Feature 85 is from the interview with Dr. Anuradha Sharma to be included in Stephen Gill’s forthcoming book My Conversations. Professor Sharma has contributed research papers to journals and teaches English Literature at a college in Gujrat, India. She has edited A Selection of Stephen Gill’s Interviews that was released by Orientalia in 2011. QUESTION: How a man can be civilized in true sense when he performs animal activities having a mask of civility on his face? Do you think prevailing education system can educate him to be a thinker having feelings for his fellow men by developing respect for all the religions?
ANSWER: The prevailing education system has failed in producing reasonably responsible citizens. This system is based on competition and survival of the fittest. I have written a research paper on this subject under the title of Development of Internationalism in Universities. I have discussed this problem in this paper in detail. The article is available online and on my web site.
I presented this paper at the 49th International Conference of the World University at Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester, England, that was held from the 19th to the 24th of September in 1996. I shared with the multinational audience that the globe is changing fast, facing a new civilization, and education, both formal and informal, plays a large part in designing events. The universities of today do not serve the needs of the modern age because they are still storehouses to gather information and facts. Still students adhere to the old practice of taking notes, memorizing without using imagination to apply their knowledge in life. Still they do not see the deeper implications and meanings of their studies. Almost the same situation, maybe even worse, prevails in developing nations. The universities of today are established for intellectual exploration and for exchange of knowledge. This work can now be done by machines and technology. What we need in these seats of learning is the teaching of human rights, peace, understanding and harmony. What we need is something that encompasses the study of the understanding of the world community and the inter‑dependence of its people and systems. The old system of education based on competition should be replaced with courses on cooperation, a sane use of natural resources and social justice based on live and let live.
I agree with you that an individual who cannot respect the followers of other religions cannot be called civilized in the true sense. I will quote a few words I have used for such a person in my poem “Religious Fanaticism” from my collection Shrine:
bearer of deformed urchins
in the ruins of assumptions.
under false pretences
when it blusters.
Coming back to your question about animal behaviour of a man I would like to quote from my preface to Shrine, a collection of my poems:
It is still an enigma for me how people who appear to be normal in their everyday life turn into animals in the name of religious creed. Is it from Satan or in the blood ? Where does that animalism come from? Is it because their religious books are filled with incidents of revenge, cruelty and violence? Is it possible to find ways to remove those incidents from those scriptures and replace them with incidents of compassion and mercy in order to save humanity? Who is going to do that and how? This is a question which you and I will have to reflect over deeply in order to prevent further destruction of the bridges to harmony and peace. (p.27)
StephenGill, a multiple award-winning Indo/Canadian self-exiled poet, fiction writer, and essayist, has authored more than thirty books. He is the subject of doctoral dissertations and thirteen books of critical studies have been released. The focus of his writing is live and let live. Available For: writer or poet in residence.