Independence of Mind
Freethought, the independence of mind, is central to the quest for peace, but it isn’t enough.
At the end of World War II, artists and intellectuals joined with French dramatist Romain Rolland to declare an independence of mind. Its purpose was to encourage artists to declare independence from the states that used their art for propaganda to promote war, hate and divisiveness.
The goal was to uplift and ennoble all of humanity instead of using it to “corrupt” each other’s souls. See: https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/07/07/declaration-of-the-independence-of-the-mind-romain-rolland/ – for information on the declaration and for information on its primary author.
The question of how to use the humanities be used to unite us as one human family is ongoing. It is a central concern of academic humanists who study the humanities for what they teach us about what it means to be human.
But Humanism is more than just the humanities and it always has been. It is also about social change. It is about recognizing our common humanity and working to create a better world for us all, a task that requires cooperation, not competition.
A few years back I participated in the writing of a New Progressive Alliance statement – http://newprogressivealliance.blogspot.com/ Our goal was to create a statement of positive beliefs that progressives could agree on so that we could cooperate, despite our differences, to advocate for the social and political changes that we believe need to occur.
As we enter the 2016 election cycle it is clear that freedom and independence of mind is not enough. Some minds are compassionate, others are fearful. What we need is to acknowledge that freedom of mind doesn’t necessarily lead to compassionate collaborative conclusions. For some people it leads to fear, anger and hatred.
By acknowledging that reality, we recognize that our goal is not simply to advocate for freedom of belief, but also to advocate for a compassionate and collaborative world view. We need both independence of mind to reject the power structure that divides us and the active promotion of compassion as a rejection of the power structures that divide us.
The artists and intellectuals who endorsed the Declaration of Independence of Mind were onto something. Freethought isn’t enough. The humanities must also be mobilized to promote a narrative of unity, love and hope for humanity.