INTERVENTION BY SHRI K.R. NARAYANAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, AT THE MEETING OF THE UNIVERSAL ACADEMY OF CULTURES -DISCUSSION ON THE BOOK "RACISM AND INTOLERANCE' , AT SIENA
ITALY, MAY26, 1995
I am not repeating the various aspects of the question I have dealt with in my paper. I should start by saying that the fact and the inevitability of diversities and differences in life and in the world should be the first point to be projected to the children in a book like this. I come from the land of diversities. Whether it is religion, language, food, dress or social customs and habits India is a tremendously diverse country. Somehow we have managed to live together for many centuries.
We delighted and luxuriated in the fact that we are a country with diversities, but bound together by an invisible thread of culture. We are not deterred by the multiplicity of languages that there are in the world. We have eighteen languages in India recognised by the Constitution, not to speak of other languages and dialects spoken by other smaller numbers of people. As the Chairman of the Upper House in India, I rely primarily on the interpreters who are the most marvellous creations of the modern world, simultaneous interpreters.
One of our great men, Swami Vivekananda, who went to United States and spoke at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in 1905, said differentiation, infinitely contradictory must remain. But it is not necessary that we must hate each other, therefore, fight each other because of it. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that he would open the doors and windows of his house and let the winds of ideas from every part of the world blow into his house but he would refuse to be swept off his feet. This was the concept on the basis of which we built up our civilisation and our society. I would admit though, without hestitation, the tragedies, the violence, the conflicts which took place in our country over our long history. But one thing is certain that we never had a prolonged religious or ideological war. Whatever conflicts we had in the past, commmunal and religious conflicts, lasted a week or two or three. And then people settled down to normal life.
About the languages one thing I would like to say. Goebbels was quoted here. It shows the trickery involved in language. Speaking one language does not mean that you make people think similarly or alike. Language often conceals and deceives people. I had been in several countries without knowing the language, and I have always thought that I could establish communication with the people whose language I did not speak, with gestures, with my eyes and with broken language. They feel somehow and just understand what I wanted to say. I understood what they wanted to tell me without in any way language coming between us.
Now I will not go over many points in my paper or what other speakers have said. But one point I would like to see emphasised in a book like this. We should of course project diversities as natural, differences as inevitable in life and in the world. They are exciting. There are of course points of conflict also. The second point I would like to emphasise is the necessity of conveying to the young children, particularly in the developed world, the phenomenon of poverty among large numbers of people in the world, the causes of this poverty and how we can overcome this poverty.
It is necessary not only to have sympathy for the poor. There should be a scientific approach to overcome the phenomenon of poverty. Young people should understand that poverty is going to threaten the peace and stability and culture of the world unless it is controlled and eliminated. Another point I should like to mention is the phenomenon of materialism that is growing in this world. I am not trying to tell people to be ascetics, but I should like to say that beyond a certain stage of satisfaction of human wants and human cravings, the endless multiplication of wants, and goods to cater to these multiplying cravings of the people is not going to bring peace, stability or understanding in the world.
The present is the era of liberalisation, when people are after markets, after profits almost as the primary objective of economics and politics. There must be some sort of a stop to this. Again, I must make it clear, that I am not asking people to forgo their necessities or even their luxuries, but there could be limits to this endless process because it will create only discontent, only instability in the world.
I recall that when the G‑7 met in London, (I do not know which session of it was, this was a meeting which was attended by Mr. Gorbachev.), all the leaders had a very elegant dinner at Downing Street. At the end of it they clicked champagne glasses and almost spontaneously burst into an old English song, "Money, Money, Money, it is money that makes the world go round." I think carrying materiaism to this extent is counter productive. This was sung when Mr. Gorbachev went with hat in hand and came back without any money at all.
Another point I should like to make, and this has been mentioned here but I should like to emphasise it a little more clearly, is the phenonmenon of violence in the world. I think we cannot create a world of culture, a world of understanding, a world in which there is peace and prosperity, as long as violence is at the basis of our society. Of course there are exceptions, no doubt. I recall that Mahatma Gandhi who advised the Jews during Hitler's persecution of them to practise non‑violent resistance.
It really annoyed many of the Jewish leaders. But soon after, he made a statement, making an exception, that if there was any situation in which he would advocate a violent war it was to free the Jews from the persecution of Nazi Germany. Therefore there are limits to this but we should nevertheless emphasise this, especially for young children and that as long as the spirit of violence is abroad, as long as it is accepted in human relations, in group relations, in international relations, we would not be able to build the kind of cultured, civilised world that we want to create.
I should end by telling a story, a Jewish story as Prof. Yavetz started his intervention with such a story. I got it from a German novel which said as follows about the great men of the Jewish race. First there was Moses. He raised his hands to the heavens and said, everything, the laws, and everything comes from heaven. Then came Solomon. He lowered his hands a little further, touched his forehead and said that everything comes from the head, from wisdom. Then came Jesus. He lowered his hand further down and touched his heart and said everything comes from the heart, love thy neighbour.
Then came Marx who lowered his hands further, touched his stomach, and said that everything comes from the stomach, from economics. Almost at the same time, Freud arose and he slid his hands further down and said that everything comes from the libido, everything comes from sex. Then leapt Einstein from somewhere and said quiet, boys, quiet, everything is relative! As an Indian I would add one thing to it. Underlying everything there is a golden thread of unity binding humanity as a whole and we should in this book as well as in our general functioning, try to discover this underlying golden thread of human unity.