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Social Consciousness

By Karmayogi

Society is a collective unit, as man is a gregarious animal. Men live in groups and move in groups. So, the group has a physical authority over the individual. Either the individual obeys the collective or he will be liquidated. Before the physical man moves to the mind, there is an intermediate level. It is of the nerves. It is called vital level. With the first progress in civilisation, the collective gives up the threat of murder, but continues to compel the individual to conform. Otherwise he is browbeaten by all others — ostracized. This is the phenomenon of the collective imposing its will on the individual.

There is another phenomenon of man being eager to adopt the social opinion. At one level it is man’s love of the group. At another level it is out of fear. Man feels safe when he is with the group, inside it physically under its protection. Out of such an attitude man loses his self-respect and becomes squeamish. The snob is born there. He is detestable, even disgusting. He looks up to the rich man, the man in power. In the company of an important politician, his body involuntarily shrinks in size, hands fold on the breast, a smile lights his face announcing his adoration of the great man. When he talks of rich people, his voice drops, his movements become as if he is in the presence of those men. His adoration is complete. It is really submissiveness. He announces his total absence of personality.

In an office one such man had a rich colleague. When the snob made an uncultured remark, the rich man mistook it and offence rose in him. He shouted, ‘‘I shall crush you under my boot heels’’. The snob dissolved in the atmosphere, frightened by the turn of events. A little later the rich colleague resigned his job and started a tiny industrial unit. This snob was anxious to pay his obeisance to his object of veneration. Together with a friend of his he entered the premises of the newly started unit, grinned from ear to ear, and expressed his total admiration for the rich man.

Self-respect was lost in the Indians when the Britisher arrived. Even before that, in autocratic regimes self-respect was not safe. A foreigner who had spent a few years in India returned. While stopping in London, he admired the native self-respect of the porters there at the terminals of travel.

 
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