One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Conversations With An Afghan Teacher: Part 12

That was obvious; “When even kids use dialogues and mediation to resolve their issues, then, societies, no matter, how primitive are definitely, better off than children…” I thought.   

“Like history of earth, you can understand the present situation of a people, if you know their past well…” the teacher added, before I could utter a response.
“Balay Ustad.”
“Have you heard about the famous experiment of the Japanese Scientist on Slime Mould?....” The teacher asked, “What was his name?” He closed his eyes and pressed his index finger against his temple. “The name is somewhere close... and….what was his name?...his name? Yes, yes, I remembered.” He smiled as he opened back his eyes. “Toshiyuki Nakagaki!”
“Toshiyuki Nakagaki” I laughed and repeated the name after the teacher. “Still, you remembers his name. That’s like mission impossible for me.”
“I’m a teacher and have to remember names!” He laughed again.
“No, I haven’t heard about that experiment.” I confessed. After few meetings, it had become easy for me to swallow my pride at times.
“Slime Moulds are basically unicellular organisms that usually live as single celled individuals and feed on other single celled organisms like bacteria. When some individuals sense the shortage of the food, they excrete a chemical signal and all the individuals combines and make a multi-cellular organism….” He put another slice of orange in his mouth. “And you can imagine that a multi-cellular organism has better chances in finding food and coping with food shortages..”
“That’s neat.” Said I.
The teacher laughed. “You know…” he shook his head. “Once, there was a time, when I thought there were huge differences between the intelligence of the different human groups…” he paused and looked at me to see my response. I was waiting for him to continue. “I’m not so sure anymore…” he smiled again.
“So why are there so much differences in prosperity levels of different groups out there?”       asked I.
“It all about the systems…”
“Isn’t the systems are made and maintained by the people?” Puzzled, I interjected.
“That’s true.” He replied with a somber nod. “But the slime moulds don’t have the kinds of intelligence we attribute to our brains.”

I didn’t get, what he meant by that, so I stayed silent.

“Nakagaki cut a slime mould into pieces and put on a different corners of a plastic maze in a petri-dish. The slime moulds grew throughout the maze and became a single mould again….”
“So they behaved  like the times, when there were food shortages?”
“Exactly.” He put another slice of orange in his mouth and gestured me to eat my orange too. “And yeah, don’t forget these oranges are packed with Vitamin C, something your body doesn’t store...”

I picked the second orange to peel. “Especially, when air pollution is on rise, we need regular replenishment of the Vitamin C.” I laughed.
“Nakagaki put two pieces of agar filled with nutrients on the two corners of the maze, and in a few hours, the mould body shrank itself to the shortest path of the maze between the two agar pieces…”
“So, in a way, it solved a puzzle, right?”
“Right.” Said the teacher while wiggling his legs up and down. “But it wasn’t a conscious act of solving puzzles as some of us do enjoy…”

I felt like he wasn’t feeling easy to jump into conclusions, so I tried to distract him by changing the topic. “Once, I was so into solving the word puzzles that, as soon as I received the newspapers, soon after reading the current Tarzan series, I would jump to the word puzzle section to solve it.”
“See, I can’t decide, whether the slime moulds that don’t have any brain are more intelligent than people who created social systems that at one end of them, people need advisers to manage their wealth, and at the other end, people scavenge for food in the garbage piles…” the teacher paused. His legs still wiggled up and down. “What do you think?” He asked me.
“In this case, I guess, there must be some strong connection between intelligence and inequality…” replied I. “It is just a guess.” I stressed.
“That’s very likely.” The teacher smiled. “And yes, you need your vitamins to maintain that intelligence.”
“Balay Ustad.” I ate a slice of the orange. “You said that humans learned very early that walls weren’t the best solutions to protect their heavy investments?” Asked I.
“Balay” Said Ustad. “You know, soil erosion and soil degradation isn’t a new problem. Early human settlements faced these problems after intensive agricultural activities and pasturing. (While teacher mentioned the soil erosion, I remembered that we were living in a part of the world, where desertification was the biggest challenge and I repeatedly heard about the warnings of upcoming environmental migration. Other than grey mountains, the lands appeared khaki. Close to the mountain fans, where underground water reservoirs were once tapped by force of gravity through karez systems, were replaced by forcefully withdrawing the water through tube-wells. Down in plain areas of the valley, the soils were already showing the signs of salinization. Some of the urban farmers used sewage water to irrigate their salad and vegetable farms. You could never told the vegetables or the salad that you are buying are either supplied by sewage- vegetable-farms, tube-well-vegetable-farms or supplied from other provinces such as Sindh and Punjab. Any casual visit to the two civil hospitals in the city, one  could see that patients with gastritis complaints were the routine visitors to the hospitals. The political and social impacts of the water scarcity were already becoming obvious. Those with political or social influences had more rights to the underground water than the ordinary citizen. So, it was kind of normal where populations of poor neighborhoods that numbered in hundreds of thousands people received none to few hours a week of water supply from the city sources and had to meet their water need by buying water tankers who supplied water at high prices, the influential individuals sold the water to water tankers or used the water to maintain their huge lawns, farms and orchards. It was common to hear the phrases such as land mafia and water-tanker mafia. Any way, from where we sat, I realized the scarcity of limited resources and worse than that an unstable and very poorly organized and maintained social structures living off those limited resources. It was true that there weren’t much room for manipulations when the resources were very limited. It was a real time bomb scenario.) ….


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