By Lukman Harees –
‘Threat to Human Dignity emanates not from aliens or non-humans, but through the machinations of the hypocritical ,weird and the wicked human mind’– from ‘The Mirage of Dignity’
The Year just gone, 2015 was undoubtedly filled with many moments of happiness and sorrows in each one of our lives. The world too had their fair share of such moments and events. Yet, with quite a lot of enthusiasm, hopes and resolutions, people all around the world welcomed a fresh, new year, as they do every year. From family get togethers, to parties, the new year day was filled with celebrations and resolutions in every nook and corner of the world. Dazzling fireworks lit up the skies of many capitals on New Year’s eve. But, as we celebrate endings and yearn for new beginnings, and as we wish each other, May the year 2016 greet you with fragrant days, may it be as colourful as rainbow, as bright as sunshine and as happy and cheerful as a lark. Happy New Year, how serious are we, in dedicating the New Year to humanity and the betterment of the world at large? The truth is that we welcomed the New Year, full of things that have never been, leaving behind this world, worse off in many areas in displaying our human values and safeguarding human dignity.
Enjoyment apart; whether Gregorian, Islamic or Chinese, for a new year to bring us something new, we need to have firm resolve, determination and a change of heart to make a transformational move, like a butterfly tearing its cocoon! not just a physical move from December 31st in one year to the January 1st of the following year, but a spirited, attitudinal and a serious move. We need to get away from narrow shackles and overcome barriers which keeps humanity apart, – racism, communalism, nationalism, hatred and religious bigotry. We need to make a firm resolution and a firm determination to see things through the lens of humanity and make us available for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. Thus, when we open the blank book of Opportunity and start to write the first chapter on the New year’s Day, we need to remember that the next year’s words should await another voice. Another and fresh way of thinking to ensure that this world will be a better place for the billions of faceless and voiceless human beings who feel oppressed, persecuted and deprived of their due rights as human beings in their daily lives.
2015 was a decisive year in the recent human history. Among many positive developments we experienced, there were many gloomy and unfavourable trends which happened too, which made us worse off in the barometer of human dignity, which causes alarm for our human race. The disgusting headlines on human suffering, utter disregard to human life and affronts to dignity which splashed across newspapers and TV news bulletins, should make us reflect on the hypocrisy running across humanity and to question the seriousness of the lofty rhetoric on the concept of human dignity and basic human rights, and hasten to re-commit ourselves to safeguard our innate dignity, about which our leaders shout from rooftops and global UN conference rooms.
The undying myth about the material progress and development, that it will remove all our human suffering and poverty forever from all corners of the world and ensure happiness and prosperity, now lies shattered. Humanity surprisingly believed this as a fact, for so many years with such admirable innocence. Even nations that have witnessed unprecedented prosperity during the last five or more decades, such as US and other affluent Western nations, have not been able to exile either poverty or destitution from within their borders. The human dignity thus appears like a mirage amidst the much talked about landscape and highways of human progress. When these trends of injustice, oppression and tyranny are sweeping across the world, it is no doubt that the level of approval of the international institutions specially the United Nations among the ordinary people on the street has been gradually dipping towards the lowest end due to its relative failure in speaking up for and decisively act on behalf of the many millions who die, starve and suffer for no fault of theirs.
Whether we are living in the developing South or affluent North, the name of the game is the same. Those few enjoying the fruits of world labour are continuing their exploits of world
resources to their benefit unabated while rest of the millions are being treated as techno-robots, wage slaves, human fodder and as means (rather than an end). Statistics rolling out from global research agencies are speaking out loud about this inescapable truth. Most of the time therefore, it has been a one-way street in favour of the privileged, rich and the powerful. Governments may play around with words, philosophies, even policies and strategies; the end result has most often been that there is scant regard to human dignity and social justice.
Whether we are living in the affluent countries or in the poorest countries, whether we are religious or secular, whether we are American, British, French, Russian Iraqi, Afghani, Indian, Sri Lankan, Chinese, or Singaporean, it may not matter. What matters is our common cause-to restore into ourselves our human dignity and to fight off vile attempts by vested interests to undermine our innate dignity, devour our human identity and to change our human nature. It is imperative to build our solidarity effectively so that those at the top whichever country we belong to, will no longer be able to divide our ranks along the lines of race and geographical contours, ignore our voices and treat us as instrumentalities. Let us not give up our struggle in our search for a foothold in the world of possibilities for dignity to blossom-possibilities of justice, peace, human rights and due recognition for our individuality/personality. Civil activism is a must and by-standers and the civil society should take the driving seat without abdicating their pivotal role in demanding decisive change.
Perhaps our busy lifestyles have eluded us to dedicate that moment to think, reflect and act in any way possible. We are engaged in futile, petty issues like racial/colour differences and make hills out of such molehills and are led to avoid looking at bigger issues of dignity by our own cultures and leaders. Perhaps, the disinformation, the blatant cover-ups and double standards of the super powers have caused a sense of fatigue in our thinking and made us indifferent. However, it is a fact of history that whenever we, at the bottom rungs pause in our alertness and do not do what we should, at a time when various forces are at work to undermine our dignity and our rights, then our own silence, indifference or apathy may be taken by our governments, our political leadership, and the powers that be, as our approval of their action. Most of us tend to read numerous distressing, oppressive headlines in our newspapers, and go through statistics regarding scores of people dying, suffering and their human dignity being desecrated, debased and violated with utter contempt and impunity, without any constructive responses emanating from the bottom of our hearts and marshalling them for effective action. Don’t we? We have allowed, for quite a long time, our leaders to take us—the bystanders for granted, to ride roughshod their way over us and to achieve their narrow and devious aims; all in the hallowed names of democracy, civilization and progress.
The human landscape, Adam Jones says at the conclusion of his book, ‘Crimes Against Humanity’, ‘sometimes seems so bleak as to hardly justify efforts to brighten it. We confront crises,looming or pervasive, on a dizzying number of fronts . . . As individuals, we may feel like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike,-except that new leaks are always springing up beyond our reach; others’ ability or willingness to help is uncertain; and even where we stand, the hole appears too big for our trivial efforts to plug it.’.
Nevertheless, in these challenging circumstances, active and constructive intervention of the civil society to defeat the hypocrisy at the top and the reactionary forces of racism, religious bigotry, and the vile attempts of the Neo-colonists to keep millions oppressed through exploitation of global resources, is not merely desirable but mandatory. The effort what we put in, need not be necessarily gigantic; it can even be a spoken or written word, an atom of an action, or a purposeful thought, which will later crystallize into a potent force to stand up in defence for human dignity. We should not let reactionaries discourage us, or let them question our call, because they will. We should not let our failures put us off because temporarily we may falter. When we step out of the box, and chose to be different and defiant, we will see that being different and defiant and standing up for what is right and just, does not go well in ‘polite societies’. Take heart from those great souls down the ages who swam against the tide and defied the odds to achieve great things. The critics will always be there. They will always be around. Rather than letting their words and actions drown us in despair, let them fuel us with energy to complete our laudable mission of upholding our birth-right-our inherent dignity and rights. As Leonardo Da Vinci, scientist, inventor and artist said, ‘Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star, does not change his mind.’
One of the biggest challenges in 2016 will be to ensure that we do not allow those evil forces to make us view human beings through the lens of race and religion. Every human being deserves to be treated as such, by virtue of fact they were all born into the human family. Trumpism, the vicious forces of extremism and the media Mafias who make bogeymen of religions and races should be defeated; otherwise the world will be nearing an ‘Omnicide’ They say, public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs. In particular, prejudice of any kind implies that we are identified with the thinking mind. It means we don’t see the other human being anymore, but only our own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence. How true indeed!
The WWII Holocaust illustrated the consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on a society. Hitler’s prejudices eventually affected the whole world. Hitler had a vision of a Master Race of Aryans that would control Europe. He used very powerful propaganda techniques to convince not only the German people, but countless others, that if they eliminated the people who stood in their way and the degenerates and racially inferior, they – the great Germans would prosper. Trumpism. Islamophobia which we see is originating in the West and spreading its tentacles elsewhere, will also have a similar disastrous effect. But, do we ever learn from history?, as Huxley said ‘That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach’.
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