Interview with Dr. Mary King
"I could have given
Dr. Mary King came to
Auroville to attend the meeting of the International Advisory Council
and stayed on for a few days. She shared with Auroville Today some of
AVToday: Ms. King,
you have been member of this International Advisory Council (IAC) since
December 1997. What has your experience been?
Mary King: Rich. I've
very much come to appreciate the creativity and the dynamism of the
Auroville community. The effort of Aurovilians to live their lives by
the highest ideals is something that appeals to me, and I felt very
privileged to be able to support that effort. I like to think that this
International Advisory Council has had a constructive effect on a number
of fairly important issues, and that it is a help for Auroville that a
group of sympathetic outsiders based in Europe, North America and Sri
Lanka are joining hands to help manifest what Aurovilians are working
on. During this visit I have experienced a tremendous sense of momentum,
more than during any of my previous visits. We could discern real
progress actually taking place.
AVToday: Mr. Bala
Baskar, the former Secretary of the Auroville Foundation, observed in
his parting interview that the community has hardly made use of the
goodwill of the members of the various Auroville International Advisory
Councils to further Auroville's cause. Do you agree with this view?
Mary King: I think he
has a point. For example, I have never received a proposed program, in
advance, before arriving in India to attend an IAC meeting. The agenda
for the meeting and the topics for discussion were until this meeting
handed to me after I arrived - when there remained hardly any time for
preparation. This time I was also asked to give three lectures after I
arrived but, therefore, I had to speak without notes. The time of the
IAC members when here could certainly be better utilized.
For example, when you have one of the most highly recognized
environmental scientists in the world on the IAC, Dr. Norman Meyers, I
would imagine that there would be an entire program waiting for him and
that there would have been felt a need to consult and obtain his
critical assessment. He can offer an objectivity that is otherwise
unavailable on what Aurovilians are doing in a particular area. But as
far as I know, this hasn't happened.
In between our yearly
meetings, we have given help whenever requested. For example, at the
request of Auroville International, we wrote letters to the United
Nations to recommend that Auroville Inter-national be granted observer
status. It appears that they were useful, and I think that our
recommendations as knowledgeable outsiders helped.
When Dr. Swaminathan was
chairman of the Governing Board of the Auroville Foundation, we wrote
letters to the Government of India in support of efforts to obtain land
I think all of us would be
happy to do more. As the IAC members are obviously not acting out of
self-interest, our recommendations are seen as impartial, and as
offering a more objective reading of the situation than Aurovilians who,
after all, would be pleading their own case. The Aurovilians should try
to capitalize it this potential more.
Apart from these actions,
there was little or no contact with the Auroville Foundation in between
our meetings. To keep the fires burning, I stayed in intermittent
contact with Mr. Bala Baskar..
AVToday: In the
discussion about organization, you observed that the Working Committee
Mary King: Yes, I
feel very strongly that the Working Committee needs to be strengthened,
enhanced, and revalorized. The Committee works without power and glory.
At present they only seem able to deal with chronic problems and crises.
I can't blame them for not being able to do any forward thinking,
because the day-to-day work is immense. In that respect, the idea to
create a separate Unity Committee is excellent, and it has great
I have heard that some Aurovilians think that people who serve on such
administrative bodies are on a 'power trip'. But if one wants power, one
would not come to live or stay in Auroville. One is attracted to
Auroville because it offers freedom and the opportunity to realize in
this world the actualization of certain high ideals. That freedom
requires discipline, and the taking of responsibility in order to
accomplish one's aims. A minimum of organization and concerted action is
required in order to protect the freedom of all individuals involved.
Aurovilians should realize that their freedom is reliant on groups that
are willing to work and assume responsibility. I don't see 'power'
anywhere in this equation. Perhaps there could be a study group to
explore the notion of freedom, and Dr. Kireet Joshi could be asked to
give a lecture on this topic. To me, freedom expresses itself in the
willingness to assume responsibility
AVToday: You observed
in your speech to the Aurovilians on the roof of the Solar Kitchen that
you had a particular interest in organizations that elect to run
themselves by consensus, but you place question marks at the possibility
of consistently reaching consensus.
Mary King: It is
again a question of how you use your freedom. We had received a copy of
the document on a new internal organization, called "Towards a
Divine Anarchy," and I mentioned in our meeting that consensus as
an ideal is wonderful, and I support it completely, but in my
experience, it also can be misused. The quest for consensus can open the
door to manipulation. It is marvelous as an ideal, but, again, it
requires discipline. So I would suggest that Aurovilians must be
selective about using it. Every once in a while the community must be
able to allow a decision to be taken by other means. Sometimes you have
to take a short cut and be pragmatic. There is a time and place for
everything. I am not saying drop it, I am saying be clever and be