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by Pawan K. Gupta
SIDH, Mussoorie, India

There are various ways of categorisation. But for the purpose of this discussion we can divide our people into three broad categories.

1. The English speaking elite, who are deriving substantial benefits from the existing systems and are by and large, not uncomfortable in dealing with and operating the systems and instruments which support, strengthen and represent the process of globalisation, even though they may have strong objections/ differences with these systems.

2. The vast majority of our people who speak different languages and who bear the brunt of the process of globalisation and are increasingly getting marginalised. They have been continuously fighting for their survival, sometimes even winning small battles, but often loosing their spaces of solidarity and initiatives, in all spheres of life. They will continue to fight - they have no other choice - inspite of us. If circumstances and systems change, they will perhaps recover lost spaces and regain their strength dramatically, in a very short span of time, to live a life of dignity, without any help.

3. But there is a third section of society, comprising mainly of young people who are aspiring for the material benefits enjoyed by the first category and are desperate to somehow get into that category. The strength of the West today is that it has been successful in convincing the second (and of course the first) category that i) there is only one path to development - which is to follow in the footsteps of the first category (or the west), ii) that it is possible to follow this path and iii) that if they are able to do so then the result would be that they too would be able to enjoy the material comforts of the west and iv) if they are unsuccessful in deriving benefit out of the existing system the fault is theirs alone. This is a complete sham but the illusion perpetuates with increasing vigour.

Under 'Multiversity' we need to be very clear which of these three categories we are going to address. Because if this is not clarified there may be a serious danger that inspite of our intentions to the contrary, we may end up serving the interests of the West, ultimately. This issue is important even if are not interested in posing a challenge to the west and are only interested in strengthening our people, because we only have a choice of emphasis (between challenging the west and strengthening our people). It is not an either/or choice. The two are intertwined.

I think it is pointless, at least at this stage, to focus our attention on the elite. Majority in this category are so convinced about the basic framework of modernity (or westernization) and all that it represents, especially because this group derives material benefits from the ensuing systems, that it will be an uphill task to convince them otherwise. Also if we are able to make an effective impact elsewhere, this group will follow suit on its own. This group is an opinion maker only when things are sailing in a particular direction but it hardly changes the course of the tide. It has a tendency to follow on the path of the powerful and has tremendous capacity to learn, adapt and imitate. This group is more in tune with the west, its language and its idiom, though the range is vast - from aligning and supporting the dominant west to critiques of modernity emerging from the west. By focusing on this section, we will be restricting both the discourse of dissent (which will be largely dominated by dissent emerging in the west, in their idiom and emanating from their worldview) and the dissenters only to a sub category of dissent. This kind of effort will ultimately serve the west by strengthening the leadership of the west which critiques modernity and/or by giving the dominant leadership of the west new ideas on how to counter our dissent.

Also if our target be this category, then we necessarily get restricted to the English language and hence the leadership of our effort also gets limited to the English speaking elite and slowly the movement (if one may call it that) gets infiltrated by 'well. meaning people from the west' and before we know the movement takes on a different direction. The distinction between western and non western starts getting blurred, and we also get sucked into the process of globalisation in an inverse fashion. To some there may seem nothing wrong with this or with the English language (nor for that matter do I have anything against English as a language as distinct from the politics of English in the context of the colonised countries ) but what I would like to emphasis is that in that case we must forget about posing a challenge to the west. This way it will end up being, at best, an internal critique of the present system.

Therefore my proposal is to focus our attention on the third category through our efforts in Multiversity. This category comprises largely of young people, both from urban and rural areas. This category may have a large group who can communicate in some version or the other of the English language (we have many versions of English now, the world over) but they are not as fluent in it as the elite group. Even now this group, however it may pretend, is much more comfortable in their own languages.

This is the category on whose strength the entire edifice of the modern system is standing. We must try and shake this up by promoting critical thinking in the minds of the young. If we are to be effective with this category we must address them also in their own languages. This is not just for making the communication more powerful but also for other reasons. We know that apart from other instruments (employed during colonial times) language has also played a major role in eroding the confidence of our people, specially the young. If the language of our discourse does not change then this itself will come in the way of what we intend to do - build confidence in our own.

Also by not restricting or giving prominence to English, we will be able to keep our doors open to a large section of dissenters - the non elite dissenters amongst us who may have totally different grounds and arguments (emanating from very different worldviews and logic systems) of dissent and by keeping the doors open to our native languages we will be able to include this important segment in our efforts. By giving importance to native languages we will also be able to put a check in the tendency of all such well intentioned efforts which slowly get 'globalised' or co-opted by the western dissenters because of their facility in the English language.

If we are to be effective we must address the third category and through our efforts try and remove the blinkers of:

* one world,
* a single linear path to and single definition of 'development' and 'progress',
* linear view of history as the only valid view,
* modern science being the only valid knowledge system,
* the tendency to analyse issues in a bipolar fashion, etc.)

from their eyes.

The present system of education serves the dominant paradigm by blurring the minds and creating confusion which makes it easier to control it. Hence the need to work in areas which facilitate clarity of thought. For this we need to work at some of the basic issues of epistemology, ontology and philosophy. We also need to work on distinctions. We need to challenge the linearity (in all forms of thought and knowledge systems).

It is also important that we refrain from getting into the trap of finding alternative models (of economics, development etc.), at least for now. Once we can shake the lethargy of the mind and are successful in freeing the mind from the modern captivity, alternatives will emerge on their own. It should not be the job of multiversity to provide alternative models. We should work towards exploding the illusion and exposing the limitations of the present systems. We should be exploring other possibilities of viewing, understanding and dealing with the universe around us. This could be also done through some research projects.

We should be looking at other ways of thinking and possibilities of constructing different realities where we are as much a part of the reality as the observed. Certain areas where work could start are as follows. These are only examples to illustrate the point and not a complete or a very well thought out curriculum.

* Role of assumptions - in thought and knowledge systems and limitations and necessity thereof.
* How awareness about assumptions is empowering.
* Limitations of an objective worldview.
* Objective vs. subjective-objective worldview.
* Distinctions and how distinctions help in thinking.
* Understanding an issue as distinct from agreeing/ disagreeing on the issue.
* Distinction between words and meaning.
* Distinction between nationalism and patriotism.
* Distinction between means and ends and the dangers of confusion between the two.
* Localism vs. Nationalism and the concept of nation state.
* Freedom or liberation vs. capacity building
* Individual freedom vs. freedom of society.
* Diametrically opposing (bi-polar view) stand points as distinct from differing points of view.
* Essential ingredients of any knowledge system - assumptions and a unique logic.
* Limitations of any framework, knowledge systems.
* Dangers of a linear worldview and knowledge systems promoting linearity.
* Monoculturism vs. Diversity
* Tradition and modernity.

These are my initial reactions after attending the conference in Penang.

Mussoorie, 13 February 2002

C/o SIDH, Hazelwood, Landour Cantt.,
Mussoorie - 248179. Dist. Dehradun., Uttaranchal. India.
Phone/ Fax: 91-135-631304/ 632904

At a Glance:
Mulitversity Related

Recapturing Worlds:
The Original Multiversity

Penang 2002: The First Conference on the Deconstruction
of Knowledge

Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series (ed. Vinay Lal)

Radical Essentials Pamphlet Series (ed. Yusef Progler)

Penang 2004: The Second Conference on Redesigning Social Science Curricula

Special issue of Humanscape on Multiversity (April 2005)

Special issue of Third World Resurgence (2005) on Multiversity

The Dissenter's Library
Essays, Articles, Papers
Kamirithu: The Newsletter of Multiversity
Readers in the Disciplines