Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enigmatic Delusion of Growth is just like a "Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

The chance to be a part of the symposium on "Growth, Degrowth, Green Growth" issues in last two days held at New Delhi created the scope to learn, unlearn and relearn about many dilemmas. These dilemmas have persisted about the concept of growth: and they have not just been only about economic growth. Confusions related to age and basic biological nature of growth of a human body, and what is defined as growth and a normal path of growth got more strengthened during the two days of intense discourse. Even if I wanted to avoid a comparison of these confusions with a film during all the sessions of the symposium, I could not still do so.

The film story which haunted me again and again through out all the sessions of the symposium while listening to all the speakers was of "Curious Case of Benjamin Button". For the purpose of paucity of space and shortage of time to read long blog pieces, I would assume that most of us will know the story of the film that am talking about. Otherwise, in the days of internet, wikipedia, getting access to that story is not an issue. Therefore, here, I would rather draw connections between the underlying essences depicted by the film and how my confusions cluttered up more and more.

The film narrates story of identity. Hence, Benjamin is born as an old man and therefore can associate more with the people who are old even though his age is very less. His emotional connections are much more closer to the people who are old. However, his age diminishes and becomes younger as time progresses unlike a normal human age progress. The identity of Benjamin moves in a reverse direction, his emotions also move in a reverse direction and are considered to be not normal. Therefore, he faces constant hindrances and resistances in social circles, personal space, and in companionship. With a progress in time, Benjamin becomes young and social: his personality changes. Hence Benjamin constantly pokes to us that age as a concept is not a number. My confusions suddenly get more real. I can see the growth paradigm in the story of Benjamin. Does the way Benjamin move in life can be termed as growth or degrowth? Benjamin's age is not merely a number: it perpetuates so many other aspects associated with it. It raises the constant battle between the mortality questions of death in Benjamin's life and its effect on the way he lives the life.

On a very similar note, is growth, economic growth a mere number. To me it is not. A growth of a society, economy is not a linear, mechanical, deterministic process. So will degrowth. Its just like Benjamin and very much like Benjamin's identity, age, emotions, feelings, struggles, personality which evolves constantly as he becomes young after being born as an old man. The concept of degrowth will also face similar battles and will go through the mortality questions of death of growth and its associated impacts on the forms of human lives.

It will also face the questions of how Benjamin was dealing with questions of unacceptance in various social circles and personal spaces. But he was also constantly evolving by accepting it. If growth in society, economy happened then degrowth will also be inevitable. But whether it happens in the way it occured in Benjamin's life is something that needs to be looked for. Story of Benjamin makes us also question that such a life can also be normal and questions the linear assumptions of normality. On a similar note degrowth also questions the normality of illusions related to an enigmatic growth number that human society and economies have been dealing with. Benjamin realizes that acceptance in social elitist class has a lot to do with money. Will degrowth in society, economy in the future days create more such Benjamins amongst us with such realizations. These Benjamins' will not qualify or match with the notions of normality while a degrowth happens and therefore the resistance within themselves and outside will go up. However, a transformation is going to happen and the identities of certain people will finally change over time. It might not change for some too and can stay same.

If the current path continues, notion of an illusionary number will change and there is a feeling that there will be a need to write a new story of curious case of Benjamin button. But this new Benjamin in the story will be society, economy and its associated institutions, actors. Over and above it will be the enigmatic delusion of a concept called growth.

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