When Fernando first landed in India, in February 1979, little did he realize that our country would eventually become a very important part of his life. This new environment was a shock for every one of his senses. Sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing played here at a stronger, higher keynote than he had ever experienced before. Then, India was for him simply too much to stand during a long period. It was just fine as a brief stopover on his way to Sri Lanka, where he intended to support the embryonic activities of the Humanist Movement.
Again, little did he suspect that he would be returning to India in 1980 to adopt it as his second home, staying here for many years, leaving and returning countless times till today. In his own words, foreigners may like or dislike India, embrace or reject her, but they can never remain indifferent to her strong allure. So he chose to love India and her people. As mentioned, Fernando is an activist of the Humanist Movement, a comparatively novel current of thought and social action born during the 60s in Argentina.
Its founder, Silo (1938-2010), was a regular Argentine householder – with a twist. Today his teachings and work are a reference for lakhs of followers in more than hundred countries, and he is revered by them either as a social activist, a thinker, a writer, or as a spiritual guide.
The Humanist Movement is the social and cultural expression of Silo’s “New Humanism” (or “Universalist Humanism”). Its principles were laid down in Silo’s writings such as “To humanize the earth”, “Letters to my friends”, “Contributions to thought”, “Universal root myths”, “Notes on Psychology”, “Guided experiences”, and others. Though his teachings span from simplicity to complexity, his brand of humanism essentially rests on what he calls “the humanist attitude”. Such attitude is defined by:
1) placing the human being as the central value and concern, in such a way that nothing is above the human being and no human being is above any other;
2) Affirming the equality of all individuals and thus working for the overcoming of the simple formality of equal rights before the law to advance towards a world of equal opportunities for all;
3) recognizing personal and cultural diversity and so affirming the characteristics proper to each people, condemning all discrimination that is done on the basis of economic, racial, ethnic and cultural differences;
4) encouraging all tendencies that develop knowledge beyond the limitations imposed on thought by prejudices that are accepted as absolute or immutable truths;
5) affirming the freedom of ideas and beliefs and, finally;
6) repudiating all forms of violence, understanding not only physical violence as the sole factor, but also economic violence, racial violence, religious violence, moral violence and psychological violence.
This attitude is the common ground to bring people together from different nationalities, creeds, walks of life, cultures, etc. Humanists believe that this convergence of diversity is the way for humanity to configure a universal human nation. Moreover, the Humanist Movement aims at positioning itself as a positive reference for the present critical transition between a dying old world and a dawning new one – one that has the unprecedented character of being a planetary civilization.
Since their basic motto is “to humanize the earth”, humanists try to humanize every aspect of society. Therefore, in course of time, several organizations were shaped to carry out activities in specific fields. Thus came into being, “The Community for Human Development”, “Humanist Party” “World without Wars and without Violence”, “Convergence of Cultures”, and the “World Centre for Humanist Studies”.
Though these are better known, there are many other organizations inspired by humanism and its zest to humanize culture, arts, education, science, politics, etc. Humanists believe that their vision is not just to be translated into social activism, but into a life led according to humanist principles and ethics. Perhaps first among them is to “treat others the way you would have them treat you.”
For Fernando and all humanists this equals to selfless “giving” for the sake of humanizing the world, for eradicating pain and suffering in others and within themselves. They all do it voluntarily wherever they are, within their means and possibilities, with no other reward than a sense of fulfilment according to the higher meaning of the life each one has or aspires at having.
This call brought Fernando Garcia from his hometown in Argentina to Asia and to India in particular. He is a 64 years old graduate in Architecture, though currently a technical translator by profession. Along with his lifelong companion and wife, Cristina Bretta, he travelled far and wide in the world, Asia and India. Their association with our country spans more than three decades, always collaborating with Indian humanists’ endeavour to humanize our country.
This multifaceted task has comprised, for instance, in establishing “humanist centres” in cities, towns and villages, working for several issues related to health, education and quality of life, thanks to self-sustained voluntary efforts of the local population. There were national campaigns such as “Education is not a business” and “India can be different if we are not indifferent”. There were publications such as neighbourhood newsletters and magazines on social and cultural issues (e.g., “Humanscape”).
In 2009, a “World March for Peace and Non-Violence” was initiated and carried out by the Humanist Movement all over the world and in India. This enjoyed worldwide support from hundreds of personalities and organizations to bring awareness on several issues affecting peoples’ present and future. Within the Humanist Movement, Fernando regards himself as a voluntary unofficial liaison between India and the rest of the world. This is why, among other contributions, he wrote “Humanism in India”, a book that was published by the Foundation for Humanization
(Mumbai), and presented by him in Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. In the book, he offers an original cross-cutting review of humanist features he found in Indian civilization throughout history. As our Rigveda states: “Let noble thoughts come to us from every side”.
This book review reproduced from
Yathawat – Hindi Magazine
16-31 December, 2014 issue, NewDelhi, India