#CustomaryRecruiterAlert Ignore.. Ignore.. Ignore the post! I will work .. I will work .. I will work :P
#ReaderAlert .. lot of text
The last time i spoke of the atomic physicist turned environmentalist ‘Winin Pereira’ was here. Recently, i happened to read one more of his books “Inhuman Rights – The Western System and Global Human Rights Abuse”. This post is about that reading.Such books make us think about a lot of things in our everyday life we take for granted today. This is a 1997 book.
Anyway, the book talks about many things.. westernisation, colonisation, businesss unsustainability, exploitation, rights abuse, exterminating indigenous peoples etc. I will only refer to some parts of the book which made me sit back, think and reflect.
The book talks about a lot of things.. but somewhere in the last 20% of the book there is this chapter on individual rights.. and that is the one which made me think the most esp considering the fact that i myself am troubled with extreme individualism these days.
“Individualism is based on the belief that personal pleasure is the only good and personal pain is the only evil. The unlimited pursuit of pleasure, usually confused with happiness, is considered the ultimate right of every person, thus transmuting selfishness into a universal virtue“
In recent past, discussions in class and off-class are leading to this fundamental.. individualism vs collectivism thing. I think this interaction will continue to shape our lives in the next few decades :)
“The sombre side of the doctrine of individualism is that those disadvantaged by the same system must also take personal responsibility for their own misfortune, poverty or suffering. The west has accumulated such unparalleled wealth that the affluent can claim that only individuals who are flawed in some way could possibly failed to do the same. The system promotes itself as the most perfect form of human society achievable, given the fallen state of humanity. It is only one step from this to assert that all the problems of so prodigious a system must stem from the failings of human beings. Individuals can then be made to bear the burden of pain inflicted by social and economic wrongs as though these were their own self-inflicted tragedies”.
The system is “ruthless”. I myself have experienced this feeling many times .. from the time i started by higher education in 2001. The whole things runs on a up or out funda sadly :( .. Again like i said prevly.. i don’t agree that India is a collectivist society in its entiriety anymore. A lot of “the India that i am in” is very very individualistic.
“Western economics claims that “consumer sovereignty” as a fundamental ethical right: “What i want, I have a right to get”. The criteria people normally use when attempting to satisfy their wants are: “Do i like it?” “Can i afford it?” . This implies that the money at the disposal of the individual has been justly earned and that no one has been impoverished or hurt by its acquisition. It further conveys that the purchase contemplated has in no way harmed or exploited those who produce it or the environment. In other words, money cannot be tainted and money itself overrides all other ethical considerations.”
This aspect of our consumption today is interesting. Urban Indian consumer of today is very much like that in the west.. so am sure the attitude has percolated down to us today :).
“Consumption over basic needs requirements — hyper-consumption — is an abuse of other people’s right to life. The failure to observe this, is one of the major yet rarely mentioned violations of human rights today. It is an abuse that is perpetrated by nearly all citizens in the West and those in the Two Thirds World who imitate their life-styles”
Totally agree. This is also similar to what gandhiji said on this topic. But i will also say that it is incredibly difficult to stay simple in “my India”. Infact, the whole economy post liberalisation is running under the assumption that the whole of india turns on the hyper consumption mode and india shall “grow and develop!” :P
On “turning back the clock”
“Well, if the revival of modest and frugal ways of life is turning back the clock, at least it is an improvement on those, who, urging on an industrialisation without end, risk turning back the clock to the book of Genesis when chaos covered the face of the earth“
Interesting! .. I think Gandhi’s Hindswaraj also argues on similar lines. By the time i am 70 perhaps the answer to this question will be much clearer.. by then there will not be a debate on modes of development .. there will be only one answer .. which one it is .. is the question :P
On “Human Nature”
“Another attack (on critics) is that the present system reflects the reality of human nature and that this nature cannot be changed. “Human Nature”, in this context invariably means greed, selfishness and individual self-aggrandisement
But human nature is also charectarised by self-sacrifice, concern for others, compassion and cooperation; otherwise the human race would have extinguished itself long ago“
“Such statements are dismissed as the ramblings of irrational, millenium cultists; of people who have been predicting doomsday for generations. But doomsday has not yet come and will never arrive since Western science and technology are religiously believed to be capable of indefinitely substituting resources and eliminating pollution. However even though it appears to be permanently entrenched, the Western systems already showing a variety of signs of deterioration“
I think it is easy to pass judgement on people who think differently. But seldom do we actually evaluate their merit. This crisis that our world is seeing today is i think unique and cannot be compared with others like Ozone depletion scare or Y2K scare or End of millenium scare etc.. this is much deeper and bigger in both scope and scale. (Btw Halley’s comet arrival in 1910 also was one of the doomsday prophecies ;) )
“The shift to simpler life-styles- reducing the purchase and use of non-necessities – will itself undermine the system, in a sense, “the magic of market place” , can be used not only by choosing what we buy, but by choosing what we don’t buy. The system, no matter how tyrannical it becomes, cannot deprive citizens of the right not to buy. And since the source of its wealth and power is the manufacture and sale of its products, not buying is a potent means of hastening its downfall“
Well. well. now this is something :) . But i like i said prevly… it is now very very difficult to stay simple :) The economist Ludwig Von Mises in his book “anti-capitalistic mentality” took the argument to the other extreme and questions this whole funda. Well.. for now looking at the way things have gone around .. may be consumers have been brain washed i dunno.. but i think Von Mises argument won the game :)
“Many ancient systems, still practised by indigenous peoples who have been living simply for thousands of years, provide viable and more just model alternatives to the Western system. They can teach the wisdom of smallness, the value of communities which include individual autonomy with communal generosity and a non-violent ecological perspective“
“Small is Beautiful” …. Indeed !