The key to sanity

(The following article was posted in the “Inner Voice” column of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English language daily newspapers, on 16 June 2004.) IN THE beginning of Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna defends family values, saying, ‘0 Janardana, although these men see no fault in killing one’s family, why should we, who can see the crime in destroying a family, engage in these acts?’ There is a trend away from the family. The way of the future is rugged individualism, independence and freedom of choice. At the same time, there’s a drift toward traditional virtues, a backlash against modern and post-modern thinking, a retroactive lifestyle that promotes conventional attitudes toward living. This social rebound is visible in one of the most unlikely places: TV comedy, The Simpsons. The cartoon has run longer than any other US TV sitcom, 13 years, signalling that its worldwide audience each week is well into tens of millions. Although satirical and suggestive, The Simpsons reinforces the importance of families remaining together despite odd behaviour, differences in character, and quarrels. Since time immemorial people have wed, procreated and lived together in co-dependent situations to the overall benefit of society. Outlaws and criminals, more often than not, are single men. Family split-ups have helped create an underworld of anarchists (sometimes known as VARNA SANKARA) bent on destroying what little is left of harmony and tranquility. Family structures and values are not the total answer, as abuse within the home testifies. However, today’s departure from long-term committed relationships generates a seedy undercurrent of gratuitous violence that creates unnecessary fear. The bulwark of sane society is healthy families. Madness seeps in when God is left out. (The writer is emeritus member of the Iskcon Governing Body Commission)