KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM AND THE IDEA OF HUMAN DIGNITY
Winston E. Langley
Human societies throughout the world have evolved, largely in isolation from each other. So, although we have had major transnational socio-economic and ideological movements such as imperialism, internationalism (communism and socialism, as well as international governmental organizations, such as the Arab League, the United Nations, the IMF and the International Labor Organization, are forms of internationalism) world federalism, free-marketism, modernism, ecumenism (the Parliament of World Religions or the World Council of Churches), and the wide use of languages such as Arabic, English, Mandarin, Spanish, among others, cultural and other differences have been defining attributes of inter-societal interactions. The twentieth century, especially during its second half, progressively witnessed the erosion of the just-mentioned isolation, urged on by scientific and technological advances, along with increased commercial intercourse, and the global production of goods and services. The twenty-first century is not only faced with an acceleration of this erosion, but is also a witness to a gradual “fading away” of national and regional cultures. Indeed, what we today have is an emerging, single (although highly differentiated) global society. With this emerging global society, people co-existing in isolated social and cultural units will be replaced by people co-existing—at least for some time to come—at the intersection between isolation and integration, thus making for frequent encounters with others, many of whom they will little understand. They will also be co-existing at the crossroads between national and global socio-economic governance, thus making it possible to face ever increasing disparities in wealth and poverty, enlightenment and ignorance, power and impotence. The implications—political, social, economic, and moral—of such disparities should not be lost to us: it could mean socio-political chaos, on a scale not before experienced by human beings. The prospect of such increasing disparities is grounded in the fact that every society, about which we have knowledge, has unfailingly had expressions of social, cultural, political, gender, national, ethnic, religious, linguistic, educational, racial, geographic (locational) , lineal, physical, ideological, gender, sexual- orientational, and other differences which members of such societies have varyingly come to acquiesce in, accept, nurture, or celebrate, in part because they serve or are perceived to serve the actual or supposed advantage of some group. Often, such differences are seen as constitutive or foundational; they are also seen as historical. What is important is the fact that at the cultural cross- roads to which we previously referred, we can either have reinforcement of those disparities or an enriching liberation from them, toward some broader and deeper human fulfillment. A voice in search of the second alternative was that of Nazrul who, in his irrepressible and unprecedented championing of human dignity early in the twentieth century, helped set the stage for that possible deeper and broader human fulfillment.