Monday, July 06, 2015

Repetitive Ropeway Urge Syndrome

From Now Scientwist:

Researchers in the field of Social Psychology from NAMHANS in India have given a name to a phenomenon that has been observed for quite some time now. This phenomenon has been known in the field Organismic Social Psychology. (Study of communities as if they were living organisms) The new name is Repetitive Ropeway Urge Syndrome (RRUS).


Scientists have long observed that within each Community there is a group of people elected, appointed or selected to lead the Community and take care of the Community's interests. This group is called Authority Group (AG). Every now and then AG loses touch with reality and loses common sense and executes or plans to execute, things that are not in the interests of the community, thereby not fulfilling the very purpose of AG. When the Community wakes up to this, it has to organise itself to stop the plans from being executed or undo or mitigate the effects of the things already excuted. A struggle ensues in which the AG loses touch with the Community and reality more and more. Much money, effort and time are lost in the process.

The name for this phenomenon was prompted by one strange manifestation of it in a city in South India. This city boasts of an extraordinarily beautiful range of hills rising a 1000 feet (locals always use this archaic unit since 1000 (ft) is far more impressive than 330 (m), whatever the units may be) from the plains around it. Atop it is a temple dedicated to the deity of the erstwhile royal family of the kingdom which bore the name of the city itself. The hills are eponymous with the deity. Repeatedly, the AG of this city has been seized by an urge to build a ropeway to the hilltop and has announced its plans. When the Community came to know about the plans, it organised itself, gathered public opinion - strongly against the plan - and thwarted the AG successfully. It has happened at least twice already. The AG of this city is in the throes of the urge once again, at the time of this report. It was during this latest episode that the researchers coined the new name.

Now that the phenomenon has been defined and named, the researchers show how the AG is disconnected from the Community by enumerating the reasons why the Community feels that it does not want the rope way. The reasons are many. Some are listed below.

1. It is unnecessary and hence a waste of public money: If it is impossible or very difficult to build a motorable road to the top of a hill, it may be necessary to have ropeways. The hills in question have very good set of roads, with hardly a hairpin bend. This makes the ropeway unnecessary, the members of the Community feel.

1.1 The AG says that that it will attract tourists. The city itself and the surrounding areas, within a 15 km. radius, have so many tourist attractions that one more is of not much value. As it is, many tourists have to choose from the many worthwhile attractions and are forced to leave out a few. Some tourists may be tempted to devote some of their time and money for a ride on the ropeway and miss the more historically and aesthetically significant ones.

2. The ecological impact: The hills are covered with thick scrub jungle. Installing the ropeway will necessitate clearing parts of it. This and the human activity during the construction will cause irreparable damage to it.

3. Noise and Light pollution and garbage: Some members of the community are concerned that the two ends of the ropeway will attract commercial activity - eateries, curio shops and give rise to noise, lights, garbage and make the hilltop more congested than it already is.

4. Sociological: Some members of the community say that it is meant for the pleasure of the rich and ask why the rest of the Community should bear the ill effects?

5. Suspicion: Finally, one oft-repeated concern expressed by many members of the Community is about the AG making money illegally from the ropeway project. If the project is allowed, the AG "eats" a large portion of the funds allotted and very little of it actually goes into the stated purpose – is how it is expressed. People who express this opinion are called cynics. (One particular dictionary defines a cynic as a realist)

Even though the name of the phenomenon described has the term ‘repetitive’ in it, signifying that the same (stupid, as some call it) idea keeps popping up repeatedly, it is not a necessary condition. Repetitive may refer to different (stupid) ideas occurring to the AG one after the other.

Here are some pictures of the Community that has organised itself to stop the latest Ropeway Urge of the AG of the city that gave rise to the name RRUS.

The first few steps of the thousand or so steps to the top

A poster explaining the reasons for the opposition to the ropeway

A signature collection campaign to oppose the ropeway

Some of the people conducting the campaign

*Photographs Copyright: J L Anil Kumar

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