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Our Philosophy – Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr

The Correct Explanation of the Problem

In order for us to reach the first part of the explanation of the social problem, we must inquire about the personal, materialistic interest that the capitalistic system established as a criterion, as a justification and as an objective. Thus, we ask: ‘What was the idea chat validated this criterion in the capitalistic mentality, and what was the source of its inspiration?’ For it is this idea which is the real basis of the social afflictions and failure of (p. 36) the capitalistic democracy to achieve human happiness and dignity. If we are able to kill this idea, we will put an end to all conspiracies against social comfort, and to the unions against the rights and real freedom of society. We will also succeed in exploiting private ownership for the sake of the welfare and development of mankind and for their progress in the industrial fields and areas of production. What then is this idea?

This idea can be summarized in the limited materialistic explanation of life on which the West erected the powerful edifice of capitalism. If every individual in society believes that his only field in this great existence is his personal material life, if he also asserts his freedom of managing and exploiting this life and in his inability to achieve any purpose in this life other than pleasure which is made available to him by material factors; further, if he adds these materialistic beliefs to self-love which is intrinsic to his nature, then he will follow the same path trodden by the capitalists, and will fully carry out their procedures, unless he is deprived of his freedom by an overwhelming power and barred from selecting this path.

Self-love is the most general and the oldest instinct we know; for all other instincts, including the instinct for life, are branches and subdivisions of this instinct. The self-love that human beings have – by which is meant their love of pleasure and happiness for themselves, and their hatred of pain and misery for themselves – is what drives them to earn their living and to satisfy their nutritional and material needs. That is why a human being may put an end to his life by committing suicide if he finds that bearing the pains of death is easier for him than bearing the pains with which his life is full.

Therefore, the true, natural reality that is concealed behind all human life and chat directs life with its own hand is self-love, which we express by our yearning for pleasure and hatred for pain. It is not possible for a human being to carry freely the burden of the bitterness of pain and forgo (p. 37) any pleasures just so that others may have pleasure and comfort, unless his human nature is stripped away from him and he is given a new nature that does not yearn for pleasure and detest pain.

Even the wonderful forms of love which we witness in human beings and about which we hear in their history are in reality subjugated to that principal moving force – the instinct of self-love. A human being may love his child or friend over himself, as he may make sacrifices for the sake of some ideals or values. However, he would not perform any of these heroic acts, if he did not derive from them a specific pleasure and a benefit that outweighed the loss resulting from his love for his child or friend, or from his sacrifice for the sake of some of the ideals in which he believed.

Thus, we can explain human behavior in general, (as being well-grounded in] the areas of selfishness and [self]-love alike. In human beings, there are many propensities for taking pleasure in a variety of things, such as taking pleasure in material things exemplified in food, drink, the various kinds of sexual pleasures, and similar material pleasures. Ocher examples of similar pleasures are those of the soul, such as moral and emotional pleasures in moral values, in a spiritual companion or in a specific doctrine. These pleasures are felt when human beings find that those values, that companion, or that doctrine are a part of their specific existence. Such propensities that prepare human beings for enjoying those various delights differ in degree from one individual to the other. They also vary in the extent of their effectiveness, in accordance with the difference in human circumstances and in the natural and educational factors that affect people. While we find that some of those propensities mature in human beings naturally – as does their propensity for sexual pleasure, for example – we find, at the same time, that other forms of propensities may never appear in people’s lives. Rather, they await the educational factors that help their maturation and blossoming.

The instinct of self-love, working behind all these propensities, determines human behavior in accordance with the extent of the maturity of those propensities. Thus, it drives a human being to give himself exclusive access to food when somebody else is hungry. And it is the same propensity that drives another human being (p. 38) to deprive himself of food in order to give someone else exclusive access to it. This is because the propensity of the former for taking pleasure in the moral and emotional values that drives him to this love was latent. The educational factors which help this propensity focus and grow were not open to him. The latter, on the other hand, has acquired this kind of education. Thus, he takes pleasure in the moral and emotional values, and sacrifices the rest of his pleasures for their sake.

Whenever we wish to create any change in human behavior, we must first change the human notion of pleasure and benefit, and then place the behavior desired in the general frame of the instinct of self-love.

If the instinct of self-love occupies in the present life of humankind the position [already mentioned], if the self, according to the view of people, is an expression of a limited material power, and if pleasure is an expression of the delights and joys that matter makes available, then it is natural for people to feel that their opportunity for profit is limited, and that the race for their goal is short, and that their goal in this race is to acquire a certain amount of material pleasure. Further, the way to this acquisition is, as a matter of fact, confined to the nerve of the material life – that is, to money – which opens the way for human beings to realize all their objectives and desires. This is the natural succession in the materialistic notions which leads to a complete capitalistic mentality.

Now, do you think that the problem can be decisively solved if we reject the principle of private ownership and retain these materialistic notions of life, as did those thinkers? Again, is it possible for society to be delivered from the tragedy of such notions and to attain secure happiness and stability by the mere elimination of private ownership? Take into consideration that securing its happiness and stablity depends, to a great extent, on securing the non-deviation of those personalities in charge of carrying out their reformative programs and objectives in the fields of work and execution. (p. 39) Those who are in such positions are supposed to uphold the same purely materialistic notions of life on which capitalism was established. The difference, though, [between them and the capitalists] is chat they laid these notions in new philosophical molds. [In accordance with their teachings], it is reasonable to assume that quite often personal interest stands in the way of social interest, and that the individual fluctuates between a loss and a pain which he bears for the sake of others, and a profit and a pleasure which he enjoys at the expense of others. What security would you estimate there is for the nation and its rights, for the doctrine and its objectives, under such trying times as the rulers face? Personal interest is not represented in private ownership only, so that the cancellation of the principle of private ownership would destroy our above-mentioned assumption. Rather, personal interest is represented in [various] procedures, and takes on different forms. The evidence for this can be seen in the revelations made by the present communist leaders concerning acts of treason committed by earlier rulers and the consolidation of these earlier rulers around the objectives they had adopted.

The capitalistic group controls the wealth [of the nation], under the auspices of economic and individual freedom, and manages this wealth with its own materialistic mentality. [Similarly], when the state nationalizes the whole wealth and eliminates private ownership, the wealth of the nation is handed to the same state organization which consists of a group adopting the same materialistic notions of life and imposing on people the priority of personal interests, by virtue of the judgement of the instinct of self-love which denounces a human being’s renunciation of personal pleasure or interest without any compensation. As long as the material interest is the power in control due to the materialistic notions of life, it will ignite once again the battleground of struggle and competition, and expose society to various kinds of danger and exploitation. Thus, all the danger for mankind lies in these materialistic notions and in the standards of goals and actions that proceed from these notions. Unifying the capitalistic wealth, be it small or large, into one large unit of wealth whose management is handed to the state – without any new development (p. 40) of the human mentality -does not alleviate this danger. Rather, it makes all people employees of one and the same company, and ties their lives and dignity to the directors and owners of that company.

Admittedly, this company differs from the capitalistic company in that the owners of the latter are those who own its profits, and spend them in any manner dictated by their desires. The owners of the former company, on the other hand, do not own any of this, according to the teachings of the system. However, the fields of personal interest are still open to them, and the materialistic notion of life, which posits this interest as a goal and as a justification, is still upheld by them.

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