Raouf Rasool

‘Highest good is pursuit of rational self-interest’

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A little research into the word ‘sacrifice’ reveals that it means offering of something, animate or inanimate, in a ritual procedure which establishes, or mobilizes, a relationship of mutuality between the one who sacrifices (whether individual or group) and the recipient -- who may be human but more often is of another order – God. But in any case, howsoever one prefers to define it, there is always an element of VOLUNTARISM in the act of sacrifice, ‘a voluntary act of deliberately following a course of action that has a high risk or certainty of suffering, personal loss or death’. No wonder the world-wide-web suggests that while looking for the word ‘sacrifice’ one must also look up term ‘victimize’. Perhaps because there is so much in common between the two terms, even though ‘sacrifice’ is voluntary while as ‘victim-hood’ is very rarely deliberate and charitable. People are victimized, usually through coercion; they very rarely offer themselves to be victims.

Ayn Rand, in her “Virtue of Selfishness” explains the term ‘sacrifice’ as the exchanging of that which is valued highly, for that which is valued less, or not at all. Obviously, the logic then says that during sacrifice one gives up something “less valued” in exchange of something “more valuable”. As is true in the Kashmir’s political context, this logic simply trivializes the value of human life and dignity. And in her philosophical thought, ‘Objectivism’, based on the principle that the “highest good is the pursuit of one's own rational self-interest”, Rand’s logic says that “rational self interest” will never ever allow anyone to devalue self-life, which according to her is “irrational”. She says acts that are irrationally and egotistically motivated are not considered sacrifice.

Having recorded this, one may now ask if all those sufferings of Kashmiri people that are counted as ‘sacrifices’ today, were actually the “voluntary acts” allowed and sanctioned by the “rational self-interest”?

Indeed no other word or term is used and abused as much as the term ‘sacrifice’ here. Our leaders always refer to the ‘sacrifices’ of Kashmir’s dead and alive, while resolving that they would do nothing, nor allow anyone else to do anything that may harm or undermine the people’s sacrifices. No one can dispute the significance of neither ‘sacrifices’ nor the ‘unity’ of people and its leadership for the success of any political movement. However, here both these terms have been relegated to mere clichés that so impressively dot the political speeches but in reality mean nothing for those using them without fail.

Real revolutions, it must be said, are brought about not by the hot, emotional and impulsive passions; they are possible on the basis of calculated and purposeful action drawn on the basis of an awareness of the realistic relationship between means and ends and how each determines the other. The greatest hope for mankind lies in acceptance of the great law of change, for the clues to the rational action lie in understanding of the principles of change. Rigidity is no virtue in politics, flexibility is. And flexibility does not necessarily mean sell-out, because, after all, different people, in different places, in different situations and in different times, think differently. This is how human brains are programmed to be. So, different people’s solutions and symbols of salvation have a tendency to be different. No one has a right to claim absolute copyright of truth or revolution for that matter. This is where the political consensus becomes necessary. But no consensus is possible unless dogmas like the ones that devalue self-life are done away with and the worthwhile suggestions on how to fertilize social change are heeded.

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