Thursday, November 19, 2009

Of Hearts, Communities, and Transformation

It was not so long ago, although it seems like another life now. I was riding a Tanga (horse drawn carriage) in Srinagar as a young girl. I remember the bus from the city of Jammu to Srinagar in Kashmir... a perilous journey from which many did not return. Buses skidded down the slope of the mountainside to the Chenab River below. I could see them from the window seat in the bus, wondering if we would make it through to the city where my family waited for me, not knowing if and when I would arrive with my mother and brothers. Those images and experiences are etched in my heart.

Integral to those images is the notion of rapid change and immense possibility for transformation. I was a girl in a city on this planet who had ridden in a horse drawn carriage as the main mode of transportation and within a few years, reunited with my father in Montreal -- in a different world, with a car of our own, a Buick Lesabre as our main mode of transport. Add to this the dazzle of electric lights I first beheld on my journey to the west. From east to west the sun rises, and I too had risen to know these lights and this difference. A young heart carries the color of passion, of future hope and potential, of imagining never-ending possibility.

I have described a part of my core, so you literally have a sense of where I have come from. Often I hear from someone or other, that some change that we may hope or long for is not possible in our lifetime. And even to me it may seem impossible, yet there is always that flicker of doubt in my heart that colors that determination. "Nothing is impossible," it whispers. Time, after all, is itself a fiction we protect to support our own limitations.

What has this to do with the law? Everything. The structure, order, and rules by which we seek to govern ourselves, are often the slowest to change. However, even these frameworks for governance can change at a rapid rate in the right circumstances. They change with the advent of a social or human connectivity that did not previously exist. Sometimes such connectivity has taken the guise of religion, a faith, belief, or ideology that links people in different lands and across borders. Sometimes such connectivity arises out of the faciliation of mobility, such as the airplane, or train. Sometimes such connectivity arises out of communication devices. The printing press, telegraph, telephone, and internet come to mind. Obviously the confessions of a Ponzi-schemer can also unite many.

Scholars have stated that we imagine our communities into existence. The printing press for instance has been attributed with the development of the nation-state because of the connectivity it established within a certain territory through readable pages multiplied easily. Now the internet has revolutionized communication such that communities can develop around every topic of conversation, often called 'chat rooms.' The informal but widespread structures sprouting up all around us in networks of connectivity may inspire us to rethink fairly quickly the kinds of community frameworks that make the most sense. In turn, more ad hoc and informal rule-making appear likely.

However, one aspect of such rule making will prevail and that is transparency. There is a larger public domain than ever before just as our population itself is busting at the seams, having reached unprecedented numbers. We have kept pace and developed means to record all activity. Each of us can have his/her own public and public persona. In fact, privacy itself will become increasingly prized as it will be nearly impossible to find. We are proceeding at a fairly quick pace toward a world community and inevitably, world governance , as scary as the prospect may appear to some. Not surprisingly given my own trajectory, I imagined it as a 12 year old in Montreal, only a few years after making my way to the new world. Now I cannot believe how quickly we are racing toward it.

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