Think Local, Act Global

 Siddiq Wahid

The world realized that noise for uniformity in the interests of corporate wealth and political power was not same as unity in diversity. The rationality of inherited community values and wisdom and space for individual choice are important. The intertwining of economics and politics has made conflicted disputes in different parts of the world more complicated and disheartening. In case of Kashmir, it has become clear that, resolution of dispute will need forward thinking, rooted in historical experience and paradigm shift in policy. We must learn to draw the line, within ourselves between state power and free individual. In concrete  terms, it means living an ethical life. It means to be civil in public, to say no to stealing electricity, no to paying bribes, to grow what we eat, to cultivate relationship between ourselves, individually and collectively.

Excerpts:

 

Unity in diversity:

         “More than a quarter of a century ago, we were introduced to a figure of speech which quickly became a popular figure of thought. “Think global, act local.” The maxim promptly became the political equivalent of an advertisement ditty. In effect, it trained us to adopt conformity in thought and accept uniformity in behavior. Not surprisingly, economic globalization was almost immediately opposed by arguments against its political implications of making the local subservient to a presumed global standard. Between 1990 and 2012 the logic and importance of group identity and options of individual choice asserted itself with civil wars and “rainbow revolutions” around the world. People discovered that the noise for uniformity in the interests of corporate wealth and political power was not the same as the slogan of ‘unity in diversity’. The rationality of much of inherited community values and the wisdom of space for individual choice, it turns out, is important after all.      The effects of the tension between globalism and localism were felt in all parts of the world including Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and East Asia. It was famously theorized by the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington as a “clash of civilizations” and depicted as a confrontation between the ideologies of occidental liberalism in a new version of the “oriental despotism” of Karl Wittfogel, with both east and west treated as homogenous monoliths.”

 

Need for paradigm shift:

“The above is by way of a preamble to today’s essay, which continues the theme of my last column on how to situate the State of J&K in the context of world events. Today we include some thoughts on resisting the oppressions of uniformity and conformity. We are not alone, because all the rainbow revolution communities are experiencing the deep oppression unleashed by the convergence of corporate and governmental gluttony for power. It is this intertwining of economics and politics, of new money and new values as if the past did not exist. This phenomenon has made conflicted disputes like Kashmir, Afghanistan, Xinjiang, Tibet – and others in other parts of the world – complicated and disheartening, menacingly complex. There is a need to understanding this complexity case by case and conflict by conflict”.

 

Case of J&K:

“We consider the State of J&K. One of the home truths that emerges from the complexities in the State of J&K is that the time for “incremental solutions” towards the solution of “issues” to resolve the overall dispute has now past us. There was a time in the phase that started in 1990, when segments of the its population thought that CBMs, “roundtables”, the “economy”, “youth employment”, and, of course, the mere “process” of talks would advance the cause of resolution. No more. Today it is plain that the resolution of the dispute will need forward-thinking rooted in historical experience, paradigm shifts in policy and personal statesmanship”.

 

“While we do not hold our breaths for those criteria to converge in decision-making by the South Asian leadership, it was equally obvious that waiting with our hands tied is not an option. The discovery resulted in an armed insurgency in Kashmir in 1989 which cut the web-knot created by lies, deceit and obfuscation. But our violence was no match for the legitimized violence of the state, as had become apparent by 1996. In that year, the Indian state reverted to its old formula, rule by procuratorial governance. Predictably that, too, failed. “Bilateralism” with a twist became the old-new experiment in the form of war and war talk after the Kargil conflict of 1999. It held until 2007 with talks of the front and “back channel” varieties. But none of these incrementalities has worked. Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, the world has not remained stationary. The dispute has gotten more complex as populist authoritarianism has steadily gained ground around the world: in the United States and the Philippines, Egypt and Iran, India and Israel. Meanwhile, authoritarianisms marriage with money to create pliant consumers has made resistance more complex. To quote Sheldon Wolin, the late political scientist, we live in a world that “perpetuates a politics that is not political”. In South Asia, the BJP-RSS combine, just as it latched on to the politics of identity in the early 1990s, clings to the new global trend as a godsend to see it through its atrocities in Kashmir. What are we in Kashmir and the state of J&K in general to do to counter these developments?”

 

Drawing the Lines:

“Each one of us must learn to draw the line, within ourselves, between state power and free individual. In concrete terms, it means living an ethical life. Namely, to understand environmental degradation and enduring the effort it implies; to dilute the lines that we draw between accepting personal favors from the state while ignoring systemic failures that hamper community life; to be civil in public and demanding in private, rather than the other way around; to say no to stealing electricity; to not paying bribes and living with its costs. And two more things: (i) to grow what we eat and (ii) to cultivate relationships between ourselves individually and collectively to understand each other better. (We will elaborate on this in the next column). This approach requires a theoretical understanding of our collective condition. Our fightback must be empowered by rationality, logic and scholastic rebuttals. But it is equally essential that we resist the state’s governmentality as emotional citizens, fortified with the passion provoked by pain. Our introspection must be a genuine self-critique, among the corollaries of which is the ability to recognize the good in others. As someone has said: if it is politics, it is intensely personal. There is no easy way around it. It is the price we pay (and are made to pay) for the complexity that is the dispute over the State of J&K. As we have tried to illustrate, this complexity is no less than the latest phase in globalization which merges monetary corporatism with authoritarian rule, cultivates consumer citizenry and despotic majoritarianism. We understand this global trend and it is in this light that we must see our demand for radical decentralization and the right to determine our own futures social, political and commercial. This is our definition of globality as border-dwellers. One way to bring home our argument is to stand the ditty of “think global, act local” upside down. To reject the global trend and to propose that the world may be better off if we “think local and act global”.

 

[Courtesy: daily Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, September 23, 2018].

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