Civilization Cycles

A very important question Panditji poses in The Discovery of India why, over a period of time, nations lose their vitalityand cannot seem to come out of a stupor as though unable to move in the direction of change. He says, on page 46, that:

One senses a progressive deterioration over centuries.

He goes on to say that this is not a trend, but rather, is a phase which gets reversed through some period of productive, progressive activity, only to slip back into slumber. How is it that Europe managed to subjugate the till then vastly superior armies of Asia?

This is a question which was probably a difficult thing to answer when Panditji was writing this book, but i think he had an idea. And this is something we can see today.

What i think is that nations go through cycles of prosperity, vitality, and so on. Which is why India, or China, having enjoyed a vigour in their civilizations, as can be seen from the tremendous contributions of these civilizations to sciences, arts, dance, music, literature, even war of a period of centuries. And this is where the interesting part comes. As we can see, after a burst of development in all spheres during the Middle Ages, and reaping the fruits of these developments over the following three centuries or so, Europe somewhat lost that edge, and America and Japan came to the fore in the 20th century, leading innovations, not just scientific but economic, commercial, managerial, and in a number of spheres (including Hollywood, i would say).

And this is where the interesting part comes. Today, as we can see from internaitonal geo-politics, nations such as India, China, Brazil leading the world in areas unheard of, whether it be outsourcing or BPO, technology, or (well, well) emission reductions. In a nutshell, like everyone says this is India’s and China’s millenium. While i wouldnt go so far as to describe the millenium that way, we could say this for the century. And with this, as you can see, is where the wheel comes full circle.

So why does the wheel coe thus? I believe that as a nation is at it zenith of glory, that is when the seeds of decline are sown. Let me explain. If there are certain things which bring a nation to the zenith, they have worked in the past, and so there is no reason to believe that they wont work in the future, and success gives the confidence to assume this. This is where the nation tends to ossify, becoming rigid in its ways, thoughts and more importantly in its intolerance of new ideas because they would challenge the status quo and the status quo is the zenith, so why bother. And this, i believe, gives opportunity for other nations to “build a better mousetrap” because if the current one isnt working too well, then there is reason to change, and this reason to change displays itself in a new suppleness, an openness to new ideas, to a change, the outcoe of which may not be well defined. And the cycle continues …


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