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There is nowhere left to run

Ratheesh Pisharody writes: There’s really nowhere to run whether we are mammals, trees, insects or even indigenous tribes. What chances do we see for the planet’s revival? When humans take away both “space” and “time” from our co-passengers on this planet, we’re leaving no “leverage” for the others to “somehow” adjust and make it through.

Ratheesh Pisharody

Perhaps the “human story” is the greatest story ever told; a story that has the entire known universe for its canvas and a superlative species as the protagonist. Problem is, it has always been preaching to the choir and is akin to any other hagiography. It is a story that will always be told to children to inculcate pride and one that the delusional return to when there is a need to “chew the cud” to avoid facing current realities. The human story’s fault is just that it is “after all human” and hence error prone. The story has its casualties as well and those stories more often than not are not on the front-page.

A recently published article about a study of human influence over animals reveals some interesting facts. The study suggests that there is a “global increase in nocturnality” which means that more animals have started doing their business at night than ever before. The change in “working hours” seem to be directly linked to human activity but the study suggests that we only merely need to “exist” in the vicinity for a change in patterns, let alone be really active or do any damage (intended or otherwise). While it is very easy to agree with the study (and why not?) we should not make the mistake of reading “less” into the article. The article should be treated as one node in a “web of causality” that we have autonomously woven over the years.

It will not be surprising if we find that there is a shift not just from daytime to nighttime. With the right sample data and scope someone can hopefully establish that there are other shifts too; such as from night-time to day-time or from late-evening to midnight. Also, apart from a “shift”, we should expect a “crunch”. Creatures would have to contend with “lesser time” and get “more work done”. What in our system went wrong to reach this juncture? It is not merely the case of individual human beings pushing the mammals into a different time-zone (or a diminished time-window). It cannot be that human beings are inherently hateful towards the animals, at least it cannot be generalized so. So the article demands an introspection from us collectively. We need to look at the entire story and find plot points.

The study — although not directly implying it — seems to have pivoted the discussion from a “space injustice” to one based on “time”. This got me thinking because it brings fresh perspective. We already knew that when we “stretch our shoulders” or “push out our legs into the aisle” of this planet we are constantly making the other occupants “adjust” to our whims and fancies. We constantly hear about loss of green cover, ice cover, entire islands and what not. We hear that habitats are wiped out when we replace it with concrete structures. All those problem-areas was in the dimension called “space”. We were misappropriating “space” by continuously procreating, exploring, exploring and procreating. We were also administrating, governing, tending and nurturing; all fancy words that have formed part of our vocabulary to justify our “robbery of space”.

The article quickly extinguished whatever hope (false, in retrospect) I had about the other dimension i.e “time”. Now we not only procreate, explore, explore and procreate, but we will also do it “most of the time”. We have thus robbed the other occupants of this planet of both “space” and “time”. There is really nowhere to run when both are stolen, whether they are mammals, trees, insects or even tribes. Now what chances do we see for the planet’s revival? When we take away both “space” and “time” from our co-passengers on this planet, we are leaving no “leverage” for the others to “somehow” adjust and make it through. Phrases like “time heals” have no meaning at this juncture. How can the chemically-mutilated land heal? How can the birds come back home “in a few years” like the friendly naturalist assured us?

This dual-robbery cannot be incidental, it has to be by design (or the lack of it). To introspect we have to walk the “web of causality” mentioned earlier and find the dots that connect us with all these reactions. In that web we will find some hard truths that are not going to link individual species of animals with human individuals or regions. Our findings will pose more questions than answer them. We will not really like what we hear about us from these stories. We will find that we built unjust systems as we marched forward in this conquest of time and space. We will also find that most of us are simply thinking we are part of some solutions but we push the “human story” narrative forward anyway. We need to step away from comfort zones and understand the system.

Conception of one such system was a classic case of co-opting for a “daylight robbery” when told “we were in charge” and “we had to compete” and “we had to work hard”. The foundation stones for Capitalism were laid right in front of our unbelieving eyes and many of us carried those stones on our aching backs. Some of us continue to build the foundation while some relish our earl-gray tea on the rooftops. Capitalism and every other “Unjust”-isms that came before or after have successfully convinced us that it was (is) the right thing to do. What these systems have done is, shamelessly shown us a middle finger and we blushed; smiling back hoping that we can do the same to another poor soul one day. Some of us pacifists don’t even want to pass the hurt on but are naive enough to believe that these Unjustisms are only temporary and the world will see better days.

Every Unjustism comes with its own flavor of “hard work”, “nation building” and “jingoism”. The idea is to ensure that we contribute till our back breaks due to the continuous extraction, use and abuse of natural resources that none of us contributed towards. The flawed presuppositions which serve as the “theory” for these Unjustisms are only slightly stronger than our brittle backs that give way trying to make the “practice” of these systems make sense. Economists will try to rationalize Capitalism for us as long as we are willing to suspend some disbelief; and why not? We have always suspended disbelief as meek “sheeple”, expecting a few concerned souls to take us towards religious, political or economic glory. All because we don’t want to do the wondering, thinking, analyzing and discussing. We just want to place these stones, take a few drink breaks and live our lives. Don’t we?

But what about the other creatures on this planet? What about the algae, mollusks, insects, shrubs, trees, rodents, snakes, mammals, fish and elephants. What about the creatures large and small that walked this earth before and with us? What about all of them who got co-opted into these systems? On paper at least we humans can claim suffrage in most parts of the world. While debatable, there is some amount of “human” rights of varying degrees within units of varying sizes ranging from families, regions, states and countries. We can hope for global intervention or at least concern when these so called rights are violated. But this “we” I tend use is not as inclusive as it seems and that is the problem. What about the rest of us who cannot participate in the anthropocentric pursuits that make “human life” meaningful and the human story worth writing?

The Unjustisms such as Capitalism have pushed some of us to work “overtime”, many of us to work at “absurd times” and most of us to work “all the time”. Thus we seem to have entered into a new epoch of “resource robbery”. And specifically in the case of the aforementioned study, the phrase “daylight robbery” has taken on the literal meaning now. We are going to beat the “living daylights” out of the nocturnal creatures. When the “competition” replaced “cooperation” by the advent of these Unjustisms every being on the planet was pitched against the other and I do not mean “species”. Every individual creature now vies for space and time that is needed to “make use” of the energy that can be derived from the natural resources available. And since this competition is not based on fair-play there is a hierarchy that cross-cuts species-boundaries but still puts the homosapiens on the top of that pyramid pushing out the others.

We continue to contribute to these Unjustisms by our lust for comfort, our stupidity, our trust in so called visionaries and leaders, our passivity and naivety, our inaction, our impatience to understand and our non-participation in matters. Capitalism or any of its siblings from the family of Unjustisms are always going to be anthropocentric. We need to start thinking, discussing and talking about dismantling these unjust constructs to alleviate the pain. It is possible that our flight has lost its fuel and is going to crash for sure, but we can still be civil and use lesser space. We can stop stretching our legs into the aisle and not hurt someone in the process.

We also contribute to this Unjustisms by agreeing to walk “paths of least resistance”. This we do by being content with very small actions and stagnating. We also underestimate the magnitude of the problem and mix up words like “sustainability” with “self sufficiency” and “what is good for the planet” with “what I need to do for a good life”. We mistake “small solutions” to be “repeatable models that will scale”. When we start believing in our goodness we are merely playing the predestined hero’s role in the aforementioned human story. We add the necessary theatrics and the “good characters” to the human story but what we really need is something else. We have contributed truly, only if we actually understand that we are mere puppets right now, make an effort to climb up the strings that manipulate us, march across the nimble hands that move those strings and face the sinister systems that we ourselves built.

Unless we do that, the marginalized and disenfranchised among us continue to struggle for survival as both space and time push us into space-time conjunctures from where a return is possible only if a new world can be imagined.


Tuticorin: The enemy stares at you from the mirror
Ratheesh Pisharody
The protest in Tuticorin and the police reaction to it is exactly what is expected in a society built on foundations of greed and injustice. Whose interest do you think the police is supposed to protect? Ours, the “middle class” of course. We need those cheap phones and air conditioners, don’t we?

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
George Monbiot
So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom recognise it as an ideology. We accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Capitalism and the destruction of life on earth: Six theses on saving the humans
Richard Smith, Truthout
As global capitalist economic growth accelerates planetary ecological collapse, Richard Smith argues that – impossible as it may seem at present – only the most radical solution -the overthrow of global capitalism, the construction of a mostly publicly-owned and mostly planned eco-socialist economy is the only alternative to the collapse of civilization and ecological suicide.

A second warning to humanity, from the world’s scientists
Mankind is facing the existential threat of runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population, says a new, dire “warning to humanity” written by 15,000 scientists from 184 countries.The message updates an original warning sent 25 years ago. The experts say the picture now is far, far worse than it was in 1992.


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