In this essay…
There was a girl named Sweta. She studies in class 6th. She was not good in study social science in general and history in particular. She asked her social science teacher -“Why do we study history?” Her teacher replied that we study history to understand the past. Past keeps checking on a present for a better future. For example, riots in the past and their consequences suggest us to refrain ourselves from these evil things. Values of the good leaders like Mahatma Gandhi suggests us to imbibe just path in our life.
In this essay, we will discuss the following – How past is connected with human consciousness and values? How is it a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values in different spheres – Personal, Society, State, Foreign policy, and Technology? What are the challenges in ‘the past’?
Linkages between ‘the past’ and human consciousness and values
Past are those events that have happened. Human consciousness is the inner voice of a human. Human values are those characteristics that a human carries in his/her life. The past works as feedback to the human consciousness based on which a human performs SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis. It makes a person to take a decision while a person is in dilemma to choose between two wrongs or two rights.
For example, a civil servant reads the old leaves before taking some concrete decisions. It makes him/her aware of the possible negative consequences of the decision along with positive implications. Thus, it would be correct to say that ‘the past’ provides input values to the human consciousness. Based on this input man processed as though and perform his task in daily life.
In personal sphere
In a civilizational state like India, parents have been teaching their children to respect elders. It has been passing over the generations. For a student, mistakes done in past exams teach a lesson to him/her. It provides an opportunity to correct mistakes and perform better in the next examination. ‘The past’ data are important to learn monsoon patterns for the farmers.
For a businessman, he/she learn from the past trend to get to know about the demand and supply. For example, a businessman learns the region where the demand of his/her production is high. Based on this, he/she produces the quantity in the required amount. For a scientist, while doing experiments, he/she tries to under the pattern. Followed by which he/she modify the sample to get the best result.
In political sphere
Political scientists have argued in the past to know about the approach to read political science. Some suggested using the historical approach to study political science. Aristotle studied 158 constitutions before giving the ‘theory of constitution’. Realist scholars like Kautilya and Machiavelli adopted the same methodology i.e., observational which is based on ‘the past.’ According to them, experience in the real world of politics. Parties in power use the work done in the last five years to seek a vote.
The civilizational values of India guide India’s principles. People in India have been spiritual and emotionally connected with each other. Values like non-violence, truth, compassion, and brotherhood have been taught in the past. India believes in ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam‘ i.e., the whole world is our family. Modern cosmopolitan culture is in line with the Indian value of ‘Vasudev Kutumbakam.’ Even people also participate in the political sphere to improve public policy through social auditing.
At national level
For policymaking at the national making, David Easton gives the ‘system approach’ where government formulates a policy. After this, government reads the shortcomings and insert feedback in a loop to revamp shortcomings. Thus, based on past experience, the policy is strengthened. That is why constitution-makers of India have provided space for amendment in the constitution based on past experiences and present realities.
Apart from the legislative section, in the executive and judiciary, the government follows the same approach. Executive takes action by evaluating past actions or similar actions of the past. For example, Indian police read the past crimes of an individual or a ground to predict the future possible threats. Similarly, Judiciary takes references of the past judgment and constituent assembly debates to solve ambiguity in cases and interpret the Indian constitution.
In foreign policy
One of the determinants of foreign policy is the ‘identity’ hold by a nation. For example, Natwar Singh in his book “One life is not enough” says that the biggest problem before the policymakers of Pakistan is that Pakistan lacks identity because it doesn’t have ‘the past’ based on which the world could engage. On the other hand, the world understands that India believes in non-aggressiveness, peaceful coexistence, and mutual growth.
Thus, the identity of India based on ‘the past’ history has constructed policy like ‘Panchsheel’ with China and ‘Non-alignment Movement’ (NAM). The past makes the third world to believe in India and not to align with any superpower. On the same line, the consequences of the India-China war in 1962 taught a lesson to India to strengthen India’s military power too for national security. Followed by which India has not only to modernize its military but for intelligence like R&AW by taking inspiration from Kautilya.
In technological sphere
Even new technologies are based on the ‘past data.’ In the automotive sector, past data of the I.C. engine is used to predict the best ratio of air and fuel so that emissions could be minimized and climate change could be contained. Similarly, at someplace in India like J&K and Himachal Pradesh, plastic technology was used in making roads in order to utilize plastic waste. Once this program became successful then it is being implemented in other states too.
New technologies like ‘Internet of Things and ‘Artificial intelligence’ read the past data to predicts the future course of action. For example, while emailing it suggests the possible lines to a person based on the reading of the past reactions of the people. Similarly, the digital helpline in the Indian railway (Ask Disha) is based on the same principles where frequently asked questions are answered on the portal so that load of the Indian railway in customer care could be reduced.
One of the biggest challenges of ‘the past’ is that it has been interpreted in many ways. It leads to a lack of consensus over the shared past. It creates confusion and enmity between the community. The biggest issue in this context is that ‘the past’ has been interpreted on the line of identities like religion, caste, and culture. For example, some people deem ‘Mughal Raj’ as a just system while others beliefs it as an ‘unjust system’ of Medieval India.
Use of the past has been a major bone of contention. In 2018, the Supreme court of India interpreted that the ‘right to privacy is a part of Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Data of the past has been misused by the companies to increase their sale. It hampers the choices of the people. It creates temptation in the mind of people to attract toward materialism. Data used by artificial intelligence has the potential to harm humans and adversely affect human consciousness and values.
So far, we have discussed ‘the past’. We get to know about the linkages of ‘the past’ and human consciousness and values. We have analyzed how ‘the past’ is a permanent dimension of human consciousness and values in the personal sphere, political sphere for policy formulation, the national sphere in the context of legislative, executive, and judiciary, in foreign policy in the context of NAM, and in technology like artificial intelligence.
Thus, Aristotle rightly said that “State is an individual writ large.” In other words, State is the bigger form of an individual. ‘The past’ guides a human consciousness and values. It also reflects on state and its policy because it is run by the human.
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