The principle of self-determination – Sri Aurobindo

The principle of self-determination really means this that

within every living human creature, man, woman and child,

and equally within every distinct human collectivity growing or

grown, half developed or adult there is a self, a being, which

has the right to grow in its own way, to find itself, to make

its life a full and a satisfied instrument and image of its being.

This is the first principle which must contain and overtop all

others; the rest is a question of conditions, means, expedients,

accommodations, opportunities, capacities, limitations, none of

which must be allowed to abrogate the sovereignty of the first

essential principle. But it can only prevail if it is understood

with a right idea of this self and its needs and claims. The first

danger of the principle of self-determination, as of all others, is

that it may be interpreted, like most of the ideals of our human

existence in the past, in the light of the ego, its interests and

its will towards self-satisfaction. So interpreted it will carry us

no farther than before; we shall arrive at a point where our

principle is brought up short, fails us, turns into a false or a

half-true assertion of the mind and a convention of form which

covers realities that are quite the opposite of itself.

For the ego has inalienably the instinct of a double selfassertion,

its self-assertion against other egos and its selfassertion

by means of other egos; in all its expansion it is

impelled to subordinate their need to its own, to use them for

its own purpose and for that purpose to establish some kind of

control or domination or property in what it uses, whether by

force or by dexterity, openly or covertly, by absorption or by

some skilful turn of exploitation. Human lives cannot run upon

free parallels; for they are compelled by Nature continually to

meet, impinge on each other, intermix, and in the ego life that

means always a clash. The first idea of our reason suggests

that our human relations may be subjected to a mechanical

accommodation of interests which will get rid of the clash and

the strife; but this can only be done up to a certain point: at

best we diminish some of the violence and crude obviousness

of the clashing and the friction and give them a more subtle

and less grossly perceptible form. Within that subtler form the

principle of strife and exploitation continues; for always the

egoistic instinct must be to use the accommodations to which

it is obliged or induced to assent, as far as possible for its own

advantage, and it is only limited in this impulse by the limits

of its strength and capacity, by the sense of expediency and

consequence, by the perception of some necessity for respecting

other egoisms in order that its own egoism toomay be respected.

But these considerations can only tone down or hedge in the

desire of a gross or a subtle domination and exploitation of

others; they do not abrogate it.

CWSA Vol25 Self-Determination P 627

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