Friday, May 04, 2007
What is to be done?
For almost 25 years now, I have been seized of this question. What is to be done, to end the indignity and ignominy of poverty in my land? More to the point, what must I do?
Now its clear to me that no one is going to be able to eliminate poverty from the lives of the hundreds of millions who dwell in poverty today. But every child, of every person, whether poor or otherwise, could have equal opportunity to be equipped to be able to live a richer life than those poor today.
The most crucial arena for action therefore is education. The right of every child to education has to be realised. Neither the state left to itself, nor the market / private sector is committed to this. It is therefore only through mass social action, by those who want this, that the state has to be pushed to do all that needs doing. But its not just a question of resources. Its also a question of institutions, of accountability, and of an ethos and values. And all this is of course something the people of the country have to attend to.
The other thing that's clear to me now is that the overwhelming dominance of life by profit motive, market transactions, valuation and relations - has to be eliminated. Market transactions can be a part of life. But life is not a part of the market. We need to reinvigorate non-market concerns, activities, engagements and relationships, and in the public domain. The "social market" i.e. means of fulfilling important life requirements through social and community networks, has to be built.
Ultimately all this is rooted in individuals' personal urges and inclinations. While consumption, gratification, profit and exclusion predominate today - the human needs of communion, altrusim, compassion, self-development etc have to flourish. As I see it, we need not leadership, but self-leadership. We don't have to be followers. We need to become self-enforcers.
A good part of our life must be lived, and lived well, entirely outside the realm of the marketplace. Then there can be humanity and harmony. And richness, in place of poverty.
It is vital that there are alternatives, even as we live in this frightening, insane, inhuman society. And the alternative - is a continuity running from the individual's inner urges through to the open, public arena where masses of citizens come together and work together.
Painting: Thy Will be Done, by Danny Hahlbohm.