“There is a period in history when crawling is the best means of communication. Intellectuals always are in front of everybody at the race of this crawling.” – Professor Abdur Razzak.
A country is not an abstract idea. It has a map, people, and a management system. People form the country in their own way for the sake of their own benefit. If there is more difference in expectation and achievement of benefit, a new country is formed after breaking the old one. A country is always in the midst of broken-built for the sake of people’s welfare and it is not eternal. Those who say that they do not want the benefit of the country, only want to serve the people, actually, they are involved in a secret conspiracy of looting in the country and they are opportunists and anti-national. Of course, I want the benefit to the country as per the conditions, which were followed to form the country. Otherwise, what will I do with the country?
It is a personal calculation. Besides, there are various demands for all other people in society beyond the individual demands. Almost all of them, except those who have little access to social benefits, do not understand their rights or entitlements in the face of education and facilities-centered systems. And they are indifferent to evil attempt and effort of the demonic system that obstacles in way of their attainment. Even, any question could be asked about the system, which change is under the desire of people in society, and most of the general people are also not aware of the system. In this case, the question arises, who will bring the demand of rights of these unconscious illiterate people to the state? After all, the person who can do this great job is only intellectual. Besides, there are many definitions and sources of intellectuals in the world.
There is an article called “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” written by Noam Chomsky! It was originally written in the context of the 1969 Vietnam War when American intermediary intellectuals supported the US administration. It was first published in the New York Times on February 23, 1967.
Who are intellectuals? In the context of this question, there are some words that can be presented as witnesses of my aforementioned speeches. According to Chomsky, one of the many characteristics of an intellectual is that “an intellectual is a person who faces the conflict of power.” Because, power always dominates the rights of the weak, helpless, and unconscious people! The rights to oppressed and suppressed people are kept to intellectual as a deposit. So, the intellectual conflict with power is eternal in all countries, at all times!
“The intellectual’s role generally is to uncover and elucidate the content, to challenge and defeat both an imposed silence and the normalized quiet of unseen power. Where ever and whenever possible.” – Edward Said
The term ‘intellectual’ is generally used to denote ‘intellectual counseling and right-guided scholars’ in times of social and state crisis. The term ‘intelligentsia’ was first used in Russia in the 1960s to refer to them. At that time, they used the term to mean members of their scholars themselves as a group in Russia. Interestingly, their distinctive attitude is deeply influenced by Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s fictional novel Chtodelat. Interestingly, their distinctive behaviors and attitudes are deeply influenced by Nikolay Chemyshevsky’s fictional novel Chtodelat (1863).
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “the class consisting of the educated portion of the population and regarded as capable of forming public opinion.” But later the word “intellectual” developed into a broader meaning. Overspread and stretch of the word “intellectual”, British socialist and historian Raymond Williams has said: “Although the uses of words –intellectuals, intellectualism, and intellectual communities–were inconvenient till the middle of the twentieth century, all these had considerable effects in English and that influence still exists.”
Antonio Gramsci in his book ‘Selections from Prison Notebooks’ wrote about intellectuals “Everyone is intellectual in the society, but in a sense, very few people perform the duty of this intellectual” This means that there are many differences between ‘becoming intellectual’ and ‘being intellectual.’ Gramsci has beautifully explained it saying that Intellectual activity is essential to maintaining stability in the society. Those who cannot raise the question in the need for social change or the aspiration of human rights in society would not be called truly intellectual. He has called them traditional (conventional) intellectuals.
Gramsci in his writing brings another category of intellectuals who hold the aspirations of the larger people in society beyond their own class and work to fulfill the dreams of changing their society. He calls them true intellectuals (Organic or biological). Biological intellectuals mainly can create counter-hegemony, which is the opposite of the hegemonic ideology of capitalist society.
Edward Said, one of the intellectuals of the modern world, is more aggressive than Chomsky in the moral position of intellectualism, or as aggressive as Chomsky. He does not agree to call those intellectuals, who do not raise questions in contrast to the status quo of society. He believed that an intellectual must question the exploitative and ruling classes regarding various conditions of the society and these questions are not motiveless. He will make a clear idea about the structure of injustice and exploitation in the society through these questions. And he cannot remain indifferent or neutral in the case of policy-making decisions.
But Edward Said’s stance, on the process by which an intellectual works, is very different from that of Gramsci. Said in a book ‘Representations of the Intellectuals’ discusses in detail about the role of intellectuals. He explained the details on intellectuals quoting the topics of intellectuals in the books written by Gramsci and Julian Bender. He said the activities of real intellectuals are not for practical purposes. They find happiness in art, science, or philosophy. –Real intellectuals will risk amid social isolation and cruelty– They must be the uncompromising person. Their personality will be high-powered.” He called intellectuals the “soul of revolution” after identifying the role of intellectuals in every revolution and social change movement in modern history.
Indian social historian Binoy Ghosh in his books ‘Banglar Nobojagriti’ and ‘Banglar Bidatsamaj’ discusses the educated population of India as well as intellectual class associated with the intellectual practice, although his (Binoy Ghosh) aspects are not like theoretical perspectives of Gramsci and Edward Said
Intellectual lives in society. Whatever he is but he is not neutral, cannot be neutral. Conflict is always going on between strong and weak people in society and state. Having neutral is a self-deception, even suicide. Ignoring the side of the weak people is a tantamount of accepting the oppression on weak, which was carried out by strong people. How much the distance between accepting and supporting is! (Work and responsibility of intellectuals /Prof. Sirajul Islam Chowdhury).
Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980. It was after midnight. It was approximately around 1:30 am on the night. When the news of his death came to newspaper offices, the newspapers were being printed. Later, the makeup on the first and last pages of all the newspapers had to renew. The news of Sartre’s death was published throughout the first and last pages with the black border in the newspapers. All the newspapers in Paris came out late the next morning.
The main reason behind the delay in coming out newspapers was that the president’s condolence from Élysée Palace reached the newspapers’ offices late! Then the president of France was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Waking up from an unsound sleep, the bewildered president began to dictate to his personal assistant. Later, the famous condolence message was written. This great philosopher was against institutional and traditional in all his life. If I mourn his death as president, his policies will be disrespected. He never liked these formal honors. I can mourn his death only as one of his students and readers. As the head of the state, the mourning will be the tantamount of arrogance.
The president wrote the most important thing at the end of a long condolence message, “Sartre was not neutral, always took a side.”
Why did people like Sartre take a side? they took favor for whom? Sartre always took a side in a smooth manner on the question of national or international and inter-state throughout his life. Even when his state was doing injustice, he would take a side. The wrongdoer did not hesitate to stand up against his own state. He strongly opposed to the strong side with all power when he saw the oppressors were doing injustice to the weak. So, Sartre has a place of separate honors as an intellectual beyond many identities.
The intellectual must take a side in any case. He will take the side of any party with his conscience and intellect what seems right to him. The intellectual later would think whether his party took right or wrong decision. But first, he will have to take a side. Because neutrality means opportunism. An opportunist waits for a winner and takes the side of the winner. The overall definition and activities of the intellectual are contrary to the position of this opportunist.
It goes without saying that the work of the intellectual is not isolated from politics or society at all. Characteristically, an intellectual is a social person but the work of an intellectual in society is somewhat different from other social activities. He is not obedient or responsible for social power. He does not want to accept the darkness, injustice, and ugliness of society. He wants to change the society in many ways and works or wants to work in order to fulfill his goal. Maybe, that works are often as a threat due to the sphere of social influence.
The desire for power is at the center of all politics. Social reformers also want power and respect. The work of the intellectual is not about power. He works to ensure the rights of the general people to exercise power. His goal is to accelerate human liberation and work to achieve the goal. In a word, he is involved with the liberation movement continued in society. Although the individual finally gets the liberation, liberation is not possible at all ignoring all the liberation seekers. A change is felt from the structure of society and the state in favor of the liberation of the unconscious, oppressed, and general people. Intellectuals turn the change into the voices of people and become a part of the social movement for liberation till death, as the liberation is a flowing process in this social movement.
Once upon a time, Noam Chomsky visited Sweden and found there that taxi drivers were a little more sincere. The matter seemed to him as a little different. He asked a driver ‘What’s the matter? Why are you all so sincere? Then the driver took off his shirt and showed a T-shirt, which was under his shirt. The T-shirt was attached with a picture of Chomsky and a quote from Chomsky about an education movement. The drivers said all the drivers wear these T-shirts there. Chomsky, who criticized the education system (effective education, effective indoctrination), was asked where are all the free-thinking people in society?’ Chomsky replied, “All they drive taxis’.
The exception of the shape and form of almost universally recognized intellectuals, which was discussed above, can be noticed almost in all our countries as well as all over the world. According to the definition of Chomsky, intellectuals are rare in our country. Most of the intellectuals remain mixed with power like mango-milk, not only our country or the developing countries but also the so-called developed countries in the world.
Power is very stubborn and arrogant as per its characteristics and inherent. It is accustomed to its forceful manner. The power wants to keep disagreeable people’s silence showing greed or fear. Only intellectuals are aware of politics and society. Intellectuals make conflict with the state and power due to this political awareness and social mentality. Intellectuals always take a position in favor of the oppressed people and for the public interest of the country after ignoring the greed of power and coming out of fear.
Nowadays, the tendency of anti-public interest-active intellectuals, beyond active public interest-oriented intellectuals, is noticeable all over the world. A certain power, economic, and social structure cannot be sustained by applying alone, but it requires the creation of public opinion and needs some pet intellectuals. They try to justify all the oppressive and anti-people activities of the state by using the state’s facilities.
It is not unrealistic that passive intellectuals live in society. Although these intellectuals are active for the interests of their party, they are silent in their own interest not talking about any mistake of the party, which creates the problem in the party.
Language is one of the elements to reach people in society. This language is not class-neutral as much as the liability and responsibility of the intellectuals are not neutral. We find the active role of anti-public interest activities as well as passive intellectuals in changing society from the politics of creating and using this language. The conflict increases more in society due to the complex language of the maximum intellectuals, who want to tell the truth publicly or are forced to tell the truth in society. Even, many truths turn into half-truths due to language. And all know that half-truth is heinous more than falsehood.
Intellectuals use the camouflage of ‘postmodern’ language to hide the complexity of this language. The concept of postmodernism is used as almost ‘fashion’ in an educated society in third world countries like our country. Intellectuals in that country also make an ‘abstract definition’ of the concept of truth as fashion. These activities greatly undermine the attempts of any conscious fight for the favour of people.
All should reject the method, which has judged language detaching the tasks of intellectuals from the politics and sociology of time and is strong in the West (hence it is our country as well). The method will have to be analyzed on the basis of the real historical tradition and cultural format.
The intellectual has to take his moral position even outside his own class in a class-divided society. It is not urgent that the intellectual means deviate from class. Rather, it is more important to explain the effective signals in the language of the mass people for social change.
In this case, many intellectuals take the side of power despite understanding these social tendencies and even knowing the language of these expressions. There are countless examples of this colonial world of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There is no need to go to the Far East or Africa or Latin America for this. There are many such shining examples in the so-called ‘History of Bengal Renaissance’.
We see the close relationship of cultural attitudes and knowledge practice of the West with colonial aggression in the process of reading the overall colonial situation and the colonial position of the East-West. A special kind of cultural motivation and knowledge practice of the West shows the East as inferior, and it creates persuasion to capture and allure the East. Some domestic intellectuals of the ruling countries are always busy in spreading the persuasion and propaganda of their colonial masters. Edward Said has called this ignorant and immoral cultural domination of the West that “the greatest example of an evil force alliance of knowledge and power is one of the reasons behind the tragic period of most people in the world.”
Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury in his book (The Work and Responsibilities of Intellectuals / Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury) discussed the comparison between Martin Luther King and Raja Rammohun Roy. He showed how the two significant social reformers of two countries of these two centuries played two opposite roles. That means the social work and responsibility of an intellectual are different things. Luther Martin himself translated the Bible. But the language of that translation was the language of American peasant society and most of the society was black. It was a revolt against white Christian society or Vatican domination.
On the other hand, Rammohan’s Vedas was translated with the definite language for the Hindu class at Fort William, which recognizes the rule of the English Company in this country. Although Rammohan and Lalon were almost contemporary, Lalon’s language could not be the language of literature as Lalon was far from the limit of power. Rammohan worked within the restriction of the colonial structure. He had worked to change society but his work had not been a threat to power, rather the work played a supportive role to give the power legitimacy. It can also be called as his conscious failure.
The language and context of the prose, which Bankim Chandra wrote in the nineteenth century, were about the general people but its purpose was not for general people. Bankim said “it was not the purpose of changing the society, which he wrote in his essay Samya and his novels to show the image of society. Rather, he wrote for the purpose of landlords so that the landlords can correct themselves somewhat for the sake of effectiveness of the Permanent Settlement (1793). Otherwise, the social revolution is inevitable. His writings acted as a benefactor of the landlord class beyond the interest of the peasantry.
Although Bankim’s social consciousness was intellectually oriented, its purpose was against the social revolution, so that his trusted English assumed social rules does not turn into lie. And the newly formed ‘modern Bengali structure’ does not collapse. He wrote clearly “We are not in favor of social revolution,” At a time, Bankim withdrew his Essay “Samya” (Equality) from the market with a notice. He wrote clearly in the notice, “I stopped printing it as the book is sold better and more people understand.
We will even see that although Bankim praised the language of drama “Zamindar Darpan” written by Mir Mosharraf Hossain, he forbade him (Mosharraf) to publish it (In this case, it must be said that the language was praised only because it was not Muslim related prose!). According to Bankim, this book can provoke the peasant society, especially the ongoing peasant movement in the then Faridpur and Pabna regions.
If the theory and practical knowledge are not matched, no teaching is not completed. An intellectual is a social man, who will ask a question about his time, society, and power for the right of human beings and will expose the dark sides of society and power to all. An intellectual will guard the door of the moral conscience of society and time with the risk of his life and honor, and provide his own explanation of social freedom in the light of history and his own experience.
It goes without saying that risks are very serious in this case, especially in our country where society is divided on the question of greater unity in national politics. Raising questions against any ideological party, which is ruling the country, is tantamount against their power. That means the intellectuals or speakers turn into an enemy of power. In such an environment, liability is not repaid by writing just a book or academic intelligence. Even if the academic work is the public interested job and an intellectual does not try to implement it, he actually opposed himself by undermining his self-respect as well as a demoralizing sense of history and own consciousness. An intellectual never show an excuse for the inability to fulfill his social responsibilities although he is busy with academic work or writing books or other works. We have seen great intellectuals in history to carry out great social responsibilities, and that example is endless.
Bangladesh is the only country in South Asia that became independent through fighting an armed struggle. The path, which Bangladesh crossed from independence till today, could not create a favorable environment for expressing a free and independent opinion or has not been a safe haven for progressive practice. And its education system is not conducive to taking a position against the domination of the ruling party or the formation of ‘independent views’. As a result, an atmosphere of apathy to overall politics is prevailing in the society till today.
The main reason behind this is the depoliticization of political parties. Now the only goal of the political parties is to go to power in any process and build a mountain of personal wealth and glory by using state power. We will see that there is no big difference in quality between the parties, which have the organizational power to go to power, in terms of political programs, economic programs, attitudes, and even morals. When all the political parties turn into the name of the looting system in this extreme and absolute era of the consumerist economy, it is the duty of the intellectual to give a voice of resistance as the last torch of public rights or mass aspirations.
But now the question arises which language will the intellectuals use in this multi-educated society? He will use his own mother tongue or the symbolic language of the oppressive class. Language itself is a kind of power and even language is a symbol of expressing power. Although the so-called colonial rule ended, foreign languages like English are still the language of power, the language of capital, and the language of neo-imperialism in this neo-colonial era. So, in general, if intellectual express their opinion using another language without their mother tongue and it happens in an isolated selfish environment, the practice of this intellectuals is nothing but the luxury of practicing the culture of a group of people close to the power of society
The author is thankful to Hasan Ali for translating it.