ABU(Senior group) Fine Work
Intellectuals, which criteria makes one an intellectual? And what is the role of the intellectual in our society?
Rola Damaa Lebanon (47, Female)
Communities are constantly moving towards change in ideas, customs and concepts. This movement lies on the shoulders of intellectuals who transmit the momentum in the engine of action to produce a renewed intellectual movement whose goal is to develop society and raise human value at all levels and in all aspects of life. The intellectuals are not only the elitist class producing the philosophical, social, educational or economic theories, which only includes the production of ideas. They have a comprehensive vision of man and society, coupled with a deep knowledge and understanding emanating from the ground towards mobilizing all segments of society and motivating them to activate their role in society and share their views and opinions in the way they deem it fit, no matter how little or huge is the size or importance of these categories and how much they weight in the society’s balance.
It is common knowledge that intellectuals have the essential knowledge in the various contemporary or widespread intellectual matters, as well as an undeniable knowledge of various aspects of social, political, economic and educational life. And while all of this is primordial, it is crucial for the really cultured to employ this knowledge in the sole purpose of gaining the ability to monitor the developing rate of their societies or its decline in these aforementioned aspects, they should also hold the capacity to observe the social and intellectual problems as well as the signs of change experienced by each community at a certain time of a certain era or when global change prevails on every levels of life.
That being said, not everyone who has a bit of knowledge in a particular field has the power to influence his environment, or play the role of the educated educator, which is illustrated by observation, characterization and analysis, then solutions, defending ideas and pushing for change. The power of influence stems from the actual belief of the cultured person in the necessity of harnessing his knowledge, his ideas and his insightful vision for the sake of man and society. Thus, the mere possession of a particular culture remains merely a personal property whose influence does not exceed that of the cultured person, and it would pointlessly remain nothing more than just another characteristic among many others of his personality. With that being said, the more the intellectual acts as a witness to the issues of his society, the more his culture represents a joint product between the privacy of the individual and his broad intellectual comprehensiveness, and the more his feeling of belonging to the community makes him feel associated with public issues, the more certain we will see the role of the intellectual in society grows bigger and sharper.
The intellectual’s role or importance in society doesn’t draw its strength from the field in which he or she works or in the manner in which he or she presents his or her suggestions or the field to which he or she is oriented. It rather stems from his or her strong and unbreakable belief in the importance of any work that can be considered an added value to society whether in its artistic or aesthetical form or in the reforms category which requires the targeting of gaps that if neglected widen to become major social gulfs.
Therefore, what makes one a real intellectual is not only the size of his knowledge, but rather his ability to analyze, to express, and to produce a particular intellectual or artistic product, and –more importantly- to be able to employ it and to channel it as an interactive social product with a vision or a goal.
So cultivated people, whether they are people working to create associations that deal with vulnerable groups and their stolen rights, or political activists seeking to create parties that carry ideas aimed against both the governmental and social system, or even writers and journalists who devote their pen to social and political criticism, acts to ensure that the intellectual and social regenerative movement remain a continuous cycle.
Whether the intellectuals are artists who use their pencils, their stage or even the big screens to present their own creations of paintings portraying their different goals and backgrounds, or thinkers sacrificing most of their time for studies aimed at evaluating societies or social phenomena. And whether the cultural act has a positive impact or not, the artistic movement and the intellectual movement represent a bastion of strength and of long-term perpetuation for the cultural role. That being said, it is a matter of fact that history bears witness to the names that never graced the world of art nor the world of thought and literature, and still had nevertheless the greatest impact in the lives of peoples.
It is also well known that ancient and contemporary history are rich with examples of intellectuals who have had such an enormous influence, and were the main-drive behind major changes in their societies, both politically and socially. In France, intellectuals and cultured people led the revolution against the monarchy, in which was widely known as the most important revolution in the demand for justice and equality in society.
But such influence isn’t in any way exclusive to the western world, but as a matter of fact, intellectuals in our Arab societies have led independent movements against the mandatory and colonialist systems in most Arab countries. Many intellectuals and writers have campaigned against the social systems that enslave women and rob them of their most elementary rights that define their very human existence, through their writings that carry bold positions or through their actions and direct contact with the society.
And while it may be true these seeds of change took a lot of time, effort, sacrifice and suffering from oppressive practices to come to fruition, but the efforts of those intellectuals eventually brought the expected results. It is not a given that the role of intellectuals directly influences the process of creating change or in the process of building societies on new bases and concepts. The role may be indirect and through a series of writings and positions that may take a lot of time and which may take a long and arduous path before they are able to show their impact in society.
It is the societies themselves, with their different components, which reject all the new ideas and concepts threatening to change what they have been used to in their daily lives. The rejection of some of the ideas of intellectuals comes at the beginning from the fear of inflicting prejudice to customs and traditions or sanctities, or even the fear of change in general. This fear is a natural reaction. Every change cannot happen through skipping the stages that communities must pass and test, to accept emergent ideas that are often advanced but form in contrast some kind of a rift with what is prevalent.
Therefore, the role of the intellectual is in the preparation of societies for each potential change through foreseeing the future and taking advantage of the lessons of the past to raise awareness and repair the imbalance as well as rejecting every form of injustice and promoting of human value.
That being said, the role of the intellectual is to possess the intellectual courage to transcend himself and turn from the particular to the general in preparation for change, a process that can be channeled through many means such as a position or social behavior, or intellectual or literary work, or artistic work committed to a cause. The intellectuals do not sit in a distant place, without being in direct contact with the issues of society, but they are an integral part of it and from its permanent regenerating movement.
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