Every nation has a collective national conscience. There are also set standards to gauge the conscience of a nation. But, the yardstick to measure it is not a simple mathematic calculation of one plus one equals two. It can be measured only by studying the history of a nation and its ethical conscience records.
In measuring the conscience of the nation, we can use individual mindset and the degree of ethical responsibility. It can also be measured through acceptance and responses to different situation by people belonging to different social strata.
For instance, we can understand an individual from his/her behavior and responses to a situation when he/she encounters a person in need of help on a bus or in the street. Some will choose to simply ignore and turn their backs on such situations. We see such indifference frequently in the streets and other public places nowadays.
It is shameful and tragic that some people do not bother to help accident victims, even when road accidents take place in front of their eyes. They simply ignore the injured and proceed to their destination. We witness such instances of indifference daily. We need to ask ourselves the bitter question of whether we have lost our Brahmaso – respect for elders, mutual respect for peers, respect and sympathy for those younger and weaker than us.
Another yardstick to gauge the conscience of a nation is to study the behavior and responses of citizens to national crisis. For instance, in the colonial period, the British used the divide and rule policy to drive a wedge among emerging nationalistic forces. They created disunity amongst us and misled our nationalist movement, in order to stall the struggle for independence. The colonial masters floated the idea of ‘home rule’ in our anti-colonial nationalist movement. Under this political idea, the people had the choice to be part of British India under the British colonial rule or secede and accept ‘home rule’ and autonomous administration.
Some nationalist leaders could not foresee the trap and political machinations of our colonial master and prioritized seceding from India. Our leaders failed to understand the real issue at hand and were easily tricked by the British into not fighting for freedom struggle and sovereignty. This is our biggest historical blunder.
Another example is the failure of some to foresee the trap of communal riots orchestrated by the colonial masters in the past, at a time of growing nationalistic spirit and movement. This was another result of the divide and rule policy of the colonialists.
How shall we as a nation respond, and overcome the challenge of history? We have to learn from our past, as our present decisions will direct our future. At present, the nation is struggling to cope with issues of conflict among people with different opinions and attitudes, communities, religions, ethnic nationalities, constitutional dilemma, challenges to education, socio-politico-economic problems, etc.
We have to overcome the obstacles of narrow-minded religious and ethnic sentiments. We have to develop tolerance and higher standard of ethical conscience as an individual and a nation.
Everyone must contribute their best effort to uplift their individual conscience, self-esteem, dignity and most importantly, tolerance. Only then, can we overcome the challenge of history successfully as a nation.