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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The civilized and the uncivilized

Humayun Gauhar

Populations are classified using different measures, like sex, rural-urban, income, education, age, profession, religious persuasion… The most misleading is ‘elite’. ‘Elite’ means crème de la crème, the best of the best in any field. What they mean is the ruling class and the ruled; both may have elite amongst them.
To understand the mentality and national psyche of a society one has to understand its value system and find a different classification. I believe the best is ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’. It is most egalitarian because people separated by other convenient yardsticks can come into it. For example, a rich man can be an uncivilized upstart while a poor man can be dignified and civilized; an ‘educated’ person can lack wisdom while a poor man can be wise. However, to avoid one’s own definitions and prejudices interfering, one should go by certain markers that are universally accepted.
A person is civilized if he either belongs to a ‘civilization’ or subscribes to one. This informs his mentality. Such people are ‘civil’.
A civilization is a highly developed and refined society where people feel comfort in living.
It is rich in languages, poetry, prose, music and the arts.
It has an advanced education system and curriculum and teachers are so good that students look up to them.
It has rich cuisines and apparel.
All can practice their faith without fear of bigotry and dogma.
There is an advanced and competent judicial system based on due process.
There is distributive justice when society is balanced without vast differences between rich and poor. None is starving or without respectable shelter or adequate food or medical care.
Where people have dignity and recourse against slander and libel and protection is guaranteed by the State.
Where people have the basic things in life and enjoy their God-given birthrights – food with nutrition, free clean drinking water, justice with due process, egalitarianism, the right to develop their minds to their full potential, to medicine, travel and so forth. This can only come when society accepts that everyone has the right to earn an honest and respectable living.
Where the primitive feudal mindset is in retreat and people get fair wages for their labour.
Where there is no slavery or bonded labour.
Where there is gender respect and equality and women and children are not treated like chattel and are not the victims of vani and ‘honour’ killings.
Where society ensures all these rights by crafting a political, economic and social system that makes the State deliver those rights and make them affordable.
Where there is tolerance, moderation and enlightenment.
Above all, where the independence of a people is jealously protected.
Such societies are civilized.
Civilized people don’t abdicate their thinking to others, like churches and clerics of every ilk and let them do their thinking for them. Neither do they tolerate clerics in the camouflage of ‘scholars’.
Such people are civil because they belong to a vibrant and dynamic civilization.
They live within their means and like upstarts don’t show off beyond their means, so they won’t tolerate their country living beyond its means either and reducing them to beggary.
Their rulers are not corrupt and the ruled do not tolerate corruption. Rulers and the rich pay taxes, don’t default on fair loans and don’t accept pardons to escape accountability.
They are polite and tolerant. They respect their parents and elders.
Their parents instill the best value system in them.
They reject rituals, traditions and customs that negate their Faith and civilization.
They truly understand the meaning of the word ‘honour’ and realize that there is great dishonor in breaking the injunctions of God and the laws of the land.
They can tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.
They respect life, especially human life. They protect God’s creation.
They do not procreate endlessly without regard to their wives’ health or the health of their country.
They respect others’ right to hold different views – “to you your way and to me mine” – as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. They understand that there is no compulsion in religion.
An uncivilized people are the opposite. What do they do?
They abdicate their faith to the cleric and let him determine their faith. That is how clerics find space in our lives. If only the civilized would bother to learn to deliver a sermon, lead our few prayers and teach their children their Holy Book themselves, there would be no need for mullahs in our lives because we Muslims have no church, by whatever name called.
They don’t pray to God directly but go through someone or something else.
They practice black magic and voodoo and make their decisions hostage to stargazers, card readers, palmists and parrots.
They tolerate extremists who take hidebound positions and would throttle those who differ.
They enjoy their media blowing issues out of proportion, promoting lies, and hold up contemptible anchors as icons instead of dangerous clowns.
They elect the worst as their rulers, corrupt with fake graduation degrees. They find comical a chief minister’s priceless defense – “A degree is a degree whether fake or genuine” – instead of kicking the man the man who stopped mid-speech in a drunken stupor, legless.
They tolerate rulers stooping to the very personal while abusing each other, dragging in wives and daughters, not that many of the latter are icons of civilization either.
They tolerate rulers living in pomp and panoply while the vast multitudes live in wretchedness.
They tolerate judges issuing contempt notices against judges, lawyers beating up judges and forcing their transfers, lawyers beating up lawyers, politicians, journalists, cameramen, policemen and even their clients. They tolerate lawyers approving the ‘execution’ of a man by a crazed religious lunatic without giving him the chance of a free and fair trial. They join such lawyers in lionizing the murderer by showering flower petals on him and forcing his case out of its area of jurisdiction. Such people are truly uncivilized. Are lawyers not officers of the courts or are they someone’s storm troopers? A civilized society’s supreme court would take immediate action against such lawyers and disbar them, for they are a stigma on justice, society, civilization and Faith. They need re-education.
Such is an uncivilized society. It is mired in decadence and decay, unaware that it has not long to go.
(The writer is a political analyst & a columnist).
NOTE:This is a cross post.

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