The Nancho Consultations

Satish Kumar

Nancho Lite

Sri Satish

- Verbatim Excerpts -

Nancho: "Resurgence" magazine has earned an extraordinary reputation as a prophetic voice in environmentalism, new economics, new education and holistic thinking. How did "Resurgence" come into being and how did you become editor?

Kumar: In the '60s when the peace movement was quite strong in England a group of people felt that peace is not something you can negotiate or declare and get through the agreement of superpowers. Peace is a natural by-product of a kind of society which is in harmony with itself and with nature and therefore we have to take the issue of peace in a much broader sense; and since the '60s was the age or the decade of "flower power" and spiritual search and values, so a group of people got together and started this magazine. I was one of them in the beginning but I was not the editor. The editor was John Papworth and people like E.F. Schumacher. He wrote regularly. And Leopold Kohr who wrote regularly. And so many ideas of "Small is Beautiful", ecological lifestyle, new economics were written first in "Resurgence" in the '60s. So, that's how the magazine was started.

I felt that the '70s and the '80s are going to be very, very important in changing the attitude and the values of our society and of people and therefore my contribution through "Resurgence" would be important. At that time when I became editor, "Resurgence" was going sort of downhill. We had only 500 subscribers. So, the magazine was very small. So, I took up the challenge and ever since the early '70s we have been building up the magazine on a small scale but slowly and now we have 10,000 subscribers. So, the magazine has grown.

We don't want to go on a mass circulation scale. We don't want to be sold at big trade outlets like W.H. Smith and other news agents because we think the spirit of the magazine will be lost if we become a mass circulating magazine. So we want to remain a subscription based magazine so that we can keep its integrity and its sort of sharpness of message. Because once you have the subscribers you know how many copies you can print whereas going through the trade you are always at the mercy of the trade and the buyer and therefore you are always diluting your message to make it popular so that the magazine will sell and everybody will press it on you. But if you don't make this or that compromise the will not sell. So, we have avoided going through the trade and mass circulation. And we are happy to keep it small as it is and I think lots of ideas which we have been writing for the last 23 years are now becoming much more mainstream and many newspapers - daily newspapers and weekly newspapers are taking up those issues and writing about them. So, I think "Resurgence" has played its part in changing some of the thinking in England.

You said you're planning to do a special "Resurgence" issue on the Japanese ecological movement. How would you assess the situation so far from what you've seen?

Kumar: I'm afraid that the environmental movement, the ecological movement in Japan is quite small. It seems to me so far from what I have gathered it's quite small. And Japan seems to be making tremendous headway in its technological and scientific success and people seem to be much more interested in intensifying that success rather than taking a long-term view of the situation. And what will be the implication and the facts of this technological success?

It seems to me that Japan is going through some kind of economic golden age and people are so successful in their materialistic and economic pursuits nationally and internationally, and they seem to be rather intoxicated with their success and therefore they don't seem to have much time for the ideas of green values and new economics and local economics and alternative education and this sort of thing.

However, I have met quite a few, although they are in a very small minority, but nevertheless quite a few people from the organic agricultural movement and the anti-nuclear power movement who are very genuine people, very wise sort of people and have a long-term view. And I feel that they are going to be the salt of the country or yeast of the country and they are going to be the catalyst of change. And therefore I'm not discouraged or in any way despair. I think the seeds of change are quite strongly alive in Japan.

Well, faced with the size and the power of the organizations and the corporations that we are all trying to dismantle, do you think that grassroots movement is really the solution?

Kumar: Yes, I do because these big corporations and big governments and big organizations in Japan or in other countries like America and Europe, they are going to run out of steam and they are going to run out of time eventually. They might have another twenty years or thirty years or whatever time it is but they are going to run out of steam.

Then there is going to be some sort of economic crisis, a collapse even because the world doesn't have enough resources to offer all the people of the world including the 800 million Indians and and the one billion Chinese and the rest of Africa and Central America, South America and many other Asian countries, to provide everybody the kind of living standard which Japan and America and Western Europe are enjoying. It's going to be impossible because there are not enough resources. So, when they demand their share of the pie, we will have problems. So, people have to rethink. And also the pendulum always swings and no great empires have lasted forever. The Roman Empire fell and the British Empire came to an end and the Industrial Empire is going to come to an end because this is not a lasting situation.

So, I feel that when the crunch comes, it is the grassroots movement, the small movement who are keeping the alternative way of living alive: the right skills of producing food and building old patterns of houses that do not reqire a great amount of industrial goods and materials but they can use natural material locally available. Things of that kind are going to come back and we will be needing them. And therefore I think grassroot movements are very, very important and we must keep them alive and keep them strong and feed them and nourish them and there is hope in the grassroots movement.

You have worked in close association with the great economist, Dr. Schumacher, as you mentioned before. How has he influenced you and in what ways have you put his "Small is Beautiful" philosophy into practice?

Kumar: There are many ideas he had particularly in two fields. One was very much close to his own work and that was development of intermediate technology because he said that either we have totally primitive technology and therefore work is so slow that peasants and craftsmen can never catch up with any kind of living standard. Or on the other hand you have combine harvesters and robots and automated machinery and so on, so two extremes, Whereas he wanted to choose the middle way of intermediate technology.

So, that idea tremendously influenced me. But the other idea, which he did not do himself in practice but he very much felt for, was in education. He said to me before he died that if I was going to start something now, I would start a small school because the way we educate our children in large monolithic, impersonal schools doesn't give any right kind of sense of humanity and personality and values to our children. And therefore that was almost his last wish that there should be a small school movement. And therefore when we were in Hartland, in the village of Hartland where we live and running "Resurgence", we thought that we must live our ideas, we must practice what we are preaching, we must experiment with some of the ideas that Schumacher wrote and that we are writing in the magazine "Resurgence".

If ideas are not lived they become sterile and they become just abstract and intellectual - there's no life, there's no force, there's no sort of dynamic potential in those ideas if they are not brought into life, into reality, into practice. And therefore we thought that we must start this "small school". And that way the intermediate technology which the work of Schumacher himself brought into focus and the work of "Human Scale Education" which we have tried as kindred spirits and friends. These are the two aspects where human scale and small scale and "small is beautiful" are being put to the test.

Can you talk a little bit about the "Small School" - its basic premises, its goals?

Kumar: The main concern of the "Small School" movement is you are teaching children and not subjects. In large schools you have specialist teachers who teach French, who teach mathematics, who teach science, who teach religion, who teach music and they are expert in their subjects. What we have has sort of changed the focus from the subjects to children because by chopping knowledge into the compartments of subjects you don't get anywhere really.

We want to consider the whole child and develop the intellectual, the academic, the practical, the spiritual, the intuitive aspects of the child. So, if you want to develop the whole child you are teaching the child and not the subject. So, that is the main premise of our education.

If you are interested in teaching the subject, then it doesn't matter who is in the classroom, you are concerned with your book, your information, facts, figures, blackboard. That is your concern because you are interested in the subject and then it doesn't perhaps matter if you have a large classroom. But if you are teaching the child then it becomes paramount that the classroom should be human scale, small scale so that each child can build a deep and profound trust in the teacher as a personal relationship. And the teacher can do the same with the child so that the communication is better. A teacher immediately knows when he or she's teaching whether the child is learning, whether the child is enjoying, whether the child is a bored child by looking at the eyes of the child, the face of the child. So, you can adapt your education and your teaching to suit the situation and the child. So, making the school smaller, community based, human scale and personal is most important if you are interested in educating the whole child. Therefore, that is the main premise.

And because we are trying to educate the whole child we are developing lots of practical skills of the children. In our mainstream education it is very much academic and if you are not good at intellectual subjects like French or English or math or science, only then are you given a sort of chance to try some practical subjects. We are saying that practical subjects are as important as your math, science, English and French.

So, we say that for basic living you need food, you need shelter, you need clothes. Therefore, you need to learn to grow your food, to cook your food, how to serve your food, how to build your house, how to stitch your clothes.These are practical things - basketweaving, woodwork, pottery, cheese-making, milking the cow, the goat, basket-making, roof-making - all these practical skills we bring quite a lot into our education.

And then of course, we have quite a lot of importance for spiritual values and therefore implicit in the whole of our education is a system of values which is based on universal values rather than particular religious values. We are not teaching Christianity, or Hinduism or Buddhism or any other "ism". We are concerned with eternal values. They are like compassion, truth, reverence for life and so on. So, these are the main features of the "Small School."

As you mentioned earlier you spent nine years as a Jain monk in India doing meditation, etc. Do you think that by having done that at such an early age you had a better grasp of the deeper realities of life, the priorities of life? Do you think it helps for children of a young age to start their education in a more meditative, contemplative way?

Kumar: I was very lucky to have that possibility that from the age of nine I could join a monastery in India. In the western European situation or in the United States or in Japan that kind of possibility is not available to all the children. Therefore at least what we can do is to reform our schooling system, our education system in such a way that children can get the fundamentals right. Therefore I would say that by starting the "Small School" in the way that we have done and the movement for starting many, many more small schools all over the country in England and all over the world I would say is to me more important. Because we can't expect all the children of our society to go and start their education in monasteries.

But of course my education as a monk and monastic upbringing did help me to get the fundamentals right and the foundation of my life in a way right, because my attention is much more on the meaning rather than on the form. Like using the language.. language is the form but the meaning of the language is more my concern, not how flowery your language is or what wonderful words you can use, what structures of grammar you can make. I'm not so interested. I'm interested in the meaning which we are trying to communicate. That has been my education: always look deeper - toward the soul of things, the spirit of things, the meaning of things. And our education system is much more concerned with the form - how you can make things outwardly. They should be impressive,. attractive, etc. Whether there is deep meaning in it or not is not the concern of the educational system in the mainstream. And that is its shortcoming and therefore we have created so many great structures in our society - buildings, machinery, airplanes, airports, nuclear power stations, armaments, nuclear weapons, etc., etc. You can make thousands of items on a list. But people have lost a sense of meaning and that is what we need to restore in our education.

From where do you derive all your inspiration?

Kumar: Ahh. That is a very difficult question. You can't really answer that kind of question because it's like asking to define the soul or define the spirit or etc. It is an unknown, deep source. You can call it a divine source. We are, all of us, a sort of channel of that source. Everything coming is coming through us like Kahil Gibrahn said that children come through you, not from you. In the same way the inspiration, the ideas, the actions - everything is coming through us and not from us. We are not the source. Source is elsewhere. It's the eternal source, the divine source. It's a sacred source. And I have a feeling that I am a channel and it has been expressed through my body or through my actions or through my language, through my being. It's not something which you can put your finger and say this is the source. You cannot say that my source is Christianity or Hinduism or Buddha or whatever because even those sources are the channel. Even the Buddha and Jesus were channels. They were not the source. Inspiration was coming through them from elsewhere. So, you cannot really answer that question.

- Nancho Rep: Kathy Arlyn Sokol -

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