What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Paul Fischer
May 23, 2006
What Does It Mean To Be Human?
              To be human is to work for the betterment of oneself and the rest of mankind. Most countries through out the world humans are being denied of their basic rights because of religion, social standing, and race. There are times when it seems wise to rulers to deny people rights, or benefits and this sort of legalization only lasts as long as the exceptional tyrant who was capable of keeping iron rule over his populace. In India, first the princes believed in their divine right to rule, then the British Empire imposed authoritarian rule upon the native Indians while plundering India’s natural resources to support the empire. After Gandhi drove the British out of India, India splintered into a Muslim and a Hindu nation. Since then both nations have progressed well in creating a happier lifestyle for all of the citizens, and in return Indian and Pakistani global relations have never been better than now. When ethics guide a nation, then they may assuredly say that the populace will act humanely.
              The most important figure in the development of the modern Indian nation is Mohandas K. Gandhi. In the nineteen twenties through the fifties this charismatic Hindu helped civil rights causes against the British Empire in South Africa and India. The British Empire attempted to segregate the minority white ruling class from the massive Hindu and Muslim populace. Gandhi understood that Indians were people in the same way as a British born man and that the two races should be treated equally. Gandhi’s first intercourse with the British authorities was in South Africa where all Indians or dark colored people must carry identification cards through at all times or they could be detained indefinitely. Because the British ruled with a totalitarian fist, the dark skinned citizens couldn’t do anything about this oppression. When Gandhi came to South Africa, there were many rebels who wished to start a violent revolution that would purge the entire nation of their pale counterparts. Gandhi was not in favor of killing the oppressors but rater Gandhi was interested in peacefully reaching a deal. Using civil disobedience, Gandhi burned the identification and though he was beaten, remained steadfast in his determination to peacefully coexist with Britain. In India, Gandhi fought instead for independence and through the two world wars and four decades that he was there, Gandhi continued to civilly disobey the British Empire, even punishing the Hindus by starving himself when the Hindus violently revolted.
              Following India’s independence, there were two factions: the Hindus led by Gandhi and the Muslim league led by Nehru. These sides were not against each other, indeed, it was Gandhi’s decision to allow Nehru to be the first prime minister in a desperate attempt to keep the nation unified. Why Gandhi showed what many Hindus considered over patriotism and didn’t give the position to a Hindu with more populace support is because of his distaste for the caste system in India that he believed was the very thing he had fought to remove. The caste system is one of the most restrictive systems in the world for segregating people because of their class or social standing. Under the caste system there are four main castes, untouchables (basically servile slaves for the upper castes), and thousands of smaller castes nationally. These castes may not even eat together and it is impossible to move from one class to another. In addition to these obvious cultural divides there are also a huge number of talented people who are repressed from working in jobs to which they may be best suited. Today, the Indian government has begun to outlaw practicing the caste and India’s economy and culture is flowering in a way comparable to east Europe following the downfall of the wall.
              The two factions of Hindus and Muslims were not in harmony either. Often following the independence, Indians would fight in religious homicides and massacres that occurred in major cities of India. Hindus believed that because Muslims did not worship their god, the Muslims were not fit to live. This forced the splintering of India into Pakistan and India. Even now, Palestinians bomb Jews because they don’t follow the same religion. Religious differences tend to be even worse than class wars or xenophobia because religions often believe that the only way to cleanse a nation of its nonbelievers is to kill them all.
The Indian government now allows many more rights to the various castes (or at least heading in that direction). Unfortunately, Muslims continue to be actively prosecuted and India remains divided. Despite the large difference between the impoverished and the rich in India, there is a growing middle class. In ancient times people were denied their civil rights because of three reasons: race, social standing, and religion (it should not be forgotten that women were also denied their basic rights). India was once a symbol of oppression by the British Empire and great poverty despite India’s vast natural resources. Today, with the opening of the global market and the return of civil liberties to all factions of India the economy flourishes. As Gandhi fervently believed, good will triumph over the malicious forces of evil although never without great losses and defeats.

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