Monday, September 7, 2009

Every drop goes to make an Ocean ...

First published on Desicritics.

I believe in this maxim, now more than ever. I believe that a collective of something makes a much, much larger whole. That a little action can change the course of things. Of course it does.

These last 2 days I was a in a forum where there were discussions on ethics in science and technology (s&t) ... so there were these scientists, experts and there were a few of us trying to make sense of it all. These were scientists from various streams - from Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Biologists, Physicists, Information Technology etc.etc. And one got a faint glimpse into a world that otherwise one never gets to look into. One also got another glimpse. A glimpse into the relationships between S&T, Profit and Government. A glimpse of an animal that is Profit+Power that is served by Knowledge (of S&T). It felt odd to see the great being that is Knowledge (Science&Technology), as a dog chained and used by the P+P.

A few months ago, I had had an opportunity to get a glimpse into the world of our powers-that-be - the world of the decision makers, the bureaucrats. I was horrified at the helplessness that was expressed in that forum. At that time I couldn't digest the helplessness in the selling out of our powers-that-be to something which we are not able to clearly see.

It felt like society was addicted to, hooked on the P+P. Like a Cocaine fix, even knowing that it is eating up our insides, we (as a society) serve the addiction, in little and big ways. Somewhere we have lost control and our (society's) addictions (plus its helplessness) have taken over.

I think we really, really, really don't understand the nature of the addiction, the nature of this animal, Profit+Power<-served-by-Knowledge-and-governments. I don't think we really understand how deep the rot is or how rotten the rot that permeates our worlds. Believe me, I have NOTHING against profit. Honest gains from honest efforts. 10%, 20%, 30%... all acceptable. How about 500%? or 1000% or 5000%? And we wouldn't want to know what goes behind making that 1000%.

If we want change, we have to commit to it, with all our strength, with all our will. Because the animal that is Profit+Power<-served-by-Knowledge-and-governments is putting out 100% effort into feeding itself. And once we make this commitment, we can WILL change.

And induce The Butterfly Effect.

And the change is happening. Another World is happening. It is happening because more and more people are discussing issues of equity, justice, plurality, sustainability, choices, rights ... ordinary people, teachers, doctors, scientists, law-makers, bureaucrats, youth groups, women and so on ... more and more people are committing to change, deciding to change.

If change is seen in the span of decades, it is disheartening ... but seen in a span of centuries, one sees a very certain and positive movement towards respect for all. We have come a long, long way from when women were burnt at the husband's pyre, or slaves were whipped in cotton fields, or education was only for a privileged few. We have come a long way from where the only answer came from the gun, where the poor or women could not vote, or religion controlled society, or people could be touched or included based on their caste.

These monsters are still there. These animals still breathe and feed themselves. But slowly, inexorably they are being curtailed. And this happens only because change is demanded - again and again - by people who want change, who are committed to change. Because issues like Ethics in Science & Technology get discussed. Because Right to Information, Shelter, Livelihood and Life become norms.

A different Revolution

Sometimes revolution is brought about by Butterflies. It does not always require warriors. Every Era has had its revolutions, its movements that have inexorably ploughed across widespread practices that were detrimental to human dignity. Some of these revolutions have been violent, bloody and have wiped out whole sections of society.

I believe that this Era will see a different quality in its revolution. Like the industrial revolution or the IT revolution, that came about by initiatives peppered across the world which finally cohesed into a visible pattern.

Socio-Political Change, this time round will happen due to a negation, a rejection of current, unacceptable trends. Sometimes when the boulder is too huge to move or blast, the only way or the best way might be to go around it.

Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas ?
said, Philip Merilees. The above phrase refers to the Butterfly Effect – a phenomenon whereby a very insignificant change in a complex system can significantly alter an anticipated course of events. It refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events.

The reverse also holds true. For if we are to reverse or slow down the current trends of Profit+Power, it can only happen through tens of thousands of small and large initiatives the world over. It would require the flapping of a million butterfly wings to stop the juggernaut that we are facing.

It may be visible in that more and more parents opt out for a non-aggressive education system for their children, that doesn't churn out Einsteins, but engages the child in blossoming to his/her own potential. We see more and more people opting out for alternative medicinal systems moving away from the invasive, non-supporting systems. We see more and more people taking care of themselves, their families, their extended families, their young, old and disabled. Eating better food. Wearing more natural clothes. We see more and more open systems, free exchanges taking place, sharing information, being more open and transparent about feelings and thoughts. More and more movies are not so much about conquering as they are about resolving things. More and more people opt for a different, healthier government. More and more people are opting for jobs that satisfy than jobs that just pay. People are finding commonalities in unexpected forums, the commonality being a non-acceptance of the present conditions.

This tide that seems to be turning is happening for one reason alone ... people have decided to change. People have started making different personal choices. People have decided to want something else.

The beauty of this change is in its innocuousness. In its very non-aggression. In its very simplicity. Every era had its mode of change and this era promises a non-violent one. The only way to deal with the enormity of the situation which is difficult to perceive or see.

The section on "Butterflies" precisely honors such change-making initiatives, people and ideas.