THE TIMES OF INDIA, 28 Oct, 2006
Human beings differ from preceding stages and beings in at least two basic ways. They have a capacity to imagine, and are endowed with freedom of action. Pre-human stages of matter and life have a deterministic existence. Matter follows definite physical and chemical laws.
The seeds of vegetation and genes of animals quite conclusively determine how that particular species would play its role in nature. But, with humans, we cannot predict their behaviour with the same certainty as we can for plants and animals: We are more free to determine our actions. In that crucial difference lies the possibility of creation or destruction.
Human beings are the only creatures who have to consciously learn to live in harmony with nature. No other species of plants or animals needs to do this. At best, they need to pick up life-saving skills, which they do in the natural course of growing up. The know-ledge-seeking exercise is unique to human beings.
The purpose of this exercise is to bring about a harmony within and without — inside an individual and with other individuals, within a family and with society, and within human society and with the rest of nature.
There is no consensus yet on the nature of knowledge that would enable us to strike the best possible balance within and without. Spiritualism and materialism, as two distinct streams of thought, have guided human action so far, but both have failed in terms of providing a comprehensive guide to betterment of the human condition.
Some tried to combine the two but achieved little success. Now, we have more strife than harmony in human life. Although we are just one species, our lack of wisdom has made us divide ourselves on the basis of race, gender, culture, class, nation, religion and caste. This artificial division is the basis of all strife and human rights violations.
But in spite of our best efforts to exaggerate external differences to differentiate one human being from the other, some basic features unite us. We are one in recognising basic human values, like trust and love, which form the foundation of a happy human society. The basic philosophy of most religions is quite similar. Only rituals make them appear more different than they actually are.
Is it surprising that all around the globe, there is a consensus on the basic structure of a family, the most crucial element forming the emotional bedrock of our lives, and that we honour similar values across nations, race, culture and region? This happened without any government edict or law.
Human rights is an important area of emerging consensus. Despite the various forms of governments that rule us, we are agreed on the nature of freedom that every human being should enjoy. This is manifested in international treaties on the rights of marginalised communities and expression of commitment by various governments to honour these.
In this sense we have begun to evolve into a global community. The future will see weaken-ing of national identities and strengthening of a single identity, that of a global citizen, not merely in the context of globalised economy, but other more basic ways relating to celebration of human life and liberty.
That people around the world believe in values of truth and non-violence is evident in the manner in which they turned out in large numbers on the streets to oppose the US aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of the biggest protests were held inside the US. No single organisation or government was coordinating these protests.
People joined them following the dictates of their conscience. Similarly, we are witnessing an emerging alliance of people and people's movements around the world against the anti-people policies of the governments, international monetary agencies and multinational corporations working with the sole motive of profit-making.
Such global protests are a recent phenomenon. People across nations feel united to uphold some higher values of life which need to be preserved against the attack of market forces and governments.
People are coming together to fight for freedom from market exploitation, freedom from war and conflicts, gender justice, abolition of all forms of slavery and discrimination, upholding of human rights of minorities and indigenous people and state terrorism in the name of war against terror. The dream of another world might not be all that utopian after all.
The writer is a Magsaysay award winner