For example, Socrates had to drink hemlock. Lord Christ was crucified. Galileo was persecuted for speaking the truth that the earth is round. Karl Marx suffered innumerable hardships. Swami Dayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj in India was poisoned to death. Gandhiji, who throughout his life preached non-violence, was shot dead by a fanatic. Thus intellectuals often have to embrace death for upholding the truth and the philosophy that they preach for the good of mankind.
Intellectuals prefer to live in poverty for relieving the sufferings of mankind. Karl Marx, who wrote Das Kapital died in squalor but gave a new hope to the suppressed working classes throughout the world. Lord Christ who gave a message of love and service to humanity was crucified by his persecutors. Crucifixion made the ideas of Christ immortal.
Intellectuals exhort people to give up paganistic traits like greed, violence, hatred and wickedness. They reform men by kindling in them the virtues of truth, compassion and love. It is they who make this world worth living. They thus perform a humanising role.
By and large, intellectuals believe in high thinking and simple living. They follow spiritualistic ideals. Karl Marx, the father of communism, did preach materialism but it was only to make capitalists realise that the working classes were not getting their legitimate share compared to their contribution. Lenin devoted his entire life to the upliftment of the working classes. Lenin organised the working classes to enable them to fight for their rights.
In India, Gandhiji preached truth, non-violence and love. He got us freedom from the British imperialists by his novel method of “Satyagrah” which is based on adherence to truth. Ultimately, Gandhiji became a martyr like Christ and Socrates.
By their revolutionary ideas, intellectuals like Lord Buddha, Lord Christ, Adi Shankaracharya, Guru Nanak and Mahatma Gandhi changed the very thinking of the people. In reality, the teachings of these intellectuals are relevant even today when the world is on the brink of a nuclear war. The degeneration in the values of life that we notice today can be stemmed only by the noble teachings of these intellectual giants.
Today, man has become very selfish and materialistic. He has hardly any compassion for the poor, suppressed, exploited, downtrodden sections of society. He lives a life full of stress and strain. He has lost his peace of mind. At this critical juncture, only the teachings of great intellectuals can save mankind.
Intellectuals are the greatest revolutionaries of their times. They also inspire people to fight against tyranny and injustice. Philosophers like Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau were responsible for bringing about a Revolution in France in 1789. Rousseau gave the clarion call for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all.
In India, whatever .social reforms were made from time to time were due to the efforts made by the intellectuals. Ram Mohan Roy, the founder of the Brahmo Samaj in Bengal worked for removing ignorance and superstitions from society. Rabindranath Tagore, a great poet and philosopher, raised his voice for internationalism where there would be no place for hatred, violence and inequality.
He believed in universal brotherhood. Swami Dayanand, the founder of the Arya Samaj movement, revived the ancient glory of the Vedas. He was opposed to untouchability and idol worship. Gandhiji preached the abolition of casteism, untouchability, child marriage, superstitions, drinking etc. He dreamt of establishing a “Ram Rajya”.
India needs intellectuals more today than in the past. Communalism is raising its ugly head again. Regionalism has divided the people on linguistic lines. Everyone is talking of a separate homeland. Anti-national and separatist forces are surfacing once again. Terrorism has taken deep root.
The unity of the country is in peril. Social evils like dowry are rampant. Smuggling is on the increase. Corruption has entered into every sphere of life. The country is standing at the cross-roads. Only the intellectuals can stop the degeneration and demoralisation which is eating into the very roots of our society.