For ‘the dignity and worth of the human person’

It is so diverse in its issues and problems; with layers upon layers of power-relations

In 1847, two organizations merged: The League of the Just and the Communist Correspondence Committee – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were asked to draft a short introduction for the resulting entity – What came about, was the famous ‘Communist Manifesto’; which begins thus,

‘A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.’

In 1840s; this euphoria may have been somewhat justified. ‘Hungry Forties’; as the times were called- resulted in mass upheaval across Europe. But, by 1849; these revolutions were dead; though echoes of those emotions resound even today - Some see light not in struggles, reforms and revolutions – but, in The Struggle, The Reform and The Revolution. With reductionist simplicity, they infer causality from co-relation and condemn every form of ‘side tracking’ as treason to the ‘Greater Cause’. Herein, I won’t bother myself with the technicalities of Dialectic Materialism or its ‘Revisionist Offshoots’ – that does not concern me. What concerns me is the experience we have gained from the vast ambit of human experience; in all its historic and geographic complexities. This common heritage of humankind has shown us that the conditions for a ‘Grand Universal Revolution’, are never ripe – Rights and Liberties have to be fought, inch by inch, cubit by cubit. One right does not guarantee the other and one liberty should not come at the expense of another. Albert Camus in a speech given at the Labour Exchange, while pointing at the false dichotomy between ‘Bread and Freedom’, so rightly sums up this human experience,

‘There is no ideal freedom that will someday be given to us all at once, as pension comes at the end of one’s life. There are liberties to be won painfully, one by one, and those we still have are stages – most certainly inadequate, but stages nevertheless – on the way to total liberation.'

Across the length and breadth of human history, movements and struggles have never shown cinematographic consistency. Different experiences, complex and layered struggles, and varied results have come forth in the unfolding of this human endeavour. Even within the ‘greater causes’ and ‘supreme revolutions,’ many sub- revolutions, as much (if not more) important, have and do exist. When Gandhi marched for the rights of the ‘untouchables’, he was not taking a detour from fighting colonialism - the march was an inevitable part of the freedom struggle, not only from alien occupation, but, from ourselves as well. Olympe de Gouges drafted the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen’, just after the 1789 ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’ - Her pointedly semi-rhetorical question ‘Oh Women!’ ‘What advantages have you gathered in the Revolution?’ - couldn’t have waited for a more opportune time. Every form of liberty had to be fought for – the priority list could not have been framed by the sophisticated elite, less so, by the taste of the unruly mob.

The collective wisdom of centuries – the Preamble to the UN Charter, so rightly affirms in ‘the dignity and worth of the human person’ – And everywhere this principle is violated, a struggle must ensue. Society is far more a complex phenomenon, than what can be summarized in theoretical frameworks. It is so diverse in its issues and problems; with layers upon layers of power-relations - that playing black and white is not only impossible, but dangerous as well. What takes prime importance as the issues of immediate and distant concern in Scandinavian Social Democracies, are so vastly different from those of the underdeveloped parts of Latin America. What forms the central theme of urban middle-class resistance, may be utterly irrelevant in an impoverished rural underpinning. Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky may not of necessity satisfy the revolutionary curiosity of caste emancipation. A farmer in South Asia - having lived in abject squalor; may rarely find solace in the French existentialist themes of Camus and Sartre. Manto, Prem Chand, Ismat Chugtaai, and the ilk may far more mirror our society, than those serving an audience of post-industrial Europe. Economic conditions may be the broad approximation of our social ethics – but the questions of Political vs. Economic Democracy may seem trivial to the ones suffering under the sharp edge of caste discrimination; wherein even economic upliftment may not herald social emancipation - JUSTICE, social, (then) economic and (then) political, in the Preamble to the Constitution, after all – is not mere coincidence.

As such, the struggle for ‘the dignity and worth of the human person’, has to be seen in whole, and also in parts. In whole - as the commonly shared goals and values of humankind. In parts - as the various shades and challenges to these ideals, in different environs. Cross cultural experience and historic lessons, must all be used to serve a common cause, being fought for; though surgically adopted for different arenas, and under diverse circumstances. And, the people fighting for the cause, with difference of opinions and requirements of the battlefield - considered Comrades, nonetheless - standing for a basic right, as Orwell would remind us in his reminiscences of Catalonia i.e. ‘human decency’. Respected for their sacrifices and lauded for their struggles, their achievements be celebrated as laurels of liberty, to be proudly worn as the collective insignia of humankind.

So apt is to summarize, quoting the words of the famous Indian reformer – Gopal Krishna Gokhle, from a speech delivered in Madras, in 1904,

‘There is work to be done for the mass of your countrymen who are plunged in ignorance and superstition...Then there is work to be done for the elevation of the status of the womankind...In religion many of the old institutions are existing only in form and the spirit seems to have fled from them...work is to be done in the direction as well...Lastly, the industrial development of the country needs to be urgently attended to. In all these directions there is work to be done. It is true that it is not everyone who can undertake such work, but a fair proportion might be reasonably expected to take some interest in the work in one or another of the various fields...’

This, we must do!

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