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Mathieu Beauséjour, "Spare Some Social Change"
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illustration: Mathieu Beauséjour, "Spare Some Social Change

"If there is any one territory therefore that offers itself as a worthy challenge to our imagined beings of a new millennial consciousness, it is clearly that of the human mind. To many, this might appear a redundant proposition. Their progenitors have fought battles in the name of that very cause, battles that go back centuries and have registered a truly humbling array of protagonists and martyrs - Socrates, Galileo, Giordanno Bruno, Martin Luther and of course the Magna Carta, the original Declaration of Human Rights etc. Many inhabit societies where once fatal taboos are not only tolerated but provided equal space and time with reigning conformities. The proof that the mind has attained a supreme confidence, even exultation in its own convictions, is when and only when it no longer experiences a need to extinguish all others.

If we recall only that, in much of the history of the world, the competitive struggle for the spiritual regions of the mind has never been divorced from the mundane contest for political and territorial power and control, the will to dominate and enslave, we may be able to grasp more readily the contemporary fact that the face of religious fanaticism is in reality a familiar spectre of power-craving that has never departed the world. The enslavement of the mind by those who would rather maim or kill the object of their proselytisation than surrender it to the uncertainty of questions or scepticism, who condemn even the mere absence of ardour, is no different, in effect, from the tyrannical temper of the dictator of any age, whose very existence is rendered palpable to himself only in the complete and evident submission of the citizenry in every aspect of their lives, without questions, without doubts, without the concession of a possible alternative order of their social being. Abject adulation remains their common goal. If ever there was an unholy marriage, it is this twinning of the theocratic and secular mandates of power whose issue has always been guaranteed as enslavement, death and destruction.

Liberation of the mind, this re-establishment of the mind as the natural habitat of freedom - where else can it be found? - is the most elevating task that mankind can address, and its recurrent necessity remains a critique of the entire history of human development. The proof is simple and direct: development is not possible except in the freeing of the mind, since the mind is what proposes the many options of development. Totalitarianism and dictatorship, in all forms of regimentation, both with theocratic and secular faces, are by contrast the ultimate expression of mind subjugation, and therefore there is one prime candidate for the unfinished business of this century, indeed of this millennium: it is the eradication of dictatorship, in all forms, and for all time. "

WOLE SOYINKA, Speech at 1997 Conference in Prague, 3 - 6 September 1997