Humanismo una nueva idea unesco


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Humanismo una nueva idea unesco

  1. 1. United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Humanism, a new idea Dreams of science Michal Meyer I am because you are Michael Onyebuchi Eze Humanizing globalization Mireille Delmas-Marty Where is humanism going? Sanjay Seth Welcome to the Anthropocene Ruth Irwin The Muslim phase of humanism Mahmoud Hussein Child soldiers: a new life ahead Forest Whitaker A special place for the imagination Antonio Skármeta Courier OctoberDecember 2011 THE UNESCO ISSN 2220-2285 e-ISSN 2220-2293
  2. 2. Oliver Kozlarek (Germany) Milad Doueihi Cathy Nolan Liu Ji Forest Whitaker Mireille Delmas-Marty (China) Roger Ross Williams (France) (USA) Asimina Karavanta (Greece) Mahmoud HusseinPaulette Dieterlen (Egypt) (Mexico) Michael Onyebuchi Eze Michal Meyer (Nigeria) (Israel) Sanjay Seth (India) Cristovam Buarque (Brazil) Prudence Mabhena Antonio Skármeta (Zimbabwe) (Chile) Salvador Bergel (Argentina) OUR AUTHORS Ruth Irwin (New Zealand) UNESCO in 2011: Towards a new humanism and globalization that rhymes with reconciliation In 1951, during a ‘Discussion on the our understanding of the meaning of reflections and expressing aspirations Cultural and Philosophical Relations humanism. In March 2011, UNESCO held from everyone everywhere.” Between East and West’ held in the a meeting of its High Panel on Peace According to a section of the report capital of India, New Delhi, from 13 to and Dialogue among Cultures at the UN entitled ‘Towards a new humanism and 20 December, UNESCO endorsed the headquarters in New York. Comprising reconciled globalization’, the purpose of idea of a new holistic humanism. The some twenty distinguished figures from the new humanism is to “create a world was recovering from a terrible all over the world, the Panel agreed that climate of empathy, belonging and war that had sullied the myth of “rethinking peace and reconciliation understanding, along with the idea that technological progress dominating resonated with the quest for a New progress with respect to human rights is Western culture. In a discussion Humanism for the 21st Century,” called never definitive and requires a constant document entitled ‘Towards a New for by the Director-General of UNESCO, effort of adaptation to the challenges of Humanism’, the participants at the Irina Bokova. modernity. Those challenges cannot be meeting spoke of a “confused “In the context of globalization,” says met without ethical principles, which intelligence that has lost its soul” and a the final report on the meeting, “this should be at the foundation of what was “crisis of humanism”. They advocated a concept has to concentrate on cultural aptly coined ‘a public realm of values’.” “spiritual revolution” and “common diversity, dialogue in the age of the spiritual progress” calling for greater Internet, and reconciliation between the exchange between East and West (p. 27). North and the South […] The new The conclusions of the Panel meeting, in March 2011, can be found at the following address: Six decades later, the challenges humanism has to be an authentically facing the world have moved on, as has pluralist cosmopolitanism, inspiring 92362e.pdf
  3. 3. Courier T H E UN ES CO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization October–December 2011 64th year 2011 – No. 4 The UNESCO Courier is published quarterly in seven languages by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 7, place de Fontenoy 75352, Paris 07 SP, France Free subscription to the Courier on line: Director of publication: Eric Falt Editorial – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO 5 Editor-in-chief: Jasmina Šopova HUMANISM: A NEW IDEA Managing editor: Katerina Markelova Where is humanism going? – Sanjay Seth 6 Editors: I am because you are – Michael Onyebuchi Eze 10 Arabic: Khaled Abu Hijleh Chinese: Weiny Cauhape What happened to hospitality? – Asimina Karavanta 14 English: Peter Coles, Alison McKelvey Clayson and Dashika Ranasinghe Justice and dignity – Paulette Dieterlen 16 French: Philippe Testard-Vaillant Towards a humanist turn – Oliver Kozlarek 18 Portuguese: Ana Lúcia Guimarães Russian: Marina Yaloyan The Muslim phase of humanism – Mahmoud Hussein 22 Spanish: Araceli Ortiz de Urbina English translation: Peter Coles and Lisa Davidson For a world of harmony – Liu Ji 25 Photos: Sophie Suberbère UNESCO in 1951: Towards a new humanism 27 Design and layout: Baseline Arts Ltd, Oxford Printing: UNESCO – CLD Humanizing globalization – Mireille Delmas-Marty 28 Information and reproduction rights: interviewed by Jasmina Šopova + 33 (0)1 45 68 15 64 . Documentation: Pilar Christine Morel Vasquez Digital humanism – Milad Doueihi 32 Web platform: Chakir Piro and Van Dung Pham Intern: Landry Rukingamubiri Welcome to the Anthropocene – Ruth Irwin 34 With thanks to: Danica Bijeljac Dreams of science – Michal Meyer 36 Articles and photos credited UNESCO may be reproduced and/or translated for non-commercial purposes providing Bioethics: unimagined challenges – Salvador Bergel 39 the credit line reads “Reproduced from the UNESCO Courier” and includes date and hyperlink. Photos without Seven pointers for the future of mankind – Cristovam Buarque 41 UNESCO credit require special permission. Articles express the opinions of the authors and do not OUR GUEST necessarily represent the opinions of UNESCO. Photographs belonging to UNESCO may be reproduced Child soldiers: a new life ahead – Forest Whitaker 44 freely. Photos must carry the following caption: © UNESCO interviewed by Katerina Markelova and photographers name. For high resolution, please contact the Photobank: THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK Boundaries on maps do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by UNESCO or the United Nations of the A special place for the imagination ‒ Antonio Skármeta 47 countries and territories concerned. From the series OVERCOMING DISABILITY Faces à lÂme by The flight of Prudence ‒ The story of Prudence Mabhena 51© Benjamin Bini - French artist, Benjamin Bini. As told by Roger Ross Williams to Cathy Nolan Dialogue between cultures. Fusion of MILESTONES contemporary and traditional art. UNESCO welcomes 53 Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Alsou Abramova, Blaise Compaoré, Roger-Pol Droit, Jorge Edwards, Ángeles González-Sinde, The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Herbie Hancock, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Pascal Irénée Koupaki, Julia Kristeva, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, Brigi Rafini, Roberto Toscano, Abdoulaye Wade THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 3
  4. 4. In this issue“The affirmation of human commonality If humanist principles are not turned to the cause of child soldiers,and dignity is something that is no less into practice, though, humanism will explaining what drew him to thisurgent today than at any time before,” says remain no more than wishful thinking. barren and tragic universe, so farProfessor Sanjay Seth (India), in his In these times of globalization, we need removed from the luxury of Hollywoodintroduction to this special feature (p. 6). to make use of the “envisioning forces” (p. 44).He puts forward a number of thought- of law to forge a humanist form of The future of the book is a subjectprovoking ideas on contemporary justice that is pluralist and open, says close to the heart of the Chilean writer,humanism, like questioning the notion of the French lawyer, Mireille Delmas- Antonio Skármeta. Author of the novel,a singular Reason, the cohabitation of Marty (p. 28). Among other evidence to Burning Patience (which inspireddifferent visions of morality developed support her case, she cites two major Michael Radford’s film Il Postino) hearound the world, or the need for a global challenges of modernity: climate predicts that the various types of mediaform of justice. Issues like these are change and new digital and biomedical will continue to exist, side by side – thediscussed in depth from a range of technologies, which are also discussed digital book, that faithful ally ofviewpoints by Nigerian-born Michael by Milad Doueihi (USA) (p. 32), Ruth research and information, and theOnyebuchi Eze (p. 10), Asmina Karavanta Irwin, from New Zealand (p. 34), Michal paper book, which is ideally suited tofrom Greece (p. 14) and Paulette Dieterlen Meyer of Israel (p. 36) and Salvador “non-utilitarian imagination” (p. 47).from Mexico (p. 16). Bergel from Argentina (p. 39). To mark International Day of Persons The humanist turn that is currently To conclude this special feature, the with Disabilities (3 December), we willunderway draws on humanist traditions in Brazilian senator, Cristovam Buarque be publishing an interview with theall cultures, according to the German outlines his proposal for a new American director Roger Ross Williams,philosopher Oliver Kozlarek (p. 18). Indeed humanism based on seven pillars: whose film Music by Prudence won himcertain aspects of contemporary Islamic planetary politics, respect for diversity, an Oscar for best short documentary.philosophy have their roots in the very respect for the environment, equal He tells of meeting a youngidea of humanism (p. 22), says Mahmoud opportunities, production controlled by Zimbabwean woman, Prudence, whoHussein, an Egyptian political scientist and man, integration through education and lost both her legs, yet, through herIslamic scholar. And the doctrines of ethical modernity (p. 41). singing, managed to overcome aConfucius and Mencius could be seen as a Our guest for this issue is the number of obstacles, includingmodel for the development of the new American actor and film-maker, Forest rejection by her family, discriminationhumanism imagined by Professor Liu Ji of Whitaker, recently appointed UNESCO and poverty (p. 51).China (p. 25). Goodwill Ambassador. He is committed Jasmina Šopova4 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  5. 5. Editorial Irina Bokova Humanism is an age-old promise, as well as an constitution, they have been guiding the actions idea that is always new, endlessly reinventing of our Organization for 65 years, in the itself. The humanist project has been part of our promotion of a peace that is “founded upon the history since Antiquity, yet it shines like new in intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” every epoch. In the early years of the third millennium the word can no longer have the Beyond the theory, humanist values same meaning as it had during the Renaissance have above all to be translated into in Europe, when it was forged on the image of© Fred de Noyelle/Godong the ideal man, master of himself and the practice. universe. It also goes beyond the meanings that the Enlightenment philosophers gave it, and Building a responsible world of solidarity is a which have remained, despite their universalist long-term endeavour that has to draw on all the aspirations, restricted to a Eurocentric vision of creative forces of humanity. Culture, education, the world. philosophy, science, information technology, law, and international cooperation provide us with Respect for cultural diversity is a core element of the means. Building the ramparts of human 21st century humanism. It is a vital constituent dignity in everyday life is not a Utopian quest. during these times of globalization. No single Humanism is a promise we must all keep. culture has a universal monopoly. Each and every one can contribute to the consolidation of our shared values. The current threats to the planet’s precarious ecological balance, the ethical problems raised by digital and biomedical technologies, the economic and political crises –these are all global challenges that demand concerted responses. The humanism that is emerging today has to provide a framework for our commonI Irina Bokova,Director-General of thoughts and reflections on global issues.UNESCO, at theOrganizations And, beyond the theory, humanist values have,headquarters, in above all, to be translated into practice, in everyFebruary 2010, during facet of human activity. The adoption of thethe first meeting of theHigh Level Panel on Millennium Development Goals in 2000Peace and Dialogue constitutes a humanist agenda par excellence. A © UNESCO/Andrew Wheelerbetween Cultures. In central preoccupation is the promotion ofMarch 2011, the Panel women’s rights and gender equality. Humanismmet again at the UN today also has a feminine side.headquarters in NewYork, to discuss NewHumanism for the 21st Humanist values form the very foundations ofCentury. the philosophy of UNESCO. Written into its THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 5
  6. 6. Where ishumanism going?At the heart of the notion of In this essay, I ask whether the affirmation of human commonality and worth is best securedhumanism is that something that by an anthropological understanding of thewe all share and which sanctions world, and by the search for a singular rationality. In short, is the aspiration to affirm humanour aspirations towards equality, commonality and dignity best served bydespite our differences. The humanism?Enlightenment philosophers Man at the centre of the universelooked for it in the crucible of a Edward Said1 declares that the ‘core’ of humanism is the secular notion that thesingular rationality; today we historical world is made by men and women, andneed to search at the crossroads of not by God, and that it can be understood rationally. At the core of humanism, then, is adifferent visions of morality. philosophical anthropology, which in according centrality to man diminishes (though it does not necessarily eliminate) the role accorded to god(s). Once the purposes and the acts of gods SANJAY SETH explained the world of men; with humanism, to understand the gods of men you have to understand the men, for their gods are the fantastical creation of their minds.Humanism is, amongst other things, the claim or If the centrality accorded to Man as maker ofintuition that all humans have something meanings and purposes involves a diminution offundamental in common, and that this the role once accorded to god(s), it also involvesmandates equal entitlement to dignity and a separation, a distinction, between a humanrespect. This, however, does not serve to world and a non-human one. There are twodistinguish humanism from other doctrines and worlds, one of impersonal processes and laws,understandings, including religious ones, which the other of human intentions and meanings.treat all humans as sharing a commonality (an Nature is not a realm of purposes andimmortal soul, etc) which commands respect. meanings, and so to gain knowledge of nature is What historically distinguished humanism to gain understanding of the impersonal andfrom the many other affirmations of human often lawlike forces that shape it; knowledge ofdignity and worth was the specific form that this the historical or cultural world is knowledge ofaffirmation took; in particular, two supporting or purposes and meanings, for the historical worldbuttressing arguments which, in affirming is where the meanings and purposes of men arehuman equality and dignity, give this apparent in the traces they leave behind.affirmation its distinctively ‘humanist’ cast. These Knowledge of nature, the preserve of the naturalare, first, that human worth is affirmed sciences, can lead to mastery of natural forces;independently of god(s), and more generally, knowledge of the historical world, the preservethat ‘man’ replaces god as the measure of all of the human and humanist sciences, leads tothings. Second, that what all humans have in self-knowledge.common at once consists of, resides in, and can Humanism replaces a view of a single worldonly be discovered through, a singular shot through with meaning and purpose, inrationality. which the purposes and designs of nature are Thus understood, humanism is not simply a prefigured and reflected in the social world, withRenaissance phenomenon, but something that two worlds, one devoid of meaning and purpose,comes to full flower in the Enlightenment, in the and the other constituted of the meanings andform of the idea of a universal humanity and a purposes humans have given their world insingular Reason. different times and places.6 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  7. 7. K Part of the cycle, Theoria ‘What has changed is, above all, an There have always been critics of theseSacra by French painter and presumptions, including Hamann2, Kierkegaard3,sculptor Richard Texier, environmental crisis that calls into Adorno4, Horkheimer5, and Heidegger6. In thereproduced with the kindpermission of the artist. question the absolute privileging of non-Western world, just as there were who accepted and celebrated the values that humans, as well as the sharp distinction were part of western humanism, there were also between man and nature, that are always those, like Gandhi7, Césaire8 and Fanon9, who were critics of a ‘civilisation’ that in characteristic of traditional humanism.” purporting to exalt Man frequently degraded men. Nonetheless, it is the account of the birth of this philosophical anthropology delivered by those who are the progeny of it that has been dominant, and this account celebrates its ancestry. I suggest, however, that circumstances have changed such that a critical reconsideration of this defining aspect of humanism is required. What has changed is, above all, an environmental crisis that calls into question the absolute privileging of humans, as well as the sharp distinction between man and nature, that are characteristic of traditional humanism (see pp. 34-35). It is not only and obviously that our privileging of man may have something to do with the despoliation of the conditions that make human life sustainable, but also that the very distinction between the world that men make and the world that exists independently of them is in the process of collapsing. With global warming and the mass extinction of species, humans have become geological, and not (as before) simply biological agents. 1. Edward Saïd [1935-2003], Palestinian American literary theorist and founding figure in postcolonial studies. Author of Orientalism (1978) and Humanism and Democratic Criticism (2004.) 2. Johann Georg Hamann [1730-1788], German philosopher, friend and intellectual opponent of Immanuel Kant. He was convinced that faith and belief, rather than knowledge, determine human actions. 3. Søren Kierkegaard [1813-1855], Danish Christian philosopher, known as the Father of Existentialism. 4. Theodor Adorno [1903-1969], German philosopher and social critic, and member, with Horkheimer and others, of the Frankfurt School of social theory and philosophy. 5. Max Horkheimer [1895–1973], German philosopher and sociologist, best known for his “critical theory” that combined Marxist-oriented political philosophy with social and cultural analysis informed by empirical research. He co-authored with Theodor Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947). 6. Martin Heidegger [1889-1976], German philosopher, known for his phenomenological exploration of the question of being, and for his critique of philosophical humanism. Read: The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays , Harper Torchbooks,1977; “Letter on Humanism”, in Basic Writings, 1993. 7. Mahatma Gandhi [1869-1948], political and ideological leader, father of the Indian nation. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. 8. Aimé Césaire [1913-2008], French poet from Martinique, one of the founders of the Négritude movement. Read: Discourse on colonialism, Monthly Review Press, 2000. © Archive SOMOGY 9. Frantz Fanon [1925-1961] French psychiatrist from Martinique, active member of the Algerian struggle for independence. Well known as a thinker on the issue of decolonization. Read: The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press, 1963. THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 7
  8. 8. The Enlightenment project Modern The example of the political philosopherIf anthropology (and a consequent division John Rawls13 is especially instructive. In his Abetween nature and society) is one defining knowledge, as Theory of Justice and some subsequent workselement of humanism, the conviction that what elaborated and Rawls sought to draw upon Kant to develop aall humans have in common resides in, and can theory of justice (see pp. 16-18) that would beonly be discovered through a singular rationality, defended by Kant grounded upon a few rationally defensibleis another. The project to establish this was at the and by the principles that would be acknowledged byheart of the Enlightenment. almost all. In later works, he acknowledges thatIn his “Was ist Aufklärung” Kant10 famously Enlightenment his theory of justice, and his defence ofdefined Enlightenment as mankind coming to more generally, liberalism, already presuppose a certain kind ofmaturity through the exercise of its reason. But if public political culture, one shaped by the Warsthe pre-modern notion of a morally ordered and could now stake a of Religion in Europe, by the separation ofpurposive universe had been (in Weber’s later claim to having politics from religion thereafter, and so on. Thephrase11) ‘disenchanted’; if tradition and custom aim of his later theory is thus to elaborate ano longer seemed the source of Reason, or validated or pragmatic and procedural defence of a justiceindeed, even reasonable; and if Hume’s sceptical proven itself, thus which is acknowledged to be Western andchallenge12 raised the possibility of as many liberal, and cannot be passed off as ‘universal’.reasons as there are persons; then what Reason revealing all (Rawls 1995 and 1996).was this, and whose Reason? earlier knowledge That which Rawls reluctantly comes to The most enduring answer to this puzzle was ‘concede’ has been levelled as an accusation byoffered by Kant. Its power lay, above all else, in to have been others, who have charged that Reason alwaysthe argument Kant called ‘transcendental’. speculation or turns out to be not a placeless universal, butInstead of ‘dogmatically’ asserting certain European. Here are their arguments: What wepropositions to be true, or seeking to identify, on dogma. And of have learned to call Reason is not rationality asempirical grounds, a set of rational principles course this such, but a historically and culturally specific waycommon to all men, Kant instead asked what of constructing and construing the world.sort of beings we had to be to have cognitions singular Reason, Moreover, treating this tradition as universal hasand perceptions in the first place. The which does not been an essential part of the story of, andtranscendental question allowed Kant to deduce justification for, colonialism. Armed with theuniversal categories of Reason which were not vary from culture certainty that it possessed nothing less thanderived from human experience, which is varied, to culture, proved universal Reason, Europe could proceed with itsbut was the basis for our having any experience colonial conquests, no longer principally in thein the first place. Kant managed to make a that all humans, name of bringing the true word of god to thepowerful argument for a Reason that was irrespective of the heathen, but rather in the name of bringinguniversal, because notwithstanding the immense Enlightenment and civilization to the benighted.variety of human experience, moralities and differences among What were being encountered were not othernotions of beauty, it was the precondition for them, were to be traditions of reasoning and other ways of beinghumans having any sort of experience, morality in the world, but unreason. The institutions andor conception of beauty. treated as ends in practices that constituted colonialism, or came Modern knowledge, as elaborated and themselves, and in its wake, were now seen to be educating thedefended by Kant and by the Enlightenment colonized, so that they too might one day reachmore generally, could now stake a claim to not means. their maturity and be able to participate in andhaving validated or proven itself, thus revealing exercise the Reason that was to be Europe’s giftall earlier knowledge to have been speculation or to them.dogma. And of course this singular Reason, Lest there be any confusion, let me be verywhich does not vary from culture to culture, clear that I am not suggesting that theproved that all humans, irrespective of the intellectual and cultural tradition of moderndifferences among them, were to be treated asends in themselves, and not means. It is testimony to the vitality of the line of 10. Immanuel Kant [1724-1804], German philosopher and a pivotal figure in modern philosophy. “Answering the Question:argument initiated by Kant that the most What Is Enlightenment?” is the title of an essay published in thesophisticated contemporary attempts to salvage Berlinische Monatsschrift (Berlin Monthly), in 1784.or retrieve the Enlightenment project, while 11. Max Weber [1864-1920], German sociologist and economist.acknowledging, as they must, that Reason is 12. David Hume [1711-1776], one of the most importantinseparably bound with interests, culture and figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottishpower, all do so by returning to Kant. The Enlightenment. Known especially for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism.criticism that can be levelled at such arguments, 13. John Rawls [1921-2002], political philosopher. His book Aunsurprisingly, is similar to the criticism that was Theory of Justice (1971), is considered as one of the primarylevelled at Kant by his contemporaries and texts in contemporary political philosophy. Quoted works: “Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical” in Philosophyimmediate successors, namely that such proofs and Public Affairs, 1995; Political Liberalism, Columbia Universitypresuppose what needs to be proven. Press, 1996.8 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  9. 9. Europe was the only one to think that it was knowledge and manipulation. The second isright and all others wrong, or the only the presumption that the counterpart of aone that has sought to impose its common humanity is a singular on others. Neither the modern I have gone on to argue thatage nor Europe has had a monopoly neither of these arguments oron arrogance or dogmatism. What I presumptions can be sustained; theyam suggesting is that the were never true, and are moreEnlightenment heritage – the demonstrably untrue today thanEuropean conviction in a context ever before. These were not ‘truths’and tradition-free Reason – made it finally discovered, but rather havepossible for Europe to conquer and been a particular way of construingrule not in the name of a tradition and constructing the world. As such,that claimed to be superior to all they have been the source of manyothers, but in the name of something human achievements; but they have alsothat did not see itself as a tradition at all. entailed great costs, costs which areThis was a knowledge which claimed not especially apparent today, as the exaltationonly to be true, but declared itself to be of man despoils that which is the verydeduced from nothing less than condition for any sort of human life; as theReason itself, rather than being distinction between the human and thegrounded in the ideals and practices natural collapses; and as it becomesof real historical communities. increasingly clear that what all humans In the era after decolonization, have in common neither resides in, nor isit should however be all too clear to be discovered through, the search for athat what humans have in singular Reason that abstracts from thecommon, and what may allow us differences that characterise ‘ground’ their claims to dignity The affirmation of human commonalityand respect, neither resides in nor and dignity is something that is no less urgentcan be discovered by a singular today than at any time before. Because such anReason. All attempts to do so have affirmation can plausibly be seen as being, inended up, whether wittingly or some sense, at the core of humanism, weunwittingly, by substituting ‘European’ cannot reject humanism, but rather need toor ‘Western’ for ‘human’. The idea of a re-found and to reinterpret it. I suggest thatsingular Reason, although deeply a reinterpreted and viable humanism, willrooted in Western culture and be one in which our moral intuitionsthought, cannot be sustained, and regarding human commonality and dignityneeds to be critically re-examined. no longer rest upon a questionable anthropocentrism or on dubious claims toNew avenues to explore a universal Reason. I further suggest thatI began this essay by suggesting such a reinterpretation will be thethat humanism consists of an product of a dialogue between differentaffirmation that all humans, civilizations and moral perspectives,notwithstanding their many rather than a declaration that one moraldifferences, have something perspective (that of the modern West) isimportant in common, and the correct one. ■thus that all humans shouldbe equally accorded respectand dignity; and that thisrests upon two supporting Sanjay Seth (India), held teaching orarguments/presumptions. research positions in Sydney,One of these is a Melbourne (Australia) and Tokyophilosophical (Japan), before joining Goldsmiths,anthropology, which University of London (United oismakes the ‘discovery’ Kingdom) in 2007, where he is Xavier Dubthat men are the source Professor and Head of Politics andof meanings and values, co-Director of the Centre fornot gods, and discovers Postcolonial Studies. © François-also a domain ofnature that is devoid of J “Homo Mundo”, sculpture by French artist,meaning and purpose, Richard Texier, reproduced by kind permissionan inert object that is of the author.subject to human THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 9
  10. 10. I am becauseFor many people in the Bantu language countries of Africa, the term Ubuntu/bothoencapsulates all the qualities of a respected member of society. But the term is also usedby Africanist scholars as a critique of colonialist doctrine and even forms the core of ahumanist ideology upon which the new democratic South Africa is constructed.
  11. 11. MICHAEL ONYEBUCHI EZE basis for communitarian ethics, discourses on Colonialism was a identity and even a bourgeoning pan-African ideology. powerful andAsk anyone on the streets of Harare, In terms of contemporary Africanist condescendingJohannesburg, Lusaka or Lilongwe (in Southern discourse, though, Ubuntu/botho is bestand Eastern Africa) what they understand by understood as a critique of the logic of narrative thatUbuntu/botho and they will probably list the colonialism – the process of attempting to thrived through avirtues to which a person in these societies is “humanize” or “civilize” non-Western culturesexpected to aspire – such as compassion, through colonization. Colonialism was a pretext ofgenerosity, honesty, magnanimity, empathy, powerful and condescending narrative that “humanizing” orunderstanding, forgiveness and the ability to thrived through a pretext of “humanizing” orshare. Indeed, Ubuntu/botho (or the local “civilizing” non-Western peoples. The “civilizing” non-equivalent in the various Bantu language consequences of this false doctrine of humanism Western peoples.groups)1 is understood as the very definition of were to become the bedrock of colonial practices‘person’ or ‘personhood’. But the term in Africa, as an institutionalized form of social The consequencesUbuntu/botho impregnates societies in the Darwinism2 nurtured by racialist capitalism. of this falseregion to a much greater extent, forming the Racialist capitalism is a theory in which a person’s race determines his or her life choices or doctrine of potential, like the kind of job to have, where to humanism were live, the kind of person to marry, the kind of school to attend, and so on. The effects of this to become the theory on the South African experience can be bedrock of seen in the many draconian laws aimed at curbing the potentialities of the black person. colonial practices This system motivated the 1913 Land Act that in Africa, as an forbade blacks from buying lands in South Africa; the colour bar of 1918; the Bantu Education Act institutionalized of 1953 which abolished the teaching of African form of social history; the job Reservation Act which gave priority to whites in matters of employment; the Darwinism various segregation policies from as early as 1907 nurtured by that restricted the movement of blacks and reduced them to mere instruments of labour. racialist As early as 1858, the South African-Boer capitalism. constitution had already ruled out any form of equality between blacks and whites in matters of State or Church. The prevailing argument was that forced labour was ordained by God as a divine privilege for the white race to claim authority of domination over blacks, as the then president of the South-African Republic, Paul Kruger, informed his Volksraad [Peoples’ Council] in August 1897 – “Our constitution wants no equality and equality is also against the Bible, because social classes were also applied by God.” And, later, in his Memoirs, he wrote: “…where there were only a handful of white men to keep hundreds of thousands of blacks in order, severity was essential. The black man had to be 1. The term Ubuntu/botho is generally derived from a vernacular mode of referring to a ‘person’ among the peoples of southern, eastern, (some western) and central Africa, generally referred to as the Bantu language groups. The Shona call a ‘person’ in the singular munhu and in the plural vanhu. The Zulu, Xhosa, and Ndebele call a ‘person’ umuntu in the singular and abantu in the plural. The Sotho and Tswana refer to a ‘person’ as muthu in the singular and bathu in the plural. © 2. A derivative of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, Social Darwinism means that stronger nations have the moral authority or even an obligation to conquer, subjugate and dominate weaker nations. It is simply the natural order of things. THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 11
  12. 12. taught that he came second, that he belongs to sledgehammer kind of ethics that helps us tothe inferior class which must obey and learn.” deal with the traumas of modernity and This mindset would form the political globalization. The argument is that, since weblueprint for South Africa’s colonial history and cannot positively identify Ubuntu as an authenticwas the foundation upon which the new South historical culture, it remains an inventedAfrica gained national sovereignty. But if the discourse, in an alien format. Being ‘invented’,South African colonial state had been founded Ubuntu is more or less an ‘empty concept’upon the ideology of social Darwinism, what through which Africanist academics perform ashould be the ideological foundation of the new, supple manoeuvre of identity formation using andemocratic, independent state? This is where ‘imported’ cultural nationalism. Evidence isUbuntu/botho comes in. sought from different African cultural traditions Everyday life under As a public discourse, Ubuntu/botho has to homogenize a range of values that are then Apartheidgained recognition as a peculiar form of African represented as Ubuntu. Ubuntu is thushumanism, encapsulated in the following Bantu generalized as a universal African value,aphorisms, like Motho ke motho ka batho babang; irrespective of the actual historical context of theUmuntu ngumuntu ngabantu (a person is a societies that practice it. However, Ubuntu doesperson through other people). In other words, a not need to generate a homogenous historicity3human being achieves humanity through his or to become an authentic African value. Andher relations with other human beings. But this neither does a lack of historical authenticityunderstanding does not need to generate an deprive Ubuntu of such normative legitimacy.oppressive structure, where the individual loseshis or her autonomy in an attempt to maintain a As a public discourse, Ubuntu/bothorelationship with an ‘other’. Many Africanist scholars would describe has gained recognition as a peculiarUbuntu/botho as an arbitrary communitarian form of African humanism.ethics that admits the individual’s good andwelfare only as a secondary necessity. But a The second conjecture is that Ubuntu has thecritical reading of this condition of relationship character of an ideology, appropriated forto others might suggest that a person’s humanity political ends, as was evident in its applicationflourishes through a process of relation and during the Truth and Reconciliation Commissiondistance, of uniqueness and difference. A (TRC), and the initial draft constitution of Southrealization of the subjective gifts (of humanity) Africa. As an ideology it can be applied as awe bear to each other motivates an ‘magic wand’ to deal with every emergent socialunconditional desire to view and harness other crisis. And as an ideology, its usage can also bepeople’s uniqueness and difference, not as a abused and ceases to be an ethical value,threat but as a complement to one’s own becoming a value-commodity which is thenhumanity. The Christian African philosopher, J. S. appropriated to create a positive corporate orMbiti’s now classic phrase, “I am, because we are; brand image, as in ‘Ubuntu security’, ‘Ubuntuand since we are therefore I am”, captures a key restaurant’, ‘Ubuntu linux’, ‘Ubuntu cola’, etc.feature of this kind of subjective formation The third sequence is a vision of history inthrough relation and distance. Mbiti subscribes which Ubuntu/botho is considered within the A beach for Whites only into an affirmation of human subjectivity that puts historical context in which it emerged. Being Cape Town, South Africa, incommunitarian good before individual good. I historical, it also gains an emotional and ethical January 1970disagree, however, with this prioritizing of the legitimacy, since it is signified as a good thatcommunity over the individual. Neither is prior. remains internal to the practices of a communityThe relation with the ‘other’ is one of subjective where Ubuntu/botho values are invoked.equality, where the mutual recognition of our The question, then, is whetherdifferent but equal humanity opens the door to Ubuntu/botho, construed as an ideology,unconditional tolerance and a deep appreciation precludes all possibilities of creative historicity?4of the ‘other’ as an embedded gift that enriches My answer is no! The context in whichone’s humanity. Ubuntu/botho emerged (even as an ideology) in the political history of South Africa was anA unifying ideology? attempt to configure a theory of politicalWithin the contemporary history of South Africa, succession that is consistent with the vision of anthere are three main ways in which Ubuntu hasbeen understood: First is the assumption that Ubuntu is merely 3. The idea that African historiography is a single historicalan anachronistic philosophy produced by African narrative irrespective of many cultures, people(s) and traditionsacademics. Here Ubuntu functions as an that inhabit the geographical place called Africa. 4. Creative historicity argues that history is neither a fixation onalternative narrative to replace colonial logic, a the past nor a mere chronology of events. Good history is opendesperate discourse of identity – a to multiple influences and contexts.12 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  13. 13. emergent national imaginary. Irrespective of its Understood as a narrative of a new nationaldoubtful origins, the moment at which consciousness, Ubuntu not only offers anUbuntu/botho became a public virtue that is emotional legitimacy to displace the old politicaleasily recognized by all South Africans, order; it also gives the new political order aconstitutes its historicity. The lack of authentic sense of identity and political purpose. While thehistorical origins (in written records, or as a old order thrived on a notion of citizenshipnuanced cultural dogma) does not neutralize its based on discrimination and difference, the newcredibility. regime attempted to gain legitimacy by trying to forge a notion of democratic citizenship that thrives through inclusion and civic virtues. But the new dispensation has to be based on a system that excludes the oppressive structures of the past, and adopts instead a system of values that is built on a notion of rights and the unconditional dignity of the human person. At this point, the ‘notion’ of Ubuntu assumes an ethical character in forging a new sense of national identity. Critics of the use of Ubuntu as a unifying ideology argue that it is merely an incoherent, invented ethics with no history. But ideologies do not predate history; they emerge as a response to specific issues within a historical epoch, challenging, correcting or displacing a mindset (or old ideology). The challenge, then, is to see whether Ubuntu can be rehabilitated as an ideology, focusing primarily on its normative essence, or whether the lack of historicity will always deny it any real substance. At the same time, the practice of the human virtues through which a Bantu becomes a Munhu, Umuntu, or a Muntu (etc) is not external, © UNESCO/N.Mc Kenna Durrel but internal to the context where it is practiced. Yet, Ubuntu has been able to transcend this moral relativism by generating an ethical practice, which all South Africans, irrespective of their socio-cultural background, have judged to be good. This evaluative norm was to become the inspiration for building the new South Africa, guarded by the need for reconciliation and not division; forgiveness, not resentment; understanding, not vengeance; and ubuntu, not victimization (see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Documents of South Africa). These were time-honoured values to which most South Africans already aspired, paving the way for a new national imaginary. And this gives Ubuntu its moral authority. ■ Michael Onyebuchi Eze is a Nigerian-American visiting research scholar at the Center for African Studies at Stanford University, (USA). He received his PhD in Intellectual History from Universität Witten-Herdecke (Germany) and taught African © United Nation Photo studies at the universities of Augsburg and Frankfurt. He is author of two books, The Politics of History in Contemporary Africa and Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa (Palgrave- Macmillan, 2010). OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 13
  14. 14. © Marie.C.Cambon What happened to hospitality? An ongoing series of crises and a growing number of refugees have transformed the socio- cultural landscape of the contemporary world. To address the challenges these changes have wrought, a new kind of humanism is required– one capable of responding to the needs of communities made up of different cultures that are forever multiplying. human being and a certain kind of respective communities and cultures, ASIMINA KARAVANTA society, namely that of western cultural often diasporic, multilingual, and values. intercultural. Two world wars, concentration camps, The discrepancy between the Because humanism is no longer sweat shops, and the other apparatus of promise of humanism and its solely the product of European global capitalism whatever their instrumental role in colonialism, monarchies and empires whose colonial qualifying differences, are defining imperialism, and the slave trade, projects grounded their ideological events of the twentieth century as generated a severe critique of humanism imperatives in Enlightenment ideals; having a very dark history. The victims and its ethically and politically because it no longer defines the nation of anticolonial and civil wars must also contradicting principles that reached a exclusively as a monocultural, be factored in. This sombre tableau is climax in the 1960s. This systematic monolingual construct, it is “making a evidence of the destructive potential deconstruction of humanism as an comeback” as a “newer variant, one that that was lurking beneath the cloaks of incontestable universal1 (see pp. 6-9) reprises an earlier humanism in which Enlightenment philosophers once their has intensified the need to reconfigure what is common to humans is not humanistic discourses were humanism from the perspective of rationality but the ontological fact of transformed into an ideological those who were “only recently mortality, not the capacity to reason but privilege of only a certain kind of recognized as humans”2 and their vulnerability to suffering.”3 14 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  15. 15. J Demonstration in support of illegal migrant cultures. These ideas prompted heated Today, the political and economicworkers. France, 2009 debate after they appeared in his crises raging in the world are not only posthumously published Humanism and rapidly increasing the numbers of Democratic Criticism. For Said, as for refugees but also stripping thoseHumanism as a necessity others, humanism, “as the exertion of recognized as citizens of a long-In view of the growing number of one’s faculties in language in order to established right to work and a right torefugees and stateless people, of the understand, reinterpret, and grapple education. The citizen now becomes ansuccessive economic and political crises, with the products of language in a-polis citizen, one who is beingthe rise of fundamentalisms, history, other languages, and other deprived of rights. In the squares ofxenophobia and new forms of racism, histories,” […] “is not a way of Madrid, Cairo and Athens, to mentionand the subsequent revolts of masses consolidating and affirming what ‘we’ only a few recent cases of mass revolt,demanding democracy, humanism have always known and felt, but rather a the stateless refugee meets the a-polisemerges as part of the “need” – in the means of questioning, upsetting, and citizen. Even if their demands arewords of the Palestinian-American reformulating so much of what is different, they are bound by their sharedwriter Edward Said (1935-2003) − for presented to us as ‘commodified’, claims to a democratic ideal that“deintoxicated, sober histories that packaged, uncontroversial, and recognizes the anthropos as its first andmake evident the multiplicity and uncritically codified certainties.” most fundamental principle. Despite thecomplexity of history without allowing The need to engage the ‘complexity differences in their political andone to conclude that it moves forward of history’ by learning how to remember economic positions, both the statelessimpersonally, according to laws the forgetting of those constituencies refugee and the a-polis citizen requiredetermined either by the divine or by and their heretofore marginalized and that a new polis be configured. In thisthe powerful.”4 rejected cultures has become an new polis, where diversity of languages, imperative in the present age. If the 20th traditions and myths constitute a daily “Only where things can be seen century is the “age of exilic reality, the practice of translation and consciousness,” as Said avers at the end transculturation are practices of survival. by many in a variety of aspects of Culture and Imperialism,5 the 21st One of humanism’s current without changing their identity, century is the age of anthropos, that is, challenges is how to develop conditions of the human species. Anthropos means: favourable to intercultural societies. In so that those who are gathered having a human face. other words, how to create societies around them know they see Intercultural society sameness in utter diversity, can The ancient Greeks believed the human 1. See Judith Butler, Ernest Laclau and Savoj Žižek, worldly reality truly and reliably being’s specificity in relation to other Contingency, Hegemony, Universality. London & New species was that he lived in a society York: Verso, 2000. appear.” ruled by law, in other words, in a city 2. See contribution of Joan Anim-Addo, “Towards a Post-Western Humanism Made to the Measure of Hannah Arendt state (polis, in Greek). The philosopher Those Recently Recognized as Human.” Edward Said Aristotle [4th century BCE] developed and Jacques Derrida: Reconstellating Humanism and the Global Hybrid. Eds. Mina Karavanta and Nina Said is known for having analyzed the idea of human beings as “political Morgan. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press,the historical, philosophical and literary animals” dwelling in the city [bios 2008. 250-274.values of Western humanism; he has politicos in Greek]. Closer to our time 3. Honig, Bonnie. “Antigone’s Two Laws: Greek Tragedy and the Politics of Humanism.” New Literarystudied Western humanism’s violent the German-born American History, 41.1 (2010): 1-33.ideological impact on non-Western philosopher Hannah Arendt has 4. Said, Edward, Humanism and Democratic depicted the modern day refugee as a Criticism, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.K Exercise in a Lebanese secondary school to teach bios politicos par excellence, but one 5. Said, Edward, Culture and Imperialism, Vintageabout dialogue, tolerance and peace, in 2003. bereft of a polis. Books, 1993.Photo : Bassam Jamalelddine © UNESCO/Aspnet
  16. 16. that will allow both the refugee and thenative born citizen to establish exchanges Justicethat are at once durable and productive.When viewed as a common field sharedby multiple alliances and potentialaffiliations, this intercultural societypresupposes a radical reconfiguration ofthe institutions and social, educationaland political discourses that should beaddressing the needs of expandingintercultural communities in the nation-states and their supranational formations. Interculturality is a condition, bothontological and political, that hasalready transformed the nation-statefrom within. But for human beings to besocially and politically recognized assingular yet also equal, it is necessary toreform education so as to enable theblossoming of an intercultural learningand living that is − in the words ofFrench philosopher Jacques Derrida −continuously opening the laws ofhospitality to the foreigner to whom“hospitality is due.”6 Building this kind of humanism,hospitable to the one who remains aforeign anthropos, and which byreconstituting its laws and discourses,speaks to her/his often radicallydifferent ontological and politicalcondition is the task of the humanitiestoday. According to the Americanfeminist scholar Judith Butler, this task is“no doubt to return us to the humanwhere we do not expect to find it, in itsfrailty and at the limits of its capacity tomake sense.”7 In other words, it is tothink of the human as the anthroposalways already at stake, always alreadyat risk, the face whose gaze is fixed onus in an open and persistent invitationfor justice on a planetary scale. ■ Asimina Karavanta holds a doctorate in comparative literature and teaches at the University of Athens. She is specialized in postcolonial literatures and theories, and is the co-author with Nina Mogan of Edward Said and Jacques Derrida: Reconstellating Humanism and the Global Hybrid, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.6. Derrida, Jacques. Of Hospitality. Trans. RachelBowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.7. Butler Judith. Precarious Life. The Powers ofMourning and Violence. London & New York: Verso,2004.16 . THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011
  17. 17. Another version of distributive justice defines individuals essentially asdignityand economic agents seeking to ‘maximize outcome,’ in other words, to boost their income and/or their purchasing power. Proponents of this theory, which measures costs in monetary units and results in terms of ‘units of outcome,’ push for policies geared toward increasing the units of outcome for the most impoverished, to improve their Hundreds of millions of people suffer from hardship and well being and to mitigate their poverty throughout the world, a situation that sanctions a poverty. In this case, priorities are set according to their value for money. For philosophical approach promoting distributive justice. This example, in the USA a decision was theory underpins a truly humanist intervention when it is taken regarding medical care that favoured State funding for operations dispensed with respect for the dignity of the individual, his to remove tonsils, rather than for renal or her autonomy and personal responsibility. dialysis, even though dialysis patients are far more seriously ill. The decision meant reaching a larger number of people at lesser cost. example, an approach that views the If, however, we conceive of PAULETTE DIETERLEN most underprivileged people as individuals not only as means but also passive, unable to set goals for as ends, the ensuing distribution themselves and determine their own policies must foster better economic Despite the numerous treaties, needs, gives rise to paternalistic and social conditions so that the agreements and international summit policies. Those receiving the distributed beneficiaries can work toward meetings of the twentieth century, and benefits cannot voice their opinions nor achieving their life goals. This idea is the ongoing goal of combating poverty have any power over their essential based on the concept of the human and reducing inequality in the world, rights, as others are deciding in their being as an autonomous and worthy one fact is clear: far from declining, stead. This occurs frequently in many individual, able to choose from among poverty continues to grow. According countries. In Mexico, for example, as the various options at hand. This is to the World Bank, 1.4 billion people part of a social housing programme, certainly the most ethical and humanist were living below the poverty level in the government decided to put a position offered by distributive justice. 2008, surviving on less than $1.25 per laundry room into every house. But The Mexican “Progresa” programme is day, per person. The planet now women were used to taking their an example. Rather than offering food supports nearly 7 billion people, which washing down to the river. They turned handouts, it runs education and means that 20 per cent of the world’s the laundry rooms into family shrines, information campaigns on health and population do not have sufficient where their offerings ended up nutrition and allocates subsidies to resources to meet basic needs; these blocking the pipes. families, leaving them free to decide people suffer inhumane treatment and how to use the money. are doomed to subsist in conditions of If, however, we conceive of social, economic and political exclusion. Global justice individuals not only as means but There is a theory in moral That being so, should distributive philosophy that deals directly with also as ends, the ensuing justice opt for the individual or the poverty and inequality: ‘distributive social group as the unit of distribution? distribution policies must foster justice’. This concept examines ways to This question pitches liberal thinkers, alter the principles governing the better economic and social who have adopted an egalitarian distribution of goods and resources, position, against those who promote conditions so that the when these principles do not respect more communitarian theories. The the rights, worth and needs of each beneficiaries can work toward latter maintain that individual-based person. social policies are deficient in that they achieving their life goals. This idea The various facets of this theory fail to take into account the fact that arise from the particular vision of the is based on the concept of the human beings do not live in isolation, human being that underpins one policy but are an inseparable part of a culture human being as an autonomous of distribution rather than another. For or social group that defines their and worthy individual, able to identity. Hence the importance, for communitarian theorists, of factoring in J Outside the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court, in choose from among the various Brasilia, 1998 the history and peculiarities of each © UNESCO/Ivaldo Alves options at hand. community — as each social group THE UNESCO COURIER . OC TOBERDECEMBER 2011 . 17