Independence and Interdependence | Daily News


Independence and Interdependence

Independence could be seen in many different ways. Today we are celebrating the independence from the colonial barbarians who tried to be our masters. In scientific experiments we have 'dependent' and 'independent' variables. Man is a dependent variable trapped within infinite variables in the laboratory of the universe. Buddha explained the truth of Dependent Origination, Paticca Samuppada. Everything is interdependent on almost everything else.

We do not know if James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis had studied the teachings on Paticca Samuppada, which is explained thus, "The causal interdependence applies to all things from the natural environment, which is an external, physical condition, to the events of human society, ethical principles, life events and the happiness and suffering which manifest in our own minds." Ven. Prayudh Payutto.

James Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis, has similarities to the teachings of Paticca Samuppada. "The name of the living planet, Gaia. The biota and the biosphere taken together form a part but not all of Gaia. Just as the shell is part of the snail, so the rocks, the air, and the oceans are part of Gaia. Gaia has continuity with the past back to the origins of life, and in the future as long as life persists. Specifically, the Gaia hypothesis says that the temperature, oxidation state, acidity, and certain aspects of the rocks and waters are kept constant, and that this homeostasis is maintained by active feedback processes operated automatically and unconsciously by the biota." James Lovelock, The Ages of Gaia.

Earth Mother

Even though Lovelock brought up the idea fifty three years ago, people are still reluctant to accept that Earth Mother could be a living organism, because then they have to accept that they are molesting, violating, abusing and torturing someone alive. Lynn Margulis wrote, "Gaia is a tough bitch — a system that has worked for over three billion years without people. This planet's surface and its atmosphere and environment will continue to evolve long after people and prejudice are gone."

About four billion years ago, there probably had not been any oxygen in the earth's atmosphere and organisms were extremely simple microscopic droplets containing a few genes and enzymes inside a membrane. They fed on organic molecules that had been produced earlier in the earth's history by various nonliving chemical processes. Then around 3.2 billion years ago, the photosynthetic bacteria would have appeared who used sun's energy to produce their own food. It would have been about 2.5 billion years ago, that photosynthetic bacteria were able to split water molecules to produce sugar and release oxygen to the atmosphere. But the oxygen was toxic to these anaerobic bacteria. Their survival depended on controlling the oxygen in the atmosphere and the aerobic bacteria would have evolved around 1.5 billion years ago, which consumed the oxygen and released carbon dioxide.

Recent biology textbooks include reference to Lynn Margulis' theory of endosymbiosis, the majority of them put it forward as the most likely explanation of the origin and evolution of life on the planet we know as Earth. We have to get out of our anthropocentric mindset, that man is superior to all other life and we are the masters of the universe. In reality, we are not independent, we do not exist as separate entities, but we only co-exist with around 30 billion other life forms including the bacteria and virus forms. Margulis had been asked at a public lecture when human life had begun. She had answered, that human life began, as all life did, at least three and a half billion years ago.

Human craving

Biophilia was a concept introduced by Edward O. Wilson in his book of the same title, claiming a human dependence on nature that extends far beyond the simple issues of material and physical sustenance to encompass as well the human craving for aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual meaning and satisfaction. That is probably what we need, to save mankind and Mother Earth.

Within all the interdependence man enjoyed a certain amount of independence in his early days, when he lived in the forest, in an endosymbiotic relationship with his ecosystem. This is the early period explained in the Agganna Sutta. He was free to pick and eat whatever he wanted, from an assortment of wide and varied types of fruits and tender leaves and tubers available to him. He did not have to work, to earn a living. He was not worried or dependent on the weather, because he did not take any action that would disturb the natural forces. He did not have to compete with other humans or animals for his food, or living space or for material wealth.

Today we are dependent on the weather, because we have done so much harm to the ecosystem, that weather is totally unpredictable. We do not have the independence to pick and choose our food, as and when we felt hungry. The food chain is totally controlled by agribusiness, who control what the farmers grow, and we should eat and how we should eat it.

Probably we lost our total independence when we evolved into a biped, when we began to walk on our hind legs and released our forelegs to destroy our world. The woman lost her independence when the human baby needed a longer period of nursing and infant care. Man lost his independence when he had to take care of his woman and the helpless child. They both lost their independence to roam around freely, when they made the very serious mistake of growing their own food. They had to protect their crop and the land where they grew their crop. He became possessive, and then greedy and jealous. He had to depend on his neighbours for mutual protection. He lost his independence when he had to elect a leader, and the leaders became greedy for more power and more wealth. The people under the leaders lost their independence, and then the people in the neighbouring lands, which the leaders invaded and occupied. The powerless became dependent on the powerful. The powerful took over the land, and the landless became dependent on the landlords.

Agriculture and war resulted in specializations, and what began as barter, to exchange his services or goods for other services or goods, led to the emergence of intermediaries and then to trade. The traders became rich and the poor became dependent on the rich. Specializations led to specialists, who out of greed began to charge more and more for their specialist services, and all others became dependent on the specialists.

Even if we are unable to free ourselves from all dependence, we could at least control some of the dependence and achieve a certain amount of independence. We should strive to get out of the prisons built around us by big business concerns, by not getting ourselves entrapped by their fraudulent, unethical marketing strategies. We should strive to identify our friends and foes among our neighbours and world powers, who are trying to keep us forever dependent on them.

When we are so dependent on so many other life forms, and physical factors, we could never be truly independent.

We must strive to control our desires, our greed and jealousy, and also respect the independence of all other human beings and all other life forms, and we could enjoy our independence while accepting the dependence and interdependence within the Gaia eco-sysem.

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