Saturday 11 August 2018

Civic Ideal : Sister Nivedita


CITIES are the schools of nationality, even as a nation is made up of all its citizens. It is in the service of the small unit that the power to become a critical factor in the larger is for the most part won ; by that knighthood which is the guerdon of civic contest that souls fearless and unstained are selected for the leading of a nation's advance. In the history of no people, at any period in its development, has there ever been time to spare for one wasted life. Such a life immediately becomes parasitic upon Humanity, and thereby detracts from that energy on which there are but too many other calls. The fact that in themodern world whole classes of people fail to recognise this fact, shows only that we have not yet any adequate idea either of the demands to be made on the individual by a perfect civic life, or of the problems that await solution by the energy of such life. It would only be, indeed, by the finest possible development of every man. woman, and child in a whole country that such an ideal could be made manifest, and this is a spectacle which the world has never yet seen. The Indian prince, idling in a motor, or following the fashions of a society which neither he nor his have initiated or can control ; the American millionaire, spending outside his country the sums concentrated in it by the organization of Shudra-labour ; and the European aristocrat, absorbinginto his own interest all the privileges of all classes, in every place and society ; all these appear equally unsuspicious of the fact that Humanity has a right to make any higher claim on a man than that of the fulfillment of hisown selfish caprice. Yet there are in the world at any given moment so many evils that might be removed, so many sorrows that might be mitigated, so many tasks that need not be left undone, that if all of us were to respond in the highest degree to the greater exactions of the race, the progress made would only very slowly become apparent! Verily, in all eternity there is not room for onemoment of viciousness, of weakness, of idleness, nor amongst all the nations of men, for one human parasite!

In India at the present moment, we are learning, however slowly, to decipher the new laws that are to dominate and evolve our great future. As a community, our task, up to the present, has been to maintain all that we could of the past. Suddenly, however, all this is at an end. We have entered upon an era of formulation of the new. 'By the past, through the present, to the future!' says Auguste Comte. That is to say, it is by the scrutiny and understanding of the past, and by taking advantage of the power it has accumulated in us, that we become able so to direct our own action as to create for ourselves and others the loftiest future. The yet-to-be is as a vast unexplored territory of which we are charged to take possession. That age which is discovering nothing new, is already an age of incipient death. That philosophy which only recapitulatesthe known, is in fact a philosophy of ignorance. It is because in our country today great thoughts are being born, because new duties are arising, because fresh and undreamt of applications are being made of the ancient culture, that we can believe the dawning centuries to be for us. If the Indian mind had not been giving daily promise of extended conquests, if it had not been feeling out constantly towards a new dimension, we could have hoped nothing for ourselves.


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