This question is very difficult to decide, for we have only bookish knowledge of the past, while we have actual experience of the present. We know from our reading of books of the past four centuries, that today we are living a very different life from that of the time of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon, Addison, Dr. Johnson or Lord Macaulay. What are possible today would have been the wildest dreams of them.
The answer to the question depends upon the meaning we give to the word “better”. If we take it in the terms of material comforts, and material advancement, the reply would be in the positive. But if it means higher values of life such as spiritual and moral advancement and peace of mind, the answer would be in the negative.
Because of the advancement of science, we can travel thousands of miles in a few hours.
We can speak to a friend on mobile phone in any part of the world. Electricity is our ever-ready maid-servant. We have discovered wonderful remedies for conquering diseases and defeating death through life saving drugs.
Modern surgery has reduced pain and torture. It can repair and replace certain organs. We can save lives that, a generation ago would have been lost, especially the lives of little children. Machine production has filled the markets of the world with all kind of products.
All this is a cause of very deep happiness.
But do these wonderful inventions and discoveries make us really any happier than our fore-fathers? After all, these new things are the result of great medical exertion. Everyone has to work harder and earn more and more in order to buy these modern amenities of life.
Man has become money-minded and has ignored the high moral values. This has resulted in corruption and bribery, and religious teachings have been thrown away. We get much less and we are all times under great tension.
Now real happiness is the result of rest after something we have achieved, of balance of mind and body, and our modern habits of hurry and worry are not likely to bring us much of this deeper feeling of satisfaction. To-day people of highly civilized countries are frustrated. As a result of smoking, drug-addiction and use of alcohol is being popular among people of every age group.
Innumerable factories are working day and night. New kinds of seeds, fertilizers and insecticides have ‘increased the agricultural product’. But we have not been able to solve the food and clothing problem. Scientific progress has provided every facility to the rich, but it has done nothing for the poor.
In short, we are living in a machine age. Man has also become a machine. He is like a tool in the process of production. The private life of worker is no concern of the mill-owner.
The struggle on the point of wages, hours of work and production is ever becoming sharp. Strikes have become very frequent. Neither a millionaire nor a laborer is comfortable and happy. Black-marketing is the order of the day. Articles of daily use suddenly disappear from the market. You cannot buy certain things even if you have money.
Scientists have also invented horrible weapons of war like atom bomb, hydrogen bomb, laser and mustard gas etc. to kill millions of people. The fear of breaking out an atomic war is hovering over our heads. Unless there is a high spiritual and moral ideal before us, the knowledge of science will be used for the destruction of human race and not for its comforts- Therefore, we are justified to say that we are not happier than our forefathers.
Written By: Syed Faiz Mujtaba