This is a refrain we hear often enough in our society: the jeremiads of the religious preachers warning of the moral decay. There are sermons in the mosques or speeches at seminars which reflect this reality. But the problem with such warnings is that this moral decadence is hardly ever defined. It is, however, understood in terms of a vague drift towards sin in a largely imagined section of the society. Such voices emerge periodically and die down fast, as if the imagined sin is then imagined to have disappeared from the scene only to resurface later. And then a predictable spectacle follows.
The point here is not to rail against this intermittent moral alarmism but to question its seriousness. The truth is that the alleged moral decay in our society is not a vaguely imagined periodic thing but a permanent feature. And while preachers should be genuinely worried about the people not observing religious practices like the offer of prayers, there is never a focus on the practical morality also mandated by the religion. For example, what about the endemic corruption in our society, that only grows by the day. What about our pathetic work culture. What about our rank lack of concern for the destitute. What about the thousands of orphans and the widows in our society who fewer people among us care about. And this apathy isnt more in evidence than on Eid.
As the countdown begins towards Eid, the streets swarm with shoppers. The rush reaches its fever pitch in the last four days. Lakhs of people across the Valley go on a shopping spree. Mutton and bakery shops and even roadside stalls witness a beeline of people. Bazaars lit up with activity. Banners go up across the crowded roads emblazoned with Eid Mubarak in Urdu and chaotic assemblies of customers create din outside rows of shops glutted with merchandize as traffic piles up amid a throbbing sea of people plunging the roads into a virtual chaos. But despite the inconvenience nobody seems to mind. This naturally buoys up the Valleys business community who witness such a massive rush of buyers only on two Eids. But there is a downside to this shopping too: more often than not, the Eid shopping degenerates into an unbridled consumerism.
There is excessive expenditure on food items. At the same time, this air of festivity is conspicuously bereft of the concern for the poor and the people who have suffered most over the past two decades. This looks shocking at a place that has witnessed thousands of deaths and suffering on a massive scale. Isnt it thus incumbent on us as a community that while we go for our customary Eid shopping, we also remember them and contribute in a material way to lessen their misery. But our preachers never raise our consciousness on these issues. Our everyday corruption, our depressing work culture, our apathy towards the members of our society that need our attention, doesnt seem to qualify as a moral decay. On the auspicious occasion of the Eid-ul-Fitr while we celebrate our month of fasting and the self-discipline, there is a need to become more practical about our moral outlook. Fight against moral corruption shouldnt be intermittent and vague, it has to be everyday and realistic.