, under-developed [generally so called] tribal people etc. by giving them education
and comfort amenities, we should judge their capabilities and existing and resultant ‘C.O.H.’ and then
In the present world, we find people of the most developed countries are somehow losing their interest
for the basic instinct of living. All the comfort amenities are within their reach; they have the social and
economic standard to maintain these amenities. Still, some of them are becoming hippies, some
becoming drug-addicts, some preferring unsocial living and some trying to live out of the society. In
fact, most of them are very unhappy at heart. They are not now thinking about increasing comfort but
trying to progress by increasing mental peace. But, since they have become habituated with the
materialistic comforts and it is very difficult (almost impossible) to increase mental peace being in the
society, so they are either becoming unsocial or going out of the society.
There is another point to consider. We take very little time to adjust ourselves to an increased comfort
because of some amenity. But it is very difficult or almost impossible to leave the amenity and live
without the comfort it produces once we get used to this comfort, even if, we may think later it is
prudent to do without the amenity because of the resultant anxiety it is creating. Like, a person buys a
car for traveling, may be, with money loaned or with hard-earned savings. The car, for some initial
time, increases his materialistic comfort and thereby his apparent happiness. But after some time,
facing with the realities of maintaining the car such as –servicing, repairing, replacing parts, cleaning
etc. – as also meeting the oil bill and accounting for the theft of oil and other parts and various other
related worries, all of which increase anxiety which eventually decreases the mental peace, the person
may find his ‘C.O.H.’ has actually decreased and decide it is better for him not to have the car. He will
soon find out it is becoming impossible for him and his family to travel by public transport and travel by
hired vehicle is costlier. So, he may have to continue having the car as otherwise there will be lots of
hardships and worries if the car is discarded. Side by side, we consider a man who did not have a car
considering his condition. Whereas there is no change in his life-style and ‘C.O.H.’, the life-style of the
first person changed and his ‘C.O.H.’ decreased.
Moreover, we decrease our physical abilities by being habituated with use of amenities for increasing
our comfort. Let us consider our eyesight. About a hundred years back, most of us were habituated
with reading and writing at night with hurricane/candle/gas or similar light. Even in our childhood, we
used to read or write with such lights whenever there was a power failure. [At that time there was no
intentional load shedding.] However, today though we have frequent load shedding, we and specially
our children are unable to read or write under candle or such lights. Very few rich people can manage
with generator / converter etc. and rest vast majority while away their time during this period as their
eyesight is not capable enough for them to do any work with little illumination. It means physical ability
of our eyes diminished because of our being habituated with electric lamps having more illumination.
Now, if, by any chance, we do not get electricity or decide not to use electricity, it will take us
generations to again get used to reading or writing with other than electric lamps. Meanwhile, for initial
few generations, there will be tremendous hardship to read and write without electric lamps and hence,
most people will hardly learn. For the next few generations, hardship will be less and they may be
slightly more educated. Only after several generations, people will again be able to read and write
without electric lamps as they used to do earlier when electric lamp was not invented.
Similarly, with external mechanical assistance and amenities, we decreased our physical strength and
our mental abilities. Though we are coming closer to each other physically because of speedy and
easily-obtainable transport, we are getting mentally far apart from each other.
From the above analysis, we find that we must consider the real increase in ‘C.O.H.’ before actual
increase in comfort due to some extra amenity and also that the real increase in ‘C.O.H.’ due to
addition of some extra amenity is not same for everyone and in fact, depends upon the condition in
which that man, at present is living. Say, for a rich man, addition of an extra amenity of a car may
increase the ‘C.O.H.’, whereas, for a poor man the same addition may actually reduce the ‘C.O.H.’ as
the anxiety generated will be too much.
Based on this analysis, if we, or some of us, now feel that we should reduce some of the extra
amenities, which are causing too much anxiety, to maintain the ‘C.O.H.’ at the same level, which
otherwise is decreasing, we will find that the difficulties and hardships will increase many fold as
we have already become acclimatized with these amenities and our anxiety may now increase further if
we have to live without these or some of these amenities. So, knowing fully well that we should not
have these amenities or that these amenities are actually reducing our ‘C.O.H.’ instead of increasing,
we may find that we will have to go on having these amenities as otherwise there will be more anxiety
which will reduce our ‘C.O.H.’ further.
Considering all the issues and the present state, we (or most of us who are in the same boat) will find
that we have already come to a stage where any further little addition in material comfort is actually
reducing our “C.O.H.’ considerably because of sizable increase in anxiety, and also must appreciate
the fact that though we can go forward in the line of ‘material comfort’–increase, we cannot retrace the
path and go back by decreasing the ‘material comfort’ even if we find out later that we should shed
some of the amenities as the anxieties produced because of these amenities will be too much and the
‘C.O.H.’ will actually increase if these, or at least some of these, amenities are removed , because a
separate anxiety , created by our not being able to use an amenity in which we have already become
habituated, will reduce our ‘C.O.H.’ to a much lower level.
Under the circumstances, it should be advisable to stay where we are i.e. be satisfied with the ‘material
comfort’ in which we have already become habituated and not to add any amenity to increase our
‘material comfort’ any further. Once we do not run the rat race for increase in ‘material comfort’, we will
have more time for spiritual upliftment, which will increase our ‘C.O.H.’. However, it should not be
construed that no one should have any addition in amenity for increasing ‘material comfort’. This can
be done and in fact, should be done individually on case-to-case basis considering all the pros and
cons keeping in mind that ‘C.O.H.’–increase is the goal. A person should not run after an amenity
simply because others have it or because it is giving some ‘material comfort’, but should consider all
the merits and demerits to ensure that the ultimate ‘C.O.H.’, after the addition of the amenity, will
actually increase from its original quantum. A person should add an additional amenity to increase his
‘material comfort’ only when he is sure that the resultant ‘C.O.H.’ will increase.
PS. The article was written initially a few years back. Now, some effect of man–made amenities on
environment, on which we have hardly any control, can be added.
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