Thursday, August 7, 2008

Can Hiroshima be forgotten?

The political atmosphere in India has warmed up in the last couple of months due to the debate on the nuclear agreement with America and the Loksabha proceedings on the related confidence vote. Not only the larger parties but small political formations have also become active.

There are issues of energy security, price of energy, fallout of nuclear enterprises and American designs and the ruling political establishment giving in into their strategic designs, this last also leading specifically to complexing this country's relationship with Islamic militancy etc. On each one of these sufficient arguments have appeared in the popular press mainly against the nuclear deal.

However it is important to note that inspite of the intensity of this debate, no serious questioning took place from a fundamental standpoint on the question of acceptability of nuclear energy from a human civilizational point of view. It is true that this question does not perhaps have the pressing nature of political or strategic questions. But the level of debates on climate change, bio-diversity, preservation of natural resources, renewable energy etc. should have been expected to provide a reasonable context to raise this very radical question.

The nuclear debate allows us to raise the question of technology and science in somewhat bare form. Exactly 63 years ago the United States dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and 'told' the world that what has taken shape in the name of human civilization in hundreds of thousands of years could be erased from the surface of the earth instantly. And that they are capable of doing it. Nuclear technology only poses in extreme form the question that all modern technology poses. Modern technology destroys nature in absolute terms. And let us not keep man out of nature, for countless men, women and their families have been eliminated in the course of mopping up of the natural resources from across the world for this industry to develop and expand and in the course of capturing markets for this industry to sell its products.

Modern industry is power driven. It pre-supposes organisation of energy at lightening speed. This is where the root of the evil seems to lie. Now we have organisation of information and knowledge at lightening speeds. Should the destruction let loose therefore be expected to assume radically new dimensions now? The human question, properly speaking, is not about energy or information, it is about people and their lives. The energy and information concern flows from lifestyle interest, class interests and interests of domination. And these interests express themselves in and through the market and the political arena. This is why the understanding of energy crisis and need of information technology has great convergence across the market and the world of politics.

If the dead of Hiroshima are martyrs, then:

What is the Gandhian polity of this era which addresses the issues of lifestyle, class interests and domination?
How is the question of Lokavidya relevant for such a polity?
Is this a knowledge politics based on a people's knowledge movement?
Will this politics bring man's relation with nature to the center stage?

Sunil Sahasrabudhey

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