Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Roots of Communitarianism

A friend sent me a quote from a recently published book (Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Knopf, Sep 8, 2009.) which I found very intriguing -
"Frankly, we hesitate to pile on the data, since even when numbers are persuasive, they are not galvanizing. A growing collection of psychological studies show that statistics have a dulling effect, while it is individual stories that move people to act. In one experiment, research subjects were divided into several groups, and each person was asked to donate $5 to alleviate hunger abroad. One group was told the money would go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl in Mali. Another group was told that the money would go to address malnutrition among 21 million Africans. The third group was told that the donations would go to Rokia, as in the first group, but this time her own hunger was presented as part of a background tapestry of global hunger, with some statistics thrown in. People were much more willing to donate to Rokia than to 21 million hungry people and even a mention of the larger problem made people less inclined to help her.
In another experiment, people were asked to donate to a $300,000 fund to fight cancer. One group was told that the money would be used to save the life of one child, while another group was told it would save the lives of eight children. People contributed almost twice as much to save one child as to save eight. Social psychologists argue that all this reflects the way our consciences and ethical systems are based on individual stories and are distinct from the part of our brains concerned with logic and rationality. Indeed, when subjects in experiments are first asked to solve math problems, thus putting in play the parts of the brain that govern logic, afterward they are less generous to the needy."
Even though the sample is too small for drawing any firm conclusions like the social psychologists have done in the quote but the thought that possibly the human heart and the mind are not in sync is an intriguing one. As a firm supporter of small communitarian societies I intuitively seem to feel that the social psychologists are right in their inference. Human beings have lived in small groups for millions of years and have been packed into centralised societies only for about the last six thousand years or so. In fact the really complex and highly centralised social formations have emerged over the past four centuries. Thus for a long long time there was really no need of mathematics and complex reasoning and relationships between people were based on simple human interaction. Thus the pull of the heart is still very strong in people even if they are forced to live in a mathematically and reason determined milieu. Unfortunately the compulsions of living in a centralised and market based society are such that most of the time people have to suppress their feelings and bow to the demands of this society. This is important in the context of the present stalled negotiations around both international trade and emission reductions. In their heart of hearts everybody knows that fairness has to be adopted in reaching a humanitarian consensus but only a miniscule minority want to risk giving up the centralised system. So unless more people are prepared to follow their hearts and turn back on mathematics for a while so that a more humane de-centralised society and can evolve there is no way out of the mess we are in.

1 comment:

Sadanand said...

There are number of studies that sustain these findings. A person is far more likely to help an accident or theft victim when s/he is alone to act on the scene than when several people are around. When alone, it becomes your concern & responsibility; in a group it is everyone's concern & responsibility. Even in the studies cited, this effect would have been observed if donations were asked individually rather than in a group.

I think a misery of one person /family - a small unit, one can emphasize with and feel confident of alleviating through one's own direct action. Miseries of masses become in themselves mind numbing statistics that so overwhelm us as to make us feel powerless.