THE NEED OF ATHEISM
VIJAYAWADA -- 520006 India
Exploitation of Superstition
The east coast of India is now affected by severe drought on account of an unprecedented failure of monsoon. The natural calamities may also be partly due to our wide-spread artificial life and technological progress which are interfering with the balances of forces of nature. The soil, water, and air pollutions which pose serious problems in the industrialised parts of the world like Europe, America and big cities all over the world are illustrations in this context. The extensive cutting down of the forests to satisfy the needs of timber for house construction, fuel for household fire and for the production of pulp for paper manufacture may be affecting the moisture content of the air and there by reduce the rainfall. It may be that the spread of electromagnetic waves in the atmosphere created by the journeys of satellites, by the radio and television transmissions and by the nuclear tests may prevent the moisture particles from forming the rain drops.
When the progress of civilization thus affects the balance of forces in nature, we have to compensate the loss by equally scientific, technological and sociological methods. So whatever may be the cause of drought in the east coast of India now, we have to meet the challenge by the maximum utilization of river waters and by the methods which convert the sea water into drinkable water. Instead of such scientific approach to the solutions of the conditions of drought, we are pained to read a news item in today's Indian Express that the District Collector of Visakhapatnam told a meeting of the district officials, legislators and village officers that the government would assist them to perform sahasra kambhabhishekam, which is a religious ritual and worship of the rain god invoking "him" to bless the region with rain. The first village where the blessings of the rain god will be invoked on the 31st of August, 1972 is Panchadarla in Yellamanchili Taluka, which is badly affected by drought.
Adding Insult to Injury
There was an age in ancient times when rain, wind, river, reptile and disease were supposed to be caused by divine spirits. And the believers worshipped those spirits and their fetishes for blessings. That was gross superstition indeed. We are far past those days. We live in air conditioned rooms, cause artificial rains, dam our rivers and dig irrigation channels. We control disease and increase longevity. To perform a religious ritual to the rain god in this modern age by a district officer is indeed the exploitation of an ancient superstition. It is unbelievable that a district officer who cannot hold that post without a high academic qualification and passing through a severe selection to test his intelligence, is superstitious himself. But in encouraging the common people to worship the rain god, he is clearly exploiting the superstition and side-tracking the real needs of the people.
On the other hand, consistent with his attainment and responsibilities of office, he should encourage the people to grow more scientific and to meet the situation of the drought realistically. For this purpose he should punish the misuse of water for growing non-edible plants or for watering the lawns. He should see that leakage of water taps is stopped at once, and see that people are awakened to a sense of social responsibility. Instead of being scientific in this manner, if he uses water for growing his ornamental gardens and for the upkeep of his lawn and encourages the thirsty common people to pray to the rain god, he is evidently cruel and callous to sufferings of his fellow men. The pity is scientists are not scientific today.
To correct the ways of callous administration, the people should lose their blind regard for persons in authority, whether they may be District Collectors or Ministers of State, and they should not allow themselves to be tooled into the performance of religious ritual and wasting of public money and resources in that connection while they are thirsty and hungry and are subjected to the condition of drought. The need of the atheistic outlook is felt most in situation of this kind, The religious ritual at the time of drought adds insult to injury and atheism alone can set right the wrong.
August 29, 1972
Put together a kitten and a young mouse. The kitten kills the other. But leave little children in a park. They lisp and play together. No distinction of colour or nationality, language or religion, property or position antagonizes a child with another. The reason is clear. Unlike cats and mice, all humans belong to the same kind. We are born equal.
But we distort this simple truth. As the children grow, parents train the children respectively into different categories of religious belief, national pride, caste and race consciousness. Different labels are attached to each person. The result is discrimination and conflict between the labels. As children, we are friends; as adults, we are enemies. Man proves more fearful to a fellowman than cat to a mouse. War, hate and insecurity is the price we pay for the development of the differences.
Vested interests in the differences tell us that the difference is inevitable, They parade dogmas of divine dispensation, irrevocable fate, causal conditioning genetic constitution, evolutionary process and class structure as the base for the differences. They counsel us to bear the differences with patience.
A little common sense reveals the grandiose theories are mere figments of imagination. Where were the differences when we were children? How could they crop up as we grew up? If we change the guardians, the children acquire the language, customs and manners of the foster parents whose label may be opposed to that of the natural ones. Obviously, nothing inherent justifies the differences. They are the arrogant claims of unsocial intellectuals who foist the discrimination on innocent brothers. Exploitation and enslavement have no base but fraud and falsehood. It is a cultural conquest of man over man. Change the culture the relations change. Tell the people now that all are humans, the revelation sparks off a revolution. The poor and the black, the untouchable and the subject rebel at one. They breathe the air of freedom and establish equalities.
Is the change-over so simple as that? Yes, definitely! But those who are afraid of the change for fear of losing their special advantages, hesitate to tell the truth. They know that god and government are man's makings. They dare not reveal it, ordinarily. Only militant humans can do the task. It requires the vision of atheism.
Superior to Systems
All institutions, systems, theories and philosophies are our creations. We are superior to our systems. We are their masters. We make and mend systems, customs, manners, laws and principles in order to regulate our social relations and to live in harmony with happiness. They shall not be allowed to sow dissension among us. Men and Women, we are born as humans and we shall grow as humans. We shall reject the old notion of racism, patriotism and classism and re-order our life to live equal in peace. The feeling of superiority to the systems and the confidence to change them to suit the present needs every time is the essence of atheism. When prophets change the form of god and politicians amend constitutions, they are indeed atheistic. But they preach obedience to god and government and deny to the people the freedom which they have enjoyed. The result is perpetuation of inequality. Now, atheistic awakening spreads freedom equally among all. It releases initiative from the bondage of blind faith, activates people at large, and starts to establish equalities in economic facility, social respect and political power.
Conflicts are no longer necessary when humans feel free. Both the rich and the poor co-operate in changing the old order of private property that has discriminated among them so far. Both the Black and the White together abolish racism that has kept them apart. Both the Brahmin and the Pariah discredit caste system and establish the new order that ensures equal respect for all people. Hindus and Muslims, Protestants and Catholics, Arabs end Israelites, Africans and Asians, the civilized and the aborigines lose the distinction and become humans all alike. The cleavage between the majority and minority groups too gets bridged. The change is possible because all are humans, they are not inherently different like cats and mice. Re-education of the mind reorganizes social relations. We have only to know that we are not slaves of systems but masters of systems. A little common sense converts the adults into humans. Atheism supplies the common sense.
The prospect is bright; acceptance of atheism sets the pace of progress.
28 September 72
Practice of Rationalism
Two questions of basic value face everyone in the practice of life. They are firstly, whether man is free or bound in his thought and action, and secondly, whether equality or inequality should prevail among people. There is no absolute standard for freedom for equality or for their opposites. But answers to these questions guide a man to strive and live for more freedom or for less freedom, for more equality or for less equality. Consequently the choice sets the pattern of his ambitions and activity. Therefore we are concerned in finding out rationalistic answers to the two questions and the pattern of practice that follow them.
A large section of people feel today that their thought and action are bound and not free. They suppose that their life is guided and even determined by divine dispensation, fate's decree, social convention, governmental law, economic conditions or by material circumstances. An honest believer in almighty god goes to the extent of denying freedom altogether to himself, though in actual practice he cannot surrender to god as completely as he desires to do. He has to use some amount of initiative and volition in order to get along in life. But his supposition that he is bound and not free, inhibits action and he will avoid active interference whenever it is possible The stupendous indifference and diffidence which people generally exhibit result from their choice to surrender, surrender to one thing or other.
Likewise many people feel that inequalities among them are inevitable and that each should fight for his own survival and comfort. Though everyone is compassionate at times, the choice in favour of inequalities makes more selfish than generous in many affairs of life.
Rebel Against Status Quo
Obviously, a rationalist is not satisfied with the kind of life which obtains with the majority of people at present. He dismisses faith in god, fate, soul and other-world as irrational and chooses to declare freedom from religious restraints. But the religious superstition is not the only factor that curbs freedom in the modern world. Social conventions of caste distinctions, political powers of totalitarian authority, economic control of capitalistic exploitation and cultural arrogance of racial superiority trample down masses of people and deprive them of normal rights and liberties. So a rationalist, to be consistent with his professions of freedom should fight these tyrannies too.
The recognition of individual freedom should make a rationalist moral and equal with his fellowmen instead of lewd and licentious. All men belong to the same species of humanity and they resemble in structure, strength and need more than they differ. Their tastes and talents are not found to vary wider than the grains in an ear of corn do. Moreover, the human qualities of effort, accommodation and sympathy serve to smoothen the disadvantages arising out of the differences. Thus equality among people is, by and large, proper and rational.
Yet differences have been exaggerated and inequalities have been widened between a Brahmin and Pariah, between a prince and peasant between a master and a servant and between a Negro and a Nordic on account of the old ways of life in which people forsook freedom and admitted inequality as natural. Practice of rationalism which releases freedom of the individual and promotes equality among people should change the old order. The pattern of the rationalistic way of life and the method of increasing the old order of life in to the new are matters of deep concern to rationalists.
Freedom and Equality
Freedom of the individual and equality among people are the two guiding principles for the practice of Rationalism. But equality is a corollary of freedom. If all people act freely, a fair amount of equality prevails among them, as they belong to the same species of mankind, Yet the occurrence of wide inequalities indicates that all people are not acting with a sense of freedom.
The few people who enjoy freedom, enjoy benefits of civilization also. They live in comfort and luxury. The rest, especially the millions in Asia and Africa, lie downtrodden in want and destitution, because they do not feel that they are free. They think that the course of their life is determined by god, fate, government, social convention, economic order or material circumstances. If these factors were real, they should influence the lives of all people alike, just as sun sheds light wherever it shines. But the fact that some people feel free and some others feel enslaved proves that the belief in god, government etc. is a superstitious faith rather than an objective reality. Therefore it is the duty of a rationalist to dispel superstition so that people may feel free and work up for equality.
Man The Master
Material circumstances like wind, rain, sun and soil are of course, realities. But they are not powerful to mould man's life. On the other hand, civilization consists in man's control over these physical phenomena. The process of agriculture and technology, mining and metallurgy medicine and engineering which constitute civilization, are designed to harness natural phenomena, to human wishes. The greatness of human life lies in subjugating clime and climate and not in submitting to them.
Unlike wind and rain, the other factors are not real at all. God, fate, government, convention and property are made and maintained by men as aids for acquiring knowledge for increasing powers of organisation and achievement. The aids can be modified or discarded at people's will and pleasure. For instance, the form of faith determines the form of god: god goes altogether when people disbelieve in it. Similarly a government derives authority from the co-operation which people give and gathers revenues from the taxes which people pay, if a considerable section of people take to non-cooperation and to non-payment of taxes, any government is bound to collapse. Social convention and private property subsist upon people's respect for them. So man is the maker and master of god, government, property and convention. To imagine that he is created by god or that he is a subject of a government betrays only self-deception and servility. Practice of rationalism dispels this illusion and liberates people from inferiorities.
Because rationalist looks at god, government, property, etc., with a sense of freedom, he understands them differently from the superstitious view. To him god is no longer the ultimate reality or the almighty power; god is either a falsehood or, at best a hypothesis. So a rationalist is an atheist. Politically he becomes a free and vigorous democrat, as a government is only a means of regulating social, ethical and economic relations and it can never be authoritarian. The conception of natural law also loses its relentlessness, it is valid merely as an interpretation of experiences; the form of a law varies with fresh experience and new insight.
By and large, a rationalist feels the master in every situation. He may co-operate with anyone, but he submits to none. A friend, but never a slave. Idle complaint has no place in his life, with will and confidence, he steers his life in pursuit of desires. He may not achieve every time whatever he wants. His fellowmen and circumstances influence the course of his life as much as he controls them with the fores of his actions. The outcome is the resultant of the several forces. But his effort is wholly his own. With this effort he cannot only drive towards the desired end but know and adjust the other forces to suit his aim. The fruits of his actions conform to his desires to the extent his endeavour is firm and strong in comparison with other forces. Whereas a superstitious man helplessly drifts, for good or bad, in the stream of circumstances, a rationalist leads a conscious life and directs his way, There is no failure for him; everything is an experience that enriches knowledge and emboldens further action.
Humanists and Non-Humanists
Religionists scientists, autocrats, democrats, capitalists and socialists are alike humans. How are humanists, then, different from the rest of humans?
Humanists respect human personality. They recognise the freedom and dignity of human beings. Non-humanists, on the other hand, consider human life subject to something supposed to be superior to it. That something may be god, fate, governmental authority, hoary custom, economic conditional, material circumstances, historical necessity, cultural milieu, genetic constitution or natural law. Whatever may be the agent of domination, the individual is placed inferior to it. Humanists reject inferiority, as they assert the freedom of the individual. Humanists feel free, while non humanists feel slaves.
In terms of god (theos) to which non-humanists subjected themselves at first, the attitude of subjection came to be known as "theism." But theism, in its fuller sense, is not limited to subjection to faith in the existence of god. It connotes subjection in general, not only to god but to government, to custom, to systems, to circumstances or to anything By and large, theism adopts the philosophy of determinism. According to the determinant, theism is godly or godless. In godly theism the determinant is spiritual and other-worldly. It postulates a set of beliefs in god, soul, after-life, rebirth and eternal salvation. In godless theism, the determinants are mundane. They are political, economic and social institutions and material circumstances. Nevertheless, godly and godless theisms alike enslave the individual to one or the other agent; fetter his freedom and demean his dignity. Prayers to god and petitions to government illustrate the servility of theists. And non-humanists are theists, since they submit to systems, institutions and traditions, They degrade human personality.
Humanists are atheists because they do not submit to godly or godless agents. In positive terms, humanists assert the freedom of the individual and uphold his dignity. The sense of freedom develops a pattern of life different from the non-humanistic one in which people have been slaves to god, slaves to government, slaves to circumstances and slaves to systems. The humanist pattern of life keeps man the master of his systems and institutions. The freedom of the individual is the keynote of the humanist way of life. The difference between the humanist and the non-humanist patterns of life is the difference between masterliness and slavishness .
Philosophically, humanists confirm truths rather than stop with faiths. Workings of human imagination need the distinction between truths and faiths. imagination forms opinions of things and events which are beyond the immediate reach of the five physical senses. An idea of tomorrow is an example of an opinion. However much opinions are systematized into theories through the disciplines of causal logic and methodology, they can never gain the validity of facts which are known directly. Yet a big part of human knowledge consists of opinions. In real life, those opinions which confirm to further facts of experience can be regarded as truths; those are false which contradict facts. Verification is the test of truthfulness and unverified and unverifiable opinions are neither true nor false. They are merely opinions which may be believed in at one's own risk. Free imagination, without the obligation of verification, flies as fancy into realism of fine-arts.
Non-Humanists mistake faiths for truths, Their minds are closed with blind belief. Humanists keep an open mind. They deem no opinion as truth without verification. Humanists reject faith in god, soul and after-life, since verification shows them false. There is no room for agnosticism either. The factual experience of the freedom of the individual gives the lie to the assumption of the existence of anything that denies the freedom. Obviously, almightiness of god, sovereignty of the State and determinacy of circumstances are opinions effected by the slave-mind.
Mastership of Man
The character of centralisaton of institutions may create the illusion of their bigness. Verification falsifies their claim. Government is built up by the citizens through contributions of respect for law and payment of taxes. If a considerable section of the people withdraw cooperation and withhold taxes, any government is bound to collapse. Thus the power is with the people and not with the government. Similarly society is formed by the common understanding among individuals who can strengthen or weaken the society by increasing or decreasing the common understanding. Beyond the common understanding, every individual has his or her private affairs. So the whole individual is bigger than the society. Likewise material circumstances are but man's tools. Civilization consists in man's progressive control over his circumstances. Natural laws are only man's interpretations of his experience. Newton interpreted the falling of the apple in terms of gravitation; Einstein read the principle of relativity in the same event; another may explain it differently too. Man is the author of natural laws. He is also the author of class, caste, racial, national, cultural and partisan distinctions. They change with the change of his mind. Every revolution erases them. Thus man is the master everywhere.
The humanist realisation of the mastership of man brings about a remarkable change in the existing institutions. Non-humanists submitted to the institutions and allowed unscrupulous men to exploit them in the name of respect for institutions. Consequently wide inequalities cropped up among the people. But inequalities are improper and unfair, as all humans belong to the same species and resemble in structure, strength and talent. Variations in taste and trait are not only not correlated to claims of superiority of caste, class, race or culture but they can be modified through training. Inequalities between the rich and the poor, Blacks and Whites, Brahmins and Pariahs dictators and subjects lasted so long, because non-humanists moved blindly along conventional grooves. Humanists see the injustice of inequalities. They can change the outmoded and unjust systems, because they are the masters of systems and institutions. Lack of humanist consciousness disabled democracy from establishing economic and social equalities in the wake of the political equality contained in the principle of "one adult one vote". Adoption of humanism is necessary for the success of democracy, and the establishment of equality.
Morality Social Necessity
Humanism improves morality too. Morality is a social necessity. In social relations, the immorality of one disturbs the happiness of another. So free individuals cannot tolerate immorality. Checks and counter-checks ensure morality among free individuals.
The rise of freedom and morality abolishes inequalities in three ways. First, those who are in possession of superior advantages, realize their moral obligation and share their advantages with fellow-humans. Second, the down-trodden realize their freedom and refuse to be exploited and enslaved. Third, as the government is common both to the exploiters and the exploited, together they compel the government to legislate in favour of equality. Intellectual appreciation of a change without practical expression in personal conduct is fruitless. The sense of individual freedom rouses humanists to accomplish the social change by personal effort and example. After all, society is made up of individuals.
Humanists discard violence, as violence deprives the victims of freedom. Also the rise of freedom and dignity among the down-trodden disarms violence. What can a tyrant do, when soldiers refuse to fight? Further, humanists resolve conflicts by lifting the dispute to the level of humanness which is common to both the contenders. Class-struggles, national-wars, party-squabbles and racial-conflicts are out of place where people feel human.
Humanism is the all round awakening of the individual to a sense of freedom. Free individuals live equal and moral. But humanism has not had much impact on social relations, though it has been visibly in vogue for over a century. Wars, class distinctions and race-riots have not abated under the influence of humanism. The reason is clear. Humanists are hesitating to accept atheism which is the principal feature of humanism. Without avowed atheism, humanists compromise with non-humanist habits and remain academic with little practical use. On the other hand atheism activates humanists, checks immorality and inequality and keeps vigil on social relations. Militant humanism sweeps away outmoded and unjust systems, institutions, faiths and philosophies and improves methods every time. Militant Humanism is the need of the hour and adoption of atheism activates humanists.
Crime on Society
Four months ago I got the following letter by post.
Om Sri Sri Saibaba, Om Sri Sri Saibaba, Om Sri Sri Saibaba. This Message has to be passed on to 20 persons within 10 days. See the results after 10 days please do not break the chain.
(Sd) Sri Satya Saibaba
This is prayer:
"Trust in God with all might and always acknowledge good luck for the well being of the men."
This prayer has been sent to you for good luck. This prayer has originally come to you from the other hand. You are going to receive luck for ten days after receiving this letter and mail to twenty persons whom you wish good luck and see what happens later. This letter must leave you within seventy hours of receiving it. In U.S.A., General Bankers received 60,000/-- dollars after receiving this letter but died because he tried to break it. Phillippines General received a copy of this letter and failed to circulate it. He died after six days. General ... breaking our chain was sacked. But General Choudary was appointed as Chief of Army staff on the fourth day of receiving the letter.
The letter is type-written and cyclostyled. It bears no date, though the letter is marked.
(Sd.) Sri Satya Saibaba.
I doubt whether the letter was originally signed by him, for, at the outset, there is an invocation to 'Saibaba' which may refer to another Saibaba or imply himself.
Evidently the contents of the letter play upon the gullibility of weak minds. Instead of helping and educating people to grow strong in will, this letter weakens the mind with threats of curses which is sheer nonsense. If the letter were properly signed and address given, the cases of General Bankers, U.S.A. and Phillippines General could be verified and the hoax exposed. 1, for one, have deliberately, broken the "chain" and what evil has happened to me in these four months? If something happens to me much later, it will be silly to connect the two.
Nevertheless it is a crime on society in so far as it serves to frighten people and to weaken their minds with anonymous fears. I openly invite the attention of Sri Satya Saibaba of Puttaparti to this social crime, because the letter is circulated in his name. Let him either deny the authorship of the letter or own the guilt of weakening the minds of his fellow men,
The same Sri Satya Saibaba is accredited with performing miracles. So I addressed the following letter to him.
June 2, '69.
Namaste. It is a pleasure to meet those who often go to you. They tell me of your acts of generosity. Indeed you have noble ideals and a great heart. But I am unable to agree with those who tell me that you perform "miracles" by producing ashes, trinkets etc. from empty hands. I call them just sleight-of-hand exhibited by jugglers. I am aware that I should not hazard such an opinion without personal verification of the same. But I maintain my stand, as I verified similar claims of "miracles" in others. I hope I shall be wrong in your case. So may I request you, in the interests of truth to give me an appointment and ample opportunity to verify the "miracle" attributed to you and to enlighten myself et first and then public on this claim.
Hoping to be favoured with an opportunity for the inquiry,
I have not yet received the reply. Let the public take cognizance of these crimes on society and become alert to prevent their perpetration and to punish the criminals.
(13 October 1969)
Get it Done
Social action is the sign of civilisation. Whereas individual excellence attracted admiration in former ages, people are becoming now more and more equal among themselves and prefer cooperation to following a leader. Hence the leadership is taking the shape of social consensus instead of the personality cuts.
But personality is something concrete while social consensus and public opinion are formless. Therefore, in the modern age the institution of a government is representing public opinion more effectively than clubs and social institutions. Thus the government can be taken to be the concrete expression of social consensus and as the instrument for social action.
New Attitude Required
The days of monarchies are gone and democracy has taken their place. Democracy is composed of the representatives of the people. In principle, democracy is a more advanced form of government than monarchy, since it associates people more closely with the government than kingships could. At the same time, democracy has a drawback. The representatives of the people escape the responsibility for the conduct of a good government with the plea that they reflect the views of the people. They easily say that the people get the government which they deserve and attribute the evils of democracy to the weaknesses of the people. But "the people" is a formless body. The people as a whole cannot express themselves, except through the instrument of a government. Thus we get into a vicious circle in democracy, wherein the government shifts the responsibility to the people, and the people shift the responsibility to the government. Consequently in democracy people look wistfully at their government for the solution of the problems of food and security while the government treats the entreaties of the people with scant courtesy, with the result that the people in democracy are sinking into destitution whereas the legislators in authority are fattening with the pride of power and the pomp of office.
This sad state of democracy continues as long as people look upon the government with a reverence to which they were habituated in the days of the monarchy. Democracy requires a different attitude in the people in as much as democracy is different from kingship. Democracy requires that people should feel the masters of the government but not to bow in obedience to the heads of the state. The people should know that the government is after all their instrument to facilitate co-operation among the people and to regulate social relations. Though the mass of people may look up to the government with obedience, as they did under kingships, conscious democrats should treat the government as their instrument and get things done by the government. Conscious democrats do not submit petitions to the government but give commands to the government to serve the people with humility. The heads of a democratic government should have the facilities for carrying on their special duties, but they should not have more personal comfort than a common citizen enjoys. After all, the heads of the state are servants of the people, while the people are the masters. In this context, it is ridiculous that the legislators should claim privileges and immunity for their speeches from the criticism of the people.
The vigorous action of conscious democrats sets the heads of a democratic government in their proper place. Their example educates their brethren in democratic consciousness and democratic action. Democratic action consists not in submitting petition to the government but in compelling the government to get things done. The compulsion can take the form of open Satyagraha action. Democrats do not non-co-operate with government because the government is their own. It is wrong to abstain from voting at elections because the exercise of the suffrage is the fundamental privilege of democracy. But conscious democrats do not stop with the exercise of the voting franchise. They proceed to the next privilege of controlling the government and compelling it to legislate in favour of food, security and peace for all the people.
Government Is Only a Tool
In a civilised society we purchase and maintain automobiles for quick transport. We should keep our automobile in good condition in order to get the best service out of it. We remain uncivilised either when we do not keep our automobile fit and strong or when we pay for it and do not use it and let ethers have its benefit. Likewise the Government is our vehicle for social action in a civilised society. We should keep it fit and strong. At the same time, we should use it to get things done. It is a right of every citizen to get things done by the government, because he pays taxes, directly or indirectly, and maintains the government at a high cost. To pay the government and not to get service out of it is sheer foolishness. Of course the centralisation of a governmental machinery makes it appear big and to be out of reach of the common man. Decentralisation of governmental administration helps people's control of their government. Nevertheless people cannot wait till government gets decentralised. Side by side with attempts at decentralisation people should develop the consciousness to control the government as it is and to get things done by it. Individual constructive work and voluntary action have their small roles to play in a civilised society. But they cannot substitute the function of a government just as strolls of walk cannot substitute journeys of long distances by automobiles and aeroplanes. Civilised society requires the institution of a government and also requires the consciousness of the people to get things done by it.
(May 29, 1972)
Who are Intellectuals?
Peter Bonnici sends the following note for comment:
It is quote from 'Herman Hesse' novel, 'Steppenwolf'. In fit of self-examination, Steppenwolf has this to say of himself: "None of us intellectuals are at home in reality. Well, I had often pondered all this, not without an intense longing sometimes to turn to and do something real for once, to be seriously and responsibly active instead of occupying myself for ever with nothing but aesthetics and intellectual and artistic pursuits. It always ended, however, in resignation, in surrender to destiny. The generals and captains of industry were quite right. There was nothing to be made of us intellectuals. We are a superfluous, irresponsible lot of talented chatterboxes for whom reality had no meaning."
This indictment of intellectuals opens the question, who are intellectuals? In one sense, everyone is an intellectual and labourer together. To some extent or other, everyone thinks and plans his actions and also acts with bodily labour for their fulfilment. Yet the difference between intellectuals and labourers is a difference in degree. Intellectuals plan for others while labourers execute the plan that intellectuals lay. If the difference between intellectuals and labourers were to be one of convenience and of division of labour in social relations, there is no harm in the distinction. They can exchange functions according to need and facility. But at present the difference is not that cooperative. Intellectuals arrogate to themselves exclusively the task of thought and consider that thought is superior to bodily labour. Further, they even claim that the distinction is inherent, some born to think and some born to labour.
Test of Social Action
However significant is the role of thought and plan in human affairs, a thought is worthless unless it is translated into material achievement through bodily labour. "Thinkers", and researchers are intellectuals. They become realists when their intellectual findings are put to the test of experimental verification or social action. But pure intellectuals of whom Steppenwolf speaks, are artists, writers and talkers who think that they have the monopoly of thought which is often academic and fanciful. They labour little. Poets belong to this group of intellectuals who are "chatterboxes". They are escapists from reality and inimical to real progress since they draw away people from real work and indulge them in lotus-eating. Poets are a menace to society and the downfall of every civilization began with the rise of poetry in it. The decline of the Roman, French, Moghul and Vijayanagar civilizations is a clear example in this context.
The caste of Brahmins among Hindus has been a group of intellectuals. Their monopoly of intellectual pursuits barred others, especially Shudra caste, from thinking for themselves The results have proved to be disastrous. Brahmins treated non-Brahmins with scant courtesy and even insulted them openly. Faith in Karma or destiny which was infused into Hindu way of life by Brahminical intellectualism, kept non-Brahmins reconciled to downtroddenness. Revolts from Buddha to Ambedkar and Periyar pulled down Brahminical superiority and established equity through opening the gates of intellectual education to everyone. Consequently Brahmins had to take to bodily labour too but with profit.
The ivory-towered unrealism of intellectuals compels them to cling to capitalists and dictators for their means of livelihood. In all ages poets are found hanging on princes and rich men. Their themes related mostly to the splendour of courts and to pomp of luxury. Even when they wrote about the lowly, the appreciation was intellectual rather than emotional. Poets and artists are abettors to the crime of exploitation by kings, capitalists and dictators.
Another set of intellectuals are teachers and advocates. They make a profession of their intellect. Yet they have to depend upon the rich and the powerful for converting their talents into material means of livelihood. Good words give no food. Comforts of life are but products of hard work. Those who talk rob those who do. So, intellectuals are as much exploiters as capitalists are.
Real life is hard work. Intellect is only an aid to work. Therefore labourers ought to be superior to intellectuals. Every revolution pulls down the intellectuals and puts up the labourers. Intellectuals are horses for labourers to ride on. Progress is quicker when the vehicle is speedier. Yet never can the vehicle replace the rider. Intellectuals are good servants but bad masters. Hence "generals and captains of industry", with a sense of realism, rightly keep intellectuals in their subordinate place.
(December 28, 1973)
Capitalism of the Common Man
No ideology is so much devoted to the removal of poverty as Marxism; no band of workers champions the cause of the poor labouring class so resolutely as the Communists. Yet, if the exercise of adult franchise is a means of knowing the wishes of common people, the Communist Party has not emerged as the single majority party in these four general elections in India, where at least sixty per cent of the population live without two square meals a day. What is this paradox?
That the poor yield to the pressure of the rich at elections does not explain the anomaly, for the communists could also persuade the poor to support them, as they claim to be nearer the hearts of the poor than the rich. Evidently the fact is otherwise. The poor man is nearer to the rich than to the communists. The poor man does not think of removing his poverty in the same way as the Communist party and the Marxist ideology propose to.
The Marxist ideology visualises class struggle among the people who are victims of surplus value, and to the private ownership of instruments of production. In the class struggle, the labouring class hates the rich, captures the instruments of production, abolishes surplus value and finally establishes economic equality, throughout. As the communists are wedded to the principle of Marxism, they try to accelerate the class struggle and to acheive economic equality. Though the method is different Gandhians too are interested in the attainment of economic equality. In fact, the thirteenth item of Gandhi's constructive programme is " Working for Economic Equality".
Desire to Get Richer
Despite the loud propaganda of Marxists and Gandhians, the common man is not yet thinking in terms of economic equality. Every man desires to get richer. Unlike Marxists and Gandhians, the common man does not want economic equality, but wants to get richer himself in the system of inequalities. Consequently a common man envies the rich, but does not hate the rich. If he hated the rich, he would not like to become rich himself. On the contrary, his desire to grow richer betrays his envy and not hate for them. The envy for the richer implies despise for the poorer, because of the values of life associated with the system of inequalities. The behaviour of "the New Rich" and their search for former brethren illustrates their love of inequality rather than their hate for it.
The common man's love of inequality stands in marked contrast with the ardent desire for equality of Marxists and Gandhians. The endeavour to get richer in the system of inequalities constitutes capitalism. And competition, instead of co-operation, is the character of capitalism. Competition brings with it the whole trail of cant and corruption. The capitalistic society is a flux in which self-interest is the motive power. The selfish man floats to the top every time and the qualms of sympathy sink him to the bottom. The show of charity eludes competition more than it assists the poorer ones. By and large all people are engaged in the same tactics. The more successful ones get richer every time and the less successful ones get poorer every time. Qualitatively, both the rich and the poor are active capitalists; only the quantity of success in the competition give; the level of every time in the flux.
The poorer are as much capitalistic as the rich in the system of inequalities and so both have more in common than with the Marxists and Gandhians who are qualitatively different from the capitalists in as much as the Marxists and Gandhians desire economic equality through socialism or trusteeship. So though the communists are with the poor, the poor are with the capitalists. They vote for the rich, but not for the communists. A poor man is struggling to get richer but he is not engaged in a class struggle against surplus value. In fact, capitalist society has neither class structure nor class-consciousness, it is just a flux with surging self-interest where everyone is trying to exploit surplus value from the rest. The call for co-operation is a cry in the wilderness except in close, narrow groups like families and purposive brotherhoods.
Disillusioned by the lack of response from the poor labouring people, the communists change their methods from class-struggle to political dictatorship; from the ballot-box to the barrel of the gun. The political equality contained in adult franchise with one-man-one-vote does not lead to economic and social equalities as long as the selfish, capitalistic mind lasts in the people. The capitalistic mind cannot be allowed to continue because, with the modem means of exploitation, the meek and the honest people are trodden down so much below the animal level that their plight is neither dignified for civilisation nor conducive to progress. At the same time, violence and dictatorship cannot be the method for social organisation, since the success of that method is ensured by the superior use of weapons and not by the superiority of civil rights. What is achieved by one political dictatorship can be set at naught by another dictatorship, because the people play but a passive role in dictatorships. Therefore the better method for social organisation is democracy.
The present democracies are capitalistic as the common people are capitalistic. These people do not respect a minister unless he goes in pomp and pageantry, and do not worship a god unless the temple has rich towers, spires or domes and the idols or gods are decorated with rich jewels. Yet the people have a spark of idealism and love of equality, however much it is smothered by the capitalistic ways of life. So Marxists, Gandhians and those who support equality should join together and press upon the Government to implement socialism with all its implications -- like pomplessness and equal distribution of the wherewithals of life to all people. A change in the form of Government from the capitalistic to the socialistic model will bring about corresponding changes in the people because a government is concerned with the lives of all the people
But attempts at change in the form of the government will meet with opposition from the people in whom capitalistic mind predominates. The spark of idealism is, nevertheless, their weakness. If the Marxists and Gandhians develop the ideal of equality, both by personal example and by public propaganda, the ideal of equality has greater chance of success, as social organization requires mutual sympathy and co-operation whereas self-interest disrupts society.
In this democratic method, the struggle is not between "classes" but between the ideologies of inequality and equality; between capitalism and socialism. The democratic method involves the common people in the struggle, unlike the dictatorial method which confines the struggle to a band of workers and leaves the people as passive beneficiaries.
The democratic method changes the people through the change of the government. The government is changed by the idealistically conscious persons among the people. Mass action is the shining of the spark of idealism in several people at the same time. Civilisation progresses towards equality through energising the ideal in many individuals. The action of a few leads the action of many.
(16 March 1970)
Atheism is a Must
Civilisation is rapidly rushing towards equality. It is but proper too. All humans belong to the same kind. They are similar in talent and strength. When all cats live equal, when all larks live equal, it is fair that all humans also should live equal. But inequalities in economic opportunity end in social respect have cropped up in human relations in the past on account of man's defective thinking. Most of the early people thought that their lives were made and moulded by some supernatural power, or by the material circumstances of life. So they curbed their initiative, minimised their effort and lay idle. This slavish submission to god or to government is the theistic way of life.
Theism had its own advantages. Primitive man had neither real knowledge to know the nature of things around. His social relations were organised to assure him security. So his mind was filled with fear and wonder and he sought some guardianship of a superior something. Consequently, he took to the idea of god within the security that resulted from belief in existence of god. The primitive man had time to think and he grew rational. The rationality revealed the falseness of the conception of god. In later civilisation man could have discarded faith in the existence of god. But customs and obligations of life which were based on belief in the existence of god hardly allowed him to discard the belief. So in later civilisation too, the belief in the existence of god continued, though it was more formal than genuine.
The continuance of the belief in the existence of god engendered the slave mind and the later man too sought for guardians. The new guardians were the sovereignty of the State, faith in natural law, belief in the process of evolution, employment of causal logic and notions of historical and genetical determinism. These were godless. But these guardians too denied free will to man as much as the faith in god did. Consequently man remained the same e slave either to godly factors or to godless theories. By and large, that way of life was theistic, godly or godless.
Theism curbed initiative. Honest theists lay downtrodden with effort seldom beyond the satisfaction of the bare needs of life. Dishonest theists, on the contrary, professed faith in god or pretended obedience to the laws of the State, but went their own way surreptitiously. Dishonest theists achieved more through active effort massed wealth, power and position, lived in comfort and enjoyed life while the honest theists lay downtrodden. The slave mind of the honest theists came in handy for the easy exploitation by their dishonest brethren. Therefore dishonest theists promoted theistic faith in the honest folk, so that they may continue in slavery and willingly become amenable to easy exploitation. Thus arose the wide inequalities in theistic civilisation with the dishonest at the top and the honest sinking to the bottom.
The Honest Way
The progress of civilisation and the spread of knowledge makes man rational. He begins to think. He sees the injustice in inequality. He sees that he is as much a man as another. He is entitled to equal respect and to equal opportunity. But how can the downtrodden improve their lot? The honest way is to give up the theistic belief in the existence of something superior, godly or godless, which is supposed to make and mould human life along with other phenomena. But this would mean breaking away from hoary customs and methods of life. The task is stupendous, but that is the only honest way.
The new way is the adoption of atheism. It is the recognition of the freedom of individual to act free and to live equal to any other. Atheism is an awakening that all humans are free and equal. Atheism releases initiative in every one and upsets the vested interests of dishonestness. So the dishonest discourage the rise of atheism. They slander atheism as wicked; they persecute atheists; they use violence at their command to suppress atheists. Yet, the cause of atheism should be boldly and openly championed by all those who desire social justice in human relations. Atheism is a must in modern civilization.
Atheism should be propagated among the downtrodden in order to rouse them to a sense of freedom and to free action. When all people feel free and act free, they live equal because all humans are alike in strength and talent.
(September 22, 1971)
There is some fault in our social set-up. So wars and revolts disturb our peace and security, Vietnam, Pakistan and Sudan are major events today. But everywhere there is internal discontent.
The fault is with our concept of society. We think that a god, a government, a class, a nation, a culture or a race exists and that an individual is subordinate to that whole. The concept of subordination requires the discipline of organization, and the organization in its turn imposes subordination on the individuals.
The whole is a myth. An individual is independent, subordinate to none. Only cooperation among individuals gives the collective notion of a society. Each bird exists; not the flock. When birds fly out, the flock disappears. Similarly individuals exist, not the society. This understanding is atheism.
In practice, everyone is an atheist. He or she is rebelling against subordination. Group within group disrupts the concept of the whole, till the individual asserts his or her full freedom. Rebellions are a sign of progress towards the new understanding -- the atheistic way of life.
Atheistic citizens refuse to be ruled; atheistic labourers refuse to be exploited; atheistic soldiers refuse to be regimented. Each one cooperates with fellows and cooperation yields conscious morality and equality of status and opportunity.
Truthfulness is a social necessity. Unless I am assured that the other says what he does and does what he says and vice versa, there can be no common understanding between us and so no society. Because religionists considered honesty a passport to heaven, they could be dishonest with impunity if prayer and worship assured them heaven. Atheism is different. It makes honesty a social imperative. Checks and counter checks maintain morality. Similarly all humans should live equal, as they belong to the same kind.
The sooner we accept atheism, the sooner we establish the new way of life, where all individuals live free, equal and moral. Atheists achieve the utopia.