Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Resituating the context of Death-8

Urbanization of the village or Marching towards Dystopia

A village is just not a retreat from the madding crowd; it is also a buffer zone between the nature and man-made civilization. A village is built by carving nature but a city is built by replacing nature or by transplanting nature. Simplistically, a village is an abode of a poet but a city is an abode of a novelist but this is no more the case. The relationship between the village and the city has entered into a very complex zone. A village may be a site of palatial farmhouses, a dump yard for urban waste, an industrial area for a highly populated city, provider of cheap labour for urban enterprises or a backyard of urban poverty. The equation has not remained harmonious at all. In terms of a complete habitat system, the village has been engulfed by the progressing urban civilization. The rural folklore, rural art and rural living practices are fast depleting into the urban black-hole. The crumbling of rural replenishment systems has deteriorated the natural balance. A village as a village is no more living.
It is time to think about putting some kind of control over uncontrolled urbanization but it is easier said than done. The pace and history of development in both the developed and the developing world points towards the utter failure of this suggestion despite even accepting the fact that urban civilization in its present format is sinking and not at all sustainable. Perhaps, the reason lies much deeper in the public reasoning around death. Nobody wants to die but nobody wants to fight holistically with the wasting of life. A collective remedy is missing. For a particularly lower middle class or a poor person, living in a big city is like passing through a process of slow suicide. The basic question is why urban thinking does not allow death an interactive space instead of allowing it to live like a terrorist or a hacker in the underworld of their consciousness. What we need to ask is if there is a possibility of redefining death in an urban sense and secondly, if there is a possibility of developing different kinds of thinking schools of sustainable habitat systems.
Utopia has been a very powerful hope of the modern civilization. In both the highly popular socialist and liberal ideologies of the modern period, the conception of a Golden Future is the most assumed truth. This truth may or may not be that deterministic but a kind of halo effect is definitely built around it. If it is a classless and stateless society for one stream of the political philosophy, it is a free, open and peaceful world for the other one. The entire agenda behind creating an urban civilization was based on the creation of living heaven on earth. There is no doubt that human rationality was supposed to be capable of creating a true Utopia though its versions may be different.
But the reality has turned out to be something otherwise. The ecological disasters like global warming, tsunamis, ozone depletion, widespread air, water, soil and noise pollution, slum growth, clogging of public transport systems etc. have raised the fear of coming of the inverted utopia i.e. Dystopia. Recently in July, in only the weekend supplement of The New York Times, there were five full-blown features on Shanghai’s traffic problem, Ireland’s garbage disposal problem, Mexico’s logging war, New Hampshire’s illegal immigration problem, and ill-secured nuclear arms in Ukraine. An international paper is carrying the stories of impending disasters cropping up round the world. Is it not the end of romance with utopias and utopian thinking? The notion not rather the reality of a dystopia has started catching fast in the public mind. This has made the entire civilizational progress of past couple of centuries a problematic and debatable one. It is like sculpting with the conception of Vinayaka and ending with the face of monkey instead. Where things have gone wrong? India is quite mid-way through this phenomenon. It has lot to learn from the world and lot to unlearn also. The 21st century should not prove to be a blind path but before that, a total understanding of a global challenge is needed.
Here, the whole issue can be seen in already mentioned three dimensions i.e. first through the study of salary-imprisoned professional structures of contemporary public life, secondly with the slow death of rural buffer zones through urbanizing villages and finally through the fanning of apocalyptic visions through the media.
If we try to see through these undercurrents, we can easily find a sustained replay of the myth of Russian Roulette. The continuous constriction of our consciousness through varied forms and symbols was happening in our country. The either-or mentality was replacing the plural nature of our living systems. The presence of death was being squeezed out gradually. The fundamental criterion of our actions was extinguishing in our thinking methodologies. It is not that only India is suffering from such problems; perhaps all the continents are engulfed in it but it is only India that is one of most fertile grounds for contemplating such phenomena. A society still saving a tradition like Mahabharata can surely have strength to identify a missing link through the intricacies of playing, gambling and war-waging.

No comments: