My answer to What breakthroughs in history cost our morality and weakened society’s ethics?
Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
Thank you for the A2A.
In my view, one of the major historical breakthroughs was the onset of travel to foreign lands.
Earlier, travel was for people specifically classified as wanderers. They went to faraway lands and returned to tell stories, half of which were discarded as imaginary tales they told to entertain people. People largely kept to their circles and cultural influences that threatened to upset their societal norms were strictly kept at bay. It was a lot easier to manage a set of lesser informed people. Moral codes and ethics could be implemented with a lot more ease. There was a clear demarcation between things that were right and things that were wrong, and nobody asked any questions. This eventually formed the ‘culture’ of a particular region.
Among many communities in India, crossing the sea was prohibited and any person who did so without paying heed to the customs would be excommunicated from the community. Marriages were permitted only among people belonging to similar backgrounds – financially, socially, religiously, etc. There were a lot of restrictions in place and people meekly followed everything as these were societal rules.
When seafaring explorers reached foreign lands, not only did they trade their goods. They also traded cultures and ideas. A new fascination started to arise in the hearts of adventurous youngsters who yearned to know what lay beyond the blue yonder. They realized that the tales told by wanderers were indeed true. When they expressed a desire to see new lands, they were vehemently opposed by worried elders who feared loss of character and morals if they stepped out of their comfort zone. That was the start of the ‘So what?’ generation. People began to attach a ‘So what?’ to everything. It was the beginning of a rebellion. A rebellion based on defiance. And people viewed morals and ethics as shackles and chains that arrested their freedom rather than untold rules laid down to ensure holistic harmony in society.
By and by, the very terms ‘morals’ and ‘ethics’ began to be questioned. Who decided those? Who gave them the permission to decide what is right and what is wrong?
More and more people eventually traveled to foreign lands, adopted several aspects of foreign culture that gave them more ‘freedom’ than what was given to them at home and when they returned home, they convinced even more people that the world was a magical place out there, that there is no harm in breaking free of societal shackles and that the only way to bring about a change was to ask back… ‘So what?’
This has continued over several generations now, and has become unstoppable.
So what if I smoke or drink or do drugs?
So what if I sleep around with different people?
So what if I marry someone outside of my cultural circle?
So what if I live life according to my own terms?
So what if I don’t believe in God?
So what if I don’t care what society thinks about me?
So what if I molest a woman?
So what if I don’t care about my country?
So what…so what…so what…
Oh, it’s totally alright. Do what you please, young man/lady. It’s not like anything can be done about it now anyway. Making foreign travel commonplace has indeed made the world a much smaller place but we have also had to pay a heavy price in the process.