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, May 4, 2018

Gandhism in the Time of Late Capitalism

Whether it is Marxism, whose propounder Karl Marx's birth bicentenary is being celebrated this year or whether it is anarchism and its distinct Indian version Gandhism, whose propounder Mohandas Gandhi's birth sesquicentenary is also being celebrated this year, both were late nineteenth century alternatives to capitalist development, which latter had become ascendant by then. Both provided criticism of the ill effects of capitalist development on the society, the economy and the environment in their own ways which led to the modification of laissez faire centralised capitalism into a more government regulated centralised system which had a fairly independent decentralised component also. However, the alternatives proposed by Marx and Gandhi were never adopted at a country level anywhere by a modern state as industrial capitalism came to rule the roost globally. While the Soviet Union and China implemented a strictly regulated form of state capitalism, India followed a slightly less regulated mixed capitalist path, sidelining decentralised Gandhian economic enterprise and nonviolent political action to the margins, while revering his philosophy in the abstract and converting him into an icon to be worshipped. Currently, there is no state that espouses even the distorted Soviet style Marxism but the Indian State still pays lip service to Gandhi's philosophy and so half heartedly pursues some of his programmes like cottage industry, especially the production of hand made cotton cloth and ridding the country of open defecation.

Marxists and Gandhians, alike, have not come to terms with this domination of capitalism which has become near total in its late phase currently, using technology to intensify surplus extraction at the expense of the vast majority of humanity and the environment. While capitalism has also incorporated some of the alternatives proposed by Marx and Gandhi to better entrench their hold on humanity, Marxists and Gandhians have remained with their heads buried in the nineteenth and early twentieth century refusing to address the dynamic ways in which capitalism has come to control the destiny of humankind.
This was driven home to me two days ago when I attended a meeting of a committee constituted by the Government of India to design the celebration of the sesquicentenary of Gandhi's birth. Speaker after speaker spoke about the greatness of Gandhi, whether it was his nonviolence or his social reform or his decentralised economics and the need to popularise these among today's youth. However, none of these speakers thought it fit to ponder as to why despite so much state support for Gandhi's ideology it is today marginalised from mainstream developmental discourse and policy making in this country and is somehow existing on the margins on the strength of meagre doles from the Government and has little appeal for the youth. There was a clamour for these doles to be increased but no demand for a modification of the capitalist system itself or a modernisation of Gandhism, so that a more just social and economic developmental system can take centre stage. There was no discussion at all on how to use renewable energy and appropriate technology, especially in the field of water management which is emerging as a major crisis, to increase productivity in rural areas. Neither was there any discussion of the retrograde colonial legacy of policing and maintaining law and order which has effectively killed satyagraha as a political weapon. It must be remembered that satyagraha never really succeeded during colonial rule due to the draconian policing system that the British had put in place and this same system was retained after independence to smash many non-violent mass movements for justice in independent India.
There are claims being made of total sanitation and electrification having been achieved but in both spheres the reality is quite discouraging. Community and individual rights are being trampled on to promote centralised industrial development and only crumbs are being thrown to the majority of the population.
So in the end, like in the case of Marx, there will be celebratory programmes for Gandhi also, much more extravagant, because there is a state giving lip service to his philosophy, but no contemporary solutions to the social, economic and environmental crises being brought on by capitalist development are likely to emerge without a creative synthesis of Gandhi's thoughts with current technological and political possibilities.

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