Spiritualised socialism, not armed consumerism
by Jagdish Chandra Kapur on 18 Sep 2008 1 Comment

[Given its rising affluence, India is attracting increasing attention from the market-oriented West than at any time since the Second World War. Yet the case for a friendly Indian engagement with China and Russia has never been stronger. There is need to rethink the current push to integrate India into a world of “armed consumerism” and seek instead a “free spiritualized socialism” – Editor]
Cultures as an expression of continuity progressively evolve out of the environment, faiths, metaphysics, aesthetics and science. The roots of some cultures go back many millennia, and are perennial, with belief in nature, the unity, oneness and interconnectedness of all its phenomena. There is a continuous process of evolution of all parameters which sustain the creativity and continuity of the cultural streams in balance.
The creativity of many of the contemporary cultures has been largely conditioned and dominated by techno-economic and material factors. As culture is not a linear process, it does not follow the pathways of science and technology. The scientific evolutionary processes will not lead to the evolution of ‘universal values’. Contemporary Science itself has now reached a stage of uncertainty, where it cannot harmonise with the metaphysical concerns of cultures. The new sciences are even questioning the very existence of material, because all material forms are structured on energy particles. That materiality is an illusion, is the foundation of belief in some traditional cultures.
A rudderless monetised science must either take a step to the next level of consciousness and be disciplined and evolve an ethical and moral code, or it will continue to drag cultures into its own labyrinthine future and lead humankind into an aggregating and continuing civilisational crisis of vast magnitude. The consequences of globalisation of an ‘Armament Protected Consumerist paradigm’ are the manifestations of this process, and are an expression of imperial ambitions. Its infrastructure and structure of values are designed to advance and protect an increasingly autonomous system. The globalisation of consumerist values is also undermining the continued evolution of millennia-old perennial values. All this to sustain an illusion of a new human future on earth, when in reality we are proliferating to their very end our ecological, physical, cultural and human resources.
The understanding of the perennial cultural streams, and nature-based tribal cultures and myths with their reverence towards nature or ecology becomes the bridge between science and spirituality, and can possibly provide us deep insights into the ecological, social, and psychic tragedies which are becoming a part of the twenty-first century. Some cultures of the East, with deep-seated restraints (as against the excesses of the consumer society) and Confucian hierarchical orderliness, can play a role and help to trigger new, sustainable and compassionate lifestyles and make a much wider contribution to the human future. But there is a very big question mark as to whether the aggression and violence in the international system will let this transformation take place in peace.
From colonial times, behind the declared humanist objectives and civilising missions of democracy, freedom and human rights, there was an unstated agenda of integrating vulnerable economies into a narrowly-controlled financial system for the benefit of a few. Working under an illusion of the invincibility of their armed might, the dominant systems have been endeavouring to prevent the evolution of new paradigms of human development (Soviet Union being one such example). Civilisational parameters, where they are directly under human control as was the case with pre-colonial crafts, evolve harmoniously. But when external, technological and colonial factors begin to intervene, such harmonisation recedes.
Many culturally advanced nations are now being obliged to step back or down, so as to be in step with the consumerist culture. The level of economic development of these countries gets conditioned by the closeness or the integrative potential of their culture with that of the role-model. In other words, transition from culturally-based restraints and orderliness to media-promoted consumption and extravagance, all the way to armament protection in an increasingly insecure world.
Should the psyche of the people of the perennial cultures that evolved over millennia be transformed for the acceptance of an alien technological culture and its vision of the world? Nirvana or the realisation of the highest human potential belongs to the realm of spirituality, far away from mammon worship and its infrastructure of robots, mental capability-limiting devices, and big pressure media mind-control with inbuilt aversion to the spirit of religions. Mass moronisation, terrorism, genocide, poverty and wars are the consequences of such de-sensitisation of the finer human instincts. This path is visibly leading us to great social upheavals and ecological disasters.
However, an unplanned dismantling of the consumerist paradigm will not be possible without providing a humane and sustainable replacement. Millennia of human knowledge and experience within traditional cultures and religions need to be protected. There is thus a need for a new world view. We have also to reflect on the 18th century mindsets that still prevail and are being projected onto 21st century issues. For instance:-
In February 1835, a time when the British were striving to take control of the whole of India, Lord Macaulay, historian and politician, made a historic speech in the British Parliament, commonly referred to as The Minutes, which struck a blow at the centuries-old system of Indian education. Briefly, the gist of his speech goes: I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.
How do nations save their cultural heritage from the increasingly intense onslaught of forces of unreason? How do we preserve the potential and effectiveness of dialogue as a civilised instrument for a peaceful discourse in the midst of the aggressive intent of the major beneficiaries of the globalising world, who are not prepared to face the shifting realities of the world environment and who, through new social arrangements, are attempting to bring the entire world into a single civilisational paradigm with its own definition of democracy, human rights and justice.
We are standing at the crossroads, at a significant moment in the history of human civilisations i.e. between two worlds. The whole world is being pushed onto the path of uni-culturisation of cultures, globalisation of consumption, physically closer, spiritually apart. It is changing with every scientific breakthrough and descending, uncontrolled, to the lowest common denominator of human existence and survival.
Our only hope is to find ways for the creation of ‘Universal Values’ through dialogue. There is also a need to decelerate the consumerist paradigm and re-examine the limits of the free market economy and enforcement of ethical, moral and policy constraints. This is exactly what the power system today is fighting against.
The socialist systems made a historic blunder by continuing to accept the Cartesian separation of matter and mind, and of the basic structure of the physical universe and the unique awakening into consciousness. Both exist, but not independent of each other. One belongs to the realm of culture and the other to civilisation.
The free market system to gain freedom in the service of capital, forgetting that labour and its work preceded it, chose the path of Cartesian Separation, and in this process became a body without soul, an ever-enlarging ‘Rambo’ in search of a more and more powerful gun, in an increasingly violent and complex world. We have therefore to give a soul to Rambo and seek new answers through a synthesis of more responsible and controlled free-market with a free spiritualised socialism. An attempt at a mixed economy in post-independent India was continuously under pressure and lost out after the retreat of the Soviet Union in 1990s.
As everything spelled ‘mono’ translates into hegemony, a dialogue of cultures presupposes plurality and a desire to seek new, more harmonious and sustainable possibilities for the co-existence of diverse material and metaphysical arrangements in order to absorb the emerging new knowledge, not only external (of science), but also internal (spiritual). As cultures are the software around which civilisational forms are structured and the clash of civilisations transcended, every step in the direction of containing, abridging or aborting the continuity of perennial nature-based cultures is a step towards uncontrolled chaos and rapid descent from the eternal to the temporal.
Some years ago, an academic dubbed the retreat of the Soviet Union as ‘the end of history.’ In reality, it may well spell the beginning of the end of Cartesian Separation of body and mind, materiality and spirituality.
The destruction by colonialism of traditional, largely self-contained societies brought great poverty to the world. The current attempt to bring about a still more radical break with old traditions will obliterate all potential for creating a more humane order. We are already witnessing this breakdown being brought about by an unchangeable Illusion of world domination and an urge to control and define all things and phenomenon. This has brought us to an uncertain world with an uncertain science, an uncontrolled economic and human crisis and a disrupted evolution of consciousness. A planned, controlled chaos is losing its control points.
Thus two different worlds with different basic experiences of reality provide two different values of feeling, thinking, and living. One is launched on a self-destructive path; the other is struggling to connect its past to the new world of science and evolve a sustainable lifestyle within its cultural restraints and in harmony with nature. To safely transit from the present to the future and to restore sanity to the human system, we have to start with culture, and reconnect the realm of culture and civilisation, because through culture alone can dying human instincts be restored and order directed towards a new stream of peace. Nations or ethnicities, faiths and cultures, needs and resources, require their own civilisational forms to integrate with their own continuity. Thus, the diversity of cultural continuities is the foundation for the potential for friendship at the level of the people.
Civilisation can never be safe by confining the true culture to a small minority and converting the large mass into mere consumers, whereas consumption is transformed into a cultural expression. The consumer culture of senses is now being enlarged and globalised to save the ‘Armament Protected Consumerist Paradigm.’ Since the colonial period, partnership of civilisations has been and continues to be a partnership of interests. Now cultures are being abridged and peoples are the victims. When reason and sensitivity are restored, the partnership of the peoples will prevail.
Based on the address on ‘Dialogue of Cultures and Partnership of Civilisations,’ VIII International Likhachev Scientific Conference (Readings), 22-23 May 2008, St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences. The author is chief editor, World Affairs

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