In the old times, when technology was feeble and officious behaviour was frowned upon, mankind exhibited a remarkable level of intelligence.
The philosophers delved into the intricacies of meaning of life, poets tried to capture the soul of existence, scholars explored the unknown or unheard of, and people in general tended to understand ideas of complex nature outside their own sphere of work. People in general, in that era, were different from the people in general today. They lead a rather unhurried life, contemplated on things of varied nature and discipline, travelled, sometimes for months without the fear of routine, and diving into adventures which only a perpetually liberated soul could fathom. Honour and class were well recognized and appreciated. Frivolous talk was disregarded. Even jesters exhibited uncharacteristic astuteness disguised within simplistic undertones.
Then things changed. Our lifestyle took a sudden and sharp turn, almost as when the whistle blows marking the end of recess in a primary school. Mankind moved away from lakes, rivers and villages and started living in congested, polluted and over populated cities. Houses were reduced to diminutive cabins. Routine took over. Everyone started working hard, resolving, rather pointlessly, to chase an always elusive dream. And everyone started to feel under privileged.
Now, working hard was not a new phenomenon for human beings. Mankind has been known to work hard for thousands of years to ensure its survival in Earth’s cruel eco system. But working hard within the confines of congested, polluted and routine driven city life; that was new. And it immediately took its toll on human beings, both physically, and mentally. Physical appearances began to change. People became short in height, weak in eyesight, lethargic in appearance and weedy in substance. Our muscles were replaced with body fat, and sharp wit was replaced with tiresome talk. It was as if we took it upon ourselves to meddle with whatever soul we had been saving for centuries.
Off course mankind invented ways to artificially deal with this situation. To combat never-ending lethargy, we started indulging in sugar overdose. Soft drinks, energy drinks, caffeine, vitamin tablets, more caffeine, more drinks. To combat loneliness, we invented social media. Real life excitement was replaced with comic books, TV dramas and films.
Soon, mankind became a machine. An age old adage now, but admittedly it happened in a blink of a second. Which leads us to today’s world, where routine is the over bearing rule of life. We wake up, we do the chores, we work hard, usually for someone else, who is working hard for someone else, we do our things, we go to sleep. This cycle goes on throughout our lives. We hardly sit straight. We hardly have time. We don’t travel much. We rarely read. Our discussions with acquaintances are reduced to work-life anecdotes, frivolous jokes and mundane entertainment. A time-out for months to break the routine is never feasible. And it all starts from the very beginning. At schools, we are taught to excel in routine, and follow the scripted instructions. Critical thinking is allowed in patches, only to carve out a few who can advance the technology to the next level. Instead of technology working for us, we now work for the technology.
This leads us to the topic of the day, “today’s intellect”. Gone are the days when an Aristotle would put forward a profound notion which will transform a generation. Now our intellectuals are television celebrities who cannot render a single sentence without hyperbolic overtones, who get dismayed at the slightest of contest or question, and whose understanding of life is drawn from industrialized pop culture rather than uninhibited cognitive discourse. In other words, Socrates is replaced by Ellen DeGeneres. Today’s Waris Shah doesn’t spend an epoch contemplating on the timeless beauty of his beloved, he plainly and briefly introduces the beloved’s superficially moulded appearance and then mulls over the imagined snags that come his way. Today’s intellectuals tend to be politically correct and emotionally mundane. Always delivering carefully crafted sentiments which lack punch and resolve. Our writers do not carve out a complex world of multidimensional human beings. At best, they conceive an array of narrowly structured, often uni-dimensional, characters and feed us with “superhero” oriented simplistic dilemmas, which shouldn’t have mattered to begin with.
Our attention span is as short as 180 characters of a tweet. Social media relies more on pictures rather than words. Plastic is preferred over gold. In other words, a cognitive void has been created, leaving most of the mankind feeling lost and dazed. Mankind needs to find its lost ways once again; the ability to think, ponder, create and excel. It will not be easy, but will surely be an interesting journey from where we stand today.