Our ancestors would like themselves in a world quite unlike what they saw in their life-time if they were to wake up after their sleep of centuries. Their first reaction would be of amazement and perplexity. However, our first question to them would be whether they find the world better or worse or changed outwardly. Perhaps any prompt answer in negative or affirmative would not be forthcoming.
Progress stands for outward movement through it also implies’ development’ or change for the better. There is not doubt that the present time have vastly changed. The stream of time flows on at pace—men are born and pass away; empires rise and crumble; human institutions, customs and manners grow and undergo constant change. However, we do not deny that changes the law of nature. But the question arises whether this change is inevitably a process of moving forward in the right direction, a step towards the evolution of mankind, a link in the chain of man’s ceaseless Endeavour to better his lot.
It would be indeed wrong to hold the opinion that man has made no progress from the past and no improvement in human life has appeared. Today man is no longer a cave-dweller, not an animal roaming naked in the forests and securing his food like beasts of prey. Man has passed the stage of barbarism and lives in an organized society. He has sharpened his intellect and turned his reason to good account, has harnessed the forces of nature, has evolved a system of philosophy and religion and developed the various arts and sciences. Today he has reached the moon-and also conquered death. Men does not like to rest on achievements, but he is eager to follow knowledge beyond the utmost bounds of human thoughts.
Nonetheless, conservative people place the Golden Age of mankind in the past. It is believed that at the dawn of civilization man has attained the height of civilization and virtuous living which disappeared with the passage of time. In the beginning he was nearer to God and nature but he lost the divine glory as the years rolled on. The people wistfully look back to the glorious ages of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The times of Ashoka and Maurya regimes are thought to represent the zenith of civilization. However, those who hold such beliefs fail miserably to view the progress made by man. Without underrating the glories of the past we must understand at consummation of art, civilization and culture lies in the future. The best is yet to be and man is hopefully engaged in the process of achieving it.
Man has achieved equality and liberty. Slavery has ended; untouchability has been made an offence; woman have come out of the four walls of the house; the lot of the factory worker is bettered. The law and order has made life and property safe. Societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals have been set up. Colonization and imperialism have become the things of the past. Liberty of conscience is granted to people; religious persecution is unknown and the right of minorities are safeguarded. Great efforts are being made by the advanced countries to uplift the backward countries.
However, it is argued that science has promoted only material well-being and moral and spiritual progress has been retailed. Present is not free from its barbarism in the shape of subversive doctrines of socialism and communism. The terrible engines of destruction have turned the world into global conflicts which spell incalculable ruin. Man is neither more vicious, nor more virtuous than before. Except for science the artistic and literary achievements of today, do not compare favorably with their counterparts of earlier ages. However, man is trying to overcome them. There is a continuous demand to ban the application of science for destructive purposes and world organizations are formed to train humanity in the art of setting their disputes by means of peaceful negotiations. The significance of peaceful co-existence is being increasingly realized.
The study of history shows that undoubtedly mankind does progress, but not steadily and continuously. In India since Independence the progress has been freakish. We are today far from being perfect yet, the final goal of progress still very distant. However, man is destined to progress, in spite of the struggle been the divergent forces.