Changing Social Norms – Feedback

Philosophers have from time to time set social standards for the proper functioning of society. Old standards change over time and new ones are adopted in their place. This article looks at some of these changing norms in the present day whose understanding can help moderate conflicts between old and new generations.

Until 1990, this proverb “going to bed early and getting up early makes a man healthy, rich and wise”; was a buzzword from parents to their children. In my childhood, my mother used to wake me up when she was grinding flour before sunrise in the stone-chaki. As a father, I used to wake my kids up until the late 90s, but after that the schedule started to fall apart due to different tuition and school schedules. Perhaps most parents around 2000 had accepted that the old proverb is redundant and the new norm of “staying late and getting up late is the student/studious way of life”.

Another Sanskrit shloka, “Janani aur Janambhumi swaragad api gariyashi, means mother and fatherland are superior even to heaven”, is such an important social norm that it is Nepal’s national motto. In India too, rooted people like me after serving in eight states of India thought of settling near where they were born. In order to live near my family and my relatives, I settled in a small town of Rohtak.

My decision is an exception because even the lowest employee of most national-level institutes prefers to locate in state capitals or nearby towns. Even my children after living in state capitals did not like my decision to move to the district level. Instead of Janani or Janam bhumi; other considerations such as facilities, work opportunities and proximity to in-laws emerge as deciding factors.

Third, the relevant social and religious norm was to avoid debt as it is a sin according to the Bible, an obligation over generations according to Islam and Hindu philosophies. A person dying in debt may not attain Moksha. A loan outstanding against a person after death is transferred to heirs and was once considered a breach in the family’s reputation. But nowadays, everyone likes to avail the maximum loan which can come from banks and individuals. Farmer suicide due to excessive lending is a very common political problem. It used to be that committing suicide was a crime, but nowadays the farmers’ unions force the administration to declare all types of deaths as suicides because he receives compensation from the government. Other unions are demanding the lifting of unpaid loans and the improvement of remuneration. It seems that people follow the philosophy of Charvaka (Rishi) whose guiding principle is “Yavat Jeevan sukham jeevet.” Rinam kritva ghritam pibet”. It means, as long as you are alive, enjoy your life, drink ghee even while borrowing money. According to Charvak, “…moksha is death which is the cessation of the breath of life. The sage, therefore, should not take pains because of moksha. A fool exhausts himself in penances and fasts. Chastity and other similar ordinances are made by clever people for the weak.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


About Marjorie C. Hudson

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