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Monday, June 18, 2007

A BIT OF MILTON


The Possibility of Another Reality

“We must consider the existence of at least three worlds in one. The first would be the world as we’re made to see it: globalization as a fable. The second would be the world as it is: globalization as perversity. And the third: the world as it could be: a different globalization” - Milton Santos

Our debates on globalisation have always been characterized by a polemics of intolerance. It was never one of analysis and exploration. As a result we have never attempted to look at globalization as a process, in which we ourselves are implicated and are an essential part of. Instead, we are happy branding it as a ‘conspiracy’ or a ‘project’, thus cleverly disentangling ourselves from the whole question. So, it always ends up as a pitched battle between ‘us’ and ‘them’; anyone who doesn’t agree with us are ‘naturally’ on the enemy side.

In this context, this engaging documentary film ‘A Bit of Milton – A Libertarian Proposition for these Tumultuous Days’ by Sylvio Tendler which is a conversation with the Brazilian political philosopher Milton Santos is sure to make us think about the whole process with fresh insight and new vigour. Even while placing himself firmly on the side of the Third World, Santos looks at globalization as a multidimensional phenomenon. It is clear from his words quoted above that, any serious and futuristic discourse about globalization should keep in view the three worlds we simultaneously inhabit. It is harmful for any meaningful dialogue to restrict oneself to anyone of these, which will leave us in a monochromatic world – one we are blithely happy not to be reminded of.

The film looks at the globalization process from various points of view, and ponders over how it works out to be a game where all the rules are set by the victors and are applicable only to the losers. For instance, while the idea of the nation state and state-involvement in welfare etc are derided by the advocates of globalization and the global powers-that-be who advise the poor nations to ‘free’ themselves of all state controls, their own nation-states are flourishing and growing consolidating itself from strength to strength. Santos points at various issues like deterritorialization of production and capital accumulation which sets the basic conditions for the ‘freedom of the capital’ while impoverishing the human and material resources to the detriment of all. The privatization of the commons, unfreedom of labour movement etc are other issues of great urgency and vital points of global struggle. But the film also looks at the liberatory potential that information and communication technologies have opened up before the world and dwells upon the ways in which indigenous communities hitherto cut off from the world found new connections and possibilities of life, livelihood and expression. For, the story of globalization will not be complete without that of the margins.

In the process, the film also ponders upon how we have been colonized internally. “We decided that we would be European, we insisted on that, refusing for think for ourselves. We thought it was more sophisticated…Hence comes the great difficulty understanding the world and this great difficulty also leaves us confused somewhat foolish in the face of the history in the making. So politics itself becomes lost because we really don’t know what to do with the new world. We haven’t found ways of reflecting upon this new world from within ourselves..”

The film ends up with Santos’s refreshing words “We are rehearsing what will become of mankind. There never was one.” A great documentary of sharp insights and more significantly, hope.

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