The Present World A Stock Taking
The most prominent characteristic which distinguishes modern age from that of other periods of history is its unparalleled achievements in the domain of knowledge, science and technology. Learning has undergone all round development. There are innumerable branches of knowledge developing by leaps and bounds. The means and materials of acquiring knowledge is available almost everywhere. A large number of centres of learning have grown up throughout the world. Universities, libraries, educational institutions, publishing houses, presses and many other institutions are constantly institutions far exceeds the number of students in days gone by. It is said that the number of institutions taking part in spreading learning directly or indirectly comes up to 40 lacs. In other words there is one such institution on every thousand persons. It is also estimated that about half a million words are printed every second. Learning and knowledge are being developed in all spheres—physical, biological and psychological. In every field the caravans of leaning are on the march. Atoms are being split up. Journey to Moon is being carried on. The oceans are being explored. Efforts are being made to know the secrets and mysteries of nature. The development of knowledge has actually reached a new high. This is why Julian Huxly has characterized the unprecedented upheaval in knowledge as knowledge explosion”.
2. Energy and Power: There is a well known saying “knowledge is power”. This means knowledge presupposes power. Knowledge without power and power without knowledge are unthinkable. They are the two faces of the same coin. The existence of knowledge has already been established. Let us see if it is confirmed by the presence of power in our hands. The truth is established in this respect as well, for we have power at our disposal in proportion to our knowledge. Like knowledge our power too has grown both in quantity and quality. It is highly difficult to make an estimate of it and it is almost impossible to estimate its possibilities. Let us examine a few examples. We are all familiar with coal, vapour, mechanical power, electricity, magnetism, light, sound, etc. All of them are so big that to call them giant forces is to ridicule them. We daily experience some of their performances. Coal and vapour drive carriages and factories. Magnetism, sound, light, petrol and mechanical power do innumerable delicate works both big and small with ease and comfort. Electricity serves us like the most obedient servant by driving train and fans, drawing water from under the ground, irrigating lands and doing a countless other works known to everybody. But all these powers have been eclipsed by one energy unlocked very recently. This known as “atomic energy”. Our knowledge of this energy can be harnessed for multipurpose operation and that the work will be done with terrific speed and great precision. Deserts can be transformed into green fields. Incredible increase can be exercised in crop production. Deadly and dangerous diseases can be cured. Change in climates can be brought about. Courses of rivers can be controlled. Hostile forests, poisonous insects and animals and brutes can be easily wiped out of existence. Time and distance can be reduced to such proportions that we can establish contact with the rest of the world in minutes and visit important places of the globe in hours. In short atomic energy can be successfully used to meet almost all the requirements of food, clothing, medical aid, housing and other needs and completely eradicate poverty and want. The advent of this energy envisages a world rolling in wealth and plenty. On the other hand if this energy is used for destructive purposes the entire world can be blown up without much difficulty.
3. Wealth: We have seen above that the present world possesses knowledge and power beyond all doubts. Let us test our observation by surveying the enormity of wealth in our possession. The one inevitable result of the combination of knowledge and power is the production and increase of wealth. If the world has knowledge and power it must have wealth as well in the same proportion. The stocktaking of the wealth of the present world is however beset with numerous difficulties.
The first difficulty consists in finding out the starting point for such a survey.
T The second difficulty lies in the poser, ‘Is it possible to make the survey at all? What things are to bbe taken up and what things are to be left out?’
TThe third difficulty is the absence of a standard measure or criterion. What quality and quantity will bbe taken as plentiful?
In the midst of these difficulties it is almost impossible to go on with the work. For this re4ason it is wise to confine our survey to the necessaries of life only. Necessaries comprise only those things without which a man cannot keep himself alive. They are only four—food, clothing, housing and medical aid.
Food: Food is the primary need of every living being. Man cannot live without it. The present world population is said to be 370crores. This population will require 67,52,50,000 metric tones of food material annually at the rate of half kilogram per head day. The Statesman yearbook 1962-63 gives the following figures of world production of only 8 cereals.
1. Wheat 236,700,000 metric tonnes
2. Barley 85,700,000 metric tonnes
3. Rhye 35,480,000 metric tonnes
4. Oats 51,400,000 metric tonnes
5. Maize 214,000,000 metric tonnes
6. Rice 242,200,000 metric tonnes
7. Bajra 68,300,000 metric tonnes
8. Potatoes 280,600,000 metric tonnes
Total: 1,214,380,000 metric tonnes
This shows that the world production of only eight edibles goes up to more than 121 crore tones. This list does not include pulses, oilseeds, green and dry fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, fish, milk and a lot of other things used as eatables in different lands and by different peoples. All these taken together must exceed double the quantity of the above edibles. According to a conservative estimate the production of foodstuffs is well over four time the requirements of the total population of the globe and if a planned programme of all the arable land is drawn up the area of cultivable land and its production will go up still higher.
In order to have a correct estimate of the situation the expected revolutionary change in the domain of food production must also be kept in view. It is said that man is about to take a big leap by which he will no longer have to depend on plants and animals for his food stuffs. He will get food from sea water and air. He will have refined, healthy, tasteful and nutritious food quite easily and at a very low cost. Man will totally forget the present food tastes and standards. His food reserves will be infinitely increased.
2. Clothing: Cloth occupies the second position in the necessaries of life. Exact figures of cloth production in the world are not available. Nevertheless an estimate can be worked out very easily. In 1965 Indian Cotton Mills numbering 526 only produced 7745 million meters of cloth. The production by handlooms, power looms and other sources of manufacture is not included in the figure. The total production from all sources may amount to well over 9000 million meters per year. It is estimated that the world production may well exceed the Indian production at least by hundredfold. The world production of cloth therefore may vary between 900 to 1000 billion meters. Allowing 15 meters of cloth for every individual on an average the total requirements of cloth goes up to 55.5 billion meters per year. This makes it quite clear that our production far exceeds our actual requirement. It has been rightly claimed that the present production of cloth is so abundant that after meeting the world requirements in full the surplus stock may go round the Equator more than once.
The number and speed of cloth mills are increasing by leaps and bounds. Cotton and numerous other fibers are being used for manufacturing clothes. Several nonfibrous materials are being also used for the purpose. Raiment’s made out of terylene; nylon and rayon are now very common. Experiments are being carried on to use glass and aluminum for the manufacture of clothes. It is also expected the world is about to take a big leap in this direction and the world production may exceed the present one by manifold.
3. Housing: It is long, very since man has come out of caves and rocky dwellings. Now-a-days he lives in big towns and villages, housed in buildings both big and small. Architecture has taken startling strides. Modern buildings have attained high degree of perfection in all respects, in beauty and workmanship, in comfort and luxuries, in height and space; in decency and neatness. Sky high buildings rising well over hundred stroyes are no wonders in modern times. There are innumerable buildings each accommodating a population of a small town. It is said about the famous Empire Buildings of New York that it houses 25 thousand people in it. To crown it all, air conditioned buildings are increasing fast. The process of air conditioning has worked wonders to render relief and comfort and to do away with the rigours of climate. Again the pleasing decency, the cosy softness and the ornamental finish of modern furniture defy all description. It is said that man has reached the threshold of plastic age. In this age metal and other building materials for the construction of houses and furniture will cease to be use. Everything will be made from plastic. Plastic buildings are expected to be built with greater speed and with much less cost.
4. Medical Aid: Medical aid occupies the fourth place in the necessaries of life. The position of the present world in this respect is quite different from that of the bygone ages. Facilities for medical aid are found in abundance in modern times. There are thousands and thousands of government, semi government and private clinics spread all over the world. Innumerable institutions for medical education, laboratories for experiments research centers for investigation and enquiry and working round the clock to save men from diseases and ailments. Specialization in different branches of medical science is moving apace. Development in surgery had reached a new high. Even heart, brain and lungs are operated upon with amazing success. New ones are being planted in place of old ones. Plastic surgery however astounding it may appear, is no longer an outstanding fear of medical science. Hectic search for DNA and Enzyme is on to have control over death. Very recently man has succeeded in finding out the particular enzyme which can dispense with old age and make youth a permanent things Apparatuses which can help treat various diseases have been prepared. It is said that in near future a number of diseases will be completely wiped out of existence.
The Robot age: Very recently man has been blessed with a new gift. It is said that our world is about to enter the robot age. Robot is a mechanical device. It is a man made of iron. Robot will do everything that a man servant does these days—marketing, cooking, washing, upkeep of the house and carrying out the orders of its master. It will even read out books to you when you will so want it to do. Robot is therefore expected to free man from the tyrannies and burdens of labour and toil. It is said that robot is now a reality. It has come out of the experimental stage.
The above survey is brief but revealing. The position of the present world is crystal clear. The present world is a world of plenty having knowledge, power, and wealth in amazing size and enormity. Man has done much to relieve him self of the pain and distress of life. His labours have been fully rewarded. The generous Nature is showering its bounty upon man almost every moment. The whole story conjures up a picture of the present world before our eyes. There is one very important aspect of the picture, which can explained well by a hypothetical method. Suppose for a moment that you are on Mars surrounded by the Martian people. The Martian people will be simply stunned to hear about the plastic and robot ages. They are bound to come to the conclusion that the Earth must be nothing short of a paradise. The people there must be the most fortunate souls and must be living in perfect peace and happiness. They must have no problems at all. Each and every evil must have been wiped out. The life there must be all mirth and joy free from all miseries and sufferings, sorrows and pain.
Now let us come down to the Earth and face the realities. The appalling poverty, the gruesome miseries and sufferings and the smarting want and hunger are most pronounced in human life. Today man sits on huge piles of food stuffs but he is a victim of acute hunger. He stands on Himalayan stocks of cloth, but he is naked. He is surrounded by sky-high houses and is abundantly rich in means of medical aid but is practically quite deprived of them. The situation has become elusive and defies explanation. It is an amazing example of scarcity in the land of plenty. The world has reached a point where everything aggravates and nothing relieves. This is the climax of the crisis man is faced with.
But why is it so? Has man gone mad? Does he lack in knowledge, power or wealth? We have already discussed it. He lacks none of these. He is not mad. On the contrary he is intelligent, scholarly, learned and wise. But nothing is coming to his rescue. Everything appears to be frowning at him. The defect lies in our modern civilization also known as Western civilization. This civilization with all its apparent glamour and outward attraction is solely responsible for the diabolical change in man’s out look reducing him to the position of brutes and monsters. This remark reads uncharitable. To ascertain the truth it is necessary to examine some of the basic foundations of our modern civilization.