Dr. Susmit Kumar

The roots of our fundamental rights can be traced to the Magna Carta. Under the threat of civil war, King John signed an English charter of civil liberties, called the Magna Carta, in 1215. It required the king to renounce certain rights, respect certain legal procedures, and accept that his will could be bound by law. Clause 39, for example, defined the right of habeas corpus, and states that “no freeman shall be … imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] … except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” In the United States, both the national and state constitutions contain ideas and even phrases directly traceable to this document.[1]

The constitutions of a majority of countries generally consider fundamental rights to include the right to equality, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, etc. According to Sarkar, it is now time to raise the bar. Rights pertaining more to the material level of life should also receive constitutional guarantee: “Every individual must have equal rights to the dot in respect of things such as food, clothes, housing, medical aid and education that are absolutely necessary for existence.” [2]

Prout, unlike European social democracy or American liberalism, is not a social welfare system. It promotes a policy of 100 percent employment for local people utilizing local resources as the basis of service and industry. A basic right of all people in the Prout view, as mentioned, is to be guaranteed provision of the minimum essentials for their existence. Further, what counts as the minimum will vary and increase with the development of the economy; a cave man could live without telecommunications and education, but nowadays that is much more difficult. This basic right should be arranged through fully guaranteed employment, however, not through dole-outs. Unemployment is today a critical economic problem in most places in the world, and 100 percent employment is the only way to solve it.

Welfare, utilized to support poor and unemployed people in many nations, is poor policy. Even though, in the Prout view, society has the responsibility to ensure everyone his or her minimum necessities, if this is done gratis or unilaterally through gifts of things like food and shelter, individual initiative becomes retarded. People gradually become lethargic, and may even start to demand an income simply because they exist, as happened in northern Europe in the 1990s. To avert this form of deterioration, as well as cultivate a reciprocal spirit of willingness to contribute to others’ well-being and prosperity through work, society has to make such arrangements that people earn the money they require to purchase the minimum necessities through labor they can perform according to their capacity. Prout promotes welfare through work, not welfare for free, except in those relatively few cases where a person is severely disabled.

Guaranteeing the availability of the basic necessities of life has another advantage and purpose. If sufficient purchasing capacity is ensured in a way that avoids the monopolization of people’s time and energy, they will be able to use their surplus time and energy—which in some countries is nil owing to the resources required just to procure life’s necessities—in subtler pursuits. People will be progressively freed from the struggle to conquer need and scarcity, and both individuals and society will benefit as they use their surplus resources in art, the accumulation of knowledge, leisure (possibly alleviating stress and health problems), sports, spiritual development, etc.

The minimum requirements of every person are generally the same (food, living quarters, clothing, etc.), but diversity is also the nature of creation. Special amenities should therefore be provided as incentives so that diversity in skill and intelligence is fully utilized and talent is encouraged to contribute its best for human development. What counts as an amenity or incentive will vary according to the society and times. But at the same time there should be constant effort to reduce the gap between the amount of special incentives a society offers and the minimum requirements a society ascertains to be the bare necessities at any given time. The guaranteed supply of minimum requirements must be liberalized, in other words, by gradually increasing the amenities given to the many so that they approach the level of amenities given only to the few. If economic adjustment is pursued along these lines, it will assist in the physical, mental, and spiritual evolution of humanity, and allow humanity to develop a cosmic sentiment for world fraternity in place of narrower sentiments like the marked modern tendency to emphasize personal acquisition.

The cosmic sentiment finds its clearest description in P.R. Sarkar’s philosophy of “Neohumanism.” Neohumanism is an evolution of ordinary humanism, which is centered on human beings in their generic sense, that he based on humanity’s most expansive sentiment, one that sympathetically embraces everything in the universe. It is an application of his spiritual philosophy, a form of monism in which matter occupies a derivative position. According to Sarkar:

All molecules, atoms, electrons, protons, positrons and neutrons are the veritable expressions of pure consciousness. Those who remember this reality, who keep this realization ever alive in their hearts, are said to have attained perfection in life.… When the underlying spirit of humanism is extended to everything, animate and inanimate, in this universe—I have designated this as Neohumanism. This Neohumanism will elevate humanism to universalism, the cult of love for all created beings of this universe.iii

It is a sentiment or philosophy like Neohumanism that will help people progress beyond selfishness into a socio-economic system that incorporates social or shared benefit as one of its defining factors.

1 The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago, Vol. 7, 15th Ed., 1991, p. 673.

2 Sarkar, P.R., Prout In A Nutshell, Parts 1-3, AMPS, Calcutta, India, 1987, p. 48.

3 Sarkar, P.R., The Liberation of Intellect—Neo-Humanism, AMPS, Calcutta, India, 4th ed., 1999, pp. 6-7.

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