Life is larger than all Arts, Sciences, Religions, Philosophies, trade, techs, States... through times and places.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Archetypes India: Parable of 20th Century Blacksmith

Parable of 20th Century Blacksmith of Bhal*

by Remigius de Souza

ONCE UPON A TIME there lived a blacksmith in a village. He belonged to the Indic Civilisation in the second half of 20th century of Christian Calendar. He lived in a region called Bhal in Saurashtra of Gujarat State in India. In the same region nearby is the place called Lothal; there existed the Indus Civilization in Bronze Age. ‘Bhal’ meant desert in Gujarati language. In Sanskrit it meant forehead. In Indian tongues forehead also indicated ‘fate’.

The caste of blacksmith, untouchable though, had been part of ecology of the Indic civilisation for centuries. They made things (weapons) for the state, and (implements – tools – equipments) for the households, houses, farms and transport. Perhaps the story of smithy goes beyond, even before, the Indo-European race – the Aryans – invaded India.

The people of India were very proud of their past heritage. However in the lasts decades of 20th century, the mining corporation in Damodar Valley almost destroyed the archaeological evidence that an Iron Age perhaps existed in India before the Bronze Age in Indus Civilization. The mining operations partially destroyed the cave and the cave paintings, and whatever remained was left to further destruction due to ‘exposure’ and ‘tremors’ caused by mining.

The blacksmith in the village in Bhal region had no work, for the villagers had resorted to the mechanised farming. They were also using hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. By the end of 20th Century the people of Bhal had successfully destroyed the soil, insects in the soil – water – air. By using imported advance technology of farming, they had successfully stopped further regeneration of flora and fauna which depended on, and helped each other, and accelerated the rate of desertification of their region.

Thus perhaps the region got its name Bhal – desert – in the modernisation process; they also destroyed the indigenous seeds which could grow in the prevailing hot dry climate and topography of the region. They were facing a severe water crisis. When all over India the rural – urban population ratio was 76.7:23.3, in Bhal the rural population was 28.2 percent in the beginning of the 1980s.

Moneylenders called the World Bank from Western Civilisation came forward to give a loan to build a mighty dam over River Narmada. It was to enable water supply to Bhal region by irrigation canals. By this action two things were certain: (1) whatever useful top soil was left in the Bhal region would finally turn saline, and the process of desertification would be completed; and (2) the destruction of the tribal culture and the forest – rich in flora and fauna – in the catchments of Narmada valley.

Tribal cultures – whatever was left, not only in India but all over the world – were some of the would be most valuable aspects of the “World Heritage” though not recognised by the then so-called superior societies. They were the last hope for the surviving civilised societies to provide the cues to the sustainable living in harmony with nature – the real life nature, not the nature-in-laboratory.

In spite of words of wisdom from Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus, and such other divine persons, the superior societies continued to make weapons of mass destructions not only to kill each other, but also the animals, insects, plants, soil… even the atmosphere. Some wise man had said, “Wherever civilisations stepped, it left desert behind it.”

The tribal lived in harmony with nature for millennia. They had no problems of accumulation of wealth and split personality that are faced by the moderns. The Buddhas or no-Buddhas, the tribal were the last hope of salvation for the civilised world. BUT THE PARADOX WAS THAT THE TRIBAL DO NOT PREACH.

Civilised, superior societies, in earlier times, had killed – annihilated local, ethnic and tribal communities wherever they reached, or take them as slaves, or as service class ― or Shudras (untouchable caste) ― as in Indic civilisation. Our blacksmith belonged to the untouchable caste.

There is a story in the epic Mahabharata: Arjuna and Krishna were prospecting a place for Pandava’s capital. They chose Khanadavan (Khandav Forest) and burnt entire forest and the Nag tribe that lived there, and cleared the forest for the new capital – Indraprastha. (One of them escaped though, and in revenge killed the last of the Pandavas – King Pariskhit.)

Our blacksmith was jobless while industries of mass production got tax concessions, subsidies, financial aid, services, etc. All that this petite bourgeoisie had: his simple hand tools, his rickety hut, his poverty and his skill. He was excellent craftsman in making guns – as well as for museum pieces. He was a master craftsman.

So he would make a gum. The police – the Law – would pounce on him, catch him for the crime of making a gun, and put him in a jail. When released he would start again to make a gun (perhaps he had customers from the affluent elite Indian society). He was caught again by the law. He was put again in the jail… And this continued until he died rotting in poverty, privation, between the jails and his rickety hut.

This may have been a prelude to the riots, terrorists’ attacks, proliferation of goons and illegal possessions of guns – not only in Gujarat State, but also all over the country; even the Parliament of India was not spared from terrorist attack. Why should any state/ nation force, face, or fear the threat of war or terrorism from inside or outside if it had cared for the poor and the afflicted due to the capitalist antics, and took right action to rehabilitate them in the changing environment, not theoretically or verbally but actually? On the contrary it should have had friends everywhere.

The Indian State governed the nation by mimetic imitation of their (past) colonial master and (present) neo-colonial masters. The politicians enacted mimesis of melodrama common in Bollywood movies and Tellywood mega soaps, under the garbs of patriotism and nationalism, to sway the citizens. However, the large majority – the illiterate, backward, underdeveloped and the people living below poverty line – in their repeated verdicts led them to face hung parliaments. Predictably they brought their various colours and brands together into alliances ‘to hold power’ but consistently failed ‘to learn from the people.’

One, Bertold Brecht, from the Western Civilisation in the contemporary times (in 1953), wondered with mock innocence:

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?*

Perhaps this was then a worldwide phenomenon in the era of Industrial Civilisation.

Neither the Indian State, nor the Constitution of India, nor the great Indian Democracy had any instrument, any tool, or could evolve any, which could help and rehabilitate our Blacksmith of Bhal to live with dignity, leave aside to shower on him the state honours for his craft. They had Acts of Law but NO ACTION to maintain equality.

Until recent times the blacksmiths made arrowheads. The Blacksmith of Bhal changed over to making guns with changing times. But like farming and other traditional crafts, his craft also had no official recognition. Similarly the tribal lost their millennia-old skill in archery being illegal; the blockhead bureaucrats thinking in box had no imagination to convert it into sports, hence Indians hardly represented archery at the Olympics.

The Blacksmith was a freedom fighter for his right to work and survival; qualitatively no less than Gandhi’s protest in South Africa earlier. But he did not belong to the elite class or high caste. He struggled, fought alone, held his head high in self-respect: He stood taller than any celebrated writers of Constitutions and Laws of any States.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Remigius de Souza
69/ 243, S. B. Marg, Mumbai 400028, India



· This story was told by the author on the concluding day of the workshop on “Environment, People and Law” organized by the “Centre for Science and Environment” (CSE), New Delhi during 12-16 October 1992.
· The story was published in the “Development network”, CDSA, Pune, Jan-March 1994.
· This story is of a real person told to the author by a social worker who was working with the farmers in Dholaka – Dhandhuka area in the
Gujarat State.

* Quote "Bertold Brecht" is by Michael Wood, ‘At the Movies’, London Review of Books, Vol. 29 No. 6, 22 March 2007.


© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Saturday, 12 January 2008

iTECHNOMAN: Self-portrait

Self-portrait by Remigius de Souza, Mumbai, India (1972)
Colour on handmade paper 9"x 12"
© Remigius de Souza

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Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Earth suffers as we gobble up resources

Illustration: Population and energy consumption

Bungling clichés and biofuels (Review)

WE NEED to read carefully the following bookmarked article published in the New Scientist (July 7, 2007, p.15), for that any publication that shows concerns for the Earth, people or life.
I emphasise some of the words/phrases used by the author. And also examine the article with reference to the graph illustrated above in the following comment.

Earth suffers as we gobble up resources (New Scientist, July 7, 2008)

ALMOST one-quarter of nature's resources are being gobbled up by a single species, and it's not difficult to guess which one. Based on figures for the year 2000, the most recent available, humans appropriate 24 per cent of the Earth's production capacity that would otherwise have gone to nature.

The result is a gradual depletion of species and habitats as we take more of their resources for ourselves. Things could get even worse if we grow more plants like palm oil and rapeseed for biofuels to ease our reliance on fossil fuels.

That is the message from a team led by Helmut Haberl of Klagenfurt University in Vienna, Austria. Haberl and colleagues analysed UN Food and Agriculture Organization data on agricultural land use in 161 countries covering 97.4 per cent of farmland.

By comparing carbon consumption through human activity with the amount of carbon consumed overall, Haberl's team found that humans use some 15.6 trillion kilograms of carbon annually. Half was soaked up by growing crops. Another 7 per cent went up in smoke as fires lit by humans, and the rest was used up in a variety of other ways related to industrialisation, such as transport (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Haberl says that the Earth can just about cope if we meet future needs by producing food more efficiently. This could be done by intensifying agriculture on roughly the same amount of land as we use now. But we're asking for trouble, he says, if we expand production of biofuels, as the only fertile land available is tropical rainforests.

"If we want full-scale replacement of fossil fuels by biofuels, this would have dramatic implications for ecosystems," says Haberl. He warns that some projections foresee four or fivefold increases in biofuel production. "This would at least double the overall amount of biomass harvested, which is about 30 per cent above ground at present, but would increase to 40 or 50 per cent to meet these biofuel targets," he says.

This would mean clearing what remains of the world's rainforests in countries such as Brazil and Argentina. As well as wiping out thousands of species, this would have devastating effects on the climate, he says. Unlike farmland, forests help to seed rainfall because they have high evaporation rates.

"The less evaporation there is, the less rainfall there is and the whole system dries up," he says.

Source Citation:Coghlan, Andy. "Earth suffers as we gobble up resources.(This week: International news and exclusives)(more biofuels would result in depletion of species and habitats )." New Scientist 195.2611 (July 7, 2007): 15(1). British Council Journals Database. Gale. British Council - India. 29 Dec. 2007 .
Gale Document Number:A166276086

Who is responsible?

Para 1:
Key Words: 1. ‘a single species’, i.e. humans; why accuse entire human population on the planet, when the so-called advance or industrial societies, whether in the First World or the Third World counties, is gobbling the resources of the Earth for their greed for power and profit?

2. ‘Earth’s productive capacity’; as if the Earth is a giant industrial enterprise in imitation, like ‘other’ human societies now westernised, of the omnipotent industrial society of the West!
3. ‘nature’ (last word of the 1st Para). Where is it? What is it?

Para 2:

Perhaps by ‘nature’ the author means ‘species’ and ‘habitats’ that are depleting. Does that also include other humans in the Third World and the Fourth world, who being weaker sections, face and are subjected to exploitation, oppression, displacement for development from their habitats, joblessness, hunger (for food), starvation, diseases, and deaths and suicides caused, either directly or by proxy now or in the past by the powerful and the advance societies?

Key words: ‘we’, ‘bio fuels’, ‘fossil fuels' and ‘our reliance’.
Who are refereed to as ‘we’ and ‘our’? The article does not mention the wars that going on against humans and the insects. The illustration in the article shows a harvester machine in an immensely large farm, or mechanised farming, which is practiced in the developed countries. However the undeveloped societies use human and animal energies, and least fossil fuel energy, in farming.

Para 3:
Typically this comes down upon ‘agricultural land use’, as if ‘we’ sustain on the synthetic foods manufactured in the labs and industries.

Para 4:

Key word: ‘carbon consumption’. According to an expert quoted, ‘half (50%) of it is soaked up growing crops…and 7% went up in the smoke as fires lit by the humans. Compare this statement with the graph of energy consumption above. It will be clear where do the finite resources and fossil fuels vanish; namely, to add and expand insatiable want to produce enormous wealth and the waste, which cannot be recycled.

Rest of the article mentions expert opinions and hypotheses, but both the author and the experts fail to advice, who should do what. The author could have started straight with ‘biofuels’, but bungles up the needs and the wants, and the clichés, and typically avoids the inevitable conclusions.

It is not easy to get over the mindset (or mind block) and go beyond the rationale or logic. Which scientist/s would daresay anything at the cost of financial, or even physical, security? It may create a worst situation than the Inquisitions in the Middle Ages of Europe.

Whatever issue one may begin with holistic approach to land, waters and the living beings one would reach at an inevitable conclusion: “Stop all further industrial development and production. Divert all the research to carry post-mortems of all the crimes by the industrial civilisation upon other societies, other humans and the living beings, and be prepared for the payback time.”

Remigius de Souza

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Tuesday, 1 January 2008

The British-made education in India

The British-made education in India
by Remigius de Souza

A few educated persons read “Indian Schooling” (published in 1990). Their response prompted me to elaborate my 600-word article. I continued to work on the issue of education.

The British-made education, since its inception in India, has indeed made an impact upon its subjects, either to be aware of their subjugation by the British rule and rebel or to submit without a second thought and accept colonial masters then and now the neo-colonial.

Sixty years of Independence failed to bring any relevant change appropriated to her people in the literacy and education in the country. Though the British Empire collapsed in due times its education system has become global, with minor adjustments, though it’s neither universal nor relevant in the changing times.

There were merely ten percent educated people when the late G. K. Gokhale tried to bring his bill of Compulsory Primary Education in the Privy Council. Now it is claimed the literacy level is at 60 percent, though it varies from 100 to 4/5 percent in different places. Most of them do not practice or use literacy effectively.

The majority – the peasants – have stubbornly keeping away from the formal schooling for obvious and often repeated reason: It is irrelevant for their survival (Read: to live sanely), or in other words, it lacks imparting “life-supporting skills”. Eighteen years after writing this article I feel it is still valid.

I continue to post more on education.

© Remigius de Souza
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