As Humans, we are often interested in how humans interact with each other and with things around them, i.e. commodities and nature. Human relation with themselves and things around always remained a topic of great interest. Today, as most of humans are in a rat race of economic development, raising capital, gathering material goods and developing national egos, there is a dramatic change in relationships of human with other humans (those present today and those who’re yet to come) and nature.
Based upon the idea of Aristotle’s teleological Naturalism, Hegel’s objective idealist view of nature and Feuerbach’s humanist view of nature, Marx systematically discussed his theory of the relationship between human being and nature in “Manuscript of Economics and Philosophy” in 1844. (Shang Li (2016))
“Nature, as an inorganic body of human being, is unified with human’s practice. However, in capitalist society, alienation has alienated the harmony relationship. This is an undeniable fact, which has been testified by environmental reality and ecological practice.”
Relationship between Humans:
In capitalist economy, the relationship among humans is not as compassionate as it used to be. Humans in a capitalist economy are in competition with each-other and striving to get and gather more and more, as this kind of economy is based on continuous investment back in production in order to survive in industry. Industries are interested in producing and selling more of their produced items irrespective of potential lose it may bring to fellow humans while production and distribution of these products. All the growth formulae are based on economic and material growth and hence very less importance is given to collective human well-being, health and healthy relationships and collaborations among humans. Humans have more of “Thantos” for each other than “Erotic impulses” of love and care because of this race of gathering material goods and raw materials in order to “survive” in industry. (Akmal 2004)
Aristotle in his famous “Nicomachean Ethics” tells about relationship of humans and with commodities as well. He says that “Goods are of no value, as they are merely useful, what of value is Human functioning according to principles of virtue”. He also discovers that Human soul is structured in a way that it gives them pleasure when they act in accordance to principles of virtue and they find please in ‘giving’ rather cheating anyone and looting all of their wealth.
According to Sufi view, Human is the center of Universe and his heart is the instrument to feel the transcendent. All the material things in this universe are there to serve human beings in their struggle to develop “human potential”. Punjabi Sufi poet Bulhey Shah narrates, “Demolish everything, but never demolish heart of a Human, as it’s the sacred place where Almighty lives”. Sufism is based upon love and compassion among humans and even if someone is disconnected to material world, is supposed to love his fellow humans for the sake of Almighty.
Relationship with Commodities:
In capitalist economy having more and more goods and objects of convenience is considered as a status symbol and the semiotics used by advertisement industry make us believe that these commodities possess certain characteristics that they actually don’t. Those characteristics are either contained in nature or in humans themselves. (Akmal 1999)
As we talked above about Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics” Commodities (Goods) are merely useful but of no value. The terms used for material goods in different languages tells that commodities are merely useful. For example, In Hindi the word used for goods are “shey” that means illusion. Sufi view emphasis upon the gentle and sustainable use of commodities, so it may become available for all fellow human beings. Sufis of all religions have emphasized upon careful use of water. Prophet of Islam (P.B.U.H) has asked to use water carefully, even if one is standing at a running stream.
Relationship with Nature:
“Nature, which is not human’s organic body, is the inorganic body of human. People depend on nature. That is to say, nature is the body of human that maintains his existence. It also contains the interaction between human and nature.” (Marx 1844)
In last three centuries, with continuous exploitation of natural resources and increasing CO2 emissions resulting in global warming, mankind has compromised nature. IPCC has proved that the increase in global temperature is not because of some natural phenomenon but due to human intervention into ecosystem. For example: “The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.” (IPCC 2013: 9). Greenhouse gases “…have increased markedly as a result of human activity since 1750 …” and “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia … the atmosphere and oceans have warmed …” (IPCC 2007: 2).
Climate change associated with global warming has caused an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme climatic events causing loss of life and livelihood.
Sufi view talks about enjoying the beauty, integration and wholeness of nature. It takes nature as a whole and not as segmented resources to over-use and exploit. In old Chinese traditions, it is considered “wisdom” to understand the unsaid things of nature, to be able to “Listen” leaves whistling, river roaring and mountains talking to each-other. There is a famous event of Prophet Sulaiman’s (A.S) life, where he ordered his troops to change the path taken as few ants were going (in a row with their food grains) from that path. This shows that nature as whole is beautiful and humans need to take care of it.
The interrelation between God, humanity and nature is specified within a sacramental view of the physical universe. Many Muslim sages saw the phenomena of nature as ‘signs’ of God (Nasr 1992: 88).
We need to come up with an alternative relationship between humans, commodities and nature based on the “unanimous tradition of re awareness of humanness”.
Aristotle. 1999. The Nicomachean Ethics (Translated by W.D. Ross). Kitchener: Botoche Books.
Hussain, Akmal. 1991. ‘Semiology of Advertisement and the Displacement of Desire’, Economic Review: pp. 15, 32.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. 1992. ‘Islam and the Environmental Crisis’, in Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder (eds), Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment is a Religious Issue, pp. 83–108. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press.
Author of this essay Mr. Hamid Saeed is CEO Shahruh Technologies (PVT) LTD. The essay is done as part of research at Information Technology University, Lahore under the supervision of Dr. Syed Akmal Hussain for the course of Key Challenges in Development.