What Man has Made of Man!

William Wordsworth complains ‘What man has made of man!’ His complaint is not wide of the mark. In reality, man’s attitude to man is in a state of mess. Each person looks at man in multitudinous ways but never as a man. Man ceases to be a man and assumes diverse forms and shapes like…

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PROF U. MUHAMMAD IQBAL

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William Wordsworth complains ‘What man has made of man!’ His complaint is not wide of the mark. In reality, man’s attitude to man is in a state of mess. Each person looks at man in multitudinous ways but never as a man. Man ceases to be a man and assumes diverse forms and shapes like a Proteus. The variety of this metamorphosis is a spectacle of interminable wonder and absurdity.

The moving bus does not move on but comes to an abrupt halt, when the conductor shouts to the driver, “Stop, a ticket is coming”. When one peeps out, one can see a person materialising from nowhere on a dusty path intersected by an unmanned level crossing. He comes running and waving to the bus crew. One is mystified to find how a ticket can have luxuriant growth of disshevelled hair and a towel lined with strips of colours proclaiming the political affiliation, or be dressed in shirt and dhoti and propelled busward on inspired feet! To the conductor, a man is neither more nor less than a ticket.

A pretty nurse with a face exuding compassion for the misery and suffering of the sickly humanity opens the door and announces to the doctor, who has taken the oath of Hippocrates to serve Mammon and Mammon alone, that a case has come. When you look at the case, it turns out to be a man. Man and bag are poles apart but disease bridges the gap and spans the distance. I sometimes wonder whether ‘case’ is a term of endearment or merely a professional way of looking at odds and ends. In a way, a sick person’s body does encase a disease.

Coming to talk of profession, one has to remember that a lawyer has a broad vision of man. He does not talk about his client as a single person. For him man is a party. He espouses the cause of his party with all the eloquence at his command. The collective noun is used by the lawyer as an instance of synecdoche wherein a part is identified with whole. Man becoming a party may be a semantic propriety but the transformation is there for all to see. The loss is man’s own.

Man as man is not wholly acceptable, I suppose; some resort to synecdoche in all sincerity. Man’s parts are taken to represent the whole of man. The lovers see only the hearts; the economists are worried over the mouths to feed; the psephologist is interested in counting the heads; the factory owner proposes to employ the hands. It is as though other parts of the body do not bring distinction to man. Who can forget the tongue that plays a lusty role in voice vote or in wordy warfare?

Even games and sports do not display a sportsman like attitude to man. Is it cricket to call a man a wicket? If a man falls a victim to a ball, he is mentioned after the score has been mentioned. It is only in Australia that the player precedes the runs. What is more? Man is asked to be a sport.

When the fastidious bring themselves round to make a grudging compliment to man, they compare him to one wild animal or another, depending upon the attribute they propose to highlight. It appears that the lion is courageous, the tiger is ferocious, the fox is cunning, the wolf is hungry, the elephant has great memory and so on and so forth. If a man is noted for his courage, he is reduced to the level of a lion.

In establishing this fellowship of animality, both East and West are equally enthusiastic. They differ only in their selection. The human child is referred to affectionately as a kid or a lamb in one area and in another the child is a calf. I would like to see when the west would prefer to call a human child a calf, just for a change.

In conversational English, man is addressed as man but the word is depersonalised and becomes inane. A true wife may be proud of her man but the women’s liberation movement is bent upon making a dent in this pride.

The Bard of Avon knew the genuine value of being a man He knew that to be a man is very heaven. One has only to read the following complaint:

His life was gentle; and the elements

So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world This was man!.

It is however a different matter that the complaint is paid to a man who betrayed the trust of a friend.