Facing our Place/less Condition

Our place is fast becoming place/less.  We are rapidly losing the distinctive character of place.   We may ask ‘What is a place?’ One can say that place is everywhere. It is a word that speaks for itself.  Actually, space becomes a place through territorialisation by humans.  Animals like dogs mark their space too.  Place is not simply a geographic portion of space.  Humans shape a space into a place by infusing meaning, emotions, belonging, memories etc., into it.  This is why place is understood as a social construct.  This also means that places do not just have materiality of space; they also have temporality or history.  An experience of a place is an embodied practice. One embodies some places and makes them part of one’s identity. Our home, the Church, Temple, Masjid, Village, City, State and Country are places that live with us and make us what we are. We have intimate relations to these places.

A place becomes place/less when its distinctive character is defaced. This can be done physically by erasing the natural as well as cultural heritage of a place.  It can also become place/less through ideological totalization of a place. Thus, for instance, India is promptly becoming place/less not just because of a sustained attack on our ecological resources for industrialisation and urbanisation. It is fast losing its character as a home for plural diversity and is becoming a monolithic homogenized Hindu place in the images and likenesses emerging from the ideology of Hindutva. India is de-indianizing  in front of our eyes. Globalization has flattened the world and converted it  into a village. But there are costs that we have to pay as a result of its full flow.  because of it we are increasingly trapped in a monotony of life with boredom as well loss of local culture and tradition. This is why we may have seen totalitarian populism irrupting across the globe. That is, the place/less condition brought about by globalization seem to have made us intolerant to cultural otherness  while with the same breathe we embrace the sameness of the branded goods made available to us by the neo-liberal economy. Therefore, it may be important to understand that our place is fast becoming place/less. Besides, we have understand and respond to what such a condition is doing do us.

The shifting geographies of computation from the desktop to the palm-top have brought all information on our finger tips. While this is a blessing, it has dis-placed us and increased placelessness . Today we do not have to remember the distinctive landmarks of a place to indentify it as we are enabled to find it through Google maps and other digital apps.  Such placelessness  has taken globalization to its logical end.  Our specific geographies have been rendered irrelevant and are kept away from our attention and only those things that the consumer self in us needs pops up from the digital world so that we can satisfy our consuming hunger.  Thus, the placelessness that we experience because of the communication revolution has become an enslavement of our attention to only a designer world where we enjoy a fractured freedom as we do not have access to the other world that is not available on the web.  A place/less self is a caged parrot that only enjoys the world within the cage and enjoys that which is thrown at it by those who hold the keys of the cage.  Indeed, it has become a plain truth that we are living blissfully in a Plato’s cave and are urgently in need Socratic examined life.

Our families are also becoming place/less. We do not face and relate with the living flesh and blood individuals in our families but prefer the virtual experience of engaging the world through the social media, television and other platforms.  We are more and more atomised, insulated and isolated and are thus, already fast becoming victims of manipulation and deception.   Since we are happy and comfortable to be in the virtual echo chamber, we have become vulnerable to those who wish to use us for their political and economic interest.  The place/less character of our life deeply attacks our psyche and we cannot mourn the pain of trauma that has constitutive spatial and temporal character.  This is why we are already going through aggression, depression, suicides etc.  Hence, we have to deal with our embodied nature that needs tangible places and embodied histories.  Being disincarnated from our place and lived time, we have migrated into a digitized dephisicalized bodies provided by platforms like the facebook , istagram and the like.  We are collectively facing the death of symbolic function of place and are in danger of becoming place/less zombies.

Goa is not free from this assault. Although Goa is placed before others as an exotic tourist destination, we are fast losing its natural God given beauty because of our haphazard development. We have already lost a lot of our green cover. Our forests are threatened, our fields are disappearing and our water bodies are filled at a very quick pace. Goa is truly becoming place/less today. Development that simply makes Goa into a corridor for coal handling is going to darken our ecology of the land and water. Our cultural heritage as well as natural heritage will have to give way to tsunami that is washing away our place.   Our rivers have lost their dignity of name and  have become mere numbers due to nationalization. Madei has been diverted into Karnataka and our villages as well as forests around it are going to face the fate of being place/less. Placelessness is eroding Goa and Goaness  out of Goa and Goans. It is fast de-goanizing us all. We have reached a point of now or never. We have the challenge and imperative  to protect our place from those who impose placelessness on us.  As it is, to these power elites, Goa as a place/less resource for their economic and political interest. We will have to fight these vultures from devouring our place.

The challenge to accept and respond to our place/less condition cannot be postponed.  We need to seriously turn away from de-physicalized thinking that sees us as only thinking beings like Rene Descates. While we accept our rational side, we have to come to terms with our embodied nature.  As embodied thinking beings, we need tangible experiences. We primarily live our embodied life through place and lived time.  This is why we have the challenge to resist all place/less lures of the digital world as well as the physical destruction of our place in the interest of industry , urbanization and technologization. Besides, we will have to deliberately choose time to enjoy physicality of nature’s beauty.  We have  tore-discovered our sense of wonder and awe and learn to protect both natural and cultural heritage. To begin this counter-culture, we may have to start with our families. Families are become place/less. We need to find quality time for every individual member of our family. We will have to choose physical relations over their virtual possibilities and thus wage a war against everything that is making us place/less. The global pandemic has attacked a place/less world. It has brought us on our knees and missionized each of us to protect embodied life. It is time that we learn our lessons and work to protect our place from becoming place/less.  Otherwise, we shall fall victim to even more lethal virus that will take way our freedom and beautify of embodied life.  We really do not need smart technologies as well as smart cities that seems to makes us idiots.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao