Redefining Humanism and Internationalism

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By Roar Bjonnes

In the pursuit of global harmony and social progress, the concept of humanism and internationalism emerges as a beacon of progressive hope. Yet, upon closer examination, the ideology of humanism reveals inherent flaws and limitations. P.R. Sarkar, in his seminal works delves into the complexities of humanism, dissecting its various manifestations and proposing a transformative alternative: Neohumanism.

Regarding internationalism, Sarkar succinctly spells out its limited potential and warns us of its potentially destructive future. Echoing the current cold and hot wars between the power brokers of today, the US and its NATO allies, Russia, and China, he wrote,

“When I use the term ‘internationalism,’ I am admitting the existence of separate nations… But when I discover that one nation is trying to thrive on the lifeblood of another, I oppose it, and this opposition ultimately leads to world war. So, internationalism is not the solution either.”[1]

Humanism, in its essence, extends beyond mere national boundaries or international cooperation. It encompasses a universal sentiment of compassion and solidarity towards all humanity. However, this lofty ideal often falls short in addressing the intricate dynamics of socio-economic exploitation and intra-human conflicts.

Sarkar explains that humanism often cannot prevent intra-humanistic clash. He identifies a crucial distinction between genuine humanism and its pseudo form. While genuine humanism aspires to uplift all individuals regardless of their backgrounds, pseudo-humanism is tainted by ulterior motives and exploitation. The narrative of providing aid to disadvantaged groups often conceals underlying agendas of economic dominance and cultural hegemony.

With these words, Sarkar reminds us of the untold suffering inflicted upon indigenous peoples in the past few hundred years:

“Suppose we discover that a particular group is educationally backward. We feel pity for them because they are also our fellow human beings; so, we think, ‘Let us introduce them to the printed word, at least!’ and actually we do something towards that end. But through this so-called ‘literacy drive,’ we inject ideas in their minds that paralyze them mentally, and then we ultimately govern these mentally paralyzed people as colonized people.” [2]

Moreover, Sarkar warns against the insidious consequences of disregarding non-human life forms within the framework of humanism. The rampant destruction of natural habitats and indiscriminate exploitation of resources disrupt the delicate ecological balance, posing existential threats to both humans and other sentient beings.

According to Sarkar:

“Human beings led by self-interest have been neglecting ecology at every step. We should remember that the sky and air, the hills and mountains, the rivers and forests, the wild animals and reptiles, the birds and fishes and all sorts of aquatic creatures and plants are all inseparably related to one another. Human beings are an integral part of that vast common society.”[3]

The limitations of internationalism and humanism underscore the need for a paradigm shift towards Neohumanism, which advocates for a holistic approach that transcends narrow interests and embraces the well-being of all living entities. It seeks to foster a harmonious coexistence among humans, animals, and the environment, recognizing the intrinsic value of every being.

In essence, Neohumanism offers a transformative vision for a more equitable and sustainable world. By prioritizing empathy, inclusivity, and ecological stewardship, it heralds a new era of social progress and collective flourishing. As we confront the myriad challenges of the 21st century, the principles of Neohumanism may serve as a guiding light towards a brighter and more compassionate future.

[1] Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan. “Liberation of Intellect: Neo-Humanism.” Ananda Marga Publications, 1982.

[2] Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan. “Pseudo-Humanism.” In Liberation of Intellect: Neo-Humanism. Kolkata, India: Ananda Marga Publications, 1982.

[3] Sarkar, Prabhat Ranjan. “Neohumanism in a Nutshell, Part 2.” Ananda Marga Publications, 1984.

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