The synergy for survival

Few months back a friend sent me a video of a burrowing owl and its seven babies (the father is not there in the video). I like owls, have liked them for a long time, much before they became style icons and appeared on t-shirts fronts or as fashion jewellery. (Smithsonian channel)

The burrowing owl (google comes to my rescue again, every extra bit of information helps in building the perspective for me, though, of course, on some topics one needs to be careful of what one gets from the net).

The burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) is a small, long-legged owl found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. Burrowing owls can be found in grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas, deserts, or any other open dry area with low vegetation. They nest and roost in burrows, such as those excavated by prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.). Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are often active during the day, although they tend to avoid the midday heat. But like many other kinds of owls, burrowing owls do most of their hunting from dusk until dawn, when they can use their night vision and hearing to their advantage. Living in open grasslands as opposed to the forest, the burrowing owl has developed longer legs, which enables it to sprint as well as fly when hunting.

In this video, the mother of seven young owls lives in one of the vacant homes of prairie dogs on a plain land with very little vegetation in extremely hot climate. The mother scouts for food. Sees to it that the smallest and youngest one, who is likely to lose out to the competition from the other siblings, is also fed. Then the video shows something very interesting, the mother owl brings a large piece of bison dung (and am thinking owls eat dung?). Intelligent mother breaks the dung into pieces and spreads these pieces on the entrance of her underground home. This attracts bugs and insects to take shelter under the dung, its cooler. And these bugs and insects become food for the baby owls, right on the door step.

Amazing interdependence. Prairie dog-owl-bison-bugs/insect in a tough landscape.

The video towards the end says something that stayed with me…“the synergy for survival”. The need to come together to survive.

Coming to our lot, the human beings, there always are a small section who despite being pushed to live in an accepted, defined way, manage to stay different. They choose different kind of work, jobs, interests, choose to eat, wear, read, watch, marry, travel…basically go through life, differently. These people, as expected, not surprising at all, are always a minority. Bordering between a hippie and an eccentric, the world shakes its head in disapproval and wonders what these people are after.

That majority and minority demarcation done, what’s troubling is the further demarcations. The difference of opinion, or lack of concern, lack of camaraderie or that misplaced sense of competitions among the alternately inclined.

Would it be so hard, for someone who chose to play in a band as a career, appreciate a woman’s right to choose her clothes?  Or for someone who champions the cause of handlooms to appreciate the right of the LGBT community? Or a defender of animal rights to appreciate the need for organic and ethically obtained food? Or an avid bird watcher to appreciate the work necessary to keep the water bodies clean, the wetlands from encroachment, from being sold to the corporates or builders. or those who home-school their children to appreciate handmade as against mechanised products. I can go on with examples of how we hold certain things so close to our heart and that of others, what others hold close to their hearts and how there is possibility of a connection and synergy in all of them.

Why is this even necessary, to appreciate each other’s different aligning within the space of alternate ideas, thoughts, beliefs?

Because, in the larger struggle between the mainstream and the alternate, the alternate is always a minority. The only way to build a critical strength for the alternatives is to come together and stand up for each other’s choices. All the above are essentially about freedom, yours and mine, and mine is no bigger/ smaller than yours or vice-a-versa.

So, to begin with, we need to understand each other, fundamentally. And extend our support to each other’s struggle. And once we begin to see these, we will hopefully see the pattern of how mainstream and alternates are constructed.

And once we do manage to appreciate each other, we may be able to come to a platform and express solidarity. The need for walking paths, open spaces, play grounds for children, clean water bodies, creative spaces in urban areas. The need to oppose mining, dams in rural areas. We will find the commonalities.

To quote from Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of Hope”:

“I am hopeful, not out of mere stubbornness, but out of an existential, concrete imperative.

I do not mean that, because I am hopeful, I attribute this hope of mine the power to transform reality by itself, so that I set out for the fray without taking account of concrete material data, declaring “My hope is enough!” No, my hope is necessary, but it is not enough. Alone, it does not win. But without it, my struggle will be weak and wobbly. We need critical hope the way fish needs unpolluted water.”

It’s a collective hope and responsibility of the alternately inclined.

3 thoughts on “The synergy for survival


    I had a strange and happy connection with this article today. This matter of interconnectedness is kind of always in my mind. So wrote this piece ‘The Synergy for Survival’ voicing some of those thoughts. And then in a conversation the book ‘How Green was my valley’ came up. And I remembered the book, the film and the travel around Wales and the old mined area, minors and what happened there. And today I read this article, where besides the Film Festival, the beginning of the piece talks about the miners in South Wales!

    The miners went on strike during Margaret Thatcher’s government for a whole year and the source of the largest donation (£11,000 by December 1984) to the miners’ cause was from a group that called itself Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM).

    It’s about this stranger-than-fiction teaming-up.

    Beresford knows that the first question on our minds is: “Why?” The answer comes from the protagonist, Mark Ashton, a gay man who’s the self-appointed leader of LGSM. When invited to Dulais, Ashton goes up on stage before the bewildered miners and says, “We’ve been through some of the things you’ve been through.” Later, he adds, “What’s the point of supporting gay rights and not anyone else’s rights?” He knows what it’s like to be marginalised, to be persecuted by the government. He knows what it’s like to be picked on by cops and the tabloids. He knows what it’s like to fight for rights. Now, he’s recognising another fight for rights.

    Things are not so disconnected after all.


  2. This is really a deep, thought provoking article. At a personal level I have felt this, but have neither articulated it (except perhaps in political terms) nor really explored how we could find this synergy. In reality, many a time, alternatively inclined minorities who feel isolated are themselves plagued by social orthodoxies or exclusive mind-sets. Transcending those barriers calls for deep and ruthlessly honest reflection on their own experience of isolation and exclusion, and also learning to empathize with similar experience of other excluded (or as you have described positively, the ‘alternatively inclined) people and groups. As the LGSM signifies….as Mark Ashton so powerfully puts it….
    “We need critical hope the way fish needs unpolluted water.” Really wonderful insight from PF. I should read this ‘Pedagogy of Hope’.
    Thank you Anu for this beautiful piece.


  3. Prasad, thank you for reading and also for bringing in “deep ruthlessly honest reflection”, agree with you. Its reinforcing to read your post.


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