Thursday, August 02, 2007

A-A have a deep discussion

Brothers A-A-A are children of hegira. Parts of our families moved from one part of Desh to another when different parts fell apart during the tumultuous 1970s, and before that, the 1940s. Our parents left Desh for work. And now, the time has come for one of them to make a choice: return to Desh in search of a home that they may not recognise, or stay in a land that they do not recognise as home.

Reflecting this, Amar noted: Strange is the life of the exile and the emigrant.

From this, the following conversation ensued.

Anthony: Ah, but it is the sedentary life that is an aberration when you consider the history of humanity. We are a roaming species.

Amar: We were a roaming species. And when we stopped roaming, that was when we progressed spectacularly, that was when civilisation was born. The years of roaming were lost years.

Anthony: We stopped roaming, developed agriculture and formed a civilisation which was the exploitation of many by a few. Sedentary peoples were less healthy than their pastoral nomadic neighbours. Agricultural civilizations produced priests and royal classes that built pyramids and monuments on the back of hardworking and hungry peasant, who was was worse off than his hunter-gatherer cousin. Real spectacular progress came in the more recent times, when we started roaming again. It started when a new civilization, based on the elegant faith of a nomadic people, allowed migration from one end of the known world to the other, trading ideas and commodities. It gathered pace when their rivals ventured to the unknowns beyond the oceans. The prosperity of today's cities on the hill, promised lands and new Jerusalems are all built by the roaming folks, the exile and the immigrant. This is true in Queens, New York and Southall, London, and it is true in the slums of Mumbai and Nairobi. It is the years of cultivating rice in swamps that were lost years!

Amar: A new civilisation based on the elegant faith of a nomadic people? You overlook that a recurring consequence of people venturing away from home in last five hundred years has been wars, imperialism, colonialism, vicious exploitation of others. Two world wars in the last century were also the result of people wanting to move to new places.

Anthony: Wars and invasion of others' territory didn't exactly begin in the last 500 years. Troops of chimpanzees and baboons fight wars of attrition, remember that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Folks in PNG highland have a higher probability of meeting a violent death in the hands of a stranger than anywhere else in the world. And as for exploitation, well vicious exploitation of others begun with agriculture. Slavery, serfdom, caste system – that's exploitation. Yes people moving around causes problem. But for the millions exploited in the farms around the world, migration is the only root to salvation.

Amar: And when they find salvation, don't they settle down?

Anthony: I wouldn’t know, as I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.