Sunday, April 6, 2014

Development of a different kind


Development is the only mantra today for many Indians, it seems.  Making Mr Narendra Modi the Prime Minister would mean putting India on the magical highway to economic development, they argue.  What they fail to understand is that the kind of development that prevailing economic theories and systems can provide is a highly flawed one. 
It is good to look back at some classical notions when confronted with crises.  Mahatma Gandhi had some very illuminating views on development.  All of his views may not be relevant in today’s situation and may not be practical either.  Yet it is worth revisiting a few relevant ideas.

Gandhi said: “That you cannot serve God and Mammon is an economic truth of the highest value. Western nations today are groaning under the heel of the monster-god of materialism. Their moral growth has become stunted. They measure their progress in pounds and dollars. American wealth has become the standard. She is the envy of the other nations. I have heard many of our countrymen say that we will gain American wealth but avoid its methods. I venture to suggest that such an attempt if it were made is foredoomed to failure.”

Gandhi also said: “I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of the few, but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might.”

The views are highly relevant today, decades after they were expressed.  Just a decade back, Dr Fritjof Capra wrote in his book, The Hidden Connections, “The United States projects its tremendous power around the world to maintain optimal conditions for the perpetuation and expansion of production.  The central goal of its vast empire ... is not to expand its territory, nor to promote freedom and democracy, but to make sure that it has global access to natural resources and that markets around the world remain open to its products.  Accordingly, political rhetoric in America moves swiftly from ‘freedom’ to ‘free trade’ and ‘free markets’.  the free flow of capital and goods is equated with the lofty ideal of human freedom, and material acquisition is portrayed as a basic human right, increasingly even as an obligation.” (emphasis added)


The American model of development, which many in India today have bought lock, stock, and barrel, is rooted in plain greed and nothing else.  The antidote is what Gandhi had suggested long ago: fulfil your need and control your greed.  Otherwise we will only create a planet of aggressive people grabbing for more and more, endlessly.  There will be no peace in such a world, no joy.  What’s the point of living without peace and joy?


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20 comments:

  1. Very relevant sir .... there is everything for man's need but not for his greed

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    1. Gandhi was a visionary, Manish. We've failed to understand him. The west has made schools to study his philosophy but they too don't understand him, it seems.

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  2. Unfortunately most of the Indian voters are dreaming the 'American dream' where M K Gandhi is outdated. How many of your students in your school would like to follow the path of Gandhi (not in their answer sheets, but in their life)? In fact they would laugh at their 'conservative' parents for talking about the Gandhian 'idealism'!

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    2. Sibi, by mistake my response to your comment was posted from my wife's log in id since both of us use the same laptop!

      Yes, you are right, most of my students like other present students in the country do not know the real Gandhi. Whenever I discuss Gandhi in the class, I'm scandalised to hear derogatory opinions about the Mahatma, opinions propagated by today's politicians with vested interests.

      The western Universities are doing a lot of research on Gandhian philosophy. I hope that America will eventually evolve another economic system based on Gandhi's ideals. What America chooses becomes the world's choice. Hence there may be hope yet!

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  3. Unfortunately most of the Indian voters are dreaming the 'American dream' where M K Gandhi is outdated. How many of your students in your school would like to follow the path of Gandhi (not in their answer sheets, but in their life)? In fact they would laugh at their 'conservative' parents for talking about the Gandhian 'idealism'!

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  4. Well Mr. Matheikal - we are talking of something that is still theory and has succeeded nowhere in the world.The flawed American model is the best we have seen to date - the other alternative being the non democratic Chinese model. And even if we could create such a hypothetical country, the world won't let us be. ANd last but not the least, out level of politics and governance is way behind even the American model - even getting there is an improvement that our youth aspire for.

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    1. That's why I put my hope in America rather than India as my mentioned in my response to Sibi above. One thing we should admire about America is that they are open to new ideas and views. We are narrow-minded. We cling to antedeluvian ideas under the illusion that we are protecting our culture. America experiments with new ideas. Yes, their vision as of now is highly blinkered. There are fundamentalists there too. Yet they are more rational and scientific in comparison.

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    1. Particularly in the context of the election manifesto that came out yesterday :) thank you.

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  6. Versed Summary on tacit ideology, conclusively what nation needs today is prosperity. Greed for the need that en routes people towards power convention, and then slowly and steadily society forget themselves.
    And I believe the planet you spoke about is already created. What all remains in our hands is our self and our values.. Lets see how long we carry them.

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    1. Prosperity, yes, Saurabh. But everyone's prosperity, not of a few. I'm glad to see a lot of commentators agree with me directly or indirectly about the need for a change in our approaches and worldview.

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  7. Very nice post. Development to trickle down to masses is the need of the hour. It needs sacrifices by brave young men & women to leave behind dollar dreams & cush salaries & rather to plunge into spreading the technologies of tomorrow (renewable energy), get in2 implementing rainwater harvesting & water safety measures (tomorrow's wars will b for water) & channelise all those crores into being used for the right purpose...

    Only then can we have true development...sustainable & inclusive....

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    1. Glad you mentioned water which is going to be a serious bone of contention soon. Will we start killing one another for water (giving that too a communal colour) or will we start finding alternatives so that we can live together in peace? Just one of the many questions that the coming days will hurl at us.

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  8. Gandhian philosophy is an ideal one. I cannot question it as at his time, Gandhi had united the divided nation and had made it fight for a common goal. It was something that seemed impossible at that time just as today seems eradicating greed. A friend of mine said that may be there's way to put an end to this culture of corruption and negligence that we are yet to discover. I felt that yes, there could be. May be what we need is a firm believer and a capable leader as Gandhi. Changing every single mind to adopt Gandhian philosophy today, seems somewhat impossible to me. I still wish to find out how Gandhi had made that change.

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    1. On the one hand, Gandhi was forthright and he a person of indefatigable integrity. On the other, he lived in a time when people respected truth and truthfulness. Today even Gandhi would have found it a tough job leading India.

      But we don't have many alternatives. The world doesn't, in fact. We have made the planet a heap of rubbish and it's time to start cleaning up the mess. Gandhi can be one of the guiding lights.

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  9. Sometimes I feel 'Greed' is also a relative term and cannot be classified a negative trait altogether. Many of the inventions we enjoy today evolved due to someone's greed, to conquer the world / achieve the impossible. When someone's greed deprives many others of their rights I think it is evil?

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    1. You are right, Santhosh. But it all depends how you define terms. The king of greed you mention first is not greed, in fact. It's ambition. Or a quest. There's nothing wrong about it. When ambition crosses the borders and transgresses into the rights and properties of others, it becomes greed and evil.

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