Home » Languages » English (Sr. Secondary) » Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Modernity” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Modernity” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.



Modernity is a movement for a self-conscious break with the past and a search for new forms of expression. Since the earliest times, human society has comprised persons who are orthodox, believing in rituals and superstitions and others who are progressive and modern and can look ahead. The basic difference between the modern and the orthodox in different ages, however, arises from the fact that human thought and practice in different social fields have advanced step by step. What may be called orthodox in one age, may have been modern in the preceding age. The most backward person in an advance country today may be regarded as modern if he happens to visit a tribal area in the backward Africa. In this context, therefore, modernity is a question, not of date but of outlook.

In the modern age, at first, imperceptibly with the rise of the towns and then catastrophically since the mechanical revolution, there have gone into dissolution not only the current orthodoxy but the social order and the ways of living which started it. Rebellion and emancipation have come to mean something far more drastic than they ever meant before. The earlier rebels seemed at most to owe allegiance to one another but feeling for certainty in religion and for decorum in society persisted. In the modern world, it is this very feeling of certainty itself which is dissipating. It is dissolving not merely for an educated minority but for everyone who comes within the orbit of modernity.

Yet, here remain the wants which orthodoxy of some sort satisfies. The natural man, when, released from restraints having no substitute for them, is at sixes and sevens with himself and the world. For in the free play of uninhibited instincts, he does not find any natural substitute for those accumulated convictions, which, however badly they did it, nevertheless organized it so, economized his effort, consoled him and gave him dignity in his own eyes because he was part of some greater whole. The disasters of modernity are so powerful that they do not tolerate a crystallization of ideas which will serve as a new orthodoxy into which men can retreat. And so the modern world is haunted by realization which becomes constantly less easy to ignore; that it is impossible to re-construct an enduring orthodoxy and impossible to live well without satisfaction, which an orthodoxy would provide.

The modern man has ceased to believe without ceasing to be credulous; he hangs, as it were, between heaven and earth and is at rest nowhere. There is no theory of the meaning and value of events which he is compelled, to accept but he is nonetheless compelled to accept the event. There is no moral authority to which he must turn while there is coercion in opinions, fashions and fads. There is for him no inevitable purpose in the universe, but there are elaborate necessities—physical, political, economic. He does not feel himself to be an actor in a great and dramatic destiny but he is subject to the massive powers of our modern civilization; forced to adopt their past, bound to their routine, entangled in conflicts. He can believe what he chooses about his civilization. He cannot, however, escape the compulsion of modernization. They compel his body and his senses as ruthlessly as did the king or the priest in olden days. They do not compel his mind. They have all the forces of natural events but not their majesty, all the tyrannical power of ancient institutions but none of their moral certainty. The events are there and they overpower him. But they do not convince him that they have that dignity which is necessary and inherent in the nature of things. In the old order the compulsions were often painful but there was a meaning in the pain that was inflicted by the will of an all-knowing God. In the new order the compulsions are painful and, as it were; accidental, unnecessary, wanton and full of mockery.

The modern man does not make his peace with them. For, in effect, he has replaced natural piety with a grudging endurance of a series of unsanctioned compulsions. When he believed that the unholding of events was a manifestation of the will of God, he could say: “Thy will be done. In His will is our peace”. But when he believes that events are determined by the votes of a majority, the order of his bosses, the opinions of his neighbours, the laws of demand and supply and the decisions of quite selfish men, he yields because he has to. He is conquered, but not convinced. – The modern man in a progressive community has neither the time nor the energy for any delightful superficiality. He is too busy solving his fundamental problems. He is so free to question his promiser that he is no longer free to ‘work out its consequences. The philosophy of life is like the skyscraper; it is 9/10th of the structure. So much effort has gone into constructing and making it fit to bear the strains, it is so new and yet it will so soon be out of date that nobody is much interested in the character of it. Compared to it, a medieval cathedral, like the medieval civilization which was built slowly over generations but was to last forever, is decorated inside and out, where it can be seen and where it cannot be seen from the crypt to the roof. The modern man is an emigrant who lives in a revolutionary society and inherits a Protestant tradition. He must be guided by his conscience. But when he searches his conscience, he finds no fixed point outside of it by which he can take his bearings. He does not really believe that he is at such a point because he himself has moved about too fast to fix any point long enough in his mind. The old sense of authority is not established by an argument but is acquired by deep familiarity and indurate association. The ancient authorities were blended with ancient landmarks, with fields and vine yards and patriarchical trees, with ancient houses and chests full of heirlooms, with churchyards or temples out at ends, with old men, Who remembered wise sayings they had heard from wiser older men. In that kind of setting it was natural to believe that the great truths are known and the big question is settled and to feel that the dead themselves were still alive (being important) and were watching over the ancient faith.

But when creeds have to be proved to the doubting, they are already blighted; arguments are for the unbelievers and the wavering for those who never had and for those who have lost these primordial attachments. Faith is not a formula which is agreed to, if the weight of evidence favours it. It is a posture of man’s whole being which predisposes to assimilate, not merely to believe his creed. When the posture is native to him, in tune with the rhythm of surroundings, his own is not dependent upon intellectual ascent. It is a serene and whole-hearted absorption like that of infant to its mother, in the great powers outside which govern this world. When that honey of feeling is no longer there, as it is not there for a large part of our talkative fundamentalist, we may be sure that corrosive doubting has begun. This has led to lowering of the quality of much modern religiosity. So much of modern belief is synthetic, forced, made, and insisted upon, because it is no longer simple and inevitable.

When we speak of modern civilization, we mean a civilization dominated by the culture of the great metropolitan centres. It is in the large cities that the tempo of a modern civilization is determined and the tendency of mechanical inventions as well as economic policy is to create an irresistible desire for migration from the country towards the city. The deep and abiding traditions of religion will belong to the countryside, for it is here that man earns his daily bread by submitting to the super-human forces, whose behaviour he can only partially control. In majority of the cases, there is not much a farmer can do if he has ploughed ground and planted his seed, except to wait hopefully for rain or sun. In a city, man puts his faith in furnace to keep out the cold, air-conditioners to keep out the heat, and is proudly aware of what poor conditions his ancestors endured. The modern man has at his disposal the machinery of intelligence—the press, the radio, motion picture, the TV and the like. These have enormously multiplied the number of unseen events and strange beliefs and queer doings with which he is to be concerned. They compel him to pay attention to facts which are detached from their background, their causes and their consequences and are only half known because they are not seen or touched or actually heard. These experiences appear to him having no beginning, no middle and no end, mere flashes of publicity playing fitfully upon a dark tangle of circumstance.

 The effect of modernity then is to specialize and to intensify our isolated activities. Once all things were phases of a single destiny. The Church, the State, the family, the society were all means to the same end, the rights and duties of the individual in society, the rules of morality, the themes of art, and the teachings of science, were all ways of revealing, of celebrating, of applying the laws laid down in the divine constitution of the universe. In the modern world institutions are more or less independent, each serving its own proximate purpose and our culture is really a collection of different interests, each sovereign within its own realm. The separation of activities has its counterpart in a separation of selves; life of a modern man is not so much the history of a single soul; it is rather a play of many, actors within a single body.


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