One such classic example is the debate organized by Prudent Media (funded and supported by the Fomento Mines) around the response of Goans to Mega-projects. The theme of the debate was presented as “Is Goa becoming eco-conscious or negative?” If you didn’t read the statement of its editor-in-chief, you might be under the impression that this was intended to be a serious debate. But regard his statements for just a moment; “Goans are presently in a mood to oppose everything, may it be the Regional Plan, SEZs, housing projects, garbage plants and even mobile towers. The Maha Sangram will debate upon whether this is eco-consciousness or a negative attitude that is growing among Goans.”
The mood of the editor-in-chief of Prudent media is clearly evident, this is not really eco-consciousness that we are witnessing in Goa; it is negativity. The idea of the debate on Prudent Media is thus to label the activism in Goa as negativity and discredit it. And discredit it not once, but twice over, through repeated telecasts of what is a clever industry strategy to ensure that voices of dissent are discredited and concerns muzzled.
Let us explore this idea of Goan negativity though, since it is one of the most common myths about the Goan attitude, and forms the basis of the current industry attack against Goan activism. One of the foundations for this “Goan negativity” lies in the story of the crab mentality of the Goan. The story goes that a basket can be filled to the brim with crabs and yet needs no cover to prevent them spilling out. This is because each crab will not let another rise above the other, and will promptly pull the other down. With the crabs behaving so, the basket needs no cover.
When analyzing this metaphor, the first point we need to remember is that that the crab mentality is attributed to almost every closely-knit community. We will return to this universality of the metaphor, but only after we contemplate the condition of those poor crabs in the basket. What is significant I believe, is that the crabs have been pulled out of their natural habitat, been stuffed into a basket, and are slated for slaughter. It is this physical condition of discomfort and destruction that should necessarily be read into the metaphor to obtain a more sensitive understanding of the ‘crab-like’ Goan.
Let us first begin by acknowledging that for the most part, Goan society is composed not of the rich, but a peasant population that has struggled to enter into a middle class position; a good amount of them still struggling to enter that category and bracket. The story of the migrant Goan is also the story of the tyranny of the landlord. The history of the Goan has therefore until recently been one of discomfort and destruction, similar to the crabs in our metaphor. Unlike the crabs however, the oppressed Goan has also risen to the occasion and created environments of solidarity and help for each other. The kudds (clubs) of Bombay and Karachi are classic examples of this solidarity. The clubs catered to Goans newly arrived from the motherland in the strange environs of British-India and provided them a familiar and reassuring environment. The club then is a lasting example of the networks of solidarity that the Goan is capable of providing to another Goan.
The fragile world of the migrant, the oppressed and the poor (as many Goans in fact were – and still are) relies to a large extent on solidarity. Solidarity demands that we all rise or fall together. As such, if there is one person that seeks to rise quickly, without sharing the benefits of his or her rise with all, then this person is a threat to the solidarity of the group, its continued existence and must be brought back into place. It is this need for solidarity that forms the basis of the so-called crab mentality of the Goan and no doubt informs the accusation of ‘negativity’ that the captains of industry have been leveling against the Goan people’s movement.
This history of the Goan, and this understanding of the ‘crab-mentality’ underlines an important fact. That human society has a tendency towards equality rather than inequality. In the face of aggression of any sort, the need for equality is asserted, and aggressively so if necessary. This is exactly what is occurring in Goa today. The Goans find themselves assaulted by forces of inequality that are determined to milk the environment dry and generate obscene levels of profit for the few, rather than for all Goans. In the face of such a proposition, what other option does the Goan, rooted in a communitarian tradition that stresses solidarity, have exactly? When faced with a State that pretends to listen to their voices, but deceitfully pushes through plans that are consistently against the people, what else can they do but violently and consistently protest every action that the Government engages in?
The so-called negativity of the Goan people is not negativity in the least, but a demand for equality. It is a demand for a model of development that generates profits all around, and not only for the captains of industry and their henchmen in cushy positions of profit and power. The systematic exploitation of the Goan has gone on so long, that the Goan public has been pushed into a corner and it is from this corner that they are fighting back. Rather than recognize this fact, the Government has chosen to side with the forces of inequality that threaten to push the Goan back into the basket of poverty that they have helped each other get out off. This is the reason for the vociferous opposition to the Government and the captains of industry.
Gomantak Times, Oct 1, 2008)