Tuesday, January 19 2010
Dear friends organising and/or coming to the WRI Conference in Ahmedabad
I am writing, as a fellow traveller and participant at the Ahmedabad Conference, to comment on the agenda and programme, and to put forward a request for modifying it. In these terms, I have been glad to note that the document that has been circulated says that the programme is still provisional, so I do hope that what I have to say can be taken into account !
Let me first lay out the ground. In short, I want to suggest that we, as a species, are today faced with what is in some ways almost totally new forms, or manifestations, of war and violence. Given this, I want to suggest, in all modesty – as a relative outsider – that WRI, as one of the most significant and creative anti-war formations that today exists, must make its business to address this new situation – and even if requires, as I think it does, new ways of thinking and new ways of looking at war and violence; and that given the urgency of the issue and that WRI happens to be organising a world conference at this juncture, it should take this opportunity to do so at Ahmedabad itself.
The new form/s of war and violence are related to climate change. First, I suggest we need to see what is happening in the world today – the rape of the planet – as human beings waging war on Planet Earth. We need to have this on our agenda. (In case you have not seen the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand? titled ‘Home’, please do so; you can see and/or download it @ www.home-2009.com/.)
Second, as I see it – drawing of course from others, and from the debate that is raging in the world today – we are today faced with a situation where there is every likelihood that we are going to go past the tipping point in the foreseeable future; and that as the heat builds up over the next fifty years, literally and figuratively, and as waters rise and other resources such as land are depleted, we will move into a historically totally new stage of unpredictable non-linear system collapse, in turn unleashing forces in combinations that we as yet know nothing about and therefore today, as yet, have no ways of addressing; for the so-far somewhat linear, predictable systems and processes of ‘national’ social organisation, planning, government, and decision-making that we so far know and depend on are likely to be completely inadequate.
Even though this might sound rather like a doomsday prediction, I believe we need to accept that this is today a definite possibility, in large part because the most of the governments of the world – and especially those of large countries, both from the North and the South, have – by virtue of their greed for power-over and their focus on ‘national interests’, and their consequent short-sightedness and inability to think of the interests of the planet as a whole – already made clear at Copenhagen this last month that they are unwilling to address the incipient war and violence that is looming (and in some ways have already been unleashed) in the form of cataclysmic climate change; and that they are structurally incapable of doing so.
(This is not at all to suggest that governments are the only agent of social and political change, but simply to recognise the political reality that as things stand, we as human beings have so far given governments the virtual monopoly of making decisions on our behalves at the global level.)
To my understanding, if any of this makes any sense, then there are at least four key aspects of this situation that we must address :
One, and as above : What is the nature of this war ? How should we conceive of war on a planet, and how can we fight this ?
Two, that as the serial impacts of climate change begin to be experienced, we are going to see human migration at a scale that has not been known in history, and as resources deplete and competition rises, wars – serial wars – will break out between peoples, between communities, and between nations; and also, in a new development, between movements representing different constituencies – a situation that will pose entirely new challenges;
Three, not surprisingly, the forces that are primarily responsible for the climate change and crisis that Planet Earth is today facing are primarily corporate in nature, driven by profit and greed; but as the situation worsens, we are also going to see opening up a situation both of struggle between corporate forces that finally declare their autonomy of social-governmental control to defend the profit and rape that they believe is their right; and where in doing so, they will also take up arms against the rest of society that now begins to openly struggle for the same scarce resources;
Four, since we are today already in a situation where large numbers of ordinary human beings have also become accomplice to the violence being inflicted by corporate greed – by virtue of our lifestyles and individual consumption habits – we must therefore look not only at corporations but also at ourselves and our complicity; and how to break these chains, in terms of production, consumption, and the handing of waste.
As I say, to my knowledge at least (and where I am the first to admit that this is very limited) we as yet have very little understanding of this unfolding future; and so my further suggestions to WRI and this conference are first, that implicitly, this new situation fundamentally re-defines ‘war’ (or rather, in some ways takes us back into definitions that I think we thought we had moved past, centuries ago) – and WRI therefore perhaps needs to reformulate its conceptualisation of the subject; and beyond this, two, that this new situation possibly brings into question all forms of organisation and resistance that we today know of, possibly even making them irrelevant; in part because of its enormous, all-encompassing scale and in part because of its non-linear, unpredictable, and ‘chaotic’ nature.
But if this scenario is at all valid, then I think we must ask ourselves : In a phrase, what does this scenario have to say to WRI ? And equally, what does WRI have to say to it, and what does non-violence and non-violent resistance have to offer to this future ?
Over these past weeks, and as I waited for the Conference programme, I had been hoping to see some reflections and refractions of this scenario in the exchange on this group and in the proposed agenda; or other interpretations of it. Now that I have seen the programme however, and even though I recognise that the issues that the programme has laid out are in themselves totally valid and are even structurally related to the new forces that I have sketched out above, I do not see this content there; and so I would in short like to humbly suggest that being held as it is in January 2010, immediately after the farce, failure, and tragedy of Copenhagen, the Ahmedabad Conference must surely try – even at this late stage – to address this new scenario.
(Ideally, the organisers of the Ahmedabad Conference would have anticipated the almost certain failure that was going to taken place in Copenhagen, and planned ahead for this (and/or planned ahead anticipating all the likely outcomes); but even if this is not the case, it is – I would like to suggest – never too late, and on the contrary that it is incumbent on an organisation such as WRI to do so.)
With all due respect, while the agenda that has been proposed for the Ahmedabad Conference is certainly very valid in terms of history and reality as we today know it and as we have experienced over the past fifty years – and indeed, where much of this will in principle also hold true for the next fifty years, too – I would like to suggest that the issues that have been otherwise so well articulated there will be totally dwarfed by the new scenario of war and violence that is unfolding in our times, on our planet; and that we must, as sensate beings, take a longer view and try and read this fundamentally existential moment in the history of life on planet earth, and address it. With whatever acumen we have, and with all the force that we have.
I know that raising such issues two days before a major conference may be seen as being not very helpful, but I urge you all to please – please – take a step back to pause and reflect on what I, at least, see – and have laid out above – as happening, and to consider my suggestion and request. I am hoping that what I am saying will be seen in terms of the urgency of the times we are living in, and also of the moment we have in Ahmedabad, of bringing together some of the finest and most sensitive and creative anti-war and resistance strategists in the world. Do we seize this opportunity, or do we not ?
One more point : If my arguments and suggestions make any sense to you, then I also urge the organisers and participants of the Ahmedabad Conference to also look ahead to the ‘Peoples’ World Conference On Climate Change And The Rights Of Mother Earth’ that has been called by Evo Morales as President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia in April this year, which to my understanding says many sensible things; and, moreover, attempt to actively relate to it. As I am laying out elsewhere (in an initiative some of us in India are planning to take towards acting in solidarity with this initiative), I believe that the Bolivian initiative, by itself but all the more if taken together with other initiatives being taken by the indigenous peoples and nations of South and Central America, is something very special; and so, and even though I think it is perhaps the case that WRI has in the past tended to act somewhat independently, charting its own course, I suggest that today it is time to collaborate and to synergise. You can get more information at http://cmpcc.org/.
With warm greetings, with the deepest concern but also in hope, trust, and peace –