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.

Public culture.

Painting: Thy Will be Done, by Danny Hahlbohm.


Holden Caulfield said...


For these kind of positive thoughts, and a bias for positive action, I come back to visit your blog.

Holden Caulfield said...


You may notice, the real problem is the huge disparity between power and powerlessness - the powerful can be the multinationals and the centralized top management in democracies.

The real and a natural disparity is between those who want to do something, and those who wish to remain passive. We are all at the mercy of the entrepreneur. The consumers need to be entrepreneurs too. Complaining or whining will not work. That has been our culture.

Ghetufool said...

nice to know you think for this. i think too. but sadly, don't execute.

gaddeswarup said...

Very tentative thoughts from me. Madhukar Shukla has an interesting post on how anarchy works. There seem to be similar ideas in the book "The Starfish and the Spider" by Brafman and Beckstrom ( I have only read the reviews).. I read some books by Robert Putnam: "Bowling Alone" and "Better Together" about building social capital. I did not read his "Making Democracy Work". There seem to be lot of attempts at finding third ways. Some of the pitfalls in centralized structures and uncontrolled markets seem to be generally acknowledged. There are also studies about some faults in the texture of humans in blogs like The Situationist blog:
Some interesting papers are coming out from organization theory people. These are the sort of things that I am trying to understand. You might have already seen these things. In any case, it will be interesting to learn about your attempts from time to time.