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Samantha Suppiah

Samantha Suppiah

4 days ago·4 min read

You would think that you and me, we’re human, no?

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Mother and daughter outside their yurt in Central Asia with a bowl of kumis, fermented mares milk (Pioneers.org)

A recent conversation with a friend on the other side of the planet went into a curious rabbit hole: “people” vs. “human”.

The concept is related to modernity, otherwise known as Western civilisation. It is marked by separation:

  • Separation of cultures, stories, beliefs
  • Separation of nations, narratives, politics
  • Separation of communities, workers, students
  • Separation of services, functions, roles
  • Separation of families, friends, others
  • Separation of children, parents, teachers
  • Separation of self: work, home, peers
  • Separation of inner self: mind, body, spirit
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Bukharan Jews of Central Asia (Geni.com)

Here in Asia, we thankfully exist in a pluriverse: a world where many worlds fit. Western civilisation is a One World world, where one worldview dominates and overtakes.

The person is disconnected. They exist only in disconnect, identifying themselves by a series of separations. The person is out of touch, seeing themselves in the way that the civilisation of separation wants them to be seen: a citizen, a consumer, an employee.
The human, however, is more connected than disconnected. The human flexes and flows, like water. They see themselves as a sum of their relationships, human and non-human.

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Babysitters of Yokohama, 1922 (Okinawa Soba, Flickr)

To counter our disconnectedness, we need to explore and learn what it means to be human in our different contexts, in different cultures, and how that is expressed in different languages. The environment we are born into (or actively curate), shapes us in our becoming.

#HumansFirstAsia is an exploration of the Asian pluriverse: the many ways of life here in Asia. We start with an AsianHistoryTour, focussing on a different region each week, bringing stories of the places within the region.

We are creating spaces of solidarity and understanding across Asia. If you are Asian or identify as Asian, we would love for you to join us. It’s free, and the invitation is always open.

Our online Zoom sessions alternate between Tuesday afternoons and Thursday evenings, at the meeting link below.

Next Thursday session: 4th March 2021
2000h Philippine Time (World Clock)

Next Tuesday session: 9th March 2021
1200h Philippine Time (World Clock)

Join us then in our Zoom room: bit.ly/HumansFirstAsia

How big is Asia?

Oh, it’s big.

Here it is. In big-form.

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Legend:

  • Purple = North Asia/Eurasia (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan)
  • Yellow = East Asia (China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan)
  • Red = South East Asia (10 ASEAN countries + East Timor)
  • Green = South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan)
  • Brown = West Asia / Middle East
  • Blue = Central Asia

This is the most inclusive map of Asia possible.

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Gamelan performance during Balinese Arts Festival (Thoughtco)

As Western civilisation is beginning to crumble, we are actively shifting our perspectives away from Western-centric propaganda, ideas and values. We do this simply by creating more plural perspectives in our lives. And, as Asians, we start by getting a better understanding of Asia.

More than half of humanity is Asian. Humanity’s oldest human languages, cultures and civilisations are Asian. The long stewing of peoples in a rich natural ecosystem has created incredible flavours.

Linguistic maps attempt to expose the diversity we so rarely see ourselves. This is how we have always thrived as beautiful trading cultures, curious about the world.

We Asians see the world differently, we communicate differently, we think differently, we work differently. And that’s beautiful.

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Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, photographed on June 9, 2008. Once largely a nomadic region, the city began about 1,300 years ago as a local seat of government, collecting taxes on caravans passing Silk Road. Today it is a modern city with a population of about 3.5 million. (A Photo Trip Along the Ancient Silk Road, The Atlantic)

Why is it so important that we refocus on relationships amongst ourselves and our neighbours?

I’m a Southeast Asian sustainability strategist. My home region is utterly unique, utterly beautiful, and utterly precious.

Southeast Asia suffers dire challenges over the foreseeable future. 655 million human beings call Southeast Asia home, alongside billions of Earthlings, including countless known and unknown unique species found nowhere else. Our rare and diverse existence is under certain threat in my lifetime.

I will watch the demise of my Southeast Asia.
The vast majority of us will face forced migration, food insecurity and heat stress. Our natural habitats and biodiversity will continue to decline sharply as climate change accelerates. We will lose everything we’ve ever known — and all this will exacerbate exponentially.

Let’s lean in to this reality and activate survival mode. This is an emergency, the biblical kind.

How do we avoid descending into total societal collapse?
We still have time to work on making our demise more tolerable for millions more people.

Building real empathetic human connection is the only way to show ourselves we actually have the ability to care.

Let’s remember the ways of our indigenous communities and pre-colonial civilisations. We have always built trusting, reliable relationships, locally and globally — don’t stop.

Ramp up the empathy.

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Infrared satellite image of Super Typhoon Rolly/Goni (RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

Samantha Suppiah

Southeast Asian trickster-in-training. Sustainability strategist. Systems navigator. Creative disruptor. linktr.ee/samsupp.Follow

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Southeast Asian trickster-in-training. Sustainability strategist. Systems navigator. Creative disruptor. linktr.ee/samsupp.

Published in POSSIBLE FUTURES

·Feb 9

The Story of the Global South

We live in an era of civilisational destruction — of cities consuming nature. The collapse of the Global South is also the collapse of Mother Earth. We live a spiritual crisis, a consciousness crisis. Global leadership collapses. And even as decay happens, new shots arise. New plants are growing. At the intersection of technology and regeneration, using the colonisers’ language and platforms to decolonise the future.

POSSIBLE FUTURE’s first dialogues were held at TEDxGRC on 17th October 2020, with three panels: The Story of the Global SouthDecolonisation & DTM, and Pluriversality & Regeneration.

Sahana Chattopadhyay:

And welcome everyone…

Read more in POSSIBLE FUTURES · 29 min read

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