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My History of the Alliance (Asia-Pacific)

by Siddhartha -

Its amazing how the Alliance changed my life! By 1996 I had begun to believe that my life was grinding to purposelessness. It was time to take early retirement. And then I discovered the Alliance and everything changed. Once again I found the energies and the idealism I experienced when I was in my twenties. I am now fifty-three and some of my friends are puzzled at my enthusiasm and excitement.

I am not good at dates. I don’t know the exact year I joined the Alliance, but it was in either 1996 or 1997. Its only a few years ago but it seems like ages. Perhaps I cannot remember dates because I come from a society that did not believe in linear time. Even if I am modern it hardly seems to matter if I make a mistake by a year or two. After all the Big Bang happened 15 billion years ago, and the earth is now about 8 billion years old. What’s a year or two in comparison with 15 billion!

But I am not the only one in the Asia-Pacific region to have got excited by the Alliance. There are hundreds of others like me from New Zealand to Japan and from the Philippines to Pakistan. What did the Alliance do to us to bring hope back into our lives? To begin with it helped us meet each other in a spirit of complete openness. It provided us the space to wean ourselves away from the detritus of previous ideologies that led us nowhere. This was very important, because we had not yet the time or possibility to digest the collapse of our earlier worldviews. These worldviews remained like undigested food in our entrails. Whenever we wanted to summon up some bravado we regurgitated morsels of these ideologies. Obviously the morsels only succeeded in raising a stink. But the Alliance was a fresh pasture where we were not obliged to be ideological. This was important to heal the social and political disappointments of the earlier years.

The climate of openness helped us to regain our confidence and to begin the search afresh. We realised that it was not only enough to change political structures but, more importantly, we needed to change values and attitudes. The Soviet Union had failed to produce ’the new man’ after changing its structures. Chairman Mao tried ’the cultural revolution’, and that didn’t work either. Paulo Freire’s ’conscientisation’ took us some way up the mountain, only to leave us stranded midway from the top. Many of the participatory processes fared no better: while the intentions were good it was often another technique of the system to create a Babel of voices, then divide and rule. Democracy became, in Francis Fukuyama’s words, ’ the end of history’. There was nothing more to hope for.

So, for a couple of years the Asia-Pacific region emphasised the significance of culture and spirituality in bringing about meaningful change. We had very important regional workshops in Bangalore, Bangkok, Manila and Melbourne, besides having significant reflections in many other countries. I must admit that several of the processes and workshops were deeply inspiring and fulfilling. We were able to speak to each other as friends, without fear of being judged, or called a reactionary. Friends from the Alliance from other parts of the world- from Africa, from the Americas, from Europe and the Middle East- also played a key role in inspiring us and offering us their solidarity. The FPH in Paris was one key group of friends who stood by us in this journey. We felt we were quietly groping towards something positive, with a partial conviction that we could impact the global structures that were market driven, aggressively competitive, which put private gain over public good. We were also aware that in the fizz and seduction of the new global culture the capacity of us humans to relate to each other in a spirit of friendship had decreased considerably. We were all drawn inexorably into a win-lose syndrome. Some people were condemned to be losers’; and a few were to be winners. Sadly, the losers were not only going to be humans, but all other life- forms. Earth Mother as a whole was going to be a loser.

By late 1999 we were happy with our progress but we were still looking for a paradigm that would offer us a genuine breakthrough. The elements for the breakthrough were already there, but did not have the glue to put them together. The elements were as follows: democracy, social justice, cultural renewal, ecological balance, gender equality and spiritual centring. All these were important in themselves but they still did not add up to a fresh and exciting vision. And then, slowly, month after month, season after season the key insights slowly emerged on our horizon. It took a little more time to register the significance of our discovery. And then it came with unexpected force, and joy, and creativity. Finally we had the outline of a paradigm that was deeply satisfying at many levels. The key words of this paradigm said the same thing with slight nuances: interconnectedness; interwovenness; interdependence; interexistence and interbeing.

For me personally the perspective took shape when a simple village woman near Fireflies Ashram, outside Bangalore, referred to the dishonouring of ’Bhoomi Thai’ as the root of all our modern problems. "Bhoomi Thai’, in our local Kannada language, means Earth Mother. The woman had spoken from the wells of her heart, from a very deep conviction. I realised that I was hereafter going to use her concept of Bhoomi Thai even if my more sophisticated friends dismissed it as folklore. I also realised that even from a scientific perspective we all evolved from the earth. So, in actual fact, the Earth was our first mother. I did not need to be ashamed of my Earth Mother, even if my friends from the more industrialised countries thought I was being folkloric. Along with this simple village woman’s wisdom I also realised the incredible significance of a concept which emerged from India two thousand five hundred years ago. It was the Buddha’s teaching of ’Paticca Samupada’ or ’mutual co-arising’. All things arise from multiple causes and pass away from multiple causes. Mutual co-arising. From this point onwards it was easy to discover words like Interbeing and Interexistence. I had earlier realised that indigenous peoples all over the world had a similar worldview. So did several other religious thinkers and philosophers.

For many of us in theAsia-Pacific Alliance, notions like Interbeing and Interexistence became the glue we were looking for. They were not only scientific notions in the modern sense of the term, but also deeply spiritual ones as well. Here was a paradigm that bonded us profoundly with the biosphere, with the Universe, with Earth Mother. With such a perspective we no longer needed to be aggressively competitive and individualistic. If we helped another person or grew more trees, we did not do so out of a sense of altruism, but because the other person, or the trees, were extensions of ourselves. Being compassionate to other humans, plants and animals was also being compassionate to ourselves. For each of us is unique and at the same time part of a larger whole, part of Earth mother, part of the Universe. Each of us is responsible for the Universe. This was our breakthrough. This was where the journey of the Alliance led us. Democracy, Governance, Cultural values, alternatives to globalisation- allof this now assumed a new dynamic.

At the Lille Assembly of 2001 we hope to share and clarify our insights with our other friends in the Alliance from other parts of the world. We will surely learn a lot from their criticism and their experiences, which may be different from ours. But for the moment we are grateful to the Alliance processes for having given us the possibility to travel on this journey of Hope.

URL : www.alliance21.org/2003/article694.html