Aniruddha Babar, PhD, MA, LL.M
In every country the intellectual class is the most influential class. This is the class which can foresee advice and lead. In no country does the mass of the people live the life for intelligent thought and action. It is largely imitative and follows the intellectual class. There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destination of the country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class is honest and independent, it can be trusted to take the initiative and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. It is true that the intellect by itself is no virtue. It is only a means and the use of a means depends upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual man can be a good man but he may easily be a rogue. Similarly an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity or it may easily be a gang of crooks or a body of advocates of narrow clique from which it draws its support.
~ Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (Speech delivered in the Bombay Presidency Mahar Conference, May 31, 1936)
History is evidence of the role of intellectuals in guiding
society in turbulent times. Many thinking individuals guided the mankind at crossroads through the challenging situations occurred at different times in the history of human civilization. French, American, Russian revolutions were driven by contemporary ideologies. As literary personalities study the society very closely and analyse the social reality on day to day basis, they are in better position to comment; for e.g. on the menace of growing intolerance and communalism. Every society needs public intellectuals. Public intellectuals is like a thinking brain of society that help shape public opinion, or at the very least initiate the public dialogue about what things are important, and what should be thought and done about those things. They often help articulate a point of view on behalf of common people who do not have the skills to do so, in this way rallying a community of support behind an idea, the merit of which can then be tested in public debates. Sometimes they point out things that are wrong in a society, and that others have not notices, or have chosen to ignore. Sometimes they manage to come up with new ideas that enrich the range of options open to a society as it addresses the complex problems of its time. Intellectuals of a nation have a keystone role in the social ecosystem. They give ideological justification or direction to the aspirations of the people. Intellectual Class is the backbone of any society which decides the course of direction of its journey into the future.
Attempting to define who is an intellectual brings up the general impossibility to give a “correct” definition. As the formulation of a definition depends on the context, the thematic field, there is no universally valid definition; no objective “prototype” of an intellectual can be stated. However, taking reference of Saxonberg’s and Thompson’s (2002) approach, according to Christiane Landsiedelthe determining elements of the possible definition of intellectuals may comprise the following: “Intellectuals are those educated people (institutionally educated or auto didactically) who contribute in different ways and to varying degrees to the production and development of cultural goods – in the form of speech, books, music, paintings or sculptures. Intellectuals can be writers, musicians, artists, philosophers, social scientists, clergymen etc. whose expert knowledge and exceptional capacity of critical reflection substantiate their minority status. They are distinguished from the sphere of material production which is constituted by manual workers.”
Noam Chomsky in his article titled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” quoted one of the articles of Dwight Macdonald that he published in a series of articles in Politics on “the responsibility of people and, specifically, the responsibility of intellectuals” which was then published in 1947.In his work, Macdonald asks the question: “To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments?” The question is thought provoking which provides scope for further discussion in present article. Could some sort of responsibility be imposed on the ‘people’ of a nation who’s government policies are detrimental to the principles of natural justice? The political elites and the bureaucrats of the nation should be made accountable for every step that they take and this should be the primary function and responsibility of “Intellectual Class”. Furthermore, major responsibility of intellectuals is to help their societies understand the truth about the socio-political-economic realities of a nation. It has been seen that the Officials and other elite representatives of Government frequently justify the government policies. Intellectuals can help other citizens come to more truthful understanding of what their governments are doing and what is being done in their name. However this is just a tip of an ice-berg.
It is said that the Democracy is an ideal system of governance, however, a common man still have no say in the entire functioning of the system. Democracy in nation like India gets prominently visible during the elections; however, in other days it’s the parliamentary autocracy and bureaucratic supremacy prevails. There is strange vacuum which has been created by the nexus of politicians and bureaucrats where a common man can either live like a ’zombie’ or survive like an ‘amoeba’. In this vacuum there is no scope for dialogues between common man and his political and administrative “masters”. Democracy is indeed a government of the people, by the people and for the people; however, here the word ‘people’ is very confusing and vague. It would be very complex exercise to understand the democracy without understanding the actual relationship that the model of democracy supposed to establish with the ‘people’ of a given political state. Here for the sake of understanding if we take the word people as synonymous to population then we somehow reach to the half-truth that partially fulfils the technical criteria for ‘political state’. However, democratic nation need something more than just a population of human beings. It needs ‘awakened’ individuals to run the nation to its destiny. Here ‘awakened’ individuals in democracy are the intellectuals. It is the intellectual class which has to shoulder the responsibility to build a bridge between the rulers and the mass however that is absolutely incomplete without Intellectual integrity which requires that the intellectual class must resist the temptation to distort their judgments to achieve status or to please authority. One way to fulfil their public responsibility is to use what status, influence, and authority they have to advance democracy and justice, therefore, in this context, it may be understood that the primary job of an intellectual is to keep people thinking, also, it is the sacred duty of intelligentsia to unhesitatingly expose the wrongdoings and held the responsible guilty. History has brought to us the fight of writers and other intellectuals against Religious domination, Colonialism, Political brutalities, Capitalism, Nazism, Racism, Casteism and Dark ages. Painters have painted the ideas of free mind and rationalism, writers have written the words of struggle &hopes, poets have imagined the world of justice. All these have had great influence on the masses. Intellectuals are flag bearers of the society. They have capacity to turn the face of society from ugly to pleasant, from darkness to brightness. They are both mediator and moderator between rulers and the ruled.
To conclude, let us understand that, only thinking society can take steps to the progress and prosperity. Only thinking society can define and redefine the idea of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. It is thinking society that can fight the intellectual battle for its survival. Therefore, duty of intellectuals is to lead and create thinking society, thinking people, people who can reason, people who can question, people who can confidently set on an adventure to find the truth, people who knows the value of their existence. Intellectuals must create thinking individual in the interest of tomorrow.
FOLLOWING POEM IS DEDICATED TOMY FELLOW INTELLECTUAL FRIENDS WHOS VOICE I LONG TO HEAR:
Speak, for your lips are yet free;
Speak, for your tongue is still your own;
Your lissom body yours alone;
Speak, your life is still your own.
Look into the blacksmith’s forge:
The flame blazes, the iron’s red;
Locks unfasten open-mouthed,
Every chain’s link springing wide.
Speak, a little time suffices
Before the tongue, the body die.
Speak, the truth is still alive;
Speak: say what you have to say.
By, Legendary Poet ‘FAIZ AHMED FAIZ’