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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fatalism and Indifference.

I came across the following paragraph in The Wonder that was India by A. L. Basham.

It has often been said that the scale of natural phenomena in India, and her total dependence on the monsoon, have helped to form the character of her peoples. Even today major disasters, such as flood, famine and plague are hard to check, and in older times their control was almost impossible. Many other ancient civilizations, such as those of the Greeks, Romans and Chinese, had to contend with hard winters, which encouraged sturdiness and resource. India, on the other hand, was blessed by a bounteous Nature, who demanded little of man in return for sustenance, but in her terrible anger could not be appeased by any human effort. Hence, it has been suggested, the Indian character has tended to fatalism and quietism, accepting fortune and misfortune alike without complaint.

How far this judgement is a fair one is very dubious.

Basham provides a few reasons on why he thinks that the above opinion is open to debate, which I won't delve into. However, I can comment that probably this same attitude can be characterized as that of being indifferent. Maybe this is one of the reasons for the 'chalta hai' type attitude prevalent in large sections of the Indian society. This indifference attitude, or should I say this fatalistic attitude, reflects in many aspect of the society - uncaring attitude towards elections for regulatory bodies, unwillingness to check corruption, indifference towards the hardships faced by others, most notably faced by those belonging to the lower stratum of the economic pyramid of the society, and so on and so forth. Again, this is also open to debate, since many now feel that the current generation is an enlightened one and is making efforts to get rid of this attitude. Only time will tell, whether this is, indeed, the case or not.

Arthur Gordon said

Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.

Maybe, I am one of that confused person in the above quote. But, I believe that over a period of time, acceptance turns in apathy.


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