Progress. A small word, that means so much. To go forward, to endeavour for a better life, to strive to achieve something beyond the ordinary. It is a natural feature of the human condition –a desire for progress. It is what took humans from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age and beyond, making a race of physically weak mammals the dominant species on earth.
What fuels this progress? If human agency has brought us from hunter-gatherers to exploring space, there has clearly been a driver for this progress. In the twenty-first century, we should safely discount ‘divine intervention’ as the guiding light for our advancement. Rather, it is the human instinct known as confidence to which we should rightly attribute our greatest advances.
Think of the confidence of the Wright brothers in believing that a contraption heavier than air could still fly, of Nikola Tesla in believing that electricity could be safely conducted over long distances, of Mahatma Gandhi in believing that a nation could win freedom without armed revolt, of the suffragettes in fighting for women’s right to vote and of Lincoln in believing the people of America would back him in his endeavour to abolish slavery.
These were all people who defied conventional thinking due to a deep self-confidence. They were convinced they had the answers; the right answers to questions that perhaps nobody had asked. And by believing in themselves, they revolutionized the world, bringing humanity forward.
No less would have been the self-confidence of our ancestors who discovered the wheel, metallurgy or even the formation of tribes to defend against threats.
It is this self-confidence in ourselves as a society that lets us believe that India will one day be a developed country, a superpower; that poverty will be eradicated and hunger will be history. To many, this would seem like delusional thinking. A country of our size, with our problems will never burst out of it. Yet, we see countries that try, China and Brazil and the like, and we aspire for the same. In our very greed, our desire to emulate the cleanliness and convenience of our relatives from abroad, is an expression of our self-confidence.
In being self-confident, however, it is vital to protect against hubris, or arrogance. Confidence is a realisation of one’s own strengths and weaknesses and belief in one’s abilities. Arrogance is a feeling of superiority that usually stems from a lack of self-awareness and often is a cover for an inferiority complex.
Which is why it is important that we, the youth of India, do not mistake confidence for arrogance. True progress is achieved when we recognise the weaknesses that have to be dealt with to achieve greatness. India will not become a superpower simply because Indians keep asserting it is so, nor will our culture be superior because we claim it is. It needs work, it needs improvement, and that means recognising the aspects of ourselves that need to be changed.
For that is real self-confidence – the ability to acknowledge our weaknesses so that they can be made into strengths. For the youth of India, it begins with seeking out what is wrong with our society as it exists and removing the impediments to progress, and hopefully, will lead to the nation’s genuine growth and development.