Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We see now what looks like a neocolonial situation in Auroville

Université Intégrale vendredi 10 avril 2009 An Exploration into an Integral Approach to Knowledge From 15 September 2007 to 15 December 2007 a varied group of people (from Auroville and Pondicherry) came together to create a series of workshops for the purpose of clarifying the vision of the University of Human Unity (UHU) and to discover integral approaches to knowledge.The workshops were basically categorized under six approaches to knowledge including; the Linguistic, the Philosophical, the Psychological, the Scientific, the Artistic and the Sociological approach.What follows are brief excerpts from each of these sessions with links to the complete audio files of each.

Auroville, the Villages and Human Unity (A Sociological Approach) Bhavana (18/11)

Why is it that after many highly idealist and egalitarian people came to Auroville and what we see now is what looks like a neocolonial situation in which the outsiders are being served by the indigenous people. It's important to recall how very, very poor it was here when we moved onto the land. It was barren and eroded and professionals said it would not sustain life for another 25 years. Children had extended stomachs and flaky skin, in some houses the women shared a sari between them. So how did the villagers come to us? They would come to us in the morning and say "Any work?" I don't think many of us knew how intentional communities should be formed, with every one committed to the ideals and the work, and we should all experience all the work, …we know these things now. But there was so much work. How could we say No. It took a team of 400 workers to excavate the hole for the Matrimandir. Almost all of the trees were planted by villagers who were paid 4 rupees to dig a 1mx1mx1m hole. The natural division of labor overtook our egalitarian preferences. The people who could dig all day in the soil, and advise us on when to plant, and do all manner of manual tasks did the work and fed their families. So, the first thing we did for the villages was provide employment. It was the most empowering way to deal with poverty. The next thing was education – several schools were set up by Aurovilians for village children.

At a certain point I felt there was a missing dimension. Auroville was not developing a relationship with the villages as communities. I began to look into that with several other people, and eventually with some professional social workers. In the beginning I didn't have this concept but later I understood that in villages all over India, the people who had been responsible for carrying on the culture, managing resources, planning, being artisans, had moved into the urban areas. That's where the opportunities for work and education could be found. Who was left were those who had been born and bred to take orders. It was difficult to find anyone who could take responsibility for settling disputes, for example. We had a hard time finding any leadership, people knowing when the tank needed to be cleaned, or whatever. So we learned about development work – typically known at that time as technology transfer which left out the human element. Handpumps at measured intervals of space in African villages, for example, which were not used or when broken were left unrepaired. In Africa it took a long time before development agencies realized that women did most of the agricultural work. Awareness and techniques for involving the local people and communities came about, especially in India – sophisticated, effective methods were developed for involving people in their own development. ...It struck me that villagers were headed toward what Aurovilians were moving out of; villagers wanted education and prosperity while Aurovilians had had enough of that and wanted to move into a new consciousness with no more need for structure. …

One thing that really helped me in my thinking about this was Sri Aurobindo's description of the four castes. As it has played out in history it has become a hereditary social system with all its faults, but as a conceptual system it is powerfully true. These four levels are in us all, any one person may have a particular level which is more developed, but for integral development we need to develop all four. The first is the Shudra consciousness which is pretty much limited to himself and his immediate family and survival. At a higher level of consciousness in relation to society is called the Vaishya. It's a business mind and its "we" is bigger, it can extend to the clan or tribe. The next step higher is the Kshatriya which can consider large numbers of people and dharma or law, how to organize a large number of people for the future. It considers larger concepts and spans of time. At the top of the system is the Brahmin consciousness, which is conscious of itself, it's seeking truth, teaching and advising the kshatriya. When I began to see it like that it became clear how important every level is to the whole and I began to relax into India's traditional system and our relationship with the villagers.

On top of this understanding I became aware of a system called Spiral Dynamics. …(brief history of Graves' development of the system…Beck and Cowen's development of Spiral Dynamics based on Grave's social psychology…they added color to the hierarchy of value sets or memes: beige – caveman, purple – tribal, red – individual power dominance, blue - laws made by gods/ religion/ science, orange - corporations, nations, green – egalitarian, liberal communities, (like the caste system each level of values and behavior is in us, coexists with the others and can come forward when needed or not needed), yellow – cultural creatives, people who see what needs to be done and just do it (Auroville is their place), turquoise – the integral, intuitive balance, harmony. It's a never ending cultural spiral, we move up and down largely according to circumstances around us…) I find this construct extremely helpful in understanding the villages and Auroville. I roughly put the two systems together, and the similarity is apparent - what the Vedic seers perceived and what Graves discovered through psychological research. Listen to the full audio file at: http://www.universityofhumanunity.org/auroville_villages_and_human_unity_bhavana_18_11_07

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