Friday, November 20, 2009


(From New Series No. 255, September 2009)

Brisk pace is predominant today. Glorification of fast speed, still faster speed has become a form of social madness. Manufacturing fast and faster vehicles for land, sea, air, outer space, even beyond outer space is one of the major activities of human beings...Producing crops that mature quickly, rapidly increasing the flesh of birds and other animals has become common today...

We are preoccupied with increasing the speed of our own bodies. Speed, faster speed, still faster speed has taken the place of mukti-moksha or freedom from the cycle of birth.

To go beyond the tempo of nature, we produce speed. Now we have many types of speed. Production of each kind of speed is an endless dance of destruction. The fearsomeness of the dance of destruction grows with the increase of speed. Let’s look at some aspects of the impact of speed on our health to realize how crucial it is to think about the very production of speed.

*Taking decisions. Taking many decisions. Every day taking many decisions of many kinds. This has become the mode of life for each one of us. Speed, faster speed in every arena requires taking quick decisions in split second stages. And speed is only increasing…

Innumerable things are linked together. And they are dynamic. At any moment, an extremely unstable equilibrium is created. In this situation, whether it be person or institution, decisions are in the category of flukes. Therefore, there is always an abundance of potential explanations.

Each one of us has to take thousands of decisions every day because of social conditions which have been created by speed, faster speed. In this situation, hope and despair have been replaced by extreme hope and extreme despair…In a single day, each one of us swings many times between these two extremes. On the one hand, we think, “I alone am a fool.” On the other hand, we think, “Except for me, every one else is a fool.” These have become the two banks of our hope and despair.

Speed, faster speed has brought about a flood of facts and figures. Persons know some of them, can keep some of them in mind. And there are questions of evaluation, comparative evaluation, and importance. There are compulsions of having to take thousands of decisions each day rapidly. “Who doesn’t make a mistake?” has become such a commonly-heard phrase. But the matter does not stop here.

*Decision after decision, fluke after fluke…Mistake after mistake. This endless process of today forces each of one of us to into many roles daily. We are doomed to putting on many masks every single day. In this situation, each person has become the wrestling ground for many personalities. There are 50 “I’s” in one “I.” Educated people call one division in personality a mental illness, when we all suffer from multiple divisions in our personality.

Children are told to become adults quickly. According to the pace of speed in the present, children should mould themselves quickly. School. Increase the speed of minds. The result is that even in a ten year old child, there is crankiness, laziness, and sadness…up to suicide.

Mental illnesses have become an epidemic. In this situation, the tendency to stop considering 15% of mental diseases as mental diseases has also emerged among psychiatrists.

National mental health program evaluations state that in India 10-20% of the population is mentally ill. According to doctors, 50 to 60% of individuals are mentally ill. Even amongst doctors, more than half are ill and 6 to 7% are serially mentally ill. Rapid speeds’ extensive dance of destruction in India has not been in effect for a significantly long time. In Europe, America, Australia, terrifying loneliness is a product of fast and faster speed. This can be gauged by the fact that for most other medical specialists, there are many immigration restrictions put in place by these governments. However, the doors for psychiatrists from India to enter these countries have remained open.

*Loneliness. Lonely in a crowd. This is a special product of fast and faster speed.

Instrumental relations are predominant today.

Despite such a rapid pace of life, there is adequate time even for instrumental relations. In fact, it is necessary to say that speed engenders so much work that there is a lack of time. In this situation, the cry of ‘no time’ is a cry for lack of time for instrumental relations. Whereas it is those relations which are beyond instrumentality that give us zest for life...give life a spark. In instrumental relations, acquaintances are made. But in relations beyond these, in non-instrumental relations… friends are made. (There is a massive change in the meaning of words and calling acquaintances friends has become common. Still, in compulsion this word is being used in its old meaning.) For any relation, time is a primary necessity. Today instrumental relations are gobbling all the time we have. So, there are many acquaintances, hardly any friends. Of course, this situation creates the fodder for mental diseases. The cure of mental diseases in our current situation becomes impossible.

*Let’s take a look back. Fear, anger, helplessness, jealousy, frustration, greed were extensive. Apart from charms, temples, shrines, a kind of sociability existed to prevent mental illness. Speed, increasing speed has either completely gobbled up this sociability or has commodified it. In these past 100 years, ceremonies and rituals on the death of a person have changed from one month to 13 days to 3 days to now one hour. A month long Holi festival is reduced to 6-8 hours. The month of monsoons which was once a month long festivity is now reduced to a two-day month. This is true too with the holidays of Teej and Rakshabandhan...Even for Brij (the birth of Krishna), twenty day festivities from birth of Krishna to Baldev Chat has merely been reduced to just Krishna’s birthday. Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali have been commodified on a terrifying level.

Grandfather, maternal grandmother, friend, relations of the streets and neighborhood are now vanishing. The demand for privacy is becoming more articulate.

Therefore, even in India, the treatment of mental diseases is on the path of becoming a very big business.

*The first knock of speed is usually in the armed forces. Speed and having to move to different places and stay there makes the army a fertile ground for mental diseases. If we look at the Indian subcontinent, the first mental asylum was opened in 1787 in Kolkata. Then 1794 in Chennai. 1795 in Ranchi. 1806 in Mumbai. 1858 in Agra. 1862 in Bareilly. All these mental asylums are situated near cantonments. Initially, in these mental asylums, soldiers born in Europe were kept here and later on soldiers born in India were also locked up here. The law to lock-up mentally ill people was passed in 1858 and the asylums were under the control of jail superintendents. In 1920, the word hospital was added to their name, coming under the supervision of doctors.

After the armies, the next arena of speed usually is the production sector. The pace of speed and the distance away from families made soldiers mentally ill. Today at speeds much faster than then, workers have to live and work far away from their families...Regarding workers’ mental health…What can be said?

And the situation of mental diseases amongst the elderly…don’t even mention it!

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