Basic wisdom

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Sitting by a campfire listening to a song of Bushmen somewhere deep in the Kalahari Desert, an American Anthropologist William Ury thought he recognized a word or two… When the lyrics were translated to him, it turned out that the song was: “Mama, please buy me an Appollo Eleven…” Far from the urban civilization, these Bushmen too had somehow heard about the first unmanned mission to the moon. Nomads to the core as Bushman are, yet they aspired to wander out in space. This is the critical change brought about by the Knowledge Revolution. It has extended the network outwards so much so that entire humanity has been woven into one interactive and interdependent global unit.

There are, as the anthropological evidence suggests, more than fifteen thousand ethnic groups on the planet. However, it is for the first time since the origin of human species that virtually all of humanity’s tribes are in touch with one another. And nowhere is the web of interdependence more obvious than in the daily economic life. Every day hundreds of millions of people from opposite parts of the planet cooperate, directly or indirectly, with one another in the global marketplace. While global trading networks have existed for centuries, today’s ties operate on a far greater scale. Such is the enormity and essence of this global interdependence today that few human beings can survive anymore without drawing on the worldwide web of economic links.

While the networks of interdependence are on an ever-expanding spree, every day besides the economics even the political and social networks too keep on spreading out encompassing more and more people, and triggering changes in social, political and economic patterns and hierarchies. The pyramidal institutions that had a centralized authority with all power accumulated in it, are steadily giving way to horizontal networks held together through communication and decentralized initiative of countless individuals and organizations.  Truly humanity is weaving a “boundaryless web” something that Marshall McLuhan had predicted long back when he theorized the “global village” concept. Indeed it is the fallout of this growing interdependence that world has seen emergence of various forms of political associations that cut across the physical and geographical as well as ideological boundaries. Europe, a collection of warring states at the start of the twentieth century, saw itself confederated into European Union at the century’s end.  NAFTA in North America, Mercosur in South America, ASEAN in Southeast Asia represent other regional efforts to integrate.

SAARC in South Asia too is a similar initiative, however, unfortunately Indo-Pak hostilities have held the future of this regional grouping hostage. Unlike other groups, SAARC countries, India and Pakistan in particular, are far from being integrated. They are yet to evolve ways and means to negotiate through the trust deficit plaguing their relationships. There are issues about boundaries in land and in sea, there are problems of water sharing and to cap it all there is the dispute over Kashmir. In the absence of sincerity of purpose to resolve these issues, entire region remains ever-volatile, always a potential flashpoint of a catastrophic war, leave side being economically and politically an integrated association.

And as if this was not enough, for the past couple of decades now we are seeing an ever-increasing suspicion being promoted within Jammu and Kashmir wherein different regions and peoples are pitted against one-another in politically dangerous competitiveness. Obviously this type of divisive politics is seen as fulfilling the political and strategic designs of a few actors, in realizing their selfish ends they are actually putting the state on a disastrous path. We have seen this Jammu versus Kashmir syndrome being nursed and nurtured for long, and unfortunately besides the token lip service nothing has been done to do away with this abrasive politics. If the State of Jammu and Kashmir has to live as a single entity, people will have respect differences within. It is neither desirable nor practical to have everything in Jammu whatever is given and granted to Kashmir and vice-versa. And those promoting this needless and divisive competitiveness could be anything but they are not the friends and well-wishers of the state and its peoples.

“What happens if another group comes to hunt on your land?” anthropologist Ury says he once asked Semai tribesmen. “When other groups are hungry, we let them hunt on our land as if it were theirs,” they replied. “If someone in the other group goes hungry, the spirits of the forest will be unhappy and someone might fall sick and die, and we would then be responsible.” The Semai perceive their world as an independent one in which the unmet needs of the neighbour will affect them personally. For them enabling their neighbours to meet their needs is simple common sense. Hats up to Semai; they are way too civilized and wise than most of us – than the Indo-Pak leadership, than the political leaders in New Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu — for they are gifted with the kind of common sense which is so uncommon to us!

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