Gulf News: Have we evolved?
Nija Arora: I don’t think so. Advancement in terms of science and technology does not necessarily mean evolution in the way people think and understand things. You can have a man who has all of the latest gadgets but he may still think that his daughter does not deserve an education.
Gokul Gopakumar: We have evolved but it’s not the point where evolution means that we have reached a better place. You can’t dispute the fact that we are evolving, but whether it is for better or not is the question. From when we are born, the first 18 years of our lives focus on education — basically growing into becoming an adult. So, the grooming period for us is 20 years. In these 20 years we are not just growing physically, we are also building the human mind, we are also building their perceptions and what they believe in and that happens through education, what we read, what we see and who we live with. So, with each generation we start at a newer place. Sometimes, if you look at all that is happening around us, it is hard to believe that we’ve moved forward. We ahd 200 years of renaissance and after that we went into World War I followed by World War II and so many atrocities happened ... how can you explain that? But maybe we can learn from that. Many of our rights have not been achieved but we are at least moving forward. We are not a finished product yet but there are places in which we are moving in the right direction.
Nija Arora: I agree. I do think we have evolved — there has definitely been change if you look at the past centuries. There was the renaissance and women’s suffrage; there have been all these movements that have brought such societal changes. But what I do believe is that at some point we became content with what we had and stagnated. We stagnated in the sense of what we want to achieve, what we want to fight for. Nowadays, what are we fighting for? Are we just fighting for ultra modernism as a farce? Are we fighting traditions for the sake of fighting traditions. We have achieved some things, but it is a very small amount compared to what we did earlier.
Gulf News: If we have evolved, why do we fail to maintain basic human values?
Gokul Gopakumar: We have certain expectations of humanity, we all do. We expect human beings to — at the end of the day — be good people. But I believe, and also there is some research done in psychology, that shows that our understanding of the human brain is very limited. We don’t know enough about human nature to understand what it is capable of. The human mind is extremely powerful. If we can convince ourselves that what we are doing is right and what you think is true, that’s enough.
Nija Arora: I agree. You can’t paint people in black or white ... that’s really not possible because there are so many circumstances that determine our actions. It could be desperation, it could be depression, there can be so many psychological factors. Just last week, I read a news report about a woman in India who sold her child for Rs30,000 (Dh1,970). You can’t say she is bad and you don’t know what made her take that decision. When you talk about the evolution of mindsets — one person’s thoughts are a conglomeration of his society, his ancestors’ beliefs, everything that they hold dear trickles down to form a person’s mindset. It’s only at a certain point in life that they start questioning these things. So, when you say you are trying to change a person’s mindset, it is not an easy thing to do. But it has to start somewhere and I think education is the right way to change people’s perspective on basic things. And when you talk about the bloodshed and suffering, I think you and I have a basic understanding of what is right and wrong, we have been trained and given the opportunity to think it through, but we form a very tiny part of the pie. There are people out there in other parts of the world who probably just don’t get a chance to think it through. It just depends on what you are surrounded with sometimes.
Gokul Gopakumar: I’d just like like to add that back in the days, violence was a lot more accepted than it is now. Even when you see blood and violence, the general consensus is that it is not right.
Gulf News: Is logic relevant in determining human behaviour?
Nija Arora: I don’t think we are completely illogical because that would not differentiate us from animals in the wild. We don’t think but sometimes people give in to other aspects of their nature - some people give in to their thirst for power, for example. So, we are governed by logic but I think it is only self-serving logic: “If it is okay for me then I think it’s right.” People are trying to assert their dominance all the time, but that is why we have evolution. Even if you look at the workplace today, it is basically a battlefield. You are trying to get to the top.
Gokul Gopakumar: Going back to the renaissance, people shunned every kind of dogma and superstition and focused on rationalisation. The biggest critique of the belief that we are logical rational beings comes from the fact that we had the world wars. You can’t say that logic itself governs human behaviour. If everyone thought rationally and for the community, then life would be easy. But that doesn’t happen. People are not rational. You can call it selfishness or whatever else but the fact is that we are not in complete control of our minds and thoughts. We would like to think we are, but we are not.