Importance of Faith

It is critical to have faith in something.

It could be that with rational approaches to all things in life, we slowly but surely tend to forget the value and importance of faith. Materialism further tends to distract from the value of faith. There is even a sarcasm on the importance of various faith-based systems prevalent today.

This has come about due to various factors – one is the “affluence” factor which tends to materialise almost everything in one’s life, that means put a price figure on everything and force a comparison with friends and neighbours. The other could be the apparent liberalization of all habits and practices – consumerism, driving the critical importance of “syncing” appearances, behaviours and assets. The result is the strengthening of the ignorance factor when it comes to one’s own culture.

Nothing wrong here – most societies, especially in the developed world, have gone through this phase of life rather successfully, so it seems. However, the dilution of character and the resultant chaos in society in terms of the display of the wealth divide and crimes for no reason whatsoever, are there for all to witness. Whether developing societies can take the societal pressure resulting from such divides and display of “human-insensitive” behavioural patterns is a moot point for further discussion by sociologists of repute.

My observation would be that societies with a big cultural baggage and advantage, such as India, would be left with radical polarisation of the populace into a stronger divide between “arrived” and “aspiring”. The “arrived” class already consists of a big section of the nouveau riche portion of the society. This section of society comprises of people from both the business families and the emerging class of young professionals who wish to adopt the developed world’s social behaviours. Display of the riches is all too common in this group, and becoming part of the group would require membership in the specific segments – such a well-connected emerging business family, or well-earning young professional. The “aspiring” class is the section of the society witnessing the behaviours of the “arrived” class from close quarters, may be from the lower strata of the society, even from the slums adjoining the new condominiums and super malls of India.

Indians do not believe in revolutions, so nothing dramatic or drastic is going to happen because of the divide or the resultant jealousy and strong aspirations of the aspiring and the poor sections of the society. It is difficult to visualise how strong is the element of passivity in the society. People observe, may be discuss or demur, but surely pass on. Protests are few and far between – except ofcourse, for political causes. When it comes to societal problems not handled by politics, the Indian society is a class act – it bears itself well though the weight of the baggage is just too enormous.

Part of the reason for this is the religious faith and the importance of fate in the Indian mindset. The religious faith systems are too strong and too well-entrenched to be displaced by any political ideology from elsewhere. Stong faith in fate dispels the notion of revolution. While one may not agree with this, given the backwardness in society which could have been changed by a strong push towards a more liberal thinking, it is there for all to see. This means that the middle-aged and senior citizens of the society are not going to divorce themselves for the future adoption and rapid “modernization” of society. The younger section would have to come to terms with itself in this area – what is the best way to achieve an egalitarian society.

The purpose of this post is not to advocate one or the other approach. The main point is that faith in one’s own abilities leading to a genial optimism could be the essential ingredient in society’s adoption of affluence and modernism. Faith does not have to be detrimental to society – it does not have to be based on a fateful approach to one’s future. It could, ofcourse, be based on prayers. It could be very well based on self-confidence.

Yes, self-confidence and the ability to tackle the new world’s challenges are needed more than ever before – especially a society which has too many baggages from the past – no point in relying on past glories to take us forward. India is a resilient economy in the world stage today, and to sustain the growth and optimism and take on the world, it needs to eliminate the “class” mindset and have the “faith” mindset – faith in our abilities, our competencies, our strengths, our teamwork, and our consistency. Displays of behaviours are just what these are – just displays – we need to rather focus on the internalisation of the faith-based value systems to get ahead aggressively. The world will not wait for anyone, and this is no time to waste our hard-earned place in the world.

Time to move on with grit, determination, and commitment. More in future posts for those of you who are confused !


Vijay Srinivasan
2nd August 2008