Monday, 18 May 2009

An inspiring evening with Vandana Shiva - "you don't find hope by sitting in a chair"

For the third time the Kirchentag is holding a Global Network Congress bringing together some of the German speakers and specialists with many of the speakers from elsewhere in the world. It's a privileged time for networking and also for going into some issues in greater depth. This year's meeting is a little smaller than the two previous meetings, but still very diverse. Because there are slightly fewer of us we've been able to use less formal methodoligies and have a good question and answer session with our main speaker.

Vandana Shiva is a passionate and engaged speaker - not always easy to interpret as she assumes we have the same level of knowledge she has of the abuses of the free market in world trade. I do not always find it easy to remember much of what I've interpreted - you can't listen, take notes and speak in another language at the same time, well I can't anyway. Vandana Shiva is an eco feminist and I was very struck by the lack of mightiness in the alternative models she tried to offer us this evening. She used organic and nurturing images, encouraging drawing on inner creative strength as a source of hope in the same way that a mother will nearly always make sure that their child has something to eat. Much of her campaigning has been against the obscenity of multi-nationals buying the patents to seeds - one example she gave was how cotton seed used to cost about 7 rupees a kilo before the seed patent was bought by Monsanto and went up to 1700 rupees a kilo. In less than a generation cotton farmers went from being rich to being poor. She spoke of the finding creative commons ways of owning patents to seeds, so that local communities can continue to be sustainable. She actually called this kind of local community building being itself a seed that can give others hope. She ended by quoting Gandhi's model of oceanic circles

But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral units.
This way of thinking about things very much chimed with the "natal theology" by Grace Jantzen that I am reading at the moment, it was helpful for me to hear these more practical and less philosphical applications of the same underlying idea.
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