Tue, 17 May 2022 Today's Paper

Letting and making things happen

3 June 2021 01:58 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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What’s happening? That’s the question many ask. Then there are those who respond to the question or, as in certain cases, a question is not even necessary for comment. ‘Nothing’ is a common response/comment. To elaborate, ‘nothing is happening.’

 


Nothing 
It is an interesting word. A nation, a people, a history and heritage even — all rolled into a void? Well, that might please some. The problem is that there is seldom a void. There’s seldom ‘nothing’. There’s never ‘everything’ either. There’s always ‘something.’


So when people say ‘nothing’ or ‘nothing is happening’ it is usually a case of a condition that falls short of the expected. It’s relative, in other words. Maybe for some it’s about declining profits, diminishing assets, constraints in the commerce of take and take with little give.


For others it is certainly dire. It is not about ‘my net worth diminished from Rs. 4.73 billion to 3.98 billion, alas, woe is me etc., etc.’ It is about food on the table. Never mind schools, never mind online classes because a data card is unaffordable; there needs to be food. 

 


Basics
Sure, we have heard about how important it is for the wheels of the economy to turn. We have heard corporate bosses and neoliberal economic gurus lament about workers losing incomes and facing starvation. Workers make a lovely and benign shield, but only in situations like this. At other times, they are generators of surplus labour which of course translates as profit for those on the sunny side of production relations.


The humbuggery aside, there is some worth in the argument about economic activity. Not a happy equation certainly when it’s about some people having to submit to slanted terms of exchange or, to put it bluntly, having to agree to the terms of exploitation; and yet, at least from the unhappy point of view, tight restrictions become increasingly untenable or rather intolerable.  


‘Nothing’ has multiple applications, not just in the economic sphere. Constitutional reform for example; talk of holding provincial council elections has ceased. Elections are necessitated on account of affirming constitutionality (illegally and perniciously though the 13A was in enactment) but anti-thematic politically given the government’s reform pledge. That’s then a ‘nothing’ we can celebrate for a while. The federalist talk shop has shut down.
 Another good ‘nothing.’ 


It is hard to effect an absolute lockdown and indeed such a situation might have dire consequences all around. People do have more time to spend at home with family, and more time to, say, plant something (an objective precondition to earn the right to complain about ‘nothing’ or ‘pittance’ one could argue). That would be a close-to-nothing which will not be booed.

 

A pandemic analogy would be appropriate. If ‘nothing’ is where we are, then why wear a mask? Why maintain social distance? Why wash our hands? We might as well give up and await death which, according to our theory of all things, would come earlier than anticipated.

 


Lockdowns don’t make for witnesses and witnessing, but one doesn’t have to see in order to understand that everything possible is being done by healthcare personnel (from specialists to PHIs), those in the security services and Police, as well as innumerable public sector employees (from executives to unskilled workers) to the best of their knowledge and straining limited resources to the maximum, just to ensure that no one goes without food or the best healthcare possible under the circumstances. That’s not an ‘everything’ but it is certainly a fair distance from ‘nothing.’


There are countries in our neighbourhood where backup systems (be it elements of the state apparatus or simply community mechanisms enriched by cultural practices and philosophical bent) are simply non-existent. Someone is infected and he/she either dies of it or dies of starvation simply because daily incomes drop to nothing. Yes, that word again. Some worry that we will get there very soon. We may, yet, who can tell? On the other hand, if nothing had been done, as it is argued, we should have got there a long time ago.


There are realities. There are aspirations. Mix the two and you’ll get a fix on your personal location in the nothing to everything continuum. For some this is the big picture. For some, indeed, it is the only picture. It’s easy to extrapolate from there. It is easy to generalize. It is easy to tell yourself and anyone who might listen, ‘this is the state of things.’ Such people are the ones who quickly get to blabbing about ‘nothing.’ The problem is that when you get there, you can’t see the ‘something’ that is the reality. You can’t even move to a ‘something’ in the realm of the possible, obviously not an ideal, cause-for-celebration ‘something’ but certainly a far cry from down-in-the-mouth ‘nothing.’


A pandemic analogy would be appropriate. If ‘nothing’ is where we are, then why wear a mask? Why maintain social distance? Why wash our hands? We might as well give up and await death which, according to our theory of all things, would come earlier than anticipated.


What is the ‘something’ we can do or expect? In a word, ‘learn.’ We can commit ourselves to using the time and space yielded by restrictions to reflect on the world and its health, on human activity and its impact on the planet, on personal choices and what they imply. The possibilities are endless. And there’s nothing to say that we cannot think of transformation of one thing or another or ‘all things’ if that’s the preference.


Minds cannot be locked down. Yes, we know about idle minds and devil’s workshops, but then we’ve moved on from ‘nothing-mode’ to ‘something-mode’ here. Hearts, even broken ones, resist closure. We can do something. If we really believe there’s a void, we can fill it. If we don’t, rest assured, a lot of garbage will get to it first. We’ll get nothing. Well, almost nothing, for it will be nothing but a stink.


We have let things happen to us. Colonization. Green Revolution. The 13th Amendment. Dependency of all kinds. The political culture we live in. We could even label each of these as ‘everything.’ Or ‘nothing.’ Somewhere, somehow there is agency. There is choice. There’s space to make things happen. Things we can be proud of.
malindasenevi@gmail.com
 www.malindawords.blogspot.com

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