Sunday, September 6, 2009

Land of the Lost

I went to a natural reserve a few weeks back. I found the keepers of the place, hopping mad.

They were angry! Angry because a few years earlier, some Western scientists came to the reserve, took some plants which were traditionally known as having medicinal properties. Then, as the story has it, these 'scientists', they went and patented certain vital processes to make the plant in any way beneficial.

Hence, from that day forth, if anyone wanted to do anything with those plants - which, further according to the story, is being studied as a cure for cancer - they will have to pay those 'scientists'.

Even if our own sons and daughters want to study it - hell, even if our people want to get treatment from it. They have to pay those 'scientists' who just took a trek to our jungles. Spent a week in the country, and took the things.

There are other stories. Bacteria to process oil sludge, apparently, was discovered in our backyards. Other people took it, and then they sell it to Petronas.

Now, I'm not for us closing our doors or keeping everything to ourselves. In Islam, there is no concept of real ownership of land and resources, because everything belongs to God.

However, as caretakers of the land, we need to ensure that we do not allow opportunists have their way. They will make a mockery of things, with their rampant greed and desire. Ego at its worst.

The plant, if it is indeed a valid cure for cancer or even athlete's foot, should be shared with the world, for free, not profitted from by pharmaceutical companies that send 'scientists' to go trekking in the forests and jungles under our care.

We have read of this before. When the Europeans went to America, they confounded the Native Americans, who knew nothing of land ownership. How can they? Their belief system centers around a philosophy that they belong to the land, not the other way around.

A few altercations later, and after Manhattan was sold for 20 dollars, the Native Americans began to guard their lands jealously. And yet, they still fell for it.

Legend has it that one man went and asked for land from the Native Americans.

Man: How! Kemosabe!

Native American: Wassup, biatch?

Man: Me want land.

NM: No can do!

Man: Then let me have enough space to bunk down for the night. Let me have as much land as this blanket will cover.

NM: Knock yourself out, bra.

The man then proceeded to unravel his blanket and marked a 40-acre land with it.

These tales, even the ones told by our reserve keepers, they may or may not be true. I'm guessing they're just tall tales. However, it does give food for thought.

My parents are at an age when they start talking about dividing the lands they have accumulated over the years.

I know that I won't be able to sell those plots. I can't. Even if it's worth USD400 million. I'm sorry, they're not for sale.

Not because I'm greedy. I mean, I can't eat soil. What do I look like, an earthworm?

As the caretaker of the land, it is my responsibility to ensure no one abuses it. And I don't trust anyone else but me.