Saturday, September 13, 2014

Zamenhof's 1917 Declaration of Homaranism

In my previous post I wrote a little bit about the life of L.L. Zamenhof, and why even though he was certainly idealistic, I don't think it is fair or accurate to characterize him as "naive". In this post I present an English translation of Zamenhof's 1917 Declaration of Homaranism (Deklaracio pri Homaranismo) (pgs. 235-242 of "Mi Estas Homo", an Esperanto anthology of Zamenhof's letters and philosophical writings). I think it is unlikely that anyone will ever establish a Homaranist organization, nevertheless, the problems that Zamenhof was trying to use Homaranism to solve are as serious today as they were in his day. So whether one agrees with the principles and methodology of Homaranism or not, I think Zamenhof's ideas on the causes and solutions to human conflict are valuable at least as food for thought for modern discussions of these same topics.

L.L. Zamenhof was not naive

Ludwik Lazarus Zamenhof, creator of the Esperanto language, dedicated his life to the idea of ending inter-ethnic conflict. To speakers of Esperanto (or at least to me), he's a hero. First and foremost, he's a hero to Esperanto speakers in the same way that George Lucas is to Star Wars fans, and J.S. Bach is to people who enjoy pipe organ music: he created magnificent works of art (the language, along with his translations and original writings) that continue to bring us a lot of joy. It's not an exaggeration to say that the reason Esperanto succeeded in becoming a language spoken by tens of thousands of people (or whatever the number is) all over the world was Zamenhof's stubbornness and tenacity in promoting the language and creating, from the ground up, a literature for the language. Unlike the creators of other artificial languages, Zamenhof created not only a grammar and dictionary, but powerfully demonstrated that the language was suitable even for great works of literature by translating, among many other works, examples of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and eventually even the entire Old Testament of the Bible. Zamenhof's early works and translations were able to serve as stylistic examples to other authors and translators, and the body of Esperanto literature snowballed, and became self sustaining.