Having read “The God of Small Things”, I decided to give some of Arundhati Roy’s essays a try. I found a neat little book called The Cost of Living containing two essays: One on the massive dam-building projects in India, and one on the nuclear bombs that both India and Pakistan now have in their arsenals.
Both projects are tinted with immense nationalism as India tries to establish itself as an up-and-coming superpower, yet Roy approaches the two issues quite differently. The first essay is a heavily researched discussion of the politics of dam-building and indirectly, the World Bank funding of such projects and the ever-growing debt that countries such as India commit themselves to.
The second essay is much more passionate in its rejection of any pride and reasoning supporting the nuclear weapons that so dramatically have changed the way we perceive war.
With the risk of total annihilation, we must to an even greater degree make it clear to ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. Roy finds that the only dream worth having is this:
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
Trying to write that sort of thing is unforgiving business. Most of these words have been worn out, having been misused so often, their meaning appear useless and limitless. But even if the words are dying, the feeling of defiant optimism being felt and expressed through them is still alive in all its obstinate humanity. With all our faults of hope and forgiveness.
and yes, that was another two very weary words to end with. I find that I’m becoming more and more sympathetic to Martin Heidegger’s decision to simply stop using certain words that invariably carries with them (too many) limiting assumptions and ontologies. Often, there is simply too much baggage that tie down and muddle the issues.
Therefore, my new favourite word is Ubuntu which has been popularized by Desmond Tutu. It can’t quite be translated into English, though many have tried.
In this way, it still remains relatively true to its original meaning.