Rupam Dhrubo: When Freedom Emerges through Individuals

When Freedom Emerges through Individuals~
by Rupam Dhrubo

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The Self
I was born alone, and thus will I die. Am I a Muslim, or a Bengali, or a member of proletariat? These are what others shape me into. But the identity that exists before all these constructs is my own self. The individual me.

Fascism

What is fascism? When a person follows an ideal in his own life, he becomes an idealist. But whenever he starts to impose his ideal on other’s life, whatever ideal that might be, he becomes a fascist. Fascism is anything but individualism. It does not tell individuals to follow their own path. It never promotes self determination of individuals. It is a form of collectivism; it forces individuals to align with the interests of a sacred collective. Fascism teaches that it is not you who is in charge of yourself. Your path of life is not chosen by you. The decision given by the Collective or their sacred text is your fate. In fascism, the Individual is not the owner of his own self, it is the Collective that ultimately enjoys that prerogative.

Self Determination

Self determination of individuals tells that the ultimate decider of your own ideal is you. You alone are in charge of your life as long as you do not tread on the way of others. Before submitting to any ideal, religion, or nation, it tells you to submit first to yourself. It is against all possible kinds of fascism. In self determination, only you are the owner of yourself. In self determination, the Self comes first, before nations, religions, ideals and all else.

Religion

The worst kind of religious injustice occurs when it is sponsored by the State. And that is a loss for the religion itself. The State is an agency of violence; worse, it is the only agency that assumes monopoly on violence. Violence destroys. It even destroys its initiator. Monopoly violence does so without restraints. Thus, whichever ideal resorts to this agency will incur a substantial loss to itself. In order to free religion, it should first set itself free from the State.

Ideals cannot be destroyed. Islam will not vanish either. At best, we can only seek its salvation. The salvation of Islam may come from its diversification and growth in various directions. There is no such thing as a single canonical form of Islam. One must agree that Islam exists in various forms. And it may take different new forms, too. Among all these variations, let the individuals decide themselves which form they like.

While the antagonism against Islam is uniting the Muslims into a blind group of aggressors, diverse growth of Islam will make them self conscious. Muslims will realize that everyone essentially follows a different Islam. There exists no single canonical form of it. Each Muslim is entitled to follow his own interpretation. Therefore, there is no point in uniting them based on one common faith. It can rather be a potential wrongdoing to impose a particular form of faith on others. Instead of relying on an Islam imposed by others, an enlightened Muslim will seek his own interpretation of it. The Muslim will thus become free by emerging as an individual. This salvation of Muslims is what makes up the salvation of Islam.

Farhad Mazhar is going to unleash an unseen power of political Islam. It is an Islam with faceless collective of Muslims who disregard individual’s person and property in favor of romantic collectivist ideals. But it is not political banning that will do the trick of thwarting his efforts; it never does. Farhad Mazhar’s exploitation of Islam will be thwarted effectively when his Islam will appear petty among many other Islams. In a society of free, individual Muslims with their numerous interpretations of Islam, Farhad Mazhar will not be able to unite them in the name of any ‘One Islam’. Hence, Islam can be saved from his exploitation through its diverse growth. But if you ban Islam from politics, given that it is possible at all, a sincere powerful thinker such as Farhad Mazhar will still be able to organize and unite secretly. The other forms of Islam that could have tackled his Islam will be thwarted by the ban, instead.

Socialism

Banning seldom works. Banning only empowers the outcast ideal. You might manage to ban JSD (‘Jashod’). But you cannot ban socialism. On the contrary, it will inevitably unite the socialists. Forbidden ideas cannot grow freely. So it potentially remains in one form, and tend to conglomerate and unite. If you ban all the socialist parties in Bangladesh today, it will unite all of our ever-divided leftists and socialists at once, and the second largest political party in our country will be a communist party. Due to massive popular support, it will soon become a legal existence. It is precisely because socialist parties in Bangladesh are legal that zillions of socialist parties and ideals exist in our country, where one is tackled by the others. The desired balance of ideas emerges from their freedom, not from forbidding them.

Nationalism

The salvation of Bengali nationalism will also come from its diversity. We need different Bengali nationalist ideals and parties for this to happen. And the best way to preserve the essence of Bengali nationalism, whatever it stands for, is by protecting it from state sponsorship. As long as the State can control and dictate the nationalist spirit of its people, the only Bengali nationalist party will remain to be Awami League. AL will continue to thwart every other kind of Bengali nationalism by imposing its own through the power of the State. It would be a great loss for Bengali nationalism and eventually for AL itself.

Let us make Islam, socialism and Bengali nationalism free by making their followers, each individual, free.

3 comments

  1. Great sentiment. I’ve long held that human beings’ natural tendency is to organize – whether under the banner of religion, nationalism or Greater Good. Which is why, all brands of ultra-nationalism are essentially rallying cries. Also, Islam, like the other Abrahamic traditions, has built-in organizing features (instruction to ‘establish’ prayers, strong neighborhood bonding, religious dawa’t). Religions and states thrive on communities because they’ve been devised to improve the Collective’s fate. And that calls for unity. And unity calls for a unifying factor. It’s something that one would want to cultivate, not decimate. We, as individuals, respond to those calls of patriotism and/or creed because we want to belong. It’s a reciprocal – even symbiotic – relationship. An ideal of making ‘every individual free’ goes against way too many interests and the general (tendency for) organization of human societies.

    AL has the hegemony on Bangali nationalism today – because no one else has had a better rallying cause (1971) or cry (AL’s professed ownership of it). It’s only too likely that their monopoly will be superseded by another’s. It will thus continue to change hands only. Why should someone – who owns/represents a unifying factor – allow another to exist? If I have a horse in the race – I’ll do anything to make it win. In Bangladesh, that includes banning a couple of competing horses altogether.

    The uniting factor cannot belong to aloof, faceless billions – because organizing takes an organizer (i.e. leader) – whether political, ideological or financial. That’s plain physics. And one who works to unify – has no incentive to allow others to grow stronger. The best we can hope to do is influence ‘what’ that unifying factor is going to be. But I’m willing to bet my salaami that it’s not going to be diversity.

    • A long held misconception is that individualism goes against organizing. Not at all. Individualism goes against forced unification, and in general any kind of aggression against individuals. That is why Matt Ridley in his recent book “The Rational Optimist” points out that the crucial thing about our civilization is specialization and exchange between individuals. An organization of free individuals is much more powerful than a forced unification with restrained individuals. In fact the latter is what goes against way too many interests of human society.

      Another long held misconception is that diversity goes against organizing. If anything, diversity lets people organize in many different ways. It lets many organizations survive side by side in place of a single forceful one.

      Now the question is whether forceful unification or voluntary cooperation is our tendency. We have examples of both in our history. The largest organizing powers of human civilization has been the forceful ones. However, individual consciousness and freedom is a more recent phenomenon, and it is fair to say that individual freedom is becoming an increasing tendency of human being. And the most recent successful organizations of human society, Matt Ridley notes with abundant examples, have been the voluntary ones. For example – markets. It is not only a voluntary organization of human beings, it is also practically leaderless. It does not mean that it is any less powerful or beneficial to human society than the forceful ones. People exchange and organize in markets to solve their problems and the organization ceases to exist as soon as the problem does. If the problem is ongoing, the organization remains too and free individuals continue to collaborate and exchange voluntarily in order to solve their problems. On the other hand, forceful organizations such as state-sponsored religions and the State itself perpetuate problems in order to justify their existence.

      The most recent example of a powerful organization of free individuals is the Internet, where billions of people organize in diverse ways to meet their subjective needs. Objective goals appear in the Internet not through a forceful unification, but through agreement among subjective goals. Individuals are free to join an organization with which his own subjective goal aligns. As soon as he finds that his subjective goal is diverging from that of the organization, he can freely leave it. It lets people organize, yet it is immensely diverse and it does not require a leader or organizer to run the whole Internet, just like free markets. These are recent phenomena.

      As we now convince ourselves that voluntary cooperation is a recent phenomena, we ask, why these are happening only recently. Partly because human economy was mostly a zero-sum game in the early civilizations. One could gain only at the expense of the others’ loss. Resource was too scarce. But organizations require accumulation. That is why aggression was almost the only way. But there is a high price of aggression. It destroys others, and most importantly for the initiator, it retaliates. Specialization (call it skills, techniques, science and technology) and exchange (call it voluntary co-operation and market) changed the picture. Man discovered that two different entities can thrive together not through plunder but merely by exchanging the fruit of their particular specialties. It is a simple but great invention. It has immersed the trade world, the world of science and technology. The only place where it has not seen its light yet is the State. That is why, as you said, “leaders has no incentive to allow others to grow stronger.” That is what the State and people’s struggle to influence and capture it is full of violence and aggression. It is still with us not because it is a great thing; it has stopped being useful for human civilization a long time ago. It is there because we still bear the zero-sum-game mindset of our predecessor’s hunter-gatherer society. But nothing is plain physics in economics and politics. A rational optimist says – aggressive organizations are not our fate either.

  2. A long held misconception is that individualism goes against organizing. Not at all. Individualism goes against forced unification, and in general any kind of aggression against individuals. That is why Matt Ridley in his recent book “The Rational Optimist” points out that the crucial thing about our civilization is specialization and exchange between individuals. An organization of free individuals is much more powerful than a forced unification with restrained individuals. In fact the latter is what goes against way too many interests of human society.

    Another long held misconception is that diversity goes against organizing. If anything, diversity lets people organize in many different ways. It lets many organizations survive side by side in place of a single forceful one.

    Now the question is whether forceful unification or voluntary cooperation is our tendency. We have examples of both in our history. The largest organizing powers of human civilization has been the forceful ones. However, individual consciousness and freedom is a more recent phenomenon, and it is fair to say that individual freedom is becoming an increasing tendency of human being. And the most recent successful organizations of human society, Matt Ridley notes with abundant examples, have been the voluntary ones. For example – markets. It is not only a voluntary organization of human beings, it is also practically leaderless. It does not mean that it is any less powerful or beneficial to human society than the forceful ones. People exchange and organize in markets to solve their problems and the organization ceases to exist as soon as the problem does. If the problem is ongoing, the organization remains too and free individuals continue to collaborate and exchange voluntarily in order to solve their problems. On the other hand, forceful organizations such as state-sponsored religions and the State itself perpetuate problems in order to justify their existence.

    The most recent example of a powerful organization of free individuals is the Internet, where billions of people organize in diverse ways to meet their subjective needs. Objective goals appear in the Internet not through a forceful unification, but through agreement among subjective goals. Individuals are free to join an organization with which his own subjective goal aligns. As soon as he finds that his subjective goal is diverging from that of the organization, he can freely leave it. It lets people organize, yet it is immensely diverse and it does not require a leader or organizer to run the whole Internet, just like free markets. These are recent phenomena.

    As we now convince ourselves that voluntary cooperation is a recent phenomena, we ask, why these are happening only recently. Partly because human economy was mostly a zero-sum game in the early civilizations. One could gain only at the expense of the others’ loss. Resource was too scarce. But organizations require accumulation. That is why aggression was almost the only way. But there is a high price of aggression. It destroys others, and most importantly for the initiator, it retaliates. Specialization (call it skills, techniques, science and technology) and exchange (call it voluntary co-operation and market) changed the picture. Man discovered that two different entities can thrive together not through plunder but merely by exchanging the fruit of their particular specialties. It is a simple but great invention. It has immersed the trade world, the world of science and technology. The only place where it has not seen its light yet is the State. That is why, as you said, “leaders has no incentive to allow others to grow stronger.” That is what the State and people’s struggle to influence and capture it is full of violence and aggression. It is still with us not because it is a great thing; it has stopped being useful for human civilization a long time ago. It is there because we still bear the zero-sum-game mindset of our predecessor’s hunter-gatherer society. But nothing is plain physics in economics and politics. A rational optimist says – aggressive organizations are not our fate either.

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