Raouf Rasool

Time to learn from Bushmen

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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 evidences suggest, 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. Humanity, says Ury, is weaving a “boundaryless web” something that Marshall McLuhan had predicted over half-a-century ago. 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, not to talk of the two countries being economically and politically integrated.

“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 the Indo-Pak leadership, for they are gifted with the kind of common sense which seems so uncommon with India and Pakistan.

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