Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Overrated Auroville: Critical Reflections on an Experimental Community in India

This morning, I came across a video praising a township in India that "lives without politics, religion, and money."  Although I admire the town's economic philosophy, the video overlooks some serious reported problems with the Auroville experiment.  A writer for Slate argues that, despite "innovative stuff" happening there, there is a "limited supply of water, an unsustainable economy, tangles of bureaucracy, secreted money, and no way to keep record of it all."  Even more disturbing is a BBC report on allegations of sexual exploitation of children.  Says one local, "They are allowed to get away with whatever they like, including paying our children to have sex with them, and we are powerless to complain."

But it's not just crime, corruption, and pedophilia that concerns me about this aspiring utopia.  There are also problems with the concept of a "religion free" community.  It seems to me that such a community (at least one that allows for procreation) is an oxymoron. Those born into it will eventually ponder the "big questions".  Some will conclude, on the assumption which is so characteristic of modern society that anything that transcends human comprehension must be false, that all religions are nonsense.  Others will humbly reject this arrogant assumption and may be drawn to a particular religion.  The latter will not experience the community into which they were born as free, but to some extent as repressive.  They will recognize that a "religion free" community is as absurd as one that is "meaning free", "peace free", "happiness free", and "freedom free".  Of course, I am not aware of the extent to which religion is discouraged in this community.  However, a place that explicitly markets itself as being "above all creeds" doesn't appear to be a very hospitable place for sincere religious seekers.