Wednesday 15 February 2012

A little non-essential reading


The fundamental problem has always been knowing (or not knowing) what to do with what one is surrounded by. 

The progress pursued by humans has always been based on seeking things that are not essential for survival - nutmeg, splitting the atom and space travel come to mind. 

I think the large scale consumption of the earth's resources is a projection of this simple western idea of progress. Create a need where none exists.

Of course, by ‘west’, I refer to a mental state, not longitudinal demarkation.

The balancing force, to this exploration is logically, a ‘preserving’ mindset. Let’s call that the ‘east’.

This east-west balance, shifting across geographies and time probably creates and destroys societies and cultures.

This works to everyone’s advantage. Until a crisis of identity occurs.

If the east, curating the progress of the west, starts believing that curation is progress and the west, creating non-essential things, starts believing that waste is preservation, things are set to get confusing. 

It is possible that this confused state exists during transitory states. And it is possible that we are living through one of these transitions today, aided by technology.

Technology, looks like a great leveler - allowing a person sitting in Jabalpur to use technology to pursue non-essentials with the same ease as someone in Boston. Or so it seems. Problem is, technology does not tell you what is essential and what isn’t for your survival. That is a personal decision one needs to make.

And in the east, personal decisions are usually based on that fundamental idea - of using and preserving what exists. 

With the help of technology, the east is identifying usage with progress.

Progress in the west, on the other hand has begun to be tagged with keywords like  hand-crafted, earth-friendly, design-y and non-greedy. Problem with this is that the carefully hand crafted non-essential thing that is being created requires the entire infrastructure of industrial waste to create the leisure that allows such hand crafting.

The west is identifying consumption with progress.

The real progress - the seeking of non-essential things, and not just consuming or preserving them, is getting harder to come by.

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