I was reading through Arundhati Roy’s recent essay, getting goose bumps the way you do reading Arundhati Roy, when she brought to mind a suspicion you get every once in a while. I was thinking this while listening to a presentation about the ecological destruction of nuclear plants – the way they screw things up for anyone that wants to eat fish, shrimp or crabs from a river. An organic farmer buddy of mine got some laughs when he yelled at Kyushu power company representatives for ramming through a pump storage dam. (Miles of tunnels through a mountain that also has its top removed and dimpled into a concrete donburi bowl to produce horrible stagnant water after destroying a rare tree copse and clear stream. ‘Cost Plus’ electricity pricing makes this idiotic endeavor of immense techinical prowess a profitably expensive, horrible inefficient means to waste away Nuclear excess energy at a cost of 200 dollars for Kyushu inhabitant head.)
The organic farmer is a sweet guy and probably laughed with everyone even though he was serious when he said, salaried employees can travel abroad and play golf, but the poor rural citizen enjoys fishing. The cheap pasttime of fishing for Ayu sweetfish depends on undammed and healthy rivers. What right do these pin-headed bureacrats have to take that away. I’m embellishing a bit but that’s the gist of what he said. Valuable (and tasty) eels, fish, shrimp and crabs depend on both the ocean and rivers. Salmon aren’t the only impressive swimmers and movers.
I replied to the farmer’s honest mailing list post with a link to the Japanese version of Noam Chomsky’s Democracy and Education lecture at Loyola University.
Nobel Prize winning economist James Buchanan, who writes that "what each person seeks in an ideal situation is mastery over a world of slaves." That’s what you seek, in case you hadn’t noticed. Something that an Adam Smith would have regarded as simply pathological.
Maybe this goal is what Arundhati Roy’s Finance-cum-Home Minister, Enron Lawyer and all-round Coca Cola guy is working for in his own sublte little way.
The battle for land lies at the heart of the ‘development’ debate. Before he became India’s finance minister, P. Chidambaram was Enron’s lawyer and member of the board of directors of Vedanta, a multinational mining corporation that is currently devastating the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa. Perhaps his career graph informed his worldview. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In an interview a year ago, he said that his vision was to get 85 per cent of India’s population to live in cities. Realising this ‘vision’ would require social engineering on an unimaginable scale. It would mean inducing, or forcing, about five hundred million people to migrate from the countryside into cities. That process is well under way and is quickly turning India into a police state in which people who refuse to surrender their land are being made to do so at gunpoint. Perhaps this is what makes it so easy for P. Chidambaram to move so seamlessly from being finance minister to being home minister. The portfolios are separated only by an osmotic membrane. Underlying this nightmare masquerading as ‘vision’ is the plan to free up vast tracts of land and all of India’s natural resources, leaving them ripe for corporate plunder. In effect, to reverse the post-independence policy of land reforms.
Based on the absurd notion that a river flowing into the sea is a waste of water, the Supreme Court, in an act of unbelievable hubris, has arbitrarily ordered that India’s rivers be interlinked, like a mechanical water supply system. Implementing this would mean tunnelling through mountains and forests, altering natural contours and drainage systems of river basins and destroying deltas and estuaries. In other words, wrecking the ecology of the entire subcontinent. (B.N. Kirpal, the judge who passed this order, joined the environmental board of Coca-Cola after he retired. Nice touch!)
Destroying the environmental basis for survival in the countryside will contribute to moving a lot of people into the cities. What will everyone eat in the cities? Silicon? Can’t the corporate-state judges rest before every single human being is completely dependent on their control pyramid organizations? This kind of dependency basically means no alternative to enslavement, I would imagine.
Productively filling hot humid and therefore sleepless nights with Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America makes me wonder about the names of India’s land reformer equivalents of Jose Artigas (Uruguay and Argentina) and Emiliano Zapata (Mexico) have been, are and are going to be. You can’t help but underline the parts you hope Obama will apply to his own situation as he reads Chavez’s gift. As if any of Obama’s advisors would let him read it Open Veins if he had the urge in the first place.