The Sluice Gates of Goan-ness

Some say that you can take a Goan out of Goa but you cannot take Goa out of a Goan. All Goans are gripped by Goa. We cannot adequately put this into words. It has been described with words like Goan-ness or Goykarponn. Some say that there is a spirit of Goa that inhabits the place and the people. It is this spirit of Goa that is being sought to capture by words like Goan-ness or Goykarponn. Goaness is differently experienced and lived by Goans and cannot be imprisoned in reductionist terms. Maybe we might take Ludwig Wittgenstein as our guide to understand the dynamism, diversity and intertwining of Goaness in us all. We will need his notion of family resemblance. We will require an example. The word ‘game’ stands for different diverse and dynamic games like ball game, bat games, card games, etc., yet we have a thread that inter-lick them all as games. Maybe Goaness is a word that expresses the family resemblance and attempts to picture for us the diverse and dynamic way we goanize ourselves and Goa. This plural and dynamic goanizing is not limited within the geographical boundaries of Goa. It occurs wherever Goans exist. This is why goan-ness and goanizing is pluriversal.

In the light of recent studies in cultural anthropology and the allied disciples, we cannot think of Goan-ness as a garment that can be put on or taken off depending on the weather outside. New light emerging from Neuroscience seems to suggest that our cultural identity is hard wired in us. This means Goan-ness into which we are born and have grown up shapes the software of the brain much of which is already laid down before we end our childhood. The aged old nature/nurture debate is revived once again and the human brain is shown to be a bio-social organ. This does not mean that one is fixated into a cultural matrix and is unable to transcend it. It only means that one cannot really fully get out of one’s cultural skins. Besides, Goan-ness as a cultural matrix is not frozen in time but evolves with time and context. This bio-social dimension of our Goan selves might become intelligible to us if we ponder with attention on the notion of ‘habitus’ developed by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Just like a tribal who learns to dance without being taught so to a Goan goanizes without being taught. This is because like a tribal, we delve in a Goa-centric habitus. It is by being rooted into the Goan habitus that we all differently goanize ourselves and Goa.

The Goan Habitus enables us to recognize ourselves, others within this dynamically unfolding matrix of Goan-ness. This matrix of Goan-ness is ever stretching and stays expansive. It is like an ocean. A fish cannot drink up the entire sea although it lives and has its being within it. The same is true of us. We cannot exhaust Goan-ness. We are individually and collectively animated by it yet it does not diminish and becomes empty. It grows as we grow into our dynamic process of goanization. This does not mean that we cannot fall into degeneration. We may call this decadence degoanization. It is a danger that is always lurking over the horizon. Perhaps, we seem to have collectively stepped into a process of de-goanization today. The type of tourism, the sale of land, floating casinos into the Mandovi, the rising concrete jungles, mining woes, the Portuguese passport, the opposition that has lost its voice, authoritarian development, coal hub, Mopa airport and the like indicate that the fall into de-goanization is accelerated today. The alarm bells are franticly ringing. We cannot remain deaf this time. It is a time for a reality check and is urgent enough to join others in their intense effort to arrest the process of de-goanization. Besides, this rising tide of de-goanization is enhanced by the age old virus of binary logic of exclusion and policing of boundaries of caste, creed and gender.

Resistance to degoanization is gathering momentum among Goans. More than 140 Gram Sabha’s of our Panchayats have rejected coal hub and nationalization of our rivers. Several sites and processes of de-goanization have brought together Goans across Goa and beyond. We can already notice an alliance of solidarity steadily building up in our society. The sense of alienation and being set on an exile in one’s own native place has ignited the moral and political imperative to resistance among Goans. The eruption of resistance to authoritarian development is a normal response of critique that emerges in any context of exploitation and alienation. Sailing with the tide of de-goanization would be suicidal to Goans. When the development threatens to close the sluice gates (that neutralized the impact of high tide on us) Goans and Goan-ness are in danger of being washed away from the face of Goa. This is why our sluice gates become an important metaphor that will enable us to understand why Goans are closing the gates to authoritarian development for now. The sluice gates have been invented by our ancestors to regulate the rivers from flooding and destroying our homes, fields, orchards and villages. Goans are right in their attempt to close the sluice gates to an underdevelopment that is masking as development. The sluice gates are regulatory mechanisms. They do not remain close forever.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao