18 August 2011

You can only be a nationalist if you are green

‘Green’ is a political colour in Sri Lanka and has been for many decades.  It got perverted by the modernist intervention in agriculture which gave us mono crop cultures, high value crops, chemical inputs and in these and other ways poisoned our soils, crippled diversity and enslaved an entire sector of the economy to the whims and fancies of poison peddlers and machinery manufacturers. 

The modernist ‘moment’ is indeed a moment, when you consider the wide span of known history.  Resident in this moment is a kind of destruction that surpasses in magnitude the total errors of the long millennia that came before.  It is a moment defined by the word ‘over’; over-exploitation, over-reaction, over-consumption and other ‘overs’ that have sent not only over-zealous but everyone and everything overboard.  Almost. 

And now the experts on development are telling us, ‘hey, it’s all wrong, THIS and THAT are what you should be doing!’ where the THIS and THAT were what we were once told is unscientific, inefficient and keeps us underdeveloped.  That which we were coerced into abandoning is now being recycled back to us as some new found formula by the same peddlers of misinformation batting for big time buck-makers.  Now we are told to go green, in a different sense. 

If there’s any lesson in any of these processes, it is to exercise intellect and vigilance and complement such circumspection with unrelenting collective engagement with the pundits and their backers.  In this case, it is time that we went green on our terms, by drawing from the vast wealth of knowledge bequeathed to us in word, artifact and example by our ancestors and resident in treatise, cultural sensibility and custom. 

These are days of nationalism.  Chest-beating, we-vanquished-terrorism, kind of nationalism.  A proud nationalism that is ready to defy the world’s big-name thugs in order to protect the victory secured at great cost and after 30 long years of being held to ransom by terrorism.  Nationalism, however, is not only about meeting external threat.  One cannot be nationalist in part.  There is an internal and internalized enemy, far more pernicious and resilient than the pussy cat in tiger skin that was effectively eliminated in the battle field.  It is about acquired bad habits in all things, especially in how we engage with things pertaining to the earth, her creatures and resources. 

We’ve been quite treacherous as a people and a nation to these things, consciously or unconsciously.  Part of it can be attributed to the inevitable slave-mentality that is produced by five centuries of colonial rule and continuing subjugation in indirect form since independence.  There are things we cannot control, but there are things we can.  It is in this sense that greening, or determining to be more aware of the world around us, what we do to it and how our engagements can become wholesome, less destructive and directed towards correcting flaw that we can be more meaningful in our patriotism.

There are flag waving, anthem singing, satyagrahee patriots.  And there are those who in their every act resist the lies pertaining to appropriate understanding of earth.  Karl Polyani named ‘land’ as one of three ‘fictitious commodities’ (the others being labour and money), but the fiction lay not only in the fact that it is not a ‘discrete product’ due to inherent and sovereign dynamic but in the relation that the human being has to it.  This is the fiction that the true nationalist recognized and rebels again, in thought, word and deed. 

It is in this context that I salute the Central Environmental Authority for instituting a mechanism to reward such green patriots on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.  At a time when it is imperative that the world factors in environmental costs, it is important that those enterprises marked by conscious, sustained and effective initiatives in this respect are rewarded. 

The ‘National Green Awards’, I am told, seeks to recognize industries, local government authorities, public and private institutions and schools that are ‘green’ in thinking, practice and in outcomes produced.  This initiative, I hope, will help create a consciousness among consumer and producer regarding the importance of ‘being green’ with a view to making ‘greenness’ a sought-after brand attribute.  We must move consciously towards a future where the green value of a brand defines the potential of a brand to survive in a competitive environment. 

We’ve spat on the earth and in doing so, desecrated the work of our ancestors.  This is the time for remorse and a conscious effort to redeem ourselves.  Sadly, it comes not as a choice but an imperative.  Not just for our ancestors, but ourselves and the generations we spawn collectively.  And for the butterfly whose flight path enchants, the call of the koha, the well that was never meant to go dry, earth-turning at ploughing and then again at threshing time, calamities that are natural and not precipitated by greed, arrogance and ignorance, a bird call at twilight and freedom from the fear of contracting yet unnamed diseases. 

There’s a question that every chest-beating nationalist should first answer: are you green or are you not?  A ‘green’ response necessitates a particular kind of being and becoming.  A negative response calls for giving the chest a break. 

[Courtesy Daily News, August 18, 2011]


Geethanjana said...

‘Land,’ one of three ‘fictitious commodities’; fiction lay not only in the fact that it is not a ‘discrete product’ due to inherent and sovereign dynamic but in the relation that the human being has to it. This is the fiction that the true nationalist recognized and rebels again, in thought, word and deed." It is sad because many do not see this reality.

Keep up good work Malinda, hopefully others will do their part as well in the same line of thought.