Humanism, Poets, and Peshawar

 

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

In Peshawar, there are poets who advocate for humanism in the literary world. To many youths who have grown up in a system with humanistic values — Unitarian Universalist, secular humanist, humanist, humanist Judaism, ethical culture, ethical society, ethical humanism, and on, and on and on, and on — the idea of advocacy for humanism might seem extraordinary.

Why would someone need to advocate for something so basic, so instinctual, and obvious? Well, it depends. Humanism is a super-minority in most areas of the world, and definitely regionally and globally. So its various manifestations, its sects, will reflect this too. When a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon Elder or Sister comes to the door (often in 2s), they are advocating.

“Have you checked this out? Don’t you want to see? These are some of the wonderful blessings the Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me,” the pitch might go. But take an area of the world such as Pakistan, the majority of the population, by a vast margin, are Muslim. And like other places in the world, whether the religion of peace or the religion of love, or otherwise, internecine conflicts, historically, globally, and currently, spark, fuel and maintain, and, sometimes, extinguish (often their own sparked), conflict.

So humanistic values such as those universal values seen in the UN Charter are desired by many in the international community, especially those with the ability, sense, skills, and talent to see beyond their borders, make sense of the external information, and to transmit the problems and promises of the expanded vision. The artists and culture formers at various levels of achievement and capability perform this function.

In Peshawar, the poets have been advocating for this spirit. Progressives, humanists, speak to the needs of the citizenry. They are essentially democratic in view and thrust. That runs back to the UN Charter, which, informally, runs back through some contents of most religious traditions, I guess. I don’t know these names, which is unfortunate for me. I am culturally deprived here. But a recent event paid tributes to the “two Pashto literary giants Alif Jan Khattak and Saifur Rahman Salim.”

Their literary works contributed to progressive, so humanist in part, values in the world, which, in a largely religious nation with religious conflict, is a fresh thing to read. Khattak was a “brave woman” who wanted women to have their voices raised, heard, and freedom realized in the country.

Salim was, by the account in the hyperlinked article, was a remarkably prominent poet among the Pashtun progressive poets. He had a fluency and ease of comprehension upon reading him. In other words, he was so good he was accessible. And what better way to reach a broad audience in a compassionate, warm, intellectual, and public way? Sagan fans, anyone?

Both of the literary giants “wanted equality and justice for people…[and] advocated [for] a social cause and both believed in a free society where people could enjoy equal rights.” And I never knew of them, or about them, and I assume most people reading this are in the same state, but others around the world are in the same struggle, which goes to show, maybe a message from me that, things can be done alone but require Herculean efforts; so our best bet is to band together at an international level — and IHEYO can help.

*Views expressed are not necessarily those on IHEYO.*

Original Publication in Humanist Voices.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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