Monday, March 01, 2010

Tipping Point in History

We are at a tipping point of history.

Funny that I say that. Isn't history all about our past? About things that happened? If so, how can we be inside history, much less inside its tipping point?

But, I say History is as much about the past as it is about the present and the future. It is a narrative of time, which engulfs us and shapes us. Like air, it is possible not to see history or feel it; but it is not possible to escape its presence.

So, history has tipping points. It bends and turns, moves around. We may lose its sense, like the explorers on the Antarctic who would walk around on the Ice Floe and think that the compass is behaving erratically. However, there will be no mistakes when the Ice Floe melts under one's feet.

We are at such a point in History. The narrative that we live by are a combination of assumptions, ideas and imaginations, all linked up with the values and visions of an age. Such constructs are extremely solid when shaped, just like the Ice Floe, they seem to be the universal and perennial truth. We can live by them and construct the micro-narratives of our lives inside them. But, once in a while in history, such constructs become out of sync with time. They move, giving out incoherent signals on our compass. They make us do erratic things, things we feel are not leading us anywhere. That's the time when we must become conscious again about the ground beneath our feet, challenge our universal truths and ideas that we live by. That's the only way we can survive when what we thought as the earth melts away.

As I say, we are at such a point in history. We have painstaking built a narrative, over last two hundred odd years. It was an extremely rich and diverse narrative, and it has served us well. We managed to engulf more lives than anytime before inside that single narrative, making our horizons wider. We made assumptions, and as always, we assumed that the assumptions are the ever-existing truth. The narrative got so well that we believed that we have achieved the meta story finally, we are at the end of history.

But this is the time when the earth moved again. Our generation is suddenly entrusted with building a new story, a set of new constructs to live by, a vision of a new promised land, even if that's only another ice float. The compass may guide us, if we haven't lost faith on it and thrown it away, but it will still be our imagination which will make us survive. Welcome to the brave new world!

There are many things that will change, but first, the conception of history. We are at a time of deliverance, finally, from our colonial conception of the world. The Regents and the Imperial Armies are long gone, true; but the system of dependence they left, the divisions within the minds and the elaborate system of exploitation of man by man, is still very much alive and well. I say that colonial shadows can be seen in any modern city, which is a tool of that system of exploitation, a system of support for such sucking out of value, an artificially created cluster of people who are entrusted with the role of preserving the system. Look at all the squalor and erratic signals will come on your compass: This can't be right, you will say. That's what we have been doing every day - moving on and on, going around in circles - because we have not trusted our compass.


We did not trust the compass because we were taught not to trust it. We were shown the image of a distant ice formation, just like the explorer in the story. We knew that's where we have to get to. Just like England, or America. We constructed elaborate theories just how to get there. We talked about securing property rights, building plants and machinery, teaching English to people, inviting foreign investments, opening our markets for trade - all that. You see, we went around circular. Ideas moved from hot to cold and back to hot again. We thought we knew what we were doing, because we were looking out to the distant past of our colonial masters and studied how they did it. We forgot the context, we were told to forget our context, culture and the compass.


But then, it is the time when the world breaks down and return us to our sanity. The time is now. We seem to be in the middle of a deep crisis, which is getting worse every day - one that can potentially break all the sandcastles we built over last two centuries. All the values we were taught as children, and all the values we were planning to teach our children, are up in the air. There is a sort of tectonic shift in the world, and we are feeling the power of the quake.

I would like to say it is a shift to Asia, the tipping point which will see the Asian powers to rise and dominate the world agenda. Asians as producers, consumers, creators and entrepreneurs will take over the world. It will dominate thinking and value systems. It will start a new cycle in history.

But, my aspirations go further than that. An Asian domination in my mind is not an Asian domination which follows exactly the European pattern. It is more than that: It is a triumph of man's softer instincts, of respect, of communitarianism. Of the keen humility which maintains relationships and families, form the basis of religion and allow us as human beings to transcend the limitations of thinking and ability that we are born with. A sort of spiritual awakening, without the voodoo impact that this will invariably mean, but a better world with more individuals feeling an extra-legal obligation to do good, be good, to others.

At this point, I am turning a believer. Of the power of history, and of the endless possibilities of being human.






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