The year 2016, according to many, has been frustrating for several reasons. While the sharp increase in violence across the globe may justify labeling 2016 as ‘horrible’, one can also rightly claim that the ugly face of violence has manifested itself for decades together. In such a bleak scenario, where do we go? And how do we deal with this mess?
Global processes also impact regions like Goa in multiple ways. In contemplating the many terrible events of 2016, it is worth reflecting upon the recent statement of Jorge Barreto Xavier, the former Secretary of State for Culture in Portugal. Delivering one of the keynote addresses a month ago at the VII Goa Arts and Literature Fest, Xavier spoke about the importance of writers and artists creating discourses that address the existence of inequalities and injustices present in our societies; the ones that sit quite comfortably under our noses.
From the keynote address it becomes obvious that Xavier is deeply concerned with the inequalities wrought by globalization, and its economic and political setups. Xavier observed, “Statistical data also shows that the rich are getting richer. Personally I have nothing against wealth-creation. We need to encourage entrepreneurs to generate wealth. But I have a lot against the accumulation of wealth that is not re-distributed…the degree of inequality achieved nowadays cannot be considered fair”.
Observing that due to rapid globalization “we are moving very fast”, he suggested that “we must have the wisdom and the courage to walk more slowly”. He further said that “[t]he vertigo of the present time is driving us to exhaustion – emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion, intellectual exhaustion, exhaustion of natural resources, exhaustion of sustainability”.
Xavier emphasized that we need “a slower economy of life”. Because only in such a mode “there will be a world for the future generation and sustainability for the present. Today, it seems that we have forgotten the pact that [has] lasted for millennia – one generation receives the patrimony from the previous, and passes onto the next”. The earth must be allowed to recover itself every year, and the next generation must also be allowed to lead a life of dignity. This is possible only if we slow down, Xavier emphasized.
If we look at the last couple of decades of the history of ‘development’ in Goa, it would be painfully obvious that Goa and Goans indeed need a slower economy of life. Perhaps, what may not be very obvious is how events in distant corners of the earth may impact Goa. In other words, we may not be thinking of Goa’s problems in global terms. Let’s look at the mining boom that followed China’s bid to host the summer Olympics (among many other such recent examples). China’s voracious appetite for even low-grade ore led to rampant over-mining in Goa, according to many reports.
There is also a human cost that needs to be borne by the peoples and regions at the receiving end of globalization and development. Most discussions about Goa’s troubled (and troubling) industries like mining and tourism highlight the rampant corruption, the deliberate losses imposed on the state exchequer, and the general losses suffered by the economy. However, one rarely comes to terms with the human loss and the loss of dignity in the ensuing chaos. The mining boom around 2008 saw many persons investing their life’s savings to earn from the transportation services then in high demand. While all liabilities such as loans were the sole responsibility of the individual – and not the mining companies – the sudden halt of all the mining activities somewhere in 2014 led to families sinking nose-deep in debt. The mounting debts drove many to suicide. These were not of course the only deaths related to mining; there are also the innumerable people who died in mining-related road accidents.
The human and environmental cost is quite visible when we start accepting that the current rate of development has robbed the Goa of human dignity, and the environment of its ability to renew itself. One sees that the people of Goa feel that they have either lost or are fast losing any control over their individual and collective destinies. What then of people, their lives, their culture, and their livelihoods?
I have written about the tourism industry in the past and how its ‘development’ has created more problems than solving the existing ones. Recent governmental bodies such as the Investment Promotion Board that promotes real estate and industries only add to the rapidity, the vertigo, and the dizziness of our times.
A ‘slow economy of life’ would necessitate that we start thinking of‘development’ as essentially sustaining the natural and human resources. With elections round the corner one will hear so much talk about what needs to be done and what should be done. But the question that needs to be asked is whether the current political and economic establishment would end up exhausting ourselves.There should be a balance between work and leisure, with emphasis on the dignity of the human while enjoying the fruits of the earth in moderation.
(A slightly modified version first appeared on O Heraldo, dt: 4 January, 2016)