Monday, May 29, 2006

The very idea of progress. Brrrrr!

“What we call ‘progress’ is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance,” thought Havelock Ellis. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man,” argued the irrepressible George Bernard Shaw (Man and Superman: Maxims for Revolutionists, 1903). As a firm Murphy loyalist, I agree totally. I want to live in reasonable comfort. But when it comes to making a change for the sake of improving the way one has been living or because familiarity has bred contempt, I tend to be chary. What one’s likely to end up with are not comfort and greater well-being but worry and unhappiness – and avoidable and wasteful expense. Call me a Neo-Luddite if you will but I prefer to stick to the old and the familiar instead of the bold and the ‘progressive’ if left to myself. Maybe, I’m a born technophobe or a plain pessimist. (P.S.: May I add that, in the Indian context and work culture, a Neo-Luddite is likely to fare better than a progress addict?) Finally, let me remind you of what Samuel Butler wrote (Notebooks, 1912): “All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.”

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