Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In India, affection between males of all ages is much more acceptable

Home > Response to BBC broadcast - Joya Skye
May 27 th 2008
Dear BBC,
I have always held the BBC in high esteem for its superiority in reporting and have trusted its perspectives more than that of the media here in the U.S. That trust was just crushed under the weight of the report on Auroville by Rachel Wright. Ms. Wright saw a great, dramatic byline and went for the jugular without regard for or perspective of the truth of life in Auroville.

I went to Auroville first in 1971. At that time, the villages surrounding Auroville were the poorest of the poor. Westerners who have never seen this kind of poverty can actually look at the video shots taken for this article and think THAT is poverty. They would be surprised if they could view the contrast between the early years and now. There were no schools, people lived without sanitation or any amenities above the barest necessities for survival. Children played in the dirt, with the dirt, when they played at all. I worked in the first crèche in Auroville, (and built and started the second one). The village children who came to the crèche took a very long time to be able to engage in play, even with a rich array of toys and a beautiful environment. They would sit in the dirt and stare, unable to engage. Our work was hard at that time as they were all malnourished and socially repressed and much of what we did had to do with getting them fed, healthy, clean, and happy.

The life of the current villagers compared to the lives of their parents and grandparents are so far elevated as to make laughable the complaining about their poverty, sitting in a beautiful setting in tailored clothes, driving around on their motorcycles with their cell phones. Their standard of living has improved immeasurably, as has the whole region due to the massive work done by Auroville in the reforestation of a depleted and dying land - work that would never have been done without the dedication of those who built Auroville. If the BBC really wanted the truth, they should look at the 40 years of documentation of the change in the face of the land and the life-style of the indigenous people. It is certainly available. I am a living witness to this transformation, having been a member of the community since nearly the beginning, and having lived there, most recently, for two years, 2001-2003. I would be happy to share more of my experience of Auroville, if it were desired. Three of my five children were born there and return as often as possible.

There was just so much left out and such a bias in this article and an alarmist approach, that taken out of context could do irreparable damage to a project from which India, the surrounding villages, and the world have mostly only profited. There is so much I want to say here, but I realize I must also make broad statements as you can't condense such a huge endeavor into such a short space.

Before I left Auroville in '03, I wrote (but never published) an article directed specifically to the young Tamil Aurovilians and all the young Tamilians living and working in Auroville. They have no idea what their lives would look like now without the tireless generosity and compassion of Auroville. We did not live a life of colonial luxury surrounded with impoverished slaves. We worked our tails off to save the land and build a "living laboratory of human unity". That's what Auroville is supposed to be. As Gilles so articulately pointed out, "an ideal society requires ideal citizens." (paraphrased)

Humans are still a long way from that, wherever they are. Auroville aspires to it, but humans are humans and not everyone who lives in Auroville today is there for that reason. Auroville is very "microcosmic." Idiots and liars like that Raj fellow come there all the time. Two of my daughters had a very nasty experience with him and his word is not to be trusted. But there he is, big as life, expounding on Auroville like an expert, and being taken as one.

I need to say here that I was a sexually abused child. I have worked with sexually abused children and other adults, like myself, who had no voice at the time. This subject in particular is, with good reason, highly charged and as any intelligent and reasonably informed person knows, exists EVERYWHERE, and by my judgment, much less in Auroville than here in the States and elsewhere, where it is often covered up and still presents an enigma in terms of what to do about it. We have yet to come up with something that transforms this sickness in people, and we have yet to take global responsibility for its existence and quit pointing the finger at everyone else and pretending that it isn't a problem where WE live.

There is also a more subtle cultural tendency in India , where affection between males of all ages is much more acceptable and it becomes difficult for those from different cultures to see clearly and respond appropriately. I can see where this in itself would attract pedophiles. But to allege that because an adult male went into a hut with a Tamil boy meant that the child was being sexually abused is simply irresponsible and inflammatory reporting. Many Aurovilians have taken Tamil children into their homes and many of us have family-like relationships with our Tamil friends. The BBC needs to do more in depth research before releasing to the whole world such a potentially harmful report. For all our imperfections, Auroville has done infinitely more good in the world than harm and if Auroville were to meet its demise due to this immature and short-sighted reporting, the world would really get to see the poverty in the area that they think they see now.
Respectfully submitted,
Joya Skye
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