Western modernity destroys human values

According to recent report – Every year the British businesses lose over 26 billion pound sterlings and 70 million working days because of conditions like ‘workplace stress’.

Another medical study concludes that 71% of people found decrease in personal depression after a ‘green walk’ and 22% found increased depression after a ‘urban walk’.

Helena Norberg-Hodg is founder and director of US-UK-based International Society for Ecology & Culture. She is an author and analyst of social and environment impact on humanity. In her 1992 research paper, titled The Pressure To Modernise, wrote:

“Why do the traditional societies break down upon their first sustained contact with the modern world? The easy answer is that Western culture is intrinsically preferable – that blue jeans are simply better than homespun robes, the nuclear family better than the extended family.

Much of the critique of conventional development has focused on the political and economic forces that foist modernisation on unprepared cultures, while the psychological side is largely neglected. And yet no one can deny the profound impact of glamorised Western images on the minds of young people who reject their own culture in favour of the ‘American Dream’. Rambo and Barbie Dolls are making their way to the most remote corners of the world, with disastrous results.

Besides giving the illusion that all Westerners are multi-millionaires, tourism and Western media images also help perpetuate another myth about modern life— that we never work. It looks as though our technologies do the work for us. In industrial society today, we actually spend more hours working than people in rural, agrarian economies.

Media images focus on the rich, the beautiful, and the brave, whose lives are endless action and glamour. It is an overwhelmingly exciting version of an urban ‘American Dream’, with an emphasis on speed, youthfulness, super-cleanliness, beauty, fashion and competitiveness. ‘Progress’ is also stressed: humans dominate nature, while technological change is embraced at all costs.

Millions of young people believe modern Western culture to be far superior to their own. This is not surprising: looking as they do from the outside, all they can see is the material side of the modern world—the side in which Western culture excels. They cannot so readily see the social or psychological dimensions—the stress, the loneliness, the fear of growing old. Nor can they see environmental decay, inflation, or unemployment. On the other hand, they know their own culture inside out, including all its limitations and imperfections.

No one can deny the value of real education—the widening and enrichment of knowledge. But today in the Third World, education has become something quite different. It isolates children from their culture and from nature, training them instead to become narrow specialists in a Westernised urban environment.

The old culture reflected fundamental human needs while respecting natural limits. And it worked. It worked for nature, and it worked for people. The various connecting relationships in the traditional system were mutually reinforcing, and encouraged harmony and stability. Most importantly of all, having seen my friends change so dramatically, I have no doubt that the bonds and responsibilities of the traditional society, far from being a burden, offered a profound sense of security, which seems to be a prerequisite for inner peace and contentedness. I am convinced that people were significantly happier before development than they are today. And what criteria for judging a society could be more important: in social terms, the well-being of the people; in environmental terms, sustainability…..”

In Islam, there are five basic values for humanity, which are advised to be protected every time. Depending on circumstances to build up harmony and universal peace, advises to preserve the five basic values at the lowest level or the barest minimum for an acceptable level of living. These basic values therefore includes the ability to perform moral responsibilities; protection of life, securing food, clothing and shelter, education, the right to earn a living, to set up a family, etc. It is to be understood that at this level, one has enough to live but not necessarily to be in some comfort. Islam preaches to that a human being cannot live without these basic values. Individuals and states are advised to protect or at least to respect these basic values.

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