[DEBATE] : Fw: [WSF-Discuss] Building spaces for Another World some thoughts MK060406
madhuresh at cacim.net
Fri Apr 7 08:36:32 BST 2006
Building / Crafting Spaces for "Another World"April 7 2006
As we move towards organising European Social Forum in May 2006; India Social Forum in November 2006, WSF in Nairobi in 2007 and many other regional forums across the world. I would like to draw your attention to the actual process of creating and maintaining these spaces. It will be good to hear the views of others on this process.
Building / Crafting and maintaining Spaces for "Another World" : Some Thoughts
The World Social Forum is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and interlinking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a planetary society directed towards fruitful relationships among humankind and between it and the Earth.
Principle 1, WSF Charter of Principles
This note is to raise certain issues pertaining to constructing physical and mental spaces through the WSF process and envisioning another world.
a.. Issue of litter all around at the WSF Karachi, and who cleans that litter ?
b.. Process of creation of that space and social relations which operates in that process.
c.. Some suggestions on what the space could be and how to create that ?
Attending the Karachi Social Forum was my second interaction with the Forum process, first one being in Mumbai, India. As the days progressed in Karachi, many of us kept thinking looking at the litter all around, in absence of appropriate dustbins, that what message do we members of "civil society" take back ? Is it that, "another world too is not going to be a litter free world" ? I hope not. If the Forum is a 'space' for learning, debating, discussing, dreaming, envisioning another world, then I am sorry to say that it didn't give any impression of that. It wasn't a space inspiring enough to promote critical thinking, reflecting, dreaming and forging solidarity for another world. I also say so, not only because of the litter, but also because of the other related processes which goes in creating this space. By saying so I don't mean to discount the importance of Forum in Pakistan, India or anywhere because it has great potentials and as we witnessed in Pakistan, it opened up a democratic space of protest, dissent and dialogue for those days. I won't go into other aspects of Forum here and rather limit myself to discussion on creation of space for WSF event.
My point here is though not limited to Karachi Forum only, but in general the ways in which spaces for all the Forums are being organised. Take the case of WSF Mumbai. There were appropriate numbers of dustbins around, but who were the people collecting them in evening or late in the night ? They were from the lowest strata of the society and in most cases Dalits. The space in most of the cases is created by the contract labourers and contractors under the guidance of the organisers. In this case too the workers and labourers are mostly from marginalised communities. So, there is no direct involvement of those who are going to occupy that space. It turns out to be a space created by poor working class people for their privileged brethren across the world who would come and deliberate on various issues and envision "another world". This attitude is also visible in the infrastructure (camp site, toilets, drinking water, etc.) created for those who can't afford to stay in hotels, or friend's place or arrange other accommodation. As a result there is no sense of ownership, of association in majority who occupy that space. The sense of alienation doesn't make them care about the place, to keeping it clean, or in order. I don't know the situation at Forums in Europe or Porto Alegre but certainly it did get manifested in Third World.
The process of creation of that space also throws open the relations between labourers, contractors, organisers, volunteers and co-ordinators. The hierarchical ways in which the whole setup works itself needs reflection. I mean, the social relations which exist in our day to day lives get reproduced here in the process of creation of the space. If women's organisations in Pakistan boycotted the Forum alleging patriarchal nature of the organisers then the other report is about ego clashes between them and the organisers. If we take that both the reports are true, then how healthy their manifestation is for the process of creation of that space and the Forum process itself ? Can we really get past this ?
If we take a step back and think then we realise that WSF, in its current form, can't help build another world of hope, justice, equality and solidarity because the place tends to reproduce the bitter realities of outside world : of exploitation, injustice, unequal relations, discrimination of all kinds, and many more things which we are constantly fighting. It can't build another world also because the space doesn't radiate positive energies which can inspire people to think on those lines. It doesn't give a sense of being at a place which is different, which is built on the principles and values it stands for. It might as well be a Forum of organisations promoting and celebrating neo-liberal policies and triumph of capitalism.
I make this comparison because if WSF is about dreaming 'another' 'alternative' 'world' then where is the alternatives ? Can we really create a space out of various alternative technologies which exists at the moment ? Can that space be a celebration of alternatives : technologies, life style, culture, social relations etc. ? Can this be a place where one comes to know of available alternatives - not only thoughts and ideas but action and practice too ? Can this be a pedagogical space for people of all ages to come and take back with them valuable lessons which can help shape their own understanding of various social processes ? And many more things.
The nearest example, I can think of, in my own limited knowledge, is that of Gandhi's Ashrams, which he set up in South Africa or in India. The Ashrams were built by the sweat labour of inmates, and reflected consonance of thoughts and action. The place inspired non-believers too to follow simple principles of humanity, of justice, of equality, and love. I am not trying to advocate the Gandhian way of life, but I am trying to bring to notice the message it has for us in creating a physical space, which impacts our psychological spaces too.
It may be argued that it is idealistic to think that a huge space for WSF can be created in the way Gandhian Ashrams were created. This may not be possible given the enormity of task, voluntary nature of organising committee, lack of funds at initial stages, and other logistical reasons, which I also see. However, even when the process of constructing this space starts, can we organise and think of shramdan or voluntary labour as many communities in rural areas still do. Can we think of ways which would make this process more participatory, inclusive and embrace values and principles for which WSF stands ? Can we put together our ideas and imaginations to creating such a space ? This will be good not only for the space, event, or process but also for breaking barriers of our minds and building bridges across class, caste, genders etc. Then together all of us could say, "Another world is really possible and we can build it too"!!
Madhuresh, April 7 2006
Comments welcome. madhuresh at cacim.net
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