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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Survival of the fittest

When Charles Darwin published his book Origin of Species in 1859, it immediately became a success and 20,000 copies were sold within a week.

The book challenged the religious views on creation, substantiating the evolutionary process of human beings. Darwin argued that strong species survive in nature while the weak are wiped out.

Darwinism did not imply superiority of a race. His argument actually meant that it is the rule of nature that the strong are privileged to sustain hardships of nature and continue to exist while it is the fate of the weak to succumb to death.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), an English philosopher, coined the term social Darwinism and applied it to prove racial superiority of the white race. In the 19th century, European imperialism flourished and acquired political, economic and cultural domination over Asian and African countries. Since the theory of social Darwinism provided them with a moral tool that it was the law of nature for the strong to survive and rule over weak nations, they continued to occupy colonies, exploit their resources, and to enslave or massacre the colonised people. Later, the theory provided an effective ideology for the Nazis to purify the German or Aryan race from other elements which, according to them, were polluting their race.

Hitler admired the British for occupying the Indian subcontinent, affirming the superiority of the white race. Some scientists even measured the size of skulls of different races in order to determine their racial superiority and status.

Herbert Spencer further argued that it was useless to introduce reforms which protected the weaker section of society and contradicted the law of nature. He was against the concept of a welfare state or any reform which would sustain the weak.
Darwinism was soon challenged by the emergence of a new theory of Nationalism which inspired colonised nations to rebel against their colonial masters and challenge their authority and superiority. Supremacy of the white race ended after the first and second World Wars and the European imperial powers were forced to leave their colonies and grant them independence.

On the other hand, democratic institutions and values provided the weaker sections of society new ammunition to fight against the domination of the stronger groups of society who controlled politics and maintained a hegemony over the common man.

This ammunition included strikes, boycott, civil disobedience and demonstrations to assert their demands; completely changing the concept of power. In the 1960s, the civil disobedience movement of African-Americans compelled the government to abolish racism. In South Africa, the Apartheid government surrendered because of the National African Movement and released Nelson Mandela. Finally the theory of social Darwinism came to an end.

Sadly, the theory of survival of the fittest is the order of the day in Pakistan. Politically and socially powerful feudal lords and tribal leaders monopolise and mistreat the common man. Since they control all political parties, they use state institutions to protect their power and privileges.

Following the theory of Herbert Spencer, the ruling classes are unwilling to introduce social and political reforms to empower the masses. They are kept educationally and socially backward so that they can be exploited easily. Deprived of their democratic rights, their protests are crushed by using the police or the army.

Perhaps, it will take time for the weak and subordinate groups of society to achieve their basic rights.

By Mubarak Al: http://dawn.com/2012/09/30/past-present-survival-of-the-fittest/

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