One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

When we question the basics

There is no doubt that the hardest questions are posed in conflicts. Usually, we take most of things we see or live with for granted but when things become problematic then the most basic things come under question in a quest for solutions. I think, it is one of the main reasons that those people who go with an aim to change others, change from within. People who have even a casual interest in Philosophy know that the popular names in Philosophy like those of Socrates, Plato, Nietzsche and Sartre were a thorn to the eyes of their times’ dominant social norms and if one is also aware of the context, knows clearly that their revolts were the outcome of their experiences to conflicts of their times. If Socrates and Plato were concerned about the decline of Athenian civilization as a result of prolonged internal conflicts between city states, Nietzsche was witnessing the losing grip of God’s representatives to those of peoples’ representatives after a long conflict between Church and Naturalists and Sartre had witnessed and participated in most devastating conflicts that human history ever had.

Though the nature of conflicts has been changing over time but it seems the sources of the conflicts have been remained the same and this consistency in the historical pattern of conflicts made it easy to predict future conflicts. Since WWII, the world was in a conflict between two balancing superpowers but by collapse of Soviet Union, there was a prevailing hope for a more prosperous world of least conflicts. However, in midst of this hope, Samuel Huntington predicted for vaster, deeper and more chaotic, post-soviet conflicts, “the clash of civilizations”. For Huntington, it was not difficult to draw conflict zones or fault lines between major civilizations as the world is very well segregated based on the “values”, each civilization identifies itself with.

One may say that Huntington has grossly divided the world into eight civilizations but there are nearly 206 “sovereign states” with their own laws. It is the nation states, not the civilizations that play main roles in the conflicts. That might seems true but a close look at the coordination and congregation of state in international spheres reveals that states also identify themselves with their relative civilizations and that makes Samuel Huntington’s assumptions look true in practice. In theory, states should go after their interests then how civilizational divide could happen to be interest divide as well? My thinking is that, the answer lies in values. We recognize civilizations based on their set of values. In other words it is the set of values that make civilizations distinct. The values not only guide the social objectives but also how to go after those objectives and this makes a frame of interests. Countries with common values find close social objectives and ways to achieve them so naturally their interests to a large extent become common.

In a world that is increasingly shrinking, the civilizational divides are felt ever strong than before. Since the beginning of new millennium, the world is really suffering from the civilizational conflicts. In the opening paragraph, I said that in times of intense conflicts or decline, some Philosophers were coming with their themes to question the very basic of prevailing values that are causing conflicts. Plato came with concept of “Philosopher King”, Nietzsche came with idea of “Superman” and the Sartre came with idea of “revolt for freedom”. May be the sudden influx of massive information have occupied the minds of out time to an extent that there are rarely any brain left to challenge with an effective voice against the prevailing civilizational divide in the globalized world….

Coming back to our main topic, the main purpose of “values” in the first place is to improve the quality of life. If we look to major civilizations, the core message in the heart of each civilization is improving the quality of life. Now that civilizations are at conflict, the basic objective of values that was improving the quality of life is at stake.

It really doesn’t matter where you stand in these clashes, the impact comes at your doorstep and it comes through very fabric of society, laws. Every society has laws. Actually, laws are baseline for social acceptability. If one obeys laws, he has done nothing appreciable but if one breaks the laws, he becomes criminal and is expected to be punished accordingly. We usually take the laws for granted but those who understand it, don’t look at them as they were forever there. See the following two quotes,

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” …..Martin Luther King

“If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” …….Thomas Jefferson

As I said before, the values are there to improve the quality of life, similarly the laws are there to maintain justice in society. Unjust laws are not tolerated so does it mean that all existing laws are just? Again, it depends on the concept of justice. One law might look just in a society and unjust in another society. Why? The main reason is again the values. The concept of justice comes from social values. Even the divide within of each civilization into camps of liberal and conservatives are a sprouted from the core values each recognize it with.

Once I had to teach social studies for a brief time at school and I made a sketch to show the connection between values and laws. I think, it is relevant here,

Whenever, I hear the term “our values” from a politician, I know he/she wants to rally people against others. So, what is the solution? In theory, the Human Rights declaration was a step forward for global values instead of civilizational values. But each civilization has a well-developed culture to support its values and to carve them in the children as they grow with those values. Unfortunately, human rights is not recognized with any existing civilization so there is no culture for it to support, incorporate and carve it in children as they grow. Though in theory, Human Rights declaration has opened up a way. But it is really unfortunate that in practice, it is used for “clash of civilizations” or in the service of national interests.

In theory, we can revolt against civilizational values in favor of global values but it might take some heavy damages and losses for world to give concessions to global values at cost of civilizational values…. Humanely dreams can’t dope up those who have been doped with hatred and greed…

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