Is it the distance?
I claim myself to be a considerable, sensitive and rational person. But that claim seems dubious when I realize that I don’t really care as deeply as I should about some of the important issues that are affecting the larger society. I have thought about this contradiction and here is my hypothesis – I think it is my distance from these issues that makes me think about them less deeply. There seems to be a armour of impersonality that chokes the flow of emotions between two creatures.
I don’t fret about large dams. I am fine with over consumption and unsustainable management of resources. I continue to consume water and electricity harnessed at a far away place without really thinking about any local solutions such as rainwater harvesting or solar power. The reason for my insensitivity could be that I don’t have to personally go and push people away from their villages to submerge their lands. I am emotionally involved in the issue as I have recruited the Government to be my agent! I am not seeing any immediate harm. I have vested my government with all the powers to commit the necessary crime and coercion, induce the misery on my behalf!
I no longer get singled out for the crimes I am committing on nature and hence on the people and animals who are dependent on it. Now there is a system in place, supported by corporate and media, which worships and encourages reckless consumption. The abstractness of “class” makes it difficult to pinpoint the victim. There is strength in numbers. I want others to drive less and consume less. I am upset with everyone else except myself. When I scorn at this ugly world, I forget that I too am part of that world and most of the times that scorn should be directed inwards as I have played an important role in bringing this world to this point!
Only when interactions get personal can I learn to think and feel about the world deeper than I do now. People ask me, why is it that some Indians worship cow and don’t eat it? For the same reason that you don’t treat your dog as food! Admittedly, dog meat may not be as tasty as beef, but it is not a practice for people to kill their dogs! Why? Because dogs are part of the family. They are closer to your heart. Cows have supported families in India by providing them with milk and dung. Milk provided the necessary calories and nutrients in the form of food while dung was a source of fuel. It is easy for people to be emotional and spiritual when it comes to cows because that is the kind of interaction they have had with cows all these years. The relationship with livestock is not purely economic. Now a days, there is a distance between our life and the consequences of our lifestyle! I no longer have to worry about the cows or any other animals. I have outsourced these interactions and hence in a way has fuelled all the cruelty.
My interaction with nature these days is completely impersonal! Hence I have no real connection with people, animal, trees, insects and other natural beings around us! This lack of connection is hollowing me out making me all shallow and self-centred! I am distant from the activities that are needed to make me feel connected to the world. I don’t grow my own food own – hence rains piss me off! I don’t build things these days! I just buy stuff. Hence there is no attachment to save it or make it work! I have no idea of what goes into resource mining and where all the waste ends up! A world without emotions is purely mechanical, metallic, toxic! Now a days, I wonder how many of us really enjoy the basics of life – food, friendship, and love, when the media is constantly reconditioning us how to live, love, buy, and be unhappy all the time! At the risk of sounding like a hippy, I want so say that world’s problems can be solved only if we re-establish the connection with the natural world! And yes, that does not mean camping in Yellowstone or backpacking in Yosemite!