“The Japanese are tending towards minimalism in a huge way,” the gracious lady of the house remarked. Christine Iraluhas been very impressed by seeing first-hand, contemporary Japanese homes, and the manner in which their owners were trying to keep possessions to a minimum. A message very relevant for us today in Nagaland. We consume more than we must, we surround ourselves with the material, and one sees a growing tendency to size up people from a look at what they have, and not who they are. It’s like the bigger the car or the bigger the house, the greater the person must be.
The collaboration between Japanese car dealers and the municipal councils is worthy of emulation: If a person wants to buy a car, the car company needs verification that the customer has a garage. If the customer does not have a garage, the company will not sell them their cars. It is part of the effort to keep congestion down especially in cities like Tokyo. With a huge population jostling for space on the ground, Japanese cities have to do their utmost to see that public space is not being eaten up unnecessarily. The use of public transport is encouraged by the highly efficient systems.
Minimalism is such a relevant message for us, even in our technologically backward state. Especially now that we are becoming such a consumerist nation. Consuming is one thing; hoarding is another. What with online shopping making shopping so much easier, many are buying and hoarding. So, that means we are not buying simply to fulfill our needs, but also to satiate our wants.
When we consider what we are going to leave behind in terms of possessions, it becomes alarming. One thing is clear: at this rate of consumerism, we are going to end up trashing the earth when it’s our time to leave. Mountains of used cars piled on top of each other, disused tires cast upon sandy banks, and ocean floors full of civilization’s plastic trash. It applies not only to western societies, but in our third world societies, perhaps even more so. The message of minimalism is a good one: keep only what you need. We need very little. For example, we don’t need two or three cars per family. We only need a really dependable public transport system, with wide coverage of different colonies. We don’t need humungous houses, or churches: we could go for environment-friendly structures using materials available around us. When the time comes for them to be replaced, they can be dismantled, and allowed to disintegrate back into the earth without causing pollution problems that artificial and manmade materials do.
Could a combination of minimalistic principles and environment-friendly living work in our public lives too? If we stopped importing ideologies and systems that are not relevant to our world-view, and instead make good use of what we have with us – the wisdom of the ages in traditional cultures, and the values of the religion our forefathers have embraced in more recent times, surely these would work much more relevantly for us than the systems from outside.
Minimalism is also anti-greed, anti-consumerism. Ithink it could be successfully applied to any field of life – to political life just as much as to social life. Would it be too optimistic to hope that the change of emphasis from our self-gratification could result in a more community-centered government?
There was a time in the early life of the Nagaland state that money sent from Delhi was not fully utilized for development projects, and leftover amounts were returned to the Centre. It is possible that our roads were better back then; verily, verily, running water certainly was a reality and electrification was unburdened by load shedding. Our bridges worked – even the inherited-from-the-British bridges.
Wanting the good old days back is not going to work and becomes a chasing after wind. Nevertheless, there were obviously some elements that worked well back then. Could we try and borrow from the past to make the present better?