Towards reason - Amin Jan Naim - Saturday, March 17, 2012

Source :

The state is the individual writ large, maintained Plato. His Republic portrays the structure of an ideal state based upon distinguishing an individual’s attributes between reason, courage and desire. Just as in an individual reason should predominate over courage and desire, in an ideal state philosophers should rule over warriors and commercants. In Part IV of the Republic Plato describes the decline of society and of the soul and compares the just and the unjust lives. The more an individual values money, the less he cares for virtue.

In our context, when we witness the crisis of values in our cities and villages, we find the picture quite disturbing. The dominant trend is not one of reason and rationality but of compulsive greed and infantile emotions coming into conflict with traditional modes of behaviour. The overall mood is one of discord. The mix of violence, bloodshed, criminality and depravity is taking a toll in terms of emotional and physical well-being.

The treatment of women in our country is particularly deplorable. Emancipation of women and their full participation in national life is important. Promotion of their physical and emotional health is necessary. The success of our society will be determined by the personality structure of the average individual. If this structure is mature and reasonable, the society as a whole will tend to become mature and reasonable.

In the stark challenges facing us, we need to set the highest standards, raise intellectual endeavours to great heights and set a foundation on which an enlightened, modern and technologically advanced, superstructure can be built.

Galvanising our various people having different qualities and traits into one nationhood can be facilitated by three sets of factors: a. The expansion and development of economic organisation and specialisation on modern lines.

b. Political consolidation brought about by alteration in the functions and structure of central and local administrations and their electoral basis within a free, democratic political framework.

c. The promotion and systematisation of intellectual, literary, scientific and philosophical thought.

On a wider global and temporal scale, we find that the gigantic structure of modern civilisation and scientific rationality owes its origin to the pristine influence of ancient Greek thought. The split and fissures created in the West between the salutary Greek legacy and the adverse Judeo-Christian tradition, has led to its splendour and attainments being marred by destructiveness and greed and the wide gulf separating belief and actions. It is worth noting that ancient Greek learning was banned by medieval Christendom and the Inquisition held sway at that time. There is a resurgence of fanatic Christendom even in 21st century America.

The post industrial society of the globe necessitates fundamental changes in most aspects of life. The new age is one of cybernetics, operations research, systems analysis, stochastic processes, informatics and computer break-throughs. These new fields were in their infancy when I was an undergraduate at the London School of Economics from 1958-61.

The second faculty of Plato’s Republic is courage in the individual, corresponding to the warriors in the state. The Pakistani military is endowed with great courage and bravery but has been badly marred and disgraced by dictatorships. General Pervez Musharraf has been especially responsible for the dire straits in which we find ourselves today in nearly every field of national life.

Our military must be respected and its strength fortified but it must remain under firm civilian control. Not only the military but the entire populace needs to develop physical fitness and healthy sporting activity.

These broad directions indicated above can lead to the flowering of our national life and the uplift of our morale. This is so very necessary in our present condition of abject dejection.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: aminjan@comsats.

No comments:

Post a Comment