The India I see now is not the India I grey up in seven decades back. Of course, I've
changed... from a child to a man to an old man. But some things remain pretty
constant with ageing, for instance your cultural heritage, moral attitudes, instinctive
feelings Etc. The Roman philosopher Cicero in his essay on Old Age said that as
a man grew into old age he lost nothing of his memory or higher faculties, only he was given the privilege of "changing
his opinions gracefully" !! Well, I haven't changed my opinions
gracefully! I detest what is going on around us in India under the name of
"dolopment". I simply LOATHE it. Much of the loathing is I suppose
unjust because many of the gullible actors are plain uninformed, foolish,
illiterate to realities.
In the past quarter century (1991 and Manmohan
Singh's Finance Ministership) what had started as the post Rajiv Gandhi
Liberalism rapidly became a world bank prescription for economic development.
The country went fast-forward into industrializing the green zones of the
nation and rampant extraction of minerals, vandalization of forests, and
displacement of tibals... we havent forgotten the 740 villages of southern
Chhatisgarh destroyed between June and December 2005. I would look at the
scenery of land acquisition, GDP and the demand for national resources for
increasing industrialization from a rather more rarefied psychological
view-point. The problem increasingly lies in the high-jacking the mind of this
nation and in particular its youth through our media, schooling, and job
opportunities in the higher income sectors where toe youth are told to head.
Skewered television programmes, massive increase in
sophisticated cellphones, advertisement marketing and Promises of a New Thing
have given the vegetable woman down the road an inside view of everything and
children able to use a mobile phone the opportunity to view pornography. That's
some idea of development. I wonder what the Greeks of Athens let alone Sparta would have said to all
this ? The original genius of India like Greece and Rome after her lay in the
combined evolved genius of milennia flowing freely through the poupulace. Today
this genius and all it meant and still means is in the grip of a young post
1980s set of young corporates, bureaucrats and politicians. This first
generation is out of our control and their offspring are the India of tomorrow who will not
understand what we mean by "Indian Civilization". The medical
profession calls such stage of a disease Terminal. The rural peoples of India
which includes hundreds of tribes had with fortitude shared the self-produce of
the national natural resources (lands, forests, rivers etc.) without any
mucking-about in a thoroughly evolved EGALITARIAN democracy which nobody likes
to talk about (it's an embarrassment to think we destroyed what Jawaharlal
Nehru called 'The Discovery of India')-- the great so called mirage of the
larger reality which Tagore and others have referred to as "the
civilization of India". This was the civilizational wealth of five
thousand years of steady religious, intellectual and cultural growth which Huen
Tsang the Chinese pilgrim of the 6th cent. recounts with such poignancy in his
'Travels'. We replaced it immediately after 1947 with industrialism (and all
that crap) whose burden like Prometheus' is increasing daily.
To go back to this civilizational heritage of India
-- it was that residual cultural and experiential heritage of uncounted
millennia going back to the stone-age when man first left his markings and
drawings in rock caves, the spirit of self-dependence and altruism with which
the nation as a body together rose in rags to face the wealth of British
colonialism, its might of arms, and ruthlessness of exploitation of resources
for industry. With Gandhi India rose to a man, woman,
child. The sheer MORAL strength of India was too much for British
authority. They did not use the automatic gunfire which they used on Zulus in South Africa. After Jalianwala Bagh
they accepted Tagore's return of his Knighthood (and which Knight would not ?).
That civilization of India had moral bases and
spiritual foundations deeper than the foundations of the island called England. Gandhi had challenged
the industrial usage of our national resources to be exported to England for manufacture to be
sold back to us and resulted in the Dandi March, Quit India, and the burning of
British cloth from Lancashire and other mills. I don't
think many 1980s born politico-bureaucrats or corporate sahibs of today can
even digest these truths into their brains. For the brain too digests. Modern India won its freedom from
colonialism on a MORAL premise. Where has that morality gone????
Today the selling of the Nation to the highest
bidder is going on in the name of Development, GDP and Globalization. The
ancient tillers of the soul are being hounded out of their lands being hastily
sold to corporates by state governments without any form of local consent
whatsoever, vast swathes of this Nation's land, forests, water resources and
minerals have been exchanged on paper with big banks like the IMF and World
Bank and the very meaning of Nationalism has been high-jacked into the
discovery of a new India where the ownership will no longer be India's. Does
this not amount to treason ?As industrialization increasingly enters the very
innermost, least accessible heartlands of India, do we not feel a pain at what
we are losing; have we lost the mental ability to DIGEST the enormity of abuse
and suffering caused through heartless greed and selfish opportunism ? Is not
the Conscience of the world at stake ? Do we not have brothers and sisters in
every continent on this planet who understand our predicament of uncontrollable
loss and would sympathize with us.
I’ve been reading the new book on
the environment Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India, by Aseem
Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari published by Penguin/Viking last year. For these
past three decades I’ve been myself immersed in environmental campaigns, in
particular against opencast coal mining in the Damodar valley. As the
temperatures begin rising steeper each summer, the monsoons fail repeatedly,
droughts and floods become increasingly frequent a lot of people have started
taking an interest in the Other Side od Global Industrialism.
The greatest changes in society
come from within an acceptance of particular value systems and their impact on
food, water and human happiness as far as the natural environment is concerned.
Up until the industrial revolution value systems were dependant on a basically
survival environment. After the advent of industrialism and the economy
dependant on minerals and non renewable resources the industrialized West moved
into a new theatre of industrial
production using machines powered from
fossil fuels and left behind the good old egalitarian systems of farming and
exchange -- the food system that had
held together the Old Order. This was armed colonialism which was backed by the
newly available automatic firepower and brought its own militarized hierarchies
and the policing of hitherto peaceful self-sufficient natural environments and
their highly evolved societies which suddenly became backward savages sitting upon
the raw materials useful for industrial production. This was the recent epoch
we have witnessed and whose face is familiar in our new India where we have
inflicted more damage on our natural environment and rural and forest societies in the name of development
than two centuries of British colonialism and three centuries of Mughal rule
Throughout the five centuries of
colonial expansion over the planet governments became more and more powerful
especially after the nineteenth century, and it is estimated the natural
heritage and species lost and being lost is something not witnessed in millions
of years. European colonialism snatched more than half the planet’s richest
continental resources in the name of Sovereignty and through what has been
defined by Native American jurists as ‘Conquest by Law’. After the colonization
of Meso-and-South America
in the 16th century came the colonization of Africa,
America , Australia
and the Pacific, Southeast Asia and South
Asia. Vast swathes of hitherto untouched natural environments
became subjected to the scythe which is called development, farming the planet
for industrial warlords.
Today I see no answers or
solutions given to find the right direction. I keep reading pages after pages
of radical new solutions, a ‘how to’ type of approach, but the solution to my
mind lies not in building fairy castles but in identifying the sickness and
tackling it at its source. Nobody fully seems to understand – maybe a few do –
that the most urgent action is to stop the massive damage being done to nature
and society while we keep on implementing ‘solutions’. Its what happened with
Global Warming. Everybody was optimistic until the space for optimism ran out.
Then these agencies started to tick faster but kept failing. Now we are aware
Climate Change as its called, the result of anthropogenic global warming,
cannot be any longer stopped. And I’m not joking. There are rays of hope like
Niyamgiri in Odisha and several other successful activist campaigns against
destructive development, but the problem will not go away. There has to be a
national consciousness consensus that the state is headed in the wrong
direction. We require to step back and analyse our own selves. No great change
in society ever was possible without a change of self, a philosopher’s stone.
Like Sparta or the presence of
Socrates which helped develop the Roman state. Or after 300 AD the rise of the
Roman Catholic in Europe. For better or worse it led to
the Reformation, Renaissance, Age of Exploration, and finally, the
Enlightenment. Then all the lights suddenly go out. The greatest wars the world
has ever seen raged from end nineteenth century (Zulu and Boer Wars) to the two
great World Wars in which an estimated eighty millions died.
The challenge for educational
institutions in our own times bear the shadows of the past and the even longer
shadows cast by the future. The schools, colleges and other educational
institutions are today churning out the young citizens of tomorrow born into an
uncertain, fragile and mechanistic environment
-- digital and cyberspace, neuro engineered and robotic -- they are the citizens of tomorrow in a
world with an evidently new moral order… When I look at the good schools (ands
I am specifically looking at our Indian schools)I am greatly distressed because
these high achieving young folk are being created precisely to become fodder
for the Industrial Machine waiting to swallow them. The IM is the devil in
disguise. I know the paychecks are good, and more’s the problem! It is these
industries that will provide these youth what is today fashionably called by
the nouveau riche a’higher standard of life’. It is precisely this double-speak which I am
referring to. I know that all parents want their children to ‘do well’ in life,
but what is ‘well’ may I ask ? Are we calculating the costs ?
It has been said that culture is
the product of a sound education. What do we mean by a ‘sound education’ ? Does
99.8% in exams sum up human life ? The
human race is a long rigmarole of change but nowhere have robotic geniuses
created El-Dorados except in the present times.
Are not the creations of our imagination – our own children – the most
important investment in our common futures as a race ? And with their superior knowledge and ability
are they not the material needed to bring the
environment to nothing but rubble. This planet EARTH we stand on (always
thinking we are standing upright!), this Blue Planet, is a tiny fragment of an asteroid in the
hostile emptiness of black space warmed by a slowly dying Sun. It is no longer
Blue as in Armstrong’s 1969 photograph from the Eagle on his way to the moon.
Recent NASA photos show it brown by day, and by night ablaze with electric
lights. We have created a dying
environment in the only home we have.
Education has been going on for
millennia, and all great civilizations evolved their own great systems of
education in their own languages and scripts from Mayan, Inca and Toltec to Mesopotamian, Arab and
Egyptian. Even Europe latterly after Greece
had education. China
and Asia have been great models for education. Highly
civilized societies have presided over what we now possess. There have been the
great Upanishadic schools of India,
and even now the higher education of India
is in her temple schools and ancient ethnic ways of life and culture having
their own knowledge systems.
I am trying to say that we cannot
have systems of education which celebrate the blowing up of the Earth and
polluting its atmosphere to the point that it will be too hot to live in and
climates will change destroying all traditional ecological produce from
agriculture to forest gardens. We cannot to afford to have a highly industrialized planet and a
more highly polluted living space just because every body wants to live “
Western Style”. In his own inimitable way the Mahatma said “If every one in India
wants to live at the standard of the England
then five continents will be required.” As ever, he was Spot-On.
The natural spaces are
disappearing so fast that in a decade rivers, lakes, forests, and what is
referred to as ‘the countryside’ will disappear under highways, parking lots
and industrial developments. Europe and the UK
have woken up to the world crisis faster than Indians and hit the brakes. Coal
is out in Germany,
The sky on an an April day in the
countryside “under and English heaven” azure blue as a baby’s eyes, is still to
be experienced. The ‘London Smog’ of old is no more. The forests of Europe
once ravaged by industry and war a full and flourishing, the rivers clean and
brimful, same with the lakes.
We continue with fatalistic
feudalism to the utter collapse of our last ecosystems, cities piled with
stinking garbage, the poorest nation in the world with the highest malnutrition
levels (worse than sub-Saharan Africa I’m told) – Here is a challenge for our
educational institutions: Schools, Colleges, Centres of ‘Higher’ (whatever That
means) learning’. Tomorrow is what we do today. If we do it wrong there may not
be any Day After Tomorrow.
The higher educational institutions and the so called
higher class English Medium schools (upto Plus Two) in India are churning out
students for the higher income elite sector/industrial jobs which is directly
responsible for the destruction of India's natural resources and massive
displacement of land and forest dependent indigenous peoples. This high-endIndiais concerned with private and state consumption which
reflects in GDP and is representative of less than a quarter of the Nation's
population. It has been estimated recently that 200 million Indians enjoy a
level of GDP equivalent to the economies ofGreat Britain,Germany, andFrancecombined. But what about the rest of the Nation of 1.2
billion souls supposedly all created equal ? There is not and can not be
equality for all and 40 percent ofIndia's 1.2 billion live below the poverty line of a dollar
a day, while 25% live in a state of chronic malnutrition and abject poverty and
starvation. Most of this kind of malnutrition and starvation is linked with the
eighty million displaced in the last sixty-five years through state sponsored
destructive development projects. If education is to have a social purpose it
must not be exclusive or hierarchical or create an exploitative class and has
to be national in the best sense in the belief which Thomas Jefferson voiced in
the words" We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created
equal."(American Declaration ofIndependence4th July 1776). In the modern Indian system such equality is not
envisioned and even if envisioned cannot be applied due to racial, religious,
and caste prejudices. We have created an increasingly industrializedIndiafacing historical acceleration dependant upon economic
hierarchies which are at the cost of the Nation's poorest and is dependent upon
the natural resources and lands they have ancestrally lived upon. We are
witnessing the social evolution run amok of modern India especially in the past
two decades -- since Neo-Liberalisam was given full rein -- a situation similar
to what the Spanish Conquistadores enacted in the Americas with the conquest of
the Aztecs by Herman Cortes in their lake-encircled capital of Tenochtetlan in
1519 in Mexico, and the subsequent conquest of the Inca in Cuzco, Peru by
Francesco Pizarro. In both events modern firearms, Spanish steel, horses and
germs (smallpox) carried by the Spanish triumphed. The germs caused epidemics which
almost wiped out the meso-American population. In our present context similar
forces are at work only the weapons are Economic, Psychological, and
State-empowered policy, and and the germ most powerfully active is a new
technology for transforming traditional mindsets, i.e. Internet, Television,
Advertizing/Media and Cellphone.Indiatoday is the film-set and landscape of the 2009
blockbuster film Avatar.
16th September, 2013
Written specially for the Mt.Carmel
(St.Joseph’s School) 50th Jubilee Annual 2013
The first signs of human
expression which appear on stone walls from deepest antiquity are images of
natural forms that had first inspired the primitive artists, and which were in
a way the forerunners of what would become writing, although nature has its own
many forms of writing that we are only now through the aid of science beginning
to realize is in fact an expression asking to the purpose served by writing as
we now know it, which is the conveyance of thoughts and ideas through form.
Thus the writing of early man was in tangible forms, an idea still expressed in
over eight thousand characters of Chinese writing.
One of the weapons of conflict
has been writing for when a new form of writing or visual communication is
imposed upon alien societies then their own systems of expression and thinking
become confused and begin breaking down before the new model imposed upon them.
Tangible phenomenal expressions of this are to be found in the European
conquests of Pre-Columbian America and in other places where European
colonization broke down indigenous societies destroying their ancient highly
evolved forms of writing, language, worship and social and cultural values and
behaviour which were all forcibly destroyed and replaced by new forms of
thinking and action imposed by their conquerors.
Primitive hunting and gathering
tribes could communicate with the prey they hunted through an understanding of
their ways and language. Socrates was the first to observe how writing is at
best a reminder to the one who reads of what is already known, a forerunner of
Carl Jung’s hypothesis of a universal unconscious. We are aware of powerful
signals which exist between animals and birds and their natural environment for
example forewarnings of tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions or
tsunamis. There is much which we know which science cannot explain and much in
the realm of intuition that may never be explained. It would seem that evolution
itself is moving steadily towards entropy in the process of which primal
knowledges are steadily being lost and
is in accordance with the principles embodied in the second law of
thermodynamics. All the so called new ideas which confront us daily are merely
recollections of what past ages have experienced even thousands of years ago,
which was then known and understood and acted upon more profoundly than in our
own times, for the human has basically remained unchanged for nearly half a
million years. And hence the space for our new religions and churches, mosques,
temples and religions from theologies to economics. The indigenous societies –
even those living amongst us at the present time –have managed to preserve much
which is precious primeval knowledge which cannot be discovered by science and
has developed from what Darwing called evolution through natural selection.
These knowledges in theabsence of the written word in these societies have been
orally transmitted through millennia in an unbroken oral tradition and social
example which is now being so rapidly lost, and which is one of the greatest
threats to human survival on this planet. Because of the deep connection
between an object and the name which men have given it in palaeolithic times
comes down to us in the roots of our own modern languages creating the
alphabets themselves. Only after the development of phonetic alphabets would
the words and characters begin to lose their original connections with the
forms (and even ideas) which they expressed,
perhaps best preserved in the present traditions of the characters written in
Among many existing primitive
cultures the sensory awareness has not become a word that is existing in
writing and in which uncountable sensory inferences remain
Unexpressed in our own writing but which may
yet be transferred from one person to another without speech or writing. This
is seen in the language of birds and animals, their songs and calls the most
famous examples being in the animal kingdom between whales and dolphin and
elephants where messages are conveyed over hundreds of kilometers. The deep
evolved sensory participation through their interaction in a common natural
environment is extraordinarily highly developed among the human
hunter-gatherers still to be found in Africa, India,
other regions in nearly their ancient
states. What has been called extra-sensory perception is rather, a heightened
sensory participation. Primitive peoples understand the calls of birds and
animals and even though these are often their food prey they have not lost
sight of the sacred bond which binds them in a wild survival environment. And
the anthropologists have discovered the deep ritual connections which these
societies maintain with these birds and animals which they hunt, remarkable
examples being between the Australian Aboriginal and the kangaroo, the Kalahari
Bushmen and the eland, and the entire bases of totem among tribes and the
sources of totemic clan and place names is devolved from this deep
relationship. In the primitive languages of these peoples bird and animal
calls, the sounds of wind and water, have entered not only into their speech
but in their dances and musical expressions and is most deeply felt in their
songs in the literary sense. The leap of a kangaroo or the whistling of an
arrow or the halt of a startled deer are as beautifully expressed in their
dance or rock paintings as in their songs and folk stories. We should not be surprised to be reminded
that these are the startling heights in our own classical music or artistic
expression for both are in the worlds of the supersensory awareness of our race
and express the highest points of our expression and awareness. After immense
spans of time and uncountable changes man has basically remained unchanged as
an animal from the kingdom of the animals which he still inhabits despite his
cement and concrete barriers. The relationship between primitive peoples and
their bird and animal friends there is such a close bond that they are careful
in their utterances lest they offend them. This remains between them and the
natural world an innate respect which modern scientific man who worships only
the gods of money and science has lost. These deep connections remain only with
those who live close to the land and when they move away from the lands and
forests they used to live in to the towns and cities they lose these contacts and
they lose the powers which go with them.
This should be quite obvious but
in our modern haste for material comforts we forget that the bonds we have had
with nature sustained an earlier far better world, and one we have abused in
our tryst with destiny. For the locals the places and wild creatures whom they have traditionally lived and loved and
struggled to survive among have special significances and names as of living
things and they are always referred to as relatives such as fathers or mothers,
brothers and sisters. This close relationship modern industrial man has lost
with the natural world and it is the cause of his downfall from an apex species
to one on the road to extinction. Be they streams or rivers, mountains or
hills, or the great temperate and alpine forests that are the mothers of the
rivers, and in turn their basins from where evolved theancestors of the great
river valley civilizations, these are all are the matrix from where our species
has sprung and alone can save our species, the humans, from the dark clouds and
climate changes that today threaten our arrogance in an industrial
All this, however, assumes the
maintainence of a natural symbiotic order imposed by the fact of our common
planetary existence on a single planet spinning in a dark and hostile
universe.In our modern industrialized world in which we have mined the deepest
river lands and run the rivers dry and mined the mountains where the ice has
begun to melt and collapse of their fragile environments, where we have
bulldozed our way through the living earth destroying agricultural survival and
displaced their peoples both settled and nomadic , we have thus destroyed this
ancient and sacred connection between man and the environment that sustains
him. The ancient societies and their lands, forests and rivers have rapidly
disappeared in the short space of a few centuries since the industrial
The traditional autochthonous
imagination which is rooted in these
fragile elements have collapsed and a new Orwellian industrial manifestation
turns to literature and the arts for solace as new cultural forms force their
way out of the mire of ecological destruction and we become children of a dark chaotic world
in which there is no compass and no guide for our future survival. Of necessity
as the higher orders have become economically resilient on the harvesting of irreplaceable
natural resources the impoverished agrarian and
forest societies ate the
forerunners of extinction and desolation.
This is why it is patently
impossible for the modern industrial western mind to come to terms with reality
or to read the significance of the
pre-historic epic sagas of antiquity still nestling in remote corners of the
world still holding out against impossible odds which are being steadily
destroyed through the industrial economy and mindset based upon greed and
profit ploughing heedlessly through the most defenceless human populations and
their very last pristine environments which they have for so long protected
over millions of years. It has been correctly observed that primitive societies
cling precariously to their primitive technologies in spite of modern
technology because in doing so they maintain their balance with nature. These
actions are inextricably bound to their ways of living, their moral and social
order, and their animist religion of worshipping nature as mother and provider.
Clinging to primitive ways must be seen as more that a desire to be primitive,
it must be seen and understood as an umbilical link to the very sources of
subsistence that have saved these societies for so long on a planet of immense
earth upheavals in the past and which they face again in the momentum of the
mechanical industrial upheaval of the present times. They know they must not
give up their beliefs in the profound spiritual essences found in the natural
world and which are indispensable to them.
These arguments will find no takers amongst missionaries and social
developers let alone the industrialists eager to exploit mineral and ore
deposits, harvesters of forests and builders of big dams, who claim they are
bringing the poor people a higher standard of living when in fact they are
extincting their populations, worship
and culture and turning them into urban and industrial labour forces.
One of the most destructive
factors in the modernization of these traditional societies has been literacy
itself. It has introduced a new industrial mindset into the vulnerable youth in
tune with the rapidly escalating economy which has place only for the rich and
not the poor. In fact doing away with the poor creates wealth for the rich and
is reminiscent of what happened during the imposition of the corn laws in Ireland
during the nineteenth century which shipped the dispossessed into the vast
vacant spaces of North America. Social thoreticians will
ever argue in favour of development that suits the pockets and interests of the
wealthy against the impoverished, oppressed and displaced. History repeats
itself. The modern developers still argue that they are working in the
interests of upliftment of the poor while there is ranged against the poor the
entire industrial and state machinery of exploitation. The most powerful
machinery in this endeavour of industrialization is literacy itself! Today we
are in the age of computers and super computers and the needs of the future
demand more from the earth than simply minerals, they require rare earths.
Deeper and wider grows the web of mineral extraction, faster and faster the
forests and rivers disappear, the climate is changing even as barren lands
replace once fertile agricultural fields.
The peasantry disappears and with it the future food security of the
planet. A new world dawns before us, the gulf between the old and the new
becoming impassable,. While the industrial revolution during the heyday of
colonialism placed an increasing
dependancy upon natural resources from foreign continents today these things in
third world countries are happening closer to home…and these minerals and rare
earths, ores, metals, and chemical substances to be gouged from beneath the
fields and forests to the sun’s stored carbon energy in coal, to the altering
the hydrology of river systems and subterranean sources of ancient water all
part of the great industrial machine driven by oil, coal and electricity from
carbon, vast water bodies for growing cotton and cooling thermo nuclear plants
drives a gargantuan mill as the very stamp of death upon once fertile lands,
and drive our modern world with its indigenous inhabitants and young school
children uncertain of a darkening future into the oblivion of Tomorrow,
In our own times in this opening
decade of the twenty-first century it is fortunate a new realization has sprung
from the very top – though driven by early grassroots activism from the very
bottom – into the realization of the portents of the future in such heedless industrialization
and exploitation of non renewable natural resources; a new awakening to the importance of
indigenous knowledges has begun; the connections between man asnd nature have
been understood; the importance of traditional cultural activities and belief
systems have been recognized as the sustainable way forward. But research and
documentation by themselves are useless unless we stop the rampant destruction
of nature still going on or else an ecological catastrophe of such enormity
will engulf us that it will not be capable of being met through the world’s
economies or insurance companies. And I believe of late that this consciousness
is beginning to settle in the minds of
those in control of power. But we can never rule out the threats from the conspiracy
of evil which cares not for anything but itself.
The effects of industrialization
of the planet are now easily observed from outer space, from the changing of
green cover to the new events of climate change. The deep relationship between
tradition and the natural landscape is increasingly being accepted even as a
younger generation is stepping into the offices of an older generation. The
impact of industrialization upon the art and literature of our planet is being
understood outside the circle of small literary societies and art galleries in
the cities and their wider importance as a global phenomenon is being
understood. The sacredness of ancient systems of survival are being searched
for again. It is my fervent hope that it is yet not too late for traditional
societies to reassert themselves and gain recognition on the need to protect
and preserve their lands. Unless there is a mass awakening worldwide in the
common human consciousness that this blue planet stands defenceless before a
few giant industrial corporations and corrupt governments the world , and
mankind as we know it, is bound to disappear very soon, perhaps even within the century. The
greatest challenge before us is to control carbon, methane, and other
industrial emissions warming the atmosphere at an unbelievably rapid rate (1.5C
per decade). This is our first and foremost challenge.
The Gandhi International Peace Award 2011 was given between , Committee Room 4, The
House of Lords, 12th JUNE
2012. Convener Bulu Imam and Dr.Binayak Sen was present
to receive it from Lord Bikhu Parekh, President of the Gandhi Foundation.
Based on David Korten’s new book Agenda for a New Economy :From Phantom Wealthto Real Wealth (Berrett-Koehler Publishers,Inc. 2010
The World Bank, Wall Street and the Washington Concensus players wearing black suits and boiled white shirts, ( others in local indigenous clothing, i.e. Developing World leaders).
The man in the street.
A Brief Introduction
The world is in a state of dysfunction. The planet is in a state of dysfunction. Human societies are crumbling under the steamroller impact of a juggernaut called the Global Economy. Environments everywhere are shattered from the dried up Aral Sea to the melting Himalayan glaciers. An enormous calamity awaits the human race within the century when the IPCC itself puts the possible rise of temperatures within this period toa possible 6.4C . The history of the Planet is very long but we haven’t seen anything like the extinctions we are presently witnessing for the past twenty million years (i.e. End Permean extinctions).
The atmosphere contains twentyfive percent more carbon dioxide than it has for the past 1,60,000 years. This has been accumulated through unchecked industrial carbon emissions, mainly from burning of fossil energy, principally, coal. We have since the Industrial Revolution been following a system of development based upon burning fossil energy and turning wheels, which is in itself a Revolution. Experts expect energy consumption to rise 60% due to population growth which will make matters worse. Meanwhile, food supplies will fall due to climate change and extreme weather events will offset economic expansion. Energy sources are unsustainable and all fossil energy pollutes, with further dangers caused by global warming such as melting ice sheets over tundra causing huge release of methane gases into the atmosphere. Methane is 20 times worse than carbon dioxide. Governments seem oblivious of the fact that carbon dioxide traps solar infrared rays and causes warming within the Planet’s atmosphere. Either they do not know or are not willing to see the fact. They are against mitigative strategies and offer adaptive strategies. There has to be a reason for blindfold leadership, which is what the Playing Field is all about. Warming since 1981 resulted in annual combined loss of 5 billions dollars a year for cereal crops and this is going to grow as heat waves cross 4C by mid century. Change in rainfall patterns will destroy rice farming in South Asia and change of rainfall patterns threaten Brazil and Central African rainforest. The world’s fourth largest inland water system the Aral Sea has dried up and become a desert meaning the collapse of the regional economies it supported. The causes for this have been traced to human environmental mis-management resulting in an economic catastrophe for local people. Climate change negotiations have been dictated by the USand collective responsibility in international law has collapsed. The monopoly of the twentyseven European Union states and US have benefitedhugely from the new economic policies prevalent in today’s world. With half India’s population the EU generates thirty percent of the gross world product ($18.4 Trillion in 2008). The wealthy nations represented by the G-8 and G-20 nations represent the council of the world’s wealthy nations and the latter is the principal forum of discussions on international economic issues. These economic issue are deeply connected with climate change in the Planet’s atmosphere and the exploitation of resources of the weaker nations. The time has come for the weaker societies everywhere (and the weaker nations in particular) to wake up to the fact that something terrible is happening in our once harsh but comfortable world. We need to wake up to what Sigmund Freud called “the deep inner needs of our nature”, the decision must come from our individual and collective unconscious that something has gone terribly wrong,and is continuing to become worse. We have to wake up to the fact that there is no future for our grandchildren in a world such as we now inhabit. We have to identify the devil that is crushing human enterprise and survival skills with a powerful weapon of destruction – the Economy, modern economics which is based upon Gross Domestic Product, in the name of development. The Third World or “the South” is where things will go most cruelly for populations due to the escalating crises of climate change and industrial development ( read mining of minerals, dumping of toxic waste, massive deforestation, utilization of cheap and expendable human labor Etc.) I would have added “big dams” but soon there will not be enough water for such projects. And where climate change causes excessive rains the problem will not be big dams but big floods. Wherever in the world we look today and see what is happening we find a clear paradigm, the pleasant northern climes well off to a greater degree than the South in economy and Weather, some times harried by extreme weather events; and the torrid South stewing in its poverty and human and environmental degradation as it is picked clean of its last natural resources by the economic vultures, big lending institutions and so called “Aid” given by wealthy nations not without small print. This was the gift of the post World War II Economy when the embattled superpowers of the then colonizing nations decided to reap back the costs of war as well as the losses in freeing their erstwhile colonies from the clutches of colonialism , that most debased form of piracy known to man.
Corporations in America had been given the right of “personhood”and they thereby enjoy the constitutional protections given to humans through the Bill of Rights, 1886 and the Equal Protection Amendment even thoughright uptil that date the US Supreme court held that corporations do not have the same right as humans. They became powerful through the great powers of freedom given to US citizens by the Constitution. America was unique in the creation of personhood for corporations (English, Dutch, French and Spanish law did not recognize the personhood of corporations). Today American corporations are among the most powerful economies in the world, worth more than many nations. Developing countries are the target of exploitation by these corporations. We have a government that counts everything in gross national product (GNP) As Robert Kennedy said in March 1968,
“Our gross national product (GNP) is now 800 billion dollars a year. But that gross national product, if we judge the USA by that,counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods, and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic squall. It counts napalm, and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifles and Speck’s knives and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything in short, except that which makeslife worthwhile.”
Kennedy could have added that the GNPdoes not count the loss of our forests and water systems, the cleanliness of our air and rivers, or the destruction of the natural world which holds the climate together and produces our agriculture agriculture. Perhaps in 1968 that would have taken a lot of foresight for a politician. But the fact remains that his observations are valid. The GNP today in the twentyfirst century is crushing ever more fragile natural systems such as the climate and the weather and the costs of extreme weather events and mass human tragedy as a result are not calculated in the GNP. Today rising sea level atmospheric temperatures will make human life unlivable within a couple of decades and rising sea levels will inundate coastlines. This is the result of global warming and climate change.
Theodore Roosevelt said at the Ohio Constitutional Convention in ColumbusOhio in 1912, “We stand for the rights of property, but we stand even more for the rights of man… We will protect the rights of the wealthy man, but we maintain that he holds his wealth subject to the general right of the community to regulate its business use as the public welfare requires.” The same stands for corporations and governments. Roosevelt here identified the key distinctions and without knowing it pointed directly to the present global situationwhere corporations have become so big and powerfulthat common citizens and their governments around the world are no longer able to control or restrain corporationswhen they endanger the common good. The present ecological crisis is an expression of this imbalancebetween corporations and the common people in a world filled with toxic pollutants, acid rain, species extinction, strip mining minerals and fossil fuels, polluting the atmosphere , destroying the forests, polluting the river systems and killing the oceans and marine life.
Today we stand at a pivotal moment in the process of human evolution when all indicators say that we must not hope for a collective human future beyond the twenty-first century because the unfortunate will be sacrificed in a larger Holocaust than the imagination of man can provide, while the wealthy few will survive – either on the Planet in guarded citadels of survival where controlled climatic conditions, food and water security will be available, or in bastions in space. The unfortunate millions will disappear along with the Planet’s natural resources into an Inferno which is already being modeled by science. The unfortunate truth is that we are at a very late hour in the series of events leading up to this calamity for the Planet and its un-provided poor. But the absence of hope even in the darkest hour is contrary to the genetic order of survival of any species and we must not – we cannot afford to – give up. Therefore we have to chalk out a strategy for the immediate and future action, a Charter if you wish, which shall divide the friends of Man from the enemies of Man. This will constitute the Playing Field. Then we must get as many cheerleaders as we can in support of the human family. I have before me the Seven Points devised by David Korten to identify the sides of the Playing Field and I shall strive to work within this framework. I shall give the two playing teams descriptive titles as proposed in the title of Korten’s bookPhantom Wealth and Real Wealth. The first represents the corporate world and its subsidiaries and benefactors, the latter representsthe threatened societies and social groups worldwide who are not the beneficiaries of wealth but the targets of exploitation by the former group (i.e.Phantom Wealth). So let’s start by seeing how the game may be played on this Playing Field, not forgetting that Real Wealth has nothing but its supporters to rely uponin this game to the death.
The destructive dynamics of the old Wall Street economy, Washington Concensus centre-forward players, and IMF in the wings have played a good game with the team comprising corporate captains and charmingdeveloping world champions trained in the art of money-ball.
Today the saving of Planet Earth seems to be left to Civil Society. Can Civil Society face up to governments ? This is a big question and I would say, individuals directly attacking governments will lead to counter attack. Therefore strategy must move to masses in Civil Society responding to a call for action to save the planet. Bill McKibben was successful in doing this with his 350.org campaign which woke up the planet to the threat of global warming. It could go to sleep again if the movement is not raked up again and again. We need a similar type of mass involvement mass action campaign through the World Wide Web. I have pointed the way through Intellectual Satyagraha which calls for users of the web to get involved in what is happening to our world.There are no clear pathways as yet but the idea is running on its own steam and will require channeling. I will revert back to Korten’s points.
(1.1)We have presently financial indicators to assess economic performance for social and environmental health, BUT
(1.2) Living wealth indicators. This will mean replacing financial indicators like gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product (GDP) for defining natural and human health and putt in place an estimation of the real needs being met. The economy alone cannot be the arbiter of peoples needs and fulfillment being met, nor can it be seen as improving the Planet’s environment in any way. Wherever economic indicators are set up they are booby-trapped. Moral: Money does not make the mare go.
(2.1)The present economic model requires controlof the creation and allocation of money: by financial institutions, corporations, government, Wall street, Dalal street, etc.
(2.2) We need to change to Living wealth money system: The whole money system will have to be turned on its head, and will require to be decentralized and democratized (which will mean we will lose a lot of our supporters!) How is this to be done ?It will mean redirecting money from government, corporate, and bank control to the people on the commons, grass-roots societies, public interest groups, health of the planet, Etc. It will mean in effect dismantling Wall Street and putting in its place Main Street businesses, cooperatives, community undertakings, Etc. Rebuilding community banks, mutual savings, and credit unions. In short it means making the great river of capitalist trade reverse its flow. How ?
Won’t be easy but it will have to be done. From the top of my head I liken it to global warming. Cannot do anything much personally but we can have ideas which find common concensus, such as move from adaptive and ameliorative strategies to Mitigative ones. Moral: Attack the cause of theproblem rather than adapt to the problem.
(3.1) The money economy requireshighly centralized fiscal policies that support extreme inequality in the distribution of income and ownershipcreate a power imbalance which is contrary to democratic values.
(3.2) We need to change to Equitable distribution of wealthRedistribute income and ownership to achieve an equitable distribution of power and real wealth (here again I think that we will lose a lot of our supporters!) How does one achieve the impossible objective ? Answer: By walking. That’s how mountaineers climb mountains, and that’s how scientists got astronauts on the moon.There is a good old Indian method: Dialogue. The WWW is ideal for this. Our campaign will need a Dialogue Society. We all know that “equitable societies arehealthier, happier, more democratic, and avoid the excesses of extravagance and desperation” (Korten) Moral: Let’s find out what makes us really happy.
(4.1) The destructive dynamics of the old Wall Street economy requires a system of absentee ownership that separates the power of decision-makingfrom its social and environmental consequences.
(4.2) We really have to get away from this top down selfish model to Living Enterprises as Korten calls them – These favour”local rooted living owners who have a direct stake in the social and environmental consequences of the firm’s operation” This will mean favoring cooperatives and their workersin community owned enterprises which discourage absentee ownership of publicly traded companies which the backbone of the present corporate system. Moral: While money makes the world go ‘round its got to be spread on everybody’s toast.
(5.1)The present economic dynamic is” the use of corporate chartersto create legally protectedconcentrations of global-scale economicpower under unified management devoted to narrow and exclusive private interests.” (Korten)
(5.2)This has to change. We have to rediscover the true meaning of democracy and the real meanings of markets where people can exchange goods.We have to “Free both the market and the democracy from corporate dominationby breaking up concentrations of corporate power, eliminating public subsidies for large corporations, and limiting political participation to real people.”(Korten) Phew ! How on earth is that possible ? One way to start is to know on which side of the Playing Field one is.Unless one has decided that how is one to begin to hunt the Dragon ? The next step is to join the Movement of the underdogs (which includes the whole population of the planet minus the 0.1 percent corporate-political nexus cartel). Moral: Search and search until you find.
(6.1) We have all now become aware that local economies are being eroded systematically to create space for outside corporate, political and private outside interests that seek only short-term financial profit for themselves and are completely unaccountable to the people and their environments which they brazenly exploit and destroy. These people formerly depended upon local economies supported by these environments. Huge extinctions are being created which can only go from local to global in scale while these select privately controlled outside interests succeed in gobbling them up.
(6.2) The answer is naturally as korten says to “build diversified, self-reliant, energy efficient, democratically self-organizing economies that are comprised of living enterprises devoted to serving local needs functioning as subsystems of their regional ecosystems.” Well here is a gameplan.
The moral here is: Try, try, try again until you succeed.
(7.1) We have to fight the global rules created by Globalization which attack individuals and local economies everywhere and which increasingly target unprotected environments and weaker societies – an extension of the piracy first witnessed in the Age of Colonialism” which was economically, morally and socially justified by the society that created the Enlightenment in Europe and lauded itself over the colonizing of Africa, Canada, the Americas , Australia Etc.
(7.2)The Playing Field is unbalanced and we need to restructure the rules and institutions of surviving genuine democracy and peoples’ interests if we are to save what’s left otherwise there will not be a second chance. Globalization has created a minefield of the planet and things can only get worse. Society must organize itself to face the challenge of Globalization which comes as a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. The further these facts can be disseminated and people made aware the better The moral here must be: Five sticks tied together are stronger than one.
Larry King said, “Nobody cares about fifty years from now”.
-- Quoted by James Hansen in Storms of My Grandchildren
Intellectual Satyagraha-the need of our hour8.6.2011
When you look at the vast social deception and ecological destruction taking place in the whole world today one has to be honest that the good guys are losing. The loss is one upon which the future of humanity rests.The trend must be reversed, the battle for information must be fought with the aid of the Internet (which I have called Intellectual Satyagraha),and this desperate last hour for humanity has come because our species, while evolving dramatically since the industrial revolution / age of enlightenmenta little over two centuries back(on the loot of South America and the age of colonialism and its loot) has evolved rapidly in technologybut not in human intelligence or compassion, or those areas of development recognized as attributes in the classical world-- spirituality and humanism. As the result of this one-sided development of the human environment the planet has been fuelled to fulfill the industrial growth economy, and the planet has been ecologically destroyed until today a point of No Return has been decisively reached.
We are creating a fictitious future for our grandchildren and even our adult children since the scientific concensus gives ourselves and our once blue-green planet at most a couple of decades before terminal survival conditions ensue. The challenge we face is greater than that of the free world in 1939 from Nazi Fascism. In the war we are to fight bombs and aeroplanes are not our weapons but our enemies. We have to turn to Reason and to the Internet as the ultimate source of global information and communication and connectivity between ourselves to challenge the monstrous masters of GROWTH. This struggle to hold to the truth is Intellectual Satyagraha which must increasingly become an international movement for change.It is the response of organized intelligence against the seemingly unlimited economic and military power of organized destruction of the planet we live on, and which is our only home we have in space which is presently accessible to us.
Economics and Development
“In secret postwar planning, each part of the world was assigned its specific role.Thus the “major function” of Southeast Asia was to provide raw materials for the industrial powers. Africa was to be “exploited” by Europe for its own recovery. And so on, through the world.”
(Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People,1999, p.22)
As long as India follows the present government’s path of economic industrial growth it will perforce employ Neo-liberalism in politics and growth of the nation’s economy without consideration of the nation’s social and environmental welfare. This is because Neo-liberalism is growth oriented (Chomsky, 1999 Profit Over People) . Only when a government’s policy is returned from economic growth to social growthwill the government listen to the people’s voice, and which neo-liberals contemptuously refer to as “street democracy”.It is expected by the Establishment that it must be with the people as it is with the order Canis that submission implies consent, and if this is not so in fact, then it must be attained for the smooth functioning of “democracy” and national “growth”.
Today India is forging ahead with neo-liberalism and the people have to be displaced to get at the nation’s oil, mineral and ores wealth which are rapidly being exploited for economic gain both by India and the foreign banks which loan to the nation and dictate terms, and of course the corporates and middlemen involved inindustrial exploitation and negotiation.These have become the new masters in an age of new colonizationand have become wealthy even as the nation and its peoples have become commensurately poorer. The worst affected have been India’s tribals who live in the mountains and river valleys of forested India where the natural resources essentially lie in the ground. They have been ruthlessly displaced andhave become a large drifting mass of identyless peoples within the gigantic mass of this ancient, slumbering nation unable to identify the relationship between its past and its future, like a boat leaderless and rudderless on the surface of a great flood surging towards the open ocean. It is a tragedy of classic proportions, one vastly magnified in the context of Global Warming.
“Models indicate that warming over Greenland is likely to be of a magnitude that would eventually lead to a virtually complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, with a resulting sea-level rise of about seven meters (23 feet).
-- (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, 2004)
“The peak rate of deglaciation following the last Ice Age was … about one meter (39 inches) of sea-level rise every 20 years, which was maintained for several centuries.
--(James Hansen, director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA), 2004)
The hype about calculating gross domestic product (GDP) is that it does not consider costs to the natural environment in destruction of natural resources, nor does it consider costs of pollution of natural resources – for example pumping vast industrial emissions of carbon dioxide into the planet’s atmosphere.
According to the Paris-based International Energy Agencyindustrial energy-related carbon emissionsintothe atmosphere topped 30 thousand billion metric tones ( or, 30 Gigatons) which represented a 5% increase since the last figure recorded three years back in 2008. Energy investments in oil and coal are the cause of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels which are leading to terminal state of the planet and human societies everywhere in the opinion of scientific experts (James Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren, Nicholas Stern, The Final Century). Continuedrelease of increasing quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere caused by burning of coal and oil is no longer justifiable even on national growth economic grounds. It is well proven that trapped atmospheric carbon dioxide captures the heat of the sun’s infra-red rays and warms theplanet’s sea level temperatures causing changes in the natural wind currents, monsoonal currents, and extreme weather conditions such as evidenced by climate change. Record breaking heat waves will be normaland searing droughts will rage andunderground waterreserves will evaporate. With rising tropical sea surface temperatures relentless super- hurricane intensity will increase, hurricanes, tornadoes and Tsunamiswill become common. Even violent volcanic eruptions are increasing and Deniers refuse to link this with global warming and climate change. Melting of glaciers will result in drought in great river valleys and the salination of the remaining water system. A further hazard caused by this “global warming” is the melting of the Tundra beds in the Arctic region beneath which there is so much methane gas that if released it would almost instantly double the greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere and with the loss of the oceans and Amazon sinks could lead to a tripling of carbon dioxide levels in a very short time leading toterminal weather and climate conditions for our planet and its inhabitants. A continued rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide at present rates even if not increasing ( as statistics say it must according to present industrial growth rates) will anyway lead to such terminal conditions within the middle of the present century. The world’s oceans and the Amazon forests were the world’s great carbon sinks. The Amazon is fast disappearing with other rainforests due to logging for pasture and plantations and the oceans have already warmed 44% according to scientific reports turning them into deadly carbon emitters as the life forms in the seas slowly die… Ice caps in the Arctic and Antarctic are rapidly melting presenting the certainty of predicted sea-level rise at the rate of one foot per year al coastlines will inundate coastal cities and societies and reshape continents. Human displacement due to extreme weather is estimated at half a billion within the next two decades. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is presently nearing 500 parts per million which is enough reason to panic now. This is double the pre-industrial level. And another 50 ppm will be a terminal scenario. The big question is “Why have governments hidden the truth from the citizenry, and why has the all-intrusive media been silent about global warming and the end of life approaching the world ?”This is a classic case of “diplomacy”. After the industrial machine dies of its own accord it has been estimated that it will take a quarter million years before life as it is known could return to the planet. Why is humanity not responding ? Because science and technology have taken from the common man the power of implementing change and given this power to the vast corporate, political and economic leadership. Whichever way you look at the problem it is the growth of liberal economics, or, the economics of liberal growth. The selfish are out to save their skins and side with the winners despite the fact they are ignoring the truth thattheir actions are dooming the lives of present and future generations en masse on a planetary scale within the next four decades.
This is where the Internet can be the salvation of our society. It can give information and transfer information, it can unite peoples everywhere and awaken them to the relentless attack upon“the undernourished, the impoverished, and the poor”. The average educated person must realize the dangers ahead and learn for himself or herself the extent of the danger to their family. They must go to the Internet and study, or buy a book on the subject.Arthur Rosenfeld, himself a leading environmentalist, has written about Joseph Romm’s book HELL AND HIGH WATER (Harper Perennial2007, N.Y.) “If you buy only one book about global warming, make it Hell and High Water.”