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Present-Day Political Models and the Creation of Destitution

            153 - “There is no intellectual, not even a liberal intellectual, who  will be able to deny the evidence that it is possible to put an end to hunger and poverty through the present forces of production.  That this does not happen is only due to the socio-political disorder of the Planet.” (H. Marcuse, quoted by F. Gabeira, in A Vida Alternativa, p. 9)

            154 - “All subjects, no matter how specialised, are connected with a centre; they are like rays emanating from a sun. The centre is constituted by our most basic convictions, by those ideas which really have the power to move us. (...) If they are not true to reality, the adherence to such a set of ideas must inevitably lead to disaster.” (E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, p. 77)

            After this analysis of the currents of thought prevailing in this second half of the XX century, as well as of the limitations of their principal institutions or socio-political organizational models, we must conclude by pointing out their direct connection to the problems, although a glimpse of this connection has been given in previous analyses.

            Let us then begin by analyzing the main problems of our world, which must certainly be connected to, or even largely generated by, these currents and their systems since they have dominated the panorama during this century.

            We say “largely” because we cannot, in all fairness, ignore the fact that the alternatives presented to the world, especially in the first half of this century, such as Nazism and Fascism, are even more tragically wrong than those we have examined and which are in ascendancy today.  Also, the other systems of our age, although of less significance in the context of the world, are even worse than those we have analyzed.  By this we mean especially the religious fundamentalists, with Iran as example.  These have also contributed, and continue to do so, toward this century’s poverty; for this reason we cannot attribute all the evils of the century to Liberalism and Marxism alone.  In fact,  we should feel a measure of gratitude to these two currents because, for good or evil, they were the ones that saved us from the much greater tragedy of fascist world domination.

            The Vast World Problems

            We shall now proceed to analyze the vast problems of the world.  They are best summed up in a beautiful excerpt from Radha Burnier’s writings concerning the chief problems faced by humanity today:

            155 - “The Scylla and Charybdis of today are ecological disaster on the one hand and underdevelopment on the other.” (The Theosophist, fev. 89)

            There can be no doubt that the tragically deplorable and potentially convulsive situation of a large portion of the people in the poor countries, which contain two thirds of the world’s population, as well as the growing threat of environmental catastrophes, represent a combination of the dangers and problems which challenge our world.

            This underdevelopment is caused by the poverty and violence of millions of human beings.  This situation is totally unacceptable and will sooner or later generate uncontrollable anger and rebellion, which might even bring about the risk of nuclear wars.  Also, the growing pollution and destruction of the natural environment point to disasters which can be forecast scientifically for a not-too-distant future.

The Collision Course of Modernization

            Why has the difference in riches among the countries grown so much in the last centuries?  What is it that lies behind the growing aggressions to the natural environment?  The following quotation from the writings of one of the few Brazilian social scientists of international renown, Alberto Gueirreiro Ramos, who died in the last decade after teaching for a number of years at the University of Southern California, points in the direction of an answer to these questions:

            156 - “The present results of modernization, such as the psychological insecurity, the degradation of the quality of live, the pollution, the wasting to the point of exhaustion of the limited resources of the planet, and so on, cannot hide the misleading nature of the contemporary societies. The self-definition of the advanced industrial societies as being bearers of reason is being  undermined daily. This climate of perplexity may cause a theoretical reform of great magnitude.” (A Nova Ciência das Organizações, p. 22)

            In other words, these problems are the result of modernization.  And what lies behind this insane race among the nations for so-called modernization?  It is the very meaning generally given to the word “modernization” in this context that implies the capacity to compete in economy in international terms.  Therefore, what lies behind this compulsion for modernization is the unbridled and uncontrollable competition among the nations, in a kind of undeclared war of all against all on the international scene.

            Impotence of Present-Day Models in the Face of Modernization

            And what is so uncontrollable (and therefore conceived as necessary) about this process, the only foreseeable consequence of which is catastrophe?  Why is there no power capable of stopping it?  As we mentioned before, the reason is that there is no power in today’s world that is able to regulate, control or bring into harmony the actions of the large organizations.  And they in turn cannot stop in their search for greater productivity (which means achieving more and better production with the same amount or less of resources), and other such transformations, in other words, in their search for modernization or a greater ability to compete economically in the international market.

            The big organizations are are obliged to work toward this modernization or growing productivity, etc., because they know that if they stop acting this way they will be defeated in their competition with the other huge organization they contend with.  And, as we have also seen, they are the ones who control the puppet governments, at least within the weakness and dishonesty that are an integral part of the liberal system.  Therefore, they pull along their unresisting countries and regions toward this undeclared war of all against all.

            In a scenario such as this, the groundwork is laid for this kind of crazy race, a race which  –  in the context of present-day models of social organizations nothing and nobody has sufficient power to control or prevent.  This occurs because, as we have seen, these models, whether liberal or marxist, do not at the same time guarantee freedom, equal opportunities and equality between positions and capacities in the election processes of the rulers.  And it is inevitable that, thus, they do not elect those most qualified, ethically and technically, to be their rulers.

            This occurs in the case of state rulers, because in the large business concerns the search for the ability to compete makes it mandatory that the factor of equalization of positions and capacity be considered; this makes them even more powerful as opposed to state governments because their directors are frequently more efficient than the political rulers.  This is truly absurd but it is unfortunately all too often the case.

            In the case of the liberal model, to this inherent and inevitable lack of ability of the rulers must be added the weakness of a not very cohesive and fragmented social organization.  As seen above, in this model the rulers are usually puppers whose highly expensive electoral campaigns are financed by the big organizations.  There are a few cases where this does not occur and a populist demagogue is elected to the government, the only possibility within such an incompetent and corrupt political code.  Even if this populist demagogic government wanted to impose stringent measures, it would be totally impotent before the overpowering strength of the big corporations, public as well as private.  Recent history shows clear instances of this kind, beginning with Brazil with its cyclic constitutional rifts, its military coups, and so forth.

            We know that as a general rule marxist systems were unable to prevent their destiny, which was to be swallowed by the force of this war for the ability to compete imposed by the liberal countries.  This defeat, however, owes less to their efforts than to its own internal collapse generated by violence, lack of flexibility, and a lack of freedom which is an affront to dignity and an impediment to creativity and can, therefore, only result in a generalized discontent and inefficiency.

            It is important to understand that this process, which we saw to be uncontrollable within the framework of present-day social structures (main social institutions), is responsible not only for the growing aggressions to the natural environment but also for the economic and social backwardness and exploitation of so-called underdeveloped countries.  Let us examine this further, using specific examples.

            The Example of the Destruction of the Amazonian Rain Forest

            Let us consider the case of the growing destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, one of the greatest ecological crimes against nature and against humanity, and also the case of the poverty in which millions of Brazilians find themselves; in other words, let us examine the case of the Brazilian underdevelopment.  It is obvious that these examples are analogous to others both in ecological aggression and in poverty, some of the other countries being in an even worse state than Brazil.

            Who are the nearest agents in the destruction of Brazil’s rain forest?  They result from a combination of the poverty of the many immigrants who arrive in this region seeking a job or a piece of land on which to survive, and the pursuit of wealth by individuals and companies who want those lands to exploit the timber, raise cattle, plant, mine, and so forth.  Many, threatened by poverty and unemployment in their place of origin, only wish for survival; others seek opportunities for greater profits than were available in their regions.  These are the direct agents for the misuse of the soil which results in the irreparable destruction of all of the animal and vegetable species which comprise that natural environment, the wealth and ecological importance of which may have no equal on the planet.

            And why is this ruinous destructive process not prevented in its criminal aspects, and orderly scientific planning  not imposed which would permit the criteria of a sustainable development of the forest?  This is obviously due to the lack of ability and the impotence of the rulers, who have made their cause with the inefficiency and dishonesty inherent in the electoral process, whose organization is weak (and does not, therefore, generate sufficient political or coercive power).  Such is the characteristic of the principal institutions in the system of liberal organization. 

            The argument could be made that we had have had a number of periods of civil or military authoritarian government.  But what does this prove?  This fact only serves to reinforce our insistence on the enormous weakness and incompetence of the liberal system.  In any event, dictatorships, whether civil or military, are not systems that prevail in the thinking of present-day elites, not even of military elites.  When these disruptures occur, which is inevitable,especially in the poorer countries, this is most likely due to the incompetence and crisis of the liberal (or even marxist) institutions.  And, because they are not finished or lasting systems, they lead to the systems of domination.  The latter again turn out to be incompetent, generate crises, etc., and make space for new disrupture and civil or military state coups.

            It is obvious that the specific example under examination, the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, is directly related to the incompetence and weakness of the governments which is the central characteristic of the liberal democracies.  And what should we say of the destitution and violence which characterize the Brazilian underdevelopment?  Their perpetuation, the country’s incapacity, year after year, decade after decade, to overcome this tragic picture, is also closely interlinked with the incompetence and weakness of the governments created by the liberal system since in Brazil we have never had the experience of a marxist organizational system.

            Origins of Underdevelopment:  Colonial Exploitation

            But the question of how this destitution came to pass demands a deeper analysis, partly because there are countries in the liberal system that are rich, and where indigence has practically been banished or exists in a much smaller dimension than in the poor countries.  This being the case, these countries are frequently pointed to as models to be copied.  In other words, the question that is posed to the underdeveloped countries, and which few seem to understand, is:  If this model succeeded there, why did it fail to do so here?

            In other words, why have these rich countries  won the race for modernization –  for productivity and quality of their economy in the past and continue to do so in the present, and even continue to increase this advantage, that separates them from the poor countries?

            It is evident that the answer to the question about the beginning of this great difference in wealth among countries lies in the period of colonial exploitation.  With the advent of large-scale navigation and, especially that of the industrial revolution, some countries began, by force, to hold sway, economic or otherwise, over other countries or regions of the planet.  These countries established “colonies,” which served not only as providers of cheap raw material but also as captive consumer markets for the growing industrialization of the large cities.

            To give but one example, we cannot ignore the fact that during the period of colonization, Brazil had laws that prohibited the establishment of any industry, and that this only began to change when the royal family, expelled from Portugal by the armies of Napoleon, came to reside in Brazil for some time.  Naturally, the purpose of these laws was to make certain that Brazil continue to be no more than a consumer market for the products manufactured or, at least, sold by the colonizing country.

            The Importance of Industrialization

            Why is this so important?  We must see that, unless a country possesses exceptional natural wealth (for instance, the countries with oil-rich soil, or that have a small population compared to their total size), there is no way of reaching the standard of wealth attained by the richest countries on the planet except through an intensive industrializing process.  The reason for this is that  every time raw material undergoes any process of industrial transformation, an additional charge is added which includes the profit obtained in this process.  In economy we give the name of “added value” to this difference obtained at every moment in the process of production.  In other words, industrialization allows for the creation of a highly complex economic structure that adds stages of transformation to the process, and each of these stages creates aggregate value.

            This industrial process has a positive effect because it generates greater riches.  For instance, it creates more employment for the work force and a greater reciprocity between industries, which allows for production processes with an increasingly higher number of stages of transformation;  it creates the need for the reciprocity of an ever growing diversity of all kinds of service; and this reciprocity between the sectors of agriculture, of the extraction of wealth from the soil, of industry, of service, and of commerce generates impressive production profits, especially through the growing mecanization and automation of all kinds of processes.

            All this first occurred in some countries and mainly, as we have seen, thanks  to the advantages obtained over others with iron and fire, through colonial domination.  Once this process was already quite advanced and mature, another kind of discourse began, and, after two great world wars (which basically were fought between rich nations for the possession of colonial or neocolonial lands) we have reached this point of economic globalization distinguished by extensive and “free” international competition.

            The Illusions of “Free” International Competition

            This extensive and “free” economic globalization, in other words, this war with the weapons of “modernization” (productivity, etc.) has some illusive and even pernicious aspects.  Firstly, the so-called “freedom” exists for a few economic factors only; in other words, it applies mostly to raw and industrialized products including machinery, and services.  But it does not apply to the work factor.  This economic factor does not enjoy the freedom to move at will.  The object of this is evidently to guarantee that the advantages obtained by some not be threatened by migratory movements seeking better salaries, chances of employment, etc.  This freedom of “modernization” is thus more interestingly “modern” for some than for others.

            Secondly, this selective freedom (which is present only for certain economic factors) inherent to globalization and modernization is a freedom of the kind called “the fox in the chicken coop.”  Let us see whether this is true.  As we have seen, this is a fight for productivity, etc., among competitors who did not start on equal terms, since we cannot ignore the time before this, of centuries of colonial exploitation.  Today, therefore, competition is established between very unequal forces; and in a war game such as this, in which those who are stronger suffer less, this selective freedom only tends to preserve the initial differences, and, even, sometimes to exacerbate them.  This is clearly a process in which the weaker has no chance whatever of a victory.  We see, therefore, that this freedom is the same as that of the fox in the chicken coop, very  gratifying to one side only.

            Even from the mere point of view of raw materials, it is possible to see that in the game as it is played today, the poorest will never be able to reach the standard of wealth achieve by the richest.  To give but one well-known example, if the whole world population consumed oil at the same per capita average as in USA or Canada, all known oil reserves would be used up in a little over six years, in accordance with the data of British Petroleum (BP - Statistical Review of World Energy, 06/85 and 06/87).

            Well, this data may be debatable and new reserves yet to be discovered may double, but this would not greatly change the panorama we wish to show.  In other words, it is obviously not possible for all poor countries to duplicate the standard of development and wealth of the rich countries.  This is a material impossibility, pure and simple.  We can thus see, even from this angle, that the freedom and “modernization” that “succeeded” in the rich countries do not have the slightest chance to “succeed” in the poor countries in which, as we must not forget, two thirds of the world’s population live.  Most people, however, do not seem to be acquainted with these hard facts of world reality.

            Therefore, those countries which are cases where the liberal system “succeeded,” established a prosperity which became possible only at the cost of the poverty of a large part of the world’s population, and they continue to “succeed”  at the cost of systems of neocolonialist exploitation, which ensure their victory in the war or, as we called it, the “insane race” of modernization.  This victory is what ensurance the continuance of this unjust state of affairs.

            The Significance of “Succeeding” Internationally

            In view of these conditions, there are more than a few who claim that Brazil is one of the countries that may still “succeed”;  in other words, it is a country of the future because of its size and natural wealth, which would allow it to be a sort of last wagon in the train consisting of countries that have benefited from exploiting others.

            Even if this were true, could we call it “succeeding?”  In other words, to achieve a good level of life at the cost of the destitution of other poor countries?  We may call this “succeeding,” but we cannot but recognize that from the point of view of the welfare of humanity as a whole, this is a failed system which results in the exclusion and destitution of many and is, succinctly, highly immoral.

            As the origin of the enormous difference in wealth among the countries has become clear, as has the way in which this picture of exclusion and injustice is perpetuated, the failure of the liberal model becomes even more evident, especially in regard to the possibilities of the poor countries to overcome their state of destitution – within a scenario such as this, the reality of which only those who are innocent or very clever are able to ignore or to pretend to ignore.

            The Need for a Model for the Welfare of All

            In the best of hypotheses, a system of socio-political organization such as the liberal one, which, as we have seen, is distinguished by a most inadequate process for government election and by the weakness or small capacity for coercion or political strength of those elected to office, can only preserve these conditions.  Therefore, the only hope of the poor countries lies in the advent of new social institutions.  Especially in that of a new political model that guarantees the election of rulers who are morally trustworthy and technically competent and have a great capacity of coercion to enable them to control, discipline and orchestrate the power of the huge organizations in favor of collective welfare.  This advent can only occur in an unforced and benevolent manner through a proper organization of all of the population.

            It is obvious that the intuitive and intellectual discernment of our International Past President, N. Sri Ram, led him to understand the general meaning of these facts when he made the following statements:

            157 - “Politics, which involves the welfare and progress of all who constitute the State and affects other States, is a serious business which calls for the best heads with a disinterested spirit, and should not be a game of power played with the stakes of personal and group interests.” (On the Watch Tower, p. 82)

            158 - “(...) a country like India, where the variety of languages, customs and other differences, being deeply rooted, cannot be dealt with, as they should be, except by a wise understanding and distribution of political power. It must be distributed among such persons – how to discover these is the real question – as will wield it with the necessary capacity, experience and understanding.” (On the Watch Tower, p. 87)

            Annie Besant, who worked with N. Sri Ram for many years, also perceived this problem as we can read in the quotation below:

            159 - “The problem of the moment is how to find the best man, and then to place him in the seat of power. If you say: ‘What do you mean by ‘best’?’ I answer: ‘I mean the wisest, the most strong-willed, the most resolute, the most unselfish.’ Those are the qualifications of the Ruler, and without those qualifications in the Ruler, no happiness is possible for the State.” (The Ideals of Theosophy, p. 25)

            160 - “Now our ideal of Brotherhood applied to Government claims for the wise and not for the ignorant (...) how to find the best? The Ideal is that the best should rule; but how to find them, that is the problem. Every one of us who studies must try to solve this problem, and the suggestions I am here making may perhaps give some hints for the solving.

            “But you will not try to solve it, until you realise the hopelessness of the present line of ruling – or not ruling – and accept the Ideal that the best should govern. When that is agreed on, then we shall bring our brains together to devise a means to find and choose the best, and to place them where they may serve the nation. And this must be done for the sake of the people, for the people who “perish for lack of knowledge,” and who can never, in their ignorance, save themselves.” (A. Besant, The Ideals of Theosophy, pp. 28-30)

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