Where Are We Heading?
EDITORIAL, 9 Jan 2012
From Alfàs Del Pi, Spain
The clouds are dark.
And we sense one on the horizon, black; a point so far. The name of the cloud: using a major war, even with Russia-China, to revive an economy in depression; destroying capital, rebuilding.
Depression? Yes, because of the dismantling of the welfare state (The Nation, 2 January 2012), the withering away of livelihood that will show up as increasing morbidity and mortality, on the health indicators that are the only true measures of “development”. With the health of nature, of course, also known as ecological stability. When we need them most, the unemployment, health and pensions safety nets are torn apart, exposing the most vulnerable sector of society, older people, hit by costly diseases, and with no jobs.
The standard measure of recession, negative economic growth two quarters in succession, does not capture this. It is a system indicator of economic activity measuring the value added of traded goods and services. However, what is value added? The power to define a price tag with a solid profit margin for oneself. What is trading? The idea that instead of producing oneself get the product through exchange. Evidently, it is a measure favoring producers and traders, for real products for end consumption, and for financial products for buying and selling. As the GNP-Gross National Product grows, so do they; as it shrinks they shrink in numbers, but not in wealth. The top 1% are doing very well; they keep it all, no distribution to the 99%, thank you.
As has been pointed out millions of times: increase the ratio of consumption of products that have not passed through too long chains, with too many hands stretched out for commissions, and the livelihood may go up at the same time as there is little or no growth, or even negative growth as people cannot afford those artificially inflated prices of regular products. And vice versa.
This is sheer power at work, not some mysterious anonymous and automatic “market forces”. And that makes us ask where the power is located, and how it is changing. Sarkar’s theory of social cycles may carry some message for us (see Shambushivananda Avadutha PROUT: Neo-Humanistic Economics. Mainz: Dharma Verlag, 1989; particularly Chapter 7: “Axioms of Prout”, with some interpretations added).
The point of departure is the Hindu caste system with Brahmins, Kshatriyahs, Vaishyahs and Shudras; translating into Intellectuals (including priests, artists), Warriors, Merchants and People, IWMP; lamenting that the pariah do not figure clearly in the cycle theory. For Sarkar, each one carries a “mental color”, similar to mentalité in the French Annales school. A basic axiom: at any time “in the flow of the social cycle one mental color is always dominant”.
Yet behind that “mental color”, sheer power is lurking. The I, M, W elites steer people by normative, contractual and coercive power respectively; by cultural, economic and military power; by values, carrots and sticks, to use three parallel formulations. Sarkar explores the general dynamism of what we might call I-W-M-P systems, assuming that at any given time one of them rules the ground alone. How do we predict who is next in line? Yin/yang thinking gives us an answer: the carrier of the mental color most suppressed by the dominant group. Another approach would be by asking: when X is dominant, which group, Y, suffers most?
When the Warriors are in power, Merchants may be operating but the Intellectuals less so. They live by the word, not by the sword (and a few words like Stop! Fire!). Nevertheless, Intellectuals in power have a major problem: who pays for their livelihood? In the past the princes, the courts; more recently the state. So they tend to be friendly to the state–socialism, social democracy–to the great chagrin of the Merchants who live neither by the sword, nor by the word, but by the gold. They will make their power felt.
So, after the Warriors the Intellectuals, after the Intellectuals the Merchants, after the Merchants the People, W-I-M-P, and then after People? The Warriors again. The process is known as History, a spiral telling the incumbent “your time is up”, and the next in line “now is your turn”. Your positive contributions of courage and valiance (W), creativity (I) and wealth-creation (M) are dwindling; the negative aspects have become dominant, repression (W), ritualism (I) and exploitation (M). Moreover, for all elite groups: arrogance.
Thus, W, the warriors, were in command during World War II and the early stages of the Cold War; I, intellectuals then put their mark on all societies marked by the important 1968 student-youth revolt; this lasted up to the Reagan-Thatcher 1985 revolution in favor of M, the merchants; still on. The exploitation is rampant. And then the people, P, come, in the Arab spring, as the indignant in Latin countries, the Occupy Movement, the most radical, in the USA, headed by OWS, Occupy Wall Street. Right on. Pure Sarkar.
What next? Depends on the peoples’ revolt. It is very clear that many of these elites do not give a damn about People suffering as their livelihood erodes, but are scared in their bones at the prospect of a revolt; “instability”, as they call it. Hence, the three P manifestations use nonviolence, maybe more negatively than positively. They are watched, police is used to teargas and pepper-spray them and to evict people foreclosed in a pathological economy; the violence being on the elite side. More P, more W. In the USA democracy has been abolished with a coup, not by the W military, but by M, the corporations; making politicians accountable to those who finance their campaign, not to P. In other words, we may have a rising revolt against two elites, WM/warrior-merchant, with repressive-exploitative mentalities at the same time in power. Beyond Sarkar.
The stuff out of which that dark cloud is made. Fight it.
Johan Galtung, Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, is author of A Theory of Development www.transcend.org/tup.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Jan 2012.
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