The modern age of commercialism But if Science has

The modern age of commercialism

 

But if Science has thus prepared us for an age of wider

and deeper culture and if in spite of and even partly by its

materialism it has rendered impossible the return of the true

materialism, that of the barbarian mentality, it has encouraged

more or less indirectly both by its attitude to life and its discoveries

another kind of barbarism,—for it can be called by

no other name,—that of the industrial, the commercial, the

economic age which is now progressing to its culmination and

its close. This economic barbarism is essentially that of the vital

man who mistakes the vital being for the self and accepts its

satisfaction as the first aim of life. The characteristic of Life is

desire and the instinct of possession. Just as the physical barbarian

makes the excellence of the body and the development of

physical force, health and prowess his standard and aim, so the

vitalistic or economic barbarian makes the satisfaction of wants

and desires and the accumulation of possessions his standard

80 The Human Cycle

and aim. His ideal man is not the cultured or noble or thoughtful

or moral or religious, but the successful man. To arrive, to

succeed, to produce, to accumulate, to possess is his existence.

The accumulation of wealth and more wealth, the adding of

possessions to possessions, opulence, show, pleasure, a cumbrous

inartistic luxury, a plethora of conveniences, life devoid

of beauty and nobility, religion vulgarised or coldly formalised,

politics and government turned into a trade and profession,

enjoyment itself made a business, this is commercialism. To the

natural unredeemed economic man beauty is a thing otiose or

a nuisance, art and poetry a frivolity or an ostentation and

a means of advertisement. His idea of civilisation is comfort,

his idea of morals social respectability, his idea of politics the

encouragement of industry, the opening of markets, exploitation

and trade following the flag, his idea of religion at best a pietistic

formalism or the satisfaction of certain vitalistic emotions. He

values education for its utility in fitting a man for success in

a competitive or, it may be, a socialised industrial existence,

science for the useful inventions and knowledge, the comforts,

conveniences, machinery of production with which it arms him,

its power for organisation, regulation, stimulus to production.

The opulent plutocrat and the successful mammoth capitalist

and organiser of industry are the supermen of the commercial

age and the true, if often occult rulers of its society.

The essential barbarism of all this is its pursuit of vital

success, satisfaction, productiveness, accumulation, possession,

enjoyment, comfort, convenience for their own sake. The vital

part of the being is an element in the integral human existence as

much as the physical part; it has its place but must not exceed its

place. A full and well-appointed life is desirable for man living

in society, but on condition that it is also a true and beautiful

life. Neither the life nor the body exist for their own sake, but

as vehicle and instrument of a good higher than their own.

They must be subordinated to the superior needs of the mental

being, chastened and purified by a greater law of truth, good and

beauty before they can take their proper place in the integrality

of human perfection. Therefore in a commercial age with its

Civilisation and Barbarism 81

ideal, vulgar and barbarous, of success, vitalistic satisfaction,

productiveness and possession the soul of man may linger a

while for certain gains and experiences, but cannot permanently

rest. If it persisted too long, Life would become clogged and

perish of its own plethora or burst in its straining to a gross

expansion. Like the too massive Titan it will collapse by its own

mass, mole ruet sua.

VOLUME 25

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO p 80-82

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