People in the West generally hold that the whole duty of man is to promote the happiness of the majority of mankind, and happiness is supposed to mean only physical happiness and economic prosperity. If the laws of morality are broken in the conquest of this happiness, it does not matter very much. Again, as the object sought to be attained is the happiness of the majority, Westerners do not think there is any harm if this is secured by sacrificing a minority. The consequences of this line of thinking are writ large on the face of Europe.
This exclusive search for physical and economic well-being prosecuted in disregard of morality is contrary to divine law, as some wise men in the West have shown. One of these was John Ruskin who contends in Unto This Last that men can be happy only if they obey the moral law.
We in India are very much given nowadays to an imitation of the West. It is necessary to imitate the virtues of the West, but there is no doubt that Western standards are often bad, and every one will agree that we should shun all evil things.
The Indians in South Africa are reduced to a sorry plight. We go abroad in order to make money, and in trying to get rich quick, we lose sight of morality and forget that God will judge all our acts. Self-interest absorbs our energies and paralyzes our power of discrimination between good and evil. The result is that instead of gaining anything, we lose a great deal by staying in foreign countries; or at least we fail to derive full benefit from it. Morality is an essential ingredient in all the faiths of the world, but apart from religion, our common sense indicates the necessity of observing the moral law. Only by observing it can we hope to be happy, as Ruskin shows in the following pages.
Socrates in Plato's Apology1 gives us some idea of our duty as men. And he was as good as his word. I feel that Ruskin's Unto This Last is an expansion of Socrates' ideas; he tells us how men in various walks of life should behave if they intend to translate these ideas into action. What follows is not a translation of Unto This Last but a paraphrase, as a translation would not be particularly useful to the readers of Indian Opinion. Even the title has not been translated but paraphrased as Sarvodaya [the welfare of all], as that was what Ruskin aimed at in writing this book.
V G. D.