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Nothing more to occupy

  • Published at 12:09 pm June 9th, 2018
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We destroy all things of beauty / SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

In our greed for money, we have forgotten nature

I just came across a great article in Kolkata’s Anandabazar Patrika in which the writer has cited a nice story. 

The story goes like this: When the moon voyagers led by Neil Armstrong were rehearsing their space journey in a desert of western America in 1969, they met a man who belonged to the indigenous community of that country.

The indigenous man asked them: “Why are you going to the moon of all places? Moon is the abode of God!” The astronauts tried to convince him about the new discovery that the human race was about to make, but he wasn’t very convinced. He requested them to take a message from him to God. If they met God on the moon, they should pass on his message to Him. They agreed and he gave them his message.

The message was very interesting, it read: “Dear God, please don’t believe what these people are saying about discoveries, they are actually going there to occupy land.”

I can clearly see where this man was coming from. He belonged to a Native American tribe and had known and experienced how all their lands were occupied by foreign settlers, and how settlers had hunted down both humans and other species in order to be successful in their occupation.

When I try to browse through the history of us, humans, since the beginning, it is indeed mired with our history of occupation and destruction, it is our history of killing other species and razing nature to the ground in order to “develop” our living conditions. To us, it has always been about our survival -- and in order to sustain it, we destroyed anything that came in our path.

In the name of discoveries, our seafaring “heroes” were not actually quenching their thirst for going beyond the everyday world, but they were seeking newer opportunities -- opportunities that can only be translated into “greed.” 

The narratives that we have been glorifying since the invention of telling tales only reflect our greed for expansion. 

As the world’s fantastic resources were unfolding before us, we thought those resources were unending. We thought other species mustn’t get a hold of those resources, we thought all of it was ours as we started calling ourselves “homo sapiens” (the wise man).

In the beginning, in ancient times, as ignorant men, we noticed that nature was mightier than us and we started bowing to nature as our God and thought that all those resources were God’s blessings for us, and we (and only we) had the right to exploit them. 

After thousands of years of ceaseless exploitation of those resources, as wise men, we thought we should no longer remain slaves of that nature, rather, we must conquer it and bring it to its knees.

With that “wise” thinking, we began to invent tools in order make nature submissive to us, to kill species that didn’t surrender to our desires, wipe out civilizations that couldn’t serve our interests. And then the genocidal instincts crept into our psyche. 

It was at that moment that we turned into a genocidal species. Perhaps we lost the last string that connected us to the other species and other fellow wise men. We started thinking that most people were not wise, only a few were wise -- and so, we invented methods through which the “most” would serve the “few.”

We engaged those “most” in felling trees, in filling up rivers and waterbodies, in slicing up the hills and mountains, in grabbing lands, in erecting sky-high buildings to replace mountains, and in firing bullets against each other. 

After all this thirst for newer discoveries, after all these adventures, after all this thirst for blood, we the “human God” saw there was nothing else to achieve as the mightiest force on Earth, and we became depressed. 

That depression, perhaps, led us to invent an international day for protecting the Earth’s environment. 

We perform all the rituals to observe the day in utter helplessness, knowing fully well that it is possible to reverse the condition, but we aren’t capable of accomplishing the reversal.

Now, our godliness is failing in all corners of the Earth which we had conquered with our valiant boldness and we did not spare an inch in our mad run for exploitation. Now, our oceans are filled up with garbage that we create, our lands are infested with the poison that we invent, our rivers run dry or are busy consuming excreta, which too is corrupted by the food adulterated by thousands of chemicals, millions of people across the world are still starving, and the last outposts of forests are about to disappear.

We, the human God, don’t know where to go from here, and we’re depressed -- not because we want to find our way back to the nature God, but because there’s nothing more to occupy. 

Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.