OPINION: For Humankind to Regain its Humanity, we First Have to Make a Change in Ourselves

What is time?

I don’t mean what the clock shows, but how do you define it?

Tricky question isn’t it?

Me and my friends were dumbstruck when our professor asked us to define time in one of our classes. After a lot of discussion some of us defined time as the “fourth dimension.” Others said it was a passage through which the past, present and future traveled. Some also said it was history collected. But Matthew Arnold defined it best, as we learned at the end of that class.

Matthew Arnold, born in 1822, England, a Victorian poet and critic, defined time, rather philosophically, as an alternative cycle of two epochs or phases, namely concentration and expansion.

Here concentration, he explains, is the phase wherein the human existence is driven by the force of human morals, values, faith and belief. Whereas the phase, where these values and morals start deteriorating, giving way to self centeredness and materialism, is called expansion.

To put it in the simplest of words, time is a cyclic movement which reflects various aspects of life alternatively. But you may ask why am I discussing time with you. At the end of that class we were asked, which epoch we thought we lived in. The class was dismissed, leaving us with food for thought.

Almost everyone agreed that it was the epoch of expansion that we lived in as our era is marked with corruption, terrorism, hunger for power, materialism etc. And that it is the generation of “I’m my own role model.”

Technically speaking it was correct, but I didn’t want to believe that it was all so bad. You know how, when something does not happen to, near or in front of you, you tend to call it “exaggeration” or console yourself by saying, “there must have been an explanation.” So, clinging on to these phenomenons, I let my bubble be, though it didn’t survive for long.

I was reading at leisure in my hostel room late in the night when I received a message from a friend asking if I knew anyone with an AB + blood group. She did not mention any urgency. Now my friends’ idea of being noble is donating blood every now and then and so they encourage others to do the same. Therefore, I thought it was a similar case and I took it lightly. Nevertheless, I called to check what the need was.

I was shocked to hear her wailing on the phone. Her friend had been hit by some drunk people who were driving rash “just for fun,” and was in the I.C.U. struggling for his life. Seems these people who hit him did not even stop to help the boy and thus the mere 18 year old was found with one broken leg, a few smashed ribs, profusely bleeding from the head and unconscious in the middle of the road.

It took almost half an hour to get him to some of his friends and then nearly three hours to get the proper blood match. Finally when things were in order, the doctor said, “Any further delay and we would have lost him!”

No police complaint was made and today the boy is alive and probably recovering.

My point is not to report a crime that went unseen as this incident is one of the many. I’m rather trying to focus on how we have accepted this outrageous inhumanity as a part of our lives. It’s sad to realize how human life has no value at all. We talk about big things like terrorism and corruption. But isn’t it we, who by forgetting humanity at the simplest level of our lives, have given birth to these concepts? My friend said that she had texted at least a dozen people requesting to donate blood; however, she hardly got a response and no one even bothered to ask what she needed it for. I know that it was destined happen, but would it have hurt anyone to come forward to try to make it bearable for that boy?

He could have died and no one would have known or been affected except maybe his parents and his immediate friends. It’s repulsive to see what exists today is ‘me, myself and my people.’ The only aim people have is individual success and reputation. In this world of so-called humans, humanity has been lost. People run after power: economic power, political power, materialistic power and all sorts of powers, because these powers have a value beyond imagination.

But look at the irony: the creator of these powers, the human being, has none at all.

Of course we are alive because we need to be, in order to use each other ruthlessly for our benefits and to secure our so called “better tomorrow.” But when will we understand that this selfish existence, with no respect, morals and values is not living but simply existing.

Once this reality about being in the epoch of expansion broke down on me, my first feeling was fear. Today, I’m a spectator, but how long will it take till I become a victim? And there are all those people I care for. Is there nothing that I can do about it? And then it came, rolling out of my subconscious, Matthew Arnold and his philosophy of time!

So, if this is the epoch of expansion and if Arnold is correct then, according to his philosophy, it has to be the epoch of concentration next. Therefore, I decided that although this entire era is not in my hands, a very small part of it definitely is, and that’s me. And I can guide myself to the other epoch.

Sounds like an impossible mission doesn’t it? Well it’s not. We can all start by changing small things — let the aged men and women take seats in buses and metros; its not necessary to swear at the rickshaw wala if he asks for 5 bucks more than it takes. We can be conscious of our behavior, manners and attitude in the presence of elders, even if it’s not being yourself etc.

I know these actions are small and maybe even insignificant, but in due time they will define you as a person. It’s the basic morals and values that we need to work with. Once they are embedded within us, we can leave the rest on our conscience, no matter what the gravity of any situation be.

About Aisha Shamsuddin

Aisha Shamsuddin is a postgraduate student in the Department of English. She can be reached via email at: aisha.shams9021 [at] gmail.com

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