Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Recovering the Lost Tongue
My dear friend from my childhood, Rahul, has put up on the internet his account of his activist journey from 1983, when he fixed his personal life goals to the cause of empowerment of oppressed indigeneous peoples; in 1985 Rahul began working with the Bhil adiviasis (indigenous peoples) in central India. Thank you Rahul for this labour of love.
Rahul's book reminds me of Frederick Engels' words in the Introduction to the English edition of his Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, in which he wrote:
… It thus became necessary to take up the gauntlet thrown down to us, and to fight out the struggle whether we liked it or not.
This, however, though it might not be an over-difficult, was evidently a long-winded business. As is well known, we Germans are of a terribly ponderous Gründlichkeit, radical profundity or profound radicality, whatever you may like to call it. Whenever any one of us expounds what he considers a new doctrine, he has first to elaborate it into an all comprising system. He has to prove that both the first principles of logic and the fundamental laws of the universe had existed from all eternity for no other purpose than to ultimately lead to this newly discovered, crowning theory. And Dr. Dühring, in this respect, was quite up to the national mark. Nothing less than a complete System of Philosophy, mental, moral, natural, and historical, a complete System of Political Economy and Socialism ; and, finally, a Critical History of Political Economy -- three big volumes in octavo, heavy extrinsically and intrinsically, three army corps of arguments mobilized against all previous philosophers and economists in general, and against Marx in particular - in fact, an attempt at a complete "revolution in science" - these were what I should have to tackle. I had to treat of all and every possible subject, from the concepts of time and space to bimetallism, from the eternity of matter and motion to the perishable nature of moral ideas; from Darwin's natural selection to the education of youth in a future society. Anyhow, the systematic comprehensiveness of my opponent gave me the opportunity of developing, in opposition to him, and in a more connected form than had previously been done, the views held by Marx and myself on this great variety of subjects. And that was the principal reason which made me undertake this otherwise ungrateful task.
Here’s an extract from the introduction to Rahul's book.
Recovering the Lost Tongue is in a broad sense a manifesto of Anarcho-Environmentalism. This is told in the epic story telling style of the Bhil adivasis of central India who are its main protagonists. The tales of their struggles as well as the analysis of these are presented through the life experiences of two of the activists associated with the people's movements - the author, and his wife Subhadra Khaperde. The narrative has in addition a rich mixture of various other stories and histories, ancient and modern, local and global. The stories are all liberally laced with humour. There is also an element of suspense as the plot builds up through the various micro narratives, some personal, some organisational, some mythical and some historical, all woven together into the meta-narrative of the overall struggle against destructive modern development. Finally the tale reaches a very entertaining, well-argued and philosophically uncommon climax.
Despite the fact that Anarcho-Environmentalist movements have not been able to make a mass impact big enough to be able to achieve what they have set out to do, they have succeeded in underlining the crucial need for ensuring environmental sanity and socio-economic justice. Analysing in detail the characteristics of the present dominant development model and the reasons for its hegemony, the book ends by charting out a course to keep pegging at changing it for the better. The ending is a positive one, providing a modus operandi whereby even ordinary people can, singly, or in groups, act to bring about a saner socio-economic and environmental dispensation.
The name of the book is taken from a Bhili fable, as it is a description of the organised efforts of marginalised people trying to speak out against their oppression, which they had previously been suffering mutely in a culture of silence.
Read Recovering the Lost Tongue here.
Photo: Bhil father and son, by Peter Stalker, New Internationalist.