SOME PROBLEMS OF INDIA
...What amazed us was that he not only saw the problems clearly but found solutions for them — solutions that were quite unique. Every custom was traced back to its origin. In the beginning there was a reason for it; it filled a need. In time it became a custom, and, as is usual with customs, accretions like barnacles were added and militated against its usefulness. What was valuable and what was harmful in this or that custom was now the question. As certain conditions brought it into existence, were the present conditions such as to put an end to it? After all, these institutions are not peculiar to India, as most seem to think.
The United States has been in existence as an independent nation not much more than one hundred and fifty years, yet there are already two distinct castes which are as rigid as it is possible to make them. A negro may be as blond as a Swede, but can never cross the barrier between the two races. And then India never lynched its depressed classes! Besides these two rigid castes, there are many subdivisions less rigid, generally based on money. Is it not nobler to place highest the caste that is rich only in spirituality, than to make money the standard? Child-marriage was practised in Europe until quite recently. We read again and again of princesses married at twelve and we know that what the royal families did, the subjects imitated. In Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare, Juliet is stated to have been just under fourteen at the time her parents planned her marriage to Count Paris.
Is it not evident that these customs grow out of the limitations of human nature and out of certain conditions which made them necessary at the time? Instead of condemning, Swami Vivekananda, after tracing them back to their source, following their history, and seeing clearly what undesirable things had been incorporated, tried to find first of all the corrective idea. In some cases this in itself would be sufficient. In others, the forces at work in India today would bring about the change. But there are cases, in which without implying any condemnation of the old a new institution must be created, which will gently, almost imperceptibly, in time displace the old.