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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dehumanization 101: What's (still) happening to the Penans?, what price progress?

What price progress?
Azly Rahman

Civilisation carries with it the necessity for technological progress and more inventions. But if Nature is destroyed in the process of creating 'civilisations', what does being 'civilised' mean? Would 'going back to Nature' and 'destroying civilisations' be a better way to conceive the meaning of human progress? Must human beings de-evolve, de-urbanise, de-technologise and de-construct themselves in order to save Humanity from its environmental doom?

Industrialisation is a process of transforming nature to culture by the state's appropriation of natural resources. The resources are transformed into technology and techniques and applications derived from the use of science help fuel inventions. Inventions are products/artifacts of the activities of the human mind, activities that are fueled by the need to master man's destiny and the environment. But these inventions contain 'inert capital’ in them, transforming human labour into technologies.

Technologies are then used to further transform nature into culture. Culture in this sense means the culture that comes into being as a result of human beings' economic activities. Modern governments, such as those installed in Sabah and Sarawak, are the necessary evil – they use the state apparatuses and transform the environment by collaborating with powerful multinational corporations in speeding up the use of natural resources, leaving the land barren and human beings in famine and poverty-stricken. Enlightened citizens must collectively revolt against governments that systematically destroy the environment in the name of 'civilisation' and 'progress'.

Citizens must raise the consciousness on the power of these post-modern multinational corporation in that the power these primarily Western-industrialised corporations have are used to bring destruction to the peoples of this Earth as evident in the refusal of powerful nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and other global treaties that are enforced to save planet Earth.

Eco-philosophical thinking

Thinking of the Penans and of the blockades against logging, I think of a world inspired by ecological security as a paradigm of a post-global Depression Obamanomics era.

"Ecosophy" or the paradigm of thinking that synthesizes "ecological security" and "natural philosophy" ought to be explored if we are to honor Mother Earth and tame Father Hell. We need to engage in a form of thinking that takes preservation of the environment as a philosophy of development.

Amongst this is to "reuse" and not "recycle". Recycling takes a lot more energy. We need to explore what paradigm of thinking to "reuse" and what to avoid "recycling".

We should not even "recycle" politicians who are corrupted or has a record of destroying the environment. We should not even reuse them.

To engage in an "ecosophical" thinking means to go back to the drawing board of everything and rethink even the way we think. It is going even beyond metacognition; beyond even understanding the way we think about how we think about the world around us.

This might be a mentally paralysing notion even for the thinkers in our government ministries but it is worth exploring. "Ecosophy" takes into consideration not only the environment but the radical ideas about the self itself.

I believe the Orang Asli of Malaysia - the "un-modernized" Temuans, Senoi, Semang, Jakun, Sakai, etc. - can explain this idea of human development better than any expert in any international development bank or in the Ministry of the Environment. I believe too that the Orang Asal of Sabah and Sarawak, the different tribes of the Dayaks, can teach the modern "civilized" man how not to plunder and rape ancestral lands. I believe these natives can teach us in Putrajaya what "ecosophical" thinking means.

"Ecosopohy", independence, and freedom are not a slogans but an existential state of mind and a condition of 'lived democracy', one in which citizens are aware of how oppressive systems that destroys the environment are cultivated. From ecosophy we might learn how to "revilligize" and relearn what "kampong-ism" means, a form of economic thinking that values pastoralism.

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