Thinking about “Progress”

In the wake of my parents’ recent visit to the US, I started thinking about the situation faced by many peoples the world over. In particular, I thought about the Western idea of progress and how that conflicts with other approaches to the world. My thoughts were sparked by some of the generational differences between people I know from the area around me at home. The older generation I am thinking of wants something of a return to “more” traditional ways of living while maintaining a connection to Westernisation. The way of life they are moving towards contains very few of the creature comforts of modern life, like electricity and telephones. In light of that, I wondered whether the “progress” by the introduction of these amenities actually translates into a better life for all people. And by “a better life” I don’t mean “better quality of life” – rather, I mean a more meaningful, fulfilling life. Do telephones and electricity (and computers and cellphones and and and) make our lives more meaningful? I somehow doubt it. I think they definitely distract us from finding any meaning or focus in our lives, and, as a result, may well make our lives more meaningless in that they prevent us from focusing on ourselves and our surroundings.

Of course, what constitutes a fulfilling life is itself a huge question, to which huge volumes of literature are devoted. But in and of itself, does the fact that there is such a huge demand for such material in the West not indicate some issues with Western society? Or is that just a symptom of any society? Does it need to be “progressive” to reach such a point? I don’t know.

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