Gaya was presenting her research on Thear.
Thear was the only planet they had found where a single species had come to occupy more than three quarters of the planet. The Thearans had wiped out more than 70 percent of its species in just 50 years. The Thearans advanced their dominance by even destroying more than 90 percent freshwater habitats, that were essential to maintain the water cycle, vital to their own survival.
The Thearans had shaped their world to make it more, and more comfortable to their species.
“Feedback. Or rather, the inability to respect feedback was the cause for this extraordinary dominance and its consequences.” she explained.
The audience looked back, perplexed. She knew she would need to make that simpler. For everyone from her planet feedback was like breathing, necessary for survival. It was unimaginable, therefore, that there could be a species that would not respect something so essential for its survival.
“Feedback” she continued as the furrows on her forehead revealed that her mind was working intensely on how to present her case, “is the information we use to in our interactions with anyone or anything to act with care and respect of the relationship.”
“When you nod your head, you provide me feedback that you understand. When you have a bewildered look, you provide me feedback that I need to simplify. If I ignored this feedback, I will be disrespectful of our interactions and uncaring about our relationship. If you did not provide me with the information, you will be disrespectful of our interactions and uncaring about our relationship.” She looked at her audience for acknowledgement. Like everyone from her species, she liked doing exactly what she said. They nodded their head in acknowledgement. This seemed obvious, and even unnecessary to spell out.
“Thearans believed they were independent of the world they interacted with. For them, success and survival was about the sustainability of the individual, not the relationships they had with their world. That’s why they believed that feedback was a limit, a constraint on what they could achieve.”
The expression of shock was visible on the faces of Gaya’s audience. They could not believe what they heard. How could a species imagine that they were independent of the world they live in? How could they look at the feedback as a limit, a constraint, and not as information about the respect and care within the relationship? It was like refusing to recognize the difference between breathable and unbreathable air.
“For Thearans purpose was synonymous with growth. Individuals on Thear lived their lives accumulating things that they called wealth, and the ability to disrespect those that they interacted with that they called power.” Many from the audience had heard that just two percent of Thearans had accumulated as many things as eighty percent of the others on Thear had. Some had also heard that Thearans had no respect for the mountains that provided them with their climate and weather, or the forests that provided them with fruits, medicines, and even streams and rivers that had magical water. They had no respect for the streams and rivers that brought them the water essential for life. They had little respect for other Thearans and even less for other species that they called labour, livestock, pests, and vermin to be exploited or even destroyed for profit and power.
No one outside Thear was known to accumulate things or seek power.
Gaya’s observations of Thearans, unimaginable as they were, left no doubt why the Thearans no longer existed.
She looked at the perplexed face of the youngest in the audience and inquired with care, “Would you like to share what is bothering you?”
“How can one live independently or be blind to feedback?” his young face displayed shock.
“We’ve found three independent practices of Thearans that made them blind to feedback. I will tell you about each of them, one at a time.” Gaya had studied more planets than anyone they knew. They waited expectantly to learn what practices made those on Gaya blind to feedback.
“The Thearans did not interact to serve the purposes for which they came together unless it benefitted them individually. They measured the benefit in terms of something that was totally unrelated to the purpose of the relationship for which they had come together. They called this measure collars and developed a practice they called conomics [pronounced with an e on Thear – editor] to drive decisions in their relationships.” Gaya put up her slide on what Thearans called conomics.
“One of the most striking examples of denying feedback that we found was their imposing a tax on anything they wanted to regulate. The most famous example of this is the carbon tax.
Their economic activities were the result of burning fuels that emitted carbon into their atmosphere. The accumulation of this carbon in the atmosphere created a heat trap on Thear causing the temperatures on Thear to rise. The warming created havoc on their weather patterns, crop yields, natural disasters, and migration of Thearans to escape the disaster all this unleashed. Instead of responding to the information of the global warming resulting from their economic activity by slowing down their economic activity, Thearans imposed a tax based on the carbon their activities emitted!” Gaya’s recalled that it had taken quite an effort to piece together this absurd behaviour of using something unrelated to purpose of a relationship to drive its interactions.
“On Thear you cannot eat or drink water if you do not have collars.” She stressed, “On another extreme, Thearans with lots of collars could have more food and water than they could eat or drink. It was not uncommon for them to even waste it.”
“This shifted the individual response from the information provided by the interactions in any relationship to information provided by those who controlled the conomy. Those who controlled the conomy promised the accumulation of collars and power by enticing Thearans to pay attention to their information, instead of the feedback from the relationship.” Gaya paused just before the break. Her assertion was loaded with insights. It would take effort to understand everything she had said.
It, however, seemed clear why Thearans were also known as short termers. Their decisions had nothing to do with the Short Now – the lifetime of their relationships. What were the other practices made Thearans blind to feedback? They were going to have to wait till they reconvened the next day to find out more.
(to be continued)
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals or institutions that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph