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.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Timelessness of Childhood

The current obsession with earning money has robbed most of us of the leisure of biding our time. Even the Bhils of Alirajpur who were traditionally a very laid back set of people, these days have their calendars all tied up. They are either working on their own small farms or migrating to Gujarat to work on the farms of other big land holders or on construction sites. So much so that even their happy go lucky festivals these days have become short affairs to which they come in droves from work to relax rather than to extend their leisure as in the past. The biggest sufferers of course are the children. Children love to play and even when they are working they convert the work into play as in the picture below. These Bhil children have collected a weed that grows wild on the banks of streams in the monsoons to feed to their buffaloes which produce more milk as a result. But obviously they have enjoyed the work by converting into play.

The girls are in the school uniform of white shirts and blue skirts which means they study also. Unfortunately the education that they get in the government school which they attend is not at all as entertaining as their work. Whereas the work is not only entertaining but it also ensures that their household runs. Consequently their education is more holistic and they will grow up to be people who will still have some inclination for savouring time rather than measuring it.
In fact not only time but also all the resources are being measured today. There was a time when there was enough green fodder for there to be no need for collecting fodder from the stream. But now the fodder from the fields has become scarce and is a commodity that is sold on the market. So these poor children have to go searching for free fodder as their families cannot afford the expensive cotton oil cake fodder that is available in the market.
This is important because in the present brouhaha over restriction of greenhouse gas emissions it is being forgotten that it is not just pollution that is a threat but also consumption. Many feel that if clean energy can be produced then all our problems will end. However, the clean energy will still require immense amounts of resources to work on and that is leading to shortages of all kinds of resources and also shortage of time and human feelings. Anybody who idles his time or spends time in activities that do not produce monetary wealth is looked upon as a fool. This is in fact something that has struck at the very roots of the tribal world view by dubbing them as fools who are not fit to be part of human society.
Common property resources like common lands, forests and water courses and bodies are best protected and conserved through communitarian cooperation. Even agriculture is most productive when practised in a communitarian manner. Because agriculture is their lifeline the Bhils had developed a system of labour pooling that helped them to undertake the labour intensive work of weeding very easily. By turns the whole hamlet would weed in each other's farms and reduce the burden of work and ensure productivity. One of the major achievements of the KMCS has been to revive this system as seen in the picture below where such a line of communitarian weeders are at work.

In fact the Bhils had labour pooling customs for natural resource management and other activities like house building also. However, such cooperation is extremely difficult if there is a culture which measures time in monetary terms. Because communitarian cooperation requires that people give time to building up trust. That is why we have to become like children again if we are to save nature and prevent climate change. The tribal worldview was traditionally a childish one. Even after becoming adults they always saw themselves as being children of nature and they kept playing games throughout their lives. But now the situation is such that in urban areas children have to start preparing for a life of earning money right from the time they begin to walk and talk and this is the culture that is penetrating through to the whole of society through television where small children are having to perform like adult artistes in so called reality shows.
Climate Change is a peripheral symptom of a deeper malaise of valuing time in monetary terms. Unless this hankering after money and wealth which tries to put a price on time ceases, even if we manage to avert climate change through some technological invention there will be other virulent symptoms that will manifest themselves.

3 comments:

Bhavana Nissima said...

A post after my heart. A friend was discussing the ills of s/w sector and he said--"we have converted everything into transactions and people into resources."
Your piece here: "That is why we have to become like children again if we are to save nature and prevent climate change."-- yes, to ease, to play games and build trust.

Rahul Banerjee said...

Bhavana, the social work sector is part and parcel of the existing dispensation and afflicted with the same malaise of commercialisation!!

Nawal Agrawal said...

Thanks Rahul, your posts keeps reminding us of what we are losing in the race of becoming developed. I hope to start behaving like a child again.