By Mounir Beniche
By Mounir Beniche
Morocco World News
Meknes, Morocco, Nov 22, 2012
Approaching the question of the intellectual is one of the thorny issues that has baffled me for a long time. I have been raising a question to myself: what is an intellectual? This question has led me to an ongoing monologue about the nature of the intellectual and his/her function in daily life.
Is the intellectual a person who reads newspapers, magazines, books etc., regularly? Is he/she a person who writes articles, fictitious works and books? Antonio Gramschi in The Prison Notebooks stated that “All men are intellectuals, but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.” In this regard, what makes the individual an intellectual is the role played in society and the dynamism characterizing his /her being.
Having access to education obtaining higher degrees are not criteria for being an intellectual. I know many people have gained a B.A., M.A. and PhD, but their deeds have nothing to do with the realm of knowledge and culture. They rather display their degrees to show off and to get the label of intellectuals.
I still remember an incident that shook my ideal image of the intellectual. Approximately four years ago, I attended a cultural meeting at a Moroccan university organized by an association concerned with language and literature under the title “Literature Today.” The participants were well known literary figures and university professors interested in Arabic literature. After the meeting, I was invited to have a cup of tea with the participants in a café.
When we were discussing and evaluating the activity, one of the participants–who is a critic and a university professor–received call from a friend of his who was a novelist, urging him to write and propagate his new novel. I was shocked to hear this because I believe that good artistic works don’t need such urging. Later on, I started discovering that those so-called intellectuals are spending public money for their own benefit. How were these “élites” who are supposed to be role models in their society are corrupt???
Being an intellectual requires responsibility and commitment towards society, namely in a developing country that depends highly on its qualified human resources to embrace progress. To seek change, real intellectuals face challenges of illiteracy, poverty, joblessness, backwardness and corruption that are crippling development in their county.
The real intellectuals have a noble duty in society. They are the only light for their people in a world of darkness. They are as the candle burning itself to live up the world of others. Developed counties have reached progress due to their intellectuals who have sacrificed themselves for the coming generations.
They have fought against totalitarianism, social injustice, racism, discrimination, etc. and have been calling for a world that respects human dignity, democracy and human rights. Such activism has made them real intellectuals and close to the fair matters of their people.
What makes us real intellectuals are the principles and values that are our symbolic capital and without them our being is meaningless and absurd. Attaining high degrees or having a considerable knowledge is not an end in itself, it is just a means to awaken society’s consciousness about what’s going wrong and providing rational alternatives.
Fake intellectuals, or what might I call them–intellectuals with small “i”–, are like chameleons looking for their benefit by hook or by crook. They are far from the real causes of their nation. This is not the case of the organic committed intellectuals who are an epitome of sacrifice and responsibility. These are the genuine intellectuals: Intellectuals with a capital “I.”
Edited by Laura Cooper