The “perfect” society of Auroville

As my close friends know, I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to popular technology.

As my close friends know, I’m a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to popular technology.

I still listen to CD’s, rather than download music. Heck, I have 400 vinyl records I still listen to regularly. The only cell phone I have is a company phone, because I refused to get one (that’s a topic for another day).

But I have to deal with Facebook, a personal mini-website some people are obsessed with. I find Facebook useful for keeping up with my friends back home, and I’m responsible for keeping track of The Pipestone Flyer Facebook page (which you should “Like,” by the way).

Two weeks ago I happened to see something that instantly set off alarm bells in what I like to refer to as my brain. It was a Facebook story with the headline, “In this inspiring city people live without politics, no religion and no money,” with the addendum, “This place exists and is called Auroville.” The story explained the history of the semi-autonomous city-state of Auroville, located along the east coast of India. The city (French for “City of the Dawn”) was the brainchild of Mirra Alfassa, who residents affectionately referred to as “Mother.” Legend has it that “Mother” founded Auroville in 1968 as the “perfect” society, free of want, racial tension and competition and instead offered peace, equality and enlightenment for all.

My curiosity was piqued because, as far as I’ve ever seen, nothing can be called “perfect” if human beings are involved.

Strangely, trying to find information on “Mother” wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Some descriptions of her early life read like a description of an Indiana Jones movie, which is in itself a red flag. Cult leaders often create false, extraordinary biographies to impress the greedy and gullible. But, of course, I’m certainly not accusing “Mother” of anything like that.

Anyhoo, looking a bit closer at the “perfect” society revealed quite a number of serious cracks in the facade. After “Mother” died in 1973, the city slowly slid into bickering and infighting, and by 1980 India had to take control of the city (after a court battle). Apparently, Indian villagers said living next to the enlightened Buddhas of Auroville wasn’t as nice as you’d think either. According to the villagers, those Auroville zen masters were just a bunch of elitist, snooty, rich snobs.

Lastly, in 2008 the BBC broadcast a program about Auroville that it’s school was, in essence, a retreat for pedophiles. The story claimed the idealistic city managers tolerated Auroville members molesting children; by using the word “tolerated,” an inference is made that the managers were aware of the abuse. After receiving complaints from Auroville managers, the BBC stuck by its story and city managers eventually instituted the Auroville Child Protection Service with the goal of preventing child abuse. An admission of guilt?

I wasn’t surprised to see the Legend of Auroville was as imperfect as anything else that people make. If a perfect society is ever created on this planet, it will be the result of a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of cooperation.

Snooty, snobbish behaviour and child molesting won’t play roles either.

Stu Salkeld is the editor of The Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.


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