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.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An Altruistic Ethic to Start the New Year

The public intellectual Mohan Guruswamy has written a long article on the predicament of the Central Indian Adivasis that he is circulating on the Internet. It is a well researched article but concentrating mainly on the Gonds and the Maoist revolutionaries who have in recent years made the Gond hunting grounds their redoubts for launching the elusive Indian revolution. Despite a very factual description of the way in which the Indian State and the capitalists who control it have devastated the adivasis he puts in the suggestion that a new Indian Frontier Administration Service should be set up to govern the adivasi areas. Since he has critically analysed the structural reasons for bad governance this kind of a superficial suggestion can only be a deflecting stratagem. There are in the article some sweet nothings about the goals of justice and equality that should be the corner stones of liberal democratic governance. However, there is no appreciation of the fact that liberal democracy never lives up to its ideals because profit making capitalists invariably distort it as well as the market for their own selfish ends. But in his portrayal of the unique altruistic ethics of the adivasis he has come up with an illustrative incident quoting from the work of the anthropologist Haimendorf which is simply a beauty and the reason why I have brought him up here. I quote from Guruswamy's article -
"In his well-regarded ethnographic monograph "The Reddis of Bison Hills",the anthropologist Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf[1] recounts an incident he was witness to while studying this small tribal community near Parantapalli in the Paloncha Samasthan of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. It seems that a sambhar hind wounded by pursuing hunters living on the opposite bank of the Godavari
crossed over to the shallow waters on the southern bank. The tribals here, who are still considered to be among the most backward and who at best of times went mostly hungry, instead of seizing the sambhar drove it back to the other side as by custom the prize belonged to the first group. This quality of altruism will seldom be seen in any of our Hindu villages, where exploitation and forcible expropriation of property is a common fact of life.
[1]At the end of the war, Haimendorf was appointed to the position of Advisor
for Tribes and Backward Classes to the Nizam's Government of Hyderabad to deal
with the complicated issue of land reform. In the course of his work, he set up
various educational and other schemes for tribal peoples, all with the aim of
preserving and safeguarding indigenous cultures and languages. He also accepted
a teaching appointment at Osmania University, which he later relinquished, after
ten years in India, to accept a lecturership at the SOAS in 1949. Within months
of his initial appointment, he was made Reader, and then Chair of Asian
Anthropology in the School in 1951. During his 25 years as Professor, until his
retirement in 1976, Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf saw the department through a
period of quite exceptional growth, always encouraging his staff and students to
conduct field-work as frequently and intensively as possible. He published ten
ethnographic monographs based on his fieldwork, including The Chenchus (1943),
The Reddis of the Bison Hills (1945), The Raj Gonds of Adilabad (1948),
TheSherpas of Nepal (1964) and The Konyak Nagas (1969). He also published
several other volumes of essays and theoretical works, including Morals and
merit (1967) and The tribes of India: struggle for survival (1982), which drew
heavily on his fieldwork."

In fact this quality of altruism is lacking in the rest of humanity as a whole and especially so among the capitalists of whom the financial oligarchs are the worst examples. It is this ethic of altruism alone that can save the human race from the kind of purgatory it is heading for at the moment. The Bhil adivasis have a similar rich ethic of altruism but unfortunately have not been studied in such ethnographic detail by such illustrious anthropologists as Haimendorf as the Gonds have been. Today at the beginning of a new year one can do no better than dedicate oneself to the cause of spreading this altruistic adivasi ethic throughout the globe.

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