“… it is a very long time since we have had cases of crimes committed by these animals… I petition for the deer and other eventual animal culprits to go punished, because their alleged deed was a reaction to the cruel soulless conduct of the victims, whom my thorough investigations have shown to be active hunters…“, speaks Janina Duszejko from Agnieszka Holland’s Polish ecological thriller ‘Pokot’; who becomes convinced that the murderers are animals taking revenge for being hunted, after her neighbours and acquaintances are murdered in mysterious circumstances.
Sounds like an enthralling storyline, but is quite enough to create a huge predicament about the mankind and his standpoint towards the environment. Those Homo sapiens in Duszejko’s village in Poland (like their other brothers across the globe) could execute their power in a direct way, by killing creatures. In contrast to what would be assumed, animal rights aren’t what this prelude seeks. Perhaps, it seeks a metaphor. And the comparison is with us, with our approach towards nature. Here, animals are the symbolisation for our natural surroundings, showing repercussions of the destructive human activities throughout the ages of technological existence. But what is more interesting is the fact that our human race doesn’t want to realise what doom we are leading ourselves up to. Perhaps, narrowing the focus to a micro level might explain the cause.
It is the individual interpretation and interests that guide man to every direction. In the mean course, ‘his’ actions, ‘his’ perspectives, ‘his’ demands are what become the basis of his actions. No event/action is seen deleterious unless it affects ‘him’, irrespective of all the efforts in making him realise it. Thus the thread brings it all to SUBJECTIVITY and INDIVIDUALITY.
Earth, a planet as old as 4.6 billion years is home to a vast variety of landforms, suitable climatic conditions and magnificent living creatures. It took earth almost 3.5 years to settle and another half a billion years to begin life. This is just to explain how long it took the planet to come to the condition that we have it in today. But no sooner than man arrived and started the industrial revolution in the due course, did the conditions start changing. Compressing this geological time scale to 1 year may help better. Supposing that earth is a year old planet, life began one and a half months ago, the man appeared some 3 hours 45 minutes ago, we had Jesus 13 seconds ago and the Industrial Revolution started some 2.7 seconds ago.
Within these 2.7 seconds, man has impoverished half of the resources of the world, increased the CO2 levels to 395.5 parts per million and raised the average surface temperature by 1-degree celsius. Since the beginning of this year, we have dumped 320 million tonnes of waste and extracted 8.3 billion tonnes of resources. But is everybody across the globe accessible to what we are using these resources for?
Today 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen are on the brink of severe famine. 1.4 million children are about to die of hunger. All that the UN has is 2% of the amount required to feed them ($5.6 billion), that in the world where a man builds a $46 billion house for a family of four.
Perhaps, one of the reasons can be found in the fact that our human society works on subjectivity and individuality. Rich have their infrastructures, abundant access to resources and available capital in huge quantities. That is their hard earned income, why should they be concerned with who dies malnourished? So it brings it all to how an individual interprets everything. Thus all the interpretations are subjective. Also, the individualistic nature of the human beings is responsible for perhaps most of the miseries on Earth today. Not interpreting it simply as sticking to oneself and one’s interests only, but the idea that similar identities are superior to the ones that are different. Is this not the reason we have communalism, sexism, racism, apparently ‘Nationalism’ and newest of all –‘Speciesism’.
Starting from the very individual, man’s actions are guided by his own personal interests. He acts according to how he interprets his surroundings. That being said, it is his intentions that guide him in his further course. Man seeks benefits for him and for the larger whole that he considers himself a part of. Again, the attributes for this ‘larger whole’ are subjective; family in most cases, extending to caste and class, community, religion, region/state or even the Nation. The underlying idea is that my religion or gender or country is superior to the other ones and should, therefore, receive the maximum benefits, come what may. Not restricting this tendency to just groups and regions, it can also be extended to ideologies and belief systems. And consequently we have communism, Marxism, Liberalism, Feminism, etcetera clashing each other. Talking about the much discussed global concerns of the 21st century, is development at the cost of pollution, climate change, deforestation, animal extinction not a product of individuality and subjectivity? The larger whole in this context is ‘my nation’, ‘my human development’ and not the Earth as a whole (the trees, the creatures, the seas and the deserts, etcetera) and hence the conflict. Is our development really development for the creatures and the trees, or is it mere destruction, denudation and devastation for them and the planet? What do we develop after the Earth is destructed? Find a new planet and destruct it as well? Taking a deep insight in how subjectivity has led to all such miseries is important.
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLLUTION – A PRODUCT OF SUBJECTIVITY?
Withstanding the global conditions today, every country in the world is well aware of the fact that we have to tether down our conventional techniques of development and switch to a change. But despite all the awareness, how many of us realise it and have adopted a change significant enough?
As already mentioned in the earlier parts, since the beginning of this year we have dumped 320 million tonnes of waste (few more thousand already added to it as we talk). Since 1990’s we have cleared forests equal to the size of South Africa. Hundreds of species are already extinct at a rate more than 100 times faster than earlier and the reason being us, our development. We’ve had Kyoto Protocol, Stockholm Conference, Paris Conference and several other conventions to talk about rising problem of climate change. But are we adhering to these treaties? The proponents of this idea congregated everyone after achieving success in getting everyone to agree that the average surface temperature may increase by 2 degrees in recent years if we don’t check our activities. But what means are we adopting? Technology, again? It also showed how naively humanity hopes that somehow technology will save us. The United States believes NASA on finding 7 new planets near TRAPPIST star but refuses to believe NASA on climate change; because, -subjectivity. Because they want to make America great again, right? Hallelujah! But maybe, after this planet is destroyed, shifting this supposedly great America to one of these habitable planets will not be a really good idea (or what if they think it really is?), again- individuality. Now, America’s politics is part of a different domain altogether but developing countries like India’s stand on this issue is important. The fact that global climate is changing, does nowhere belittle the fact that we have miles to go in the course of actual development and upliftment. But are all the stakeholders being benefited? And at what cost is this development? The Global Air report by the Health effects identified India as the worst air pollution affected the country and attributed more than a million deaths in 2015 to air pollution. And now who are these dying men? The businessmen or the politicians of the top echelons?
GROWING SUBJECTIVE ECONOMIES?
A country fighting its worst health crisis since 1918, with an economy shrunk by 2.5% in 2016 and severe economic crisis, organizes a sports event (Rio Olympics 2016) worth $9.7 billion, a world cup (2014) with a budget of $15 billion. In the same world, North in the African continent, 20 million people are on the brink of severe famine. All that those 1.4 million dying, malnourished children need is $5.6 billion so that they can have food and water. But anyway, our young fellows across the world want to watch a football world cup match and want their country to win because that is their priority. All the gold medals won by China have helped elevate poverty across its territory. India has more than 15 million street kids begging for food, some places receive water through trains and several dies of hunger every day, but the value of IPL is over $4.16 billion; because, priorities. In a country where 18,241 farmers committed suicide in a year a star singer`s concert with a rupees 72,000 ticket is set to go house full; because, priorities.
CONSTRUCTING SUBJECTIVE SOCIO-POLITICAL BASES?
Feminism, a strong social movement today has reached every nook and corner of the world. But Naga tribes adamantly opposing women reservation in local government bodies cannot be condemned because they are protecting their culture and it is completely subjective. So was slavery, which had been a major part of the economies; so was sati and devdasi. But yet we haven’t been successful in understanding this subjectivity. The almighty who created this universe, gave life to every creature demands a Bali/ Qurbani/ sacrifice because he needs some chicken in his feast tonight. And it is okay as long as it is my culture. The trend of humanitarian or liberal interventionism has grown by leaps and bounds because America is always right and everybody needs a democracy. But having or not having a democracy is not subjective because America feels it right and it has the power to achieve it. So the point is- power and dominance.
SPECIESISM- YET A NEW TERM?
Power and dominance, added to subjectivity and individuality have shaped the cultural terrains of Earth. The dominant entity wins with its power. This entity in this reference is not just America or the corporates but the entire human species in general. Because we have dominance and power, other species can be used for any purpose we seek. Animals are food, experimental toys, pets, labour, cattle, so on and so forth. But do we really accept this idea in our human spaces? Isn’t speciesism (considering one’s species superior to the other ones, giving the right to suppress and exploit them) a further extension of sexism, racism, communalism? Or are they food because they aren’t sentient? How valid is libertarian sentient today? Five minutes of my delicacy (a 200 gram hamburger I ate last night) cost an 800 kg cow her life. Why is her life not equal to me? Perhaps because she isn’t sentient? But neither are the infants and the mentally disabled, then? Why rights for them? Because they are humans? Maybe it is not our necessity after all, but an addiction, severe addiction. And realizing it is harder than anything. And it is hard to adopt unless someone forces it upon us, but who would?
After all of a long discussion, the underlying idea is that the human civilizations are products of our individualities and the belief that similar identities bear similar significance (greater than others). But is this not leading us to a doomsday scenario? Individuality is not just ME, but MY belongings (physical and mental) that I find important. This chain is from an individual to the entire human species. Benefits for my community lead to communalism, benefits to my state lead to regionalism, and benefits to my species -what do they lead to? Isn’t this the high time we change our belief system? Civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they refused to change. That’s where we are today.
But being entirely pessimistic is never an option. We have had cultures of global brotherhood, love and compassion for all the living creatures and acceptance of the earth as one single family. No member of the family is poorer than the other one because it really is a family. Everything is with mutual co-operation and love for each other. how difficult is this to be extended? Rightly has medieval Maharashtrian poet-saint Dnyaneshwar written:-
हे विश्वची माझे घर | ऐसी मती जयाची स्थिर ||
किंबहुना चराचर | आपणची जाहला || – श्री ज्ञानेश्वर
“A realised soul rises above the worldly desires and belongingness. His heart feels the entire world is his family and the compassion for every being developed naturally.” Could it not solve most the problems today? Leave aside being a realised soul, but can we not try to cross these layers of individuality, perhaps step by step? But why would we do that? Subjectivity, right?