The right to do wrong
May 27, 2008 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Auroville Funded by Governments all over the world, the city of Auroville is an ongoing experiment 'whose stated purpose is to realize human unity in diversity' through yoga. Unfortunately, it seems the 'rule free' society has attracted some of the least welcome of humanity's outliers, namely child sex tourists.

Auroville is the biggest employer for the impoverished local Tamil population, which some would argue makes it likely that the local police might not be inclined to investigate abuse claims very thoroughly. Aurovillians pay no tax and benefit from 2/3 of the profit from any commercial enterprise, as well as receiving a maintenance grant from the government which is more than the locals earn by working a full day. Is Auroville simply an extension of the usual colonial european behaviour in Asia, or a bold experiment?
It was quite difficult to find any online information about Auroville that was not directly attributable to an Auroville resident. Subsequently, the links are not un-biased. Thanks to hadjiboy for the 'Bizarre Childhood' link.
posted by asok (16 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you can only keep 2/3 of the profits of your commercial enterprise, you're not paying "no tax."
posted by grobstein at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2008

Child sex tourists? I personally don't like the idea of children traveling to India to get laid, but that's just my opinion.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:41 AM on May 27, 2008

I guess this answers the question of what child sex tourist do with their frequent flyer miles.
posted by socalsamba at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2008

it seems the 'rule free' society has attracted some of the least welcome of humanity's outliers, namely child sex tourists.

Crikey. "Seems" being the operative word, for sure. The "child sex" link contains no such allegations, let alone evidence, and the "tourists" link connects to a BBC article that contains an unsubstantiated, detail-free, anonymously attributed blanket accusation. This is sloppy, sensationalistic journalism, further slanted by the framing in this post.

Full disclosure, I guess: I stayed a week in Auroville back in early 2006 with my wife and daughter while researching a book. I found it a fascinating mess of a place, a failed experiment barely clinging to its core ideals. It was indeed a place rife with hypocrisy and it contained some of the most deluded and flat-out full-of-shit people I've ever had the misfortune to meet.

That said, its population also contained compassionate, committed seekers and real innovators in organic farming and renewable energy. And we stayed at a guesthouse run by a French couple who'd grown up in Auroville - the wife had spent her early years in a local school, this before Auroville had established schools of its own, and she was in many ways as much Tamil as European. Anyway, they were by every observable measure model parents (and provided us with medicine to give to our baby daughter when she contracted a run-of-the-mill rotovirus).

All of which is to say that while the whole Universal City and Matrimandir thing might reek of the worst kind of half-baked hippie-dippie utopian dreaming, there is real achievement to this community, and to make such corrosive allegations on one of the world's leading news networks with nothing more than an anonymous observer's unspecific allegation is fucking shameful. Find a victim ready to press charges or an investigative journalist with hard evidence, or retract the story for the libel that it is.

(Finally, FWIW, Sri Aurobindo was a fascinating historical figure - a veteran of the Bengali anti-imperial guerilla movement, among other things - and his philosophy and life are as rewarding as fields of study as Che's or Gandhi's.)

Now please feel free to resume with your pedophilia one-liner contest, already in progress.
posted by gompa at 11:53 AM on May 27, 2008 [7 favorites]

Now please feel free to resume with your pedophilia one-liner contest, already in progress.

Will do.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 11:59 AM on May 27, 2008

I'm not going to watch the BBC news video at work, but I want to know: does it include a more detailed investigation of the accusations than the text under the "tourists" link? Because that's an awfully thin piece of journalism, and I'm shocked that a responsible journalist would throw out such a weighty accusation without significantly more investigative work.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:59 AM on May 27, 2008

Yeah this article echoes what I have heard about that place. I had a very good friend who lived and studied in Auroville. She had very high hopes. Perhaps her expectations were too high. She left depressed and disgusted at what she thought amounted to rich New Age Disneyland-like tourist bullshit awash in creepy men.
posted by tkchrist at 12:13 PM on May 27, 2008

If they're "open to everyone" why is it so difficult for the locals to join? It seems like it would be a pretty sweet deal. What are the rules? Is there an education requirement?
posted by delmoi at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2008

So... BioShock was a documentary?
posted by LordSludge at 12:21 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

This reads like something out of The Elementary Particles (the commune "Lieu du Changement") by Houllebecq, and just as polemical. Gompas point is well made: probably fucked up, but probably some good stuff happening there. Babies and bathwater (save me your one-liners).
posted by lalochezia at 12:27 PM on May 27, 2008

If they're "open to everyone" why is it so difficult for the locals to join? It seems like it would be a pretty sweet deal. What are the rules? Is there an education requirement?

"Open to everyone" is rhetorical more than realistic. In reality, you are required to live in Auroville for a year, largely on your own funds, during which time you're expected to find work or some other way to contribute socially etc. There's also a chronic housing shortage, so in practice, if you can't afford to build your own home and finance living in it indefinitely, there are very very few ways to join these days. Because of this, most new residents are early retirees from Europe.

Finally, at the end of your probationary year, there is a committee hearing at which all Auroville members can discuss your worthiness or unworthiness as a permanent member, after which a yay-or-nay ruling is issued.
posted by gompa at 1:03 PM on May 27, 2008

Fascinating. The scholar in me wants to move there right now and start research.
posted by farishta at 2:37 PM on May 27, 2008

Children 10 and under join for free.
posted by ryanrs at 5:25 PM on May 27, 2008

I spent a few months in Auroville last year taking photos for an article. I loved the place, but the more you focus on creating paradise, the more it's opposite will also appear. Much of me really wants to live there and I'll certainly be back in the future. There is certainly an issue of how the rich westerners can live alongside the poor local villagers.
Some links from my blog:
Music Party at Auroville
More from Auroville!
Free Expression
Mother knows best
Village Relations
posted by BobsterLobster at 6:55 PM on May 27, 2008

Even if this dubious story is true, these pervs face prosecution in their home countries for the crime of traveling to a foreign country to partake in child prostitution. I just wish that someone would have busted Rush Limbaugh for that.
posted by caddis at 8:48 PM on May 27, 2008

gompa, the allegations of pederasty primarily in the first link. The video includes interviews with five separate witnesses to the child abuse, including one victim.

The "child sex" link contains no such allegations
I heard of acts between fellow pupils, acts with children from the surrounding Tamil villages, and even what I would now regard as serious child abuse by adults.
I was initially sceptical of the claims, but the more I look into it the more evidence I find. Not least in the arrogant and unhelpful attitude of the Auroville Working Committee, reminiscent of other large organisations who have been the subject of repeated allegations of child abuse.

I was wondering who would want to create such allegations if they were unfounded. I could not think who would benefit, certainly not Auroville, the local Tamil population, the Indian government or any of the funders.

I would suspect it is reasonable to assume that there will be child prostitution where ever there is a great disparity in wealth or power. So, Auroville is not unique by any stretch of the imagination. However, the apparent attitude of denial and counter accusation does not reassure me that they have been taking the issue seriously. If there is abuse of children occuring in the Auroville area by tourists (as documented in the Newsnight report) you would think that they would be doing their best to eradicate such activity, rather than passing the buck to the local police and emphatically stating that there has never been any child abuse within Auroville.

As the most powerful organisation in the area they have a duty to protect them most vulnerable.

Newsnight is not on a commercial television channel. They have no financial reason to cause controversy for the Auroville project. To ask for a victim who is ready to press charges shows a lack of understanding of the power dynamic at play, local culture or indeed human nature. Auroville is self governed, there is no police force or judiciary. They are not under any juristiction. How difficult is it to secure a rape charge in the western world? On the part of someone who has accepted money for sex? Sex tourists move on when they are under scrutiny, how do you prosecute? It is only when they have a high profile that the local government/police seem to react.

If you can only keep 2/3 of the profits of your commercial enterprise, you're not paying "no tax."

1/3 goes to Auroville, no money goes to the Indian government, there is no tax on commerce in Auroville. It is perhaps a tax by another name, but it is not the tax that the rest of the population of India pay.

I hope that the Auroville experiment continues, we certainly need alternatives to the dominant global cultural paradigm. However, progress in one area should not be marred by degradation in another.
posted by asok at 3:36 AM on May 28, 2008

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