The present world economy is anti-human: A Sri Lankan Buddhist perspective
by Janaka Goonetilleke on 29 Mar 2017 6 Comments

Ayn Rand called her philosophy “Objectivism”, describing its essence as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”.


When Vasco da Gama invaded the spice market of Calicut and killed the Arab, Sinhalese and Tamil merchants, the harmonious free market was destroyed and a policy of Might is Right was introduced to Asia. It persists even today, led by the IMF and World Bank, and the imperialistic wars in the world. The markets denoted in Gold, Silver etc., were quickly replaced by currencies that the majority of the world does not control. Even Jesus rejected the moneylenders who are today running the world. This was imposed by the colonialists and has become the neo-colonial agenda.


Thus a philosophy of linear assessment where money was the arbitrator of development and human achievement was imposed on the world. This contradicts the age-old philosophy of Asia which was assessed by a philosophy of cyclicity, making a holistic assessment of development and human achievements. This harmonious balance of assessment was the basis of sustainability learnt through evolution, which minimises the environmental and human costs in any project.


Driving force of this world economy: Creation of Monopoly money

-        The market system initialised and forced on the world by the IMF-World Bank with economic well-being assessed on GDP (Might is Right)

-        Greed and instant gratification propagated by the media that drives the markets

-        Creative destruction the philosophy behind markets

-        Money Democracy that cheats the people

The effect on the world economy is the dehumanisation of humanity and pollution of the three basic elements of the environment and making it inhospitable for humanity.


Creative Destruction is the philosophy of the present world economy led by money economics; it is a linear form of assessment. In its creative accounting the negatives are not taken into account; only how much money you have earned is assessed as economic activity or GDP. Large petroleum companies are mainly assessed on money earned, ignoring the vast number of people who suffer from respiratory disease, mental problems in the young due to lead-poisoning and cancer, etc.


Alan Greenspan best expresses the absurdity of this assessment. “In Vermont, the wonderful breeze rendered air conditioning unnecessary and therefore did not appear as economic activity”. Other things equal,” he concluded, “the standards of living are the same, but the GDP will be less in Vermont than it will be in the South.”


Thus the truth is manipulated to the final objective of earning money, and human suffering ignored as unimportant. In fact, habituation and mindlessness makes them ignorant of the risks they take as humans. Greed the final aim and driving force of the neo-colonialists.


The main thing holding us back from reality is the institutionalised view of our economy and society encapsulated in GDP. Unfortunately this institutionalised world impregnated our policies in Sri Lanka. We value what is visible - transacted economic activity - and downplay or ignore what is invisible. That affects public policy and even our thinking patterns in insidious ways. We tend to support anything that adds to economic activity, no matter what the adverse consequences, in environmental degradation or socially destructive working hours. We have come to see our economy as if it were an entity separate from the world in which we live; this turns what could be cooperative, altruistic Homo socialis into selfish, money-grubbing Homo economicus.


Banks and financial institutions are (still, mostly) macho, testosterone-fuelled environments where making the quick buck trumps almost every other consideration. Plenty of power but no responsibility. A company that buys a forest and cuts it down can, of course, repay its loans faster than one that plants a new tree for each one it destroys.


This was best expressed by our erudite Minister of Finance, Dr N M Perera, in the 1970s when questioned by a reporter who asked, “As a former student of the London School of Economics, what do you think is wrong with the world economy?” He promptly said,
“London School of economics”. These are the institutions that have brainwashed our elite who will never question the orders of the IMF and WB.


Cyclical Assessment


In cyclically assessed programmes, a sense of balance is inculcated to the project and there is a proper accounting system, the negatives being accounted. Thus changing numbers in a GDP does not necessarily change the world. The final effect is destruction of nature, the natural wealth the grand finale, the annihilation of humanity. This is against the majority Buddhist view in Sri Lanka (ignored by Macaulay-ite politicians) as expressed in the following view:


…Buddhists believe that humanity and nature are interdependent, contrary to the present western philosophy of the hubris that humanity rules nature and that it is in the power of humanity to destroy nature for her material ends, without paying a price. The poverty of that philosophy is now gradually dawning on humanity. The Buddhist ecological perspective is best expressed in the Noble Eightfold Path which is the Right View. This view is contained in the doctrine of Patticcasamuppada or Dependent Co-origination, where things exist interdependently, not in their own right. The Image of the jewelled net of Indra reflects it. This holistic model undermines the power of the self over others.


Human Development thus is greatly intertwined with nature and isolated, it can never grow in harmony. Urbanisation in that sense would never be healthy. Buddhism does not believe in absolutism, it believes in relativism and therefore expects humanity to act with a view to the ‘Welfare oftThe Many’. In other words, a Holistic approach to one’s actions.


Present world economy


The present world economy is a progression of colonialism that is geared to the enslavement of people and not to the liberation of the majority of people, mentally and physically. The whole world has been enmeshed in a devious plan to exploit and subjugate humanity by a small group of people who create the conditions through the IMF and WB. And if anyone challenges, like Gadhafi of Libya, then the full force of violence is let through.


1) The medium of exploitation seems to be the so-called international currencies, the monopoly money, thus ensuring that the beneficiaries are the creators of money. The fuel that runs this economy is money which is virtual, and has no means of proper assessment of its value. Forced globalization and open markets geared to sell the birth right of citizens  in the market by a corrupt group of politicians who are there for a short period of 5-6 years. The morality of this process has to be questioned. It is this immoral money that keeps the world economy ticking.


2) Secondly markets are encouraged to grow by a process of brain washing which encourages instant gratification, a form of addiction, not need. This process is uneconomic as the bought products are not one of need but of greed.


3) The Christian work ethic - Servants, be submissive to your masters, not only to those who      are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. The Africans have a saying, ‘when the white man came, he had the Bible and we had the land. Then he said let us close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes, he had the land and we had the Bible’.


4) Foreign development assistance, where countries borrow money and build infrastructure so that they can sell the citizens to cheap labour in an IMF-targeted scheme. In Sri Lanka, it is called Regaining Sri Lanka.


5) Inequitable distribution of wealth which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, makes markets shrink, makes this economy unsustainable in the future but enslaves the majority by hate and entrapment because of need. This creates disharmony in society that is best epitomised by Donald Trump in the US.


Enslavement of mind and new technology


New technology without human emotion is destructive. The short termism led by globalisation has encouraged the rapid growth of the Internet and social media. This creates a communication system that lacks emotional interaction, creating self-centred humans that are the driving force of this economy.


Urbanisation and dehumanisation


Urbanisation and megacity development is the latest advice for Sri Lanka. The basis is increasing economic activity or GDP assessed by the international institutions. The increased restriction of space for humans creates insecurity. In New York, a study has confirmed increased violence in the home and destruction of family life. Violence has permeated society in ever-increasing forms from generation to generation, not forgetting the increased divorce rate and its effect on society and future generations. From an economic perspective, future job prospects and spending on health care, utilities etc. have been ignored.


Investment in major cities deprives the rural economies; people from rural areas have no option to enslavement in the Middle East and into prostitution in big cities. The growth of spas in Colombo, which are glorified brothels, is an indication of the deprived rural economy. This social disruption is a result of enslavement of the people by a class of rulers who have lost the basic human qualities of compassion and care of fellow human beings.


Destruction of the three basic elements


The three basic elements of the environment are the soil, water and air, which are essential for the sustenance of life and maintenance of bio-diversity. Water is the natural conveyor of nutrients, of the by-products of nature. Water accounts for 65% of the human body and is the conveyor of oxygen, nutrients and by-products. Water is the natural life giver. Today pollution from industrial waste, nuclear by-products, refined medicines, insecticides and weedicides, has converted it into a conveyor of death.


70% of human cancers are secondary to weedicides, insecticides and chemicals used in industry and can be prevented according to the American Cancer Association. The conveyor of these toxins is the life giver, water. American chemical companies are now charged for selling weedicides that are causing malignant lymphomas in the USA. Interestingly, these companies export these chemicals to the third world and promote Genetically Modified plants which need the chemicals to prevent the diseases these plants are subjected to in their new environment. Cancer villages in China are a product of rapid industrialisation. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Pacific Sea was polluted by the heavy water (nuclear waste) that would carry to humans eating fish.


Growth of algae in streams and rivers when chemical fertilisers interfere with the eco-system. These algae deprive oxygen to the fish and other aquatic animals, and deprive humanity of a natural food. The flesh of fish, a staple diet of rural people, becomes a carrier of toxic products to humans, causing diseases such as cancers, kidney disease etc.


In Sri Lanka, deforestation of around 400 hectares of forests in 10 years, has had major effects on humanity. When ecosystems are disturbed, new diseases are introduced to human societies. An estimated 24 new diseases have been introduced. The human-elephant conflict is a well-known problem created in Sri Lanka


Trees block the flow of rainwater enough for it to be absorbed by the soil. Flowing rainwater can cause landslides and floods that are a recurrent problem in China that has industrialised and amalgamated its economy to the world economy too quickly. Trees also give shade that encourages actinomyces that prevent soil erosion and allows the soil to retain water and maintain porosity, which allows water to be absorbed.


Deforestation has allowed the weedicides and fertilisers to be directed through the Mahaweli scheme to the North central province where high levels of cadmium and heavy metals from fertilisers have affected 15% of the population with kidney disease. These are rural people, and till today, no effective measures have been taken to detoxify the soil.


Mahaweli Scheme was started by an ambitious group of politicians whose desire to earn commissions outweighed the need to assess the negatives of the scheme, which has failed to achieve its expectations. The country still imports fertiliser, as it is absolutely necessary for the tea industry, one of the main foreign exchange earners in Sri Lanka. All cash crops and mono-cultural plantations deplete the soil of nutrients and need fertilisers for its maintenance, compounding the effect on humanity. The heavy metals are now distributed to the rest of the country via sales of rice consumer.


Human health and disease: the new economic order triggers mental disease due to stress caused by living in a confined area and a work ethic that promotes enslavement. In Sri Lanka, the incidence of cancers has doubled from 2005 to 2014. Systemic diseases have increased, from Diabetes, Sleep Apnoea, Obesity, Hypertension etc., all of which are stress-related. There are new vector-controlled diseases such as dengue etc. Added to this is a new wave of antibiotic resistance due to industrial agriculture. All these create an extra cost on health care for the poor who cannot afford it. None of this suffering is reflected in the Lord of the Economy, the GDP.




There is no doubt that the present world economy is inefficient. Productive work as expressed by the GDP and other statistical data are misleading, hiding the inefficiency of the system. What humans need is happiness and contentment, not enslavement. The great Indian philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore, in his lecture to the Japanese aptly said: Modernity is the freedom of the mind not the taste in the tongue


Modernisation is Imitation. What we are doing today is blindly following a defunct western philosophy that has been forced on our countries despite the destruction and destabilisation of the environment and never-ending proxy wars. Our rulers lack the wisdom that our ancestors firmly believed would establish a fair and just economy. It makes no sense to adopt an economy that increases human suffering but gives the illusion of human well-being, promoted by fraudulent statistics. The curse of Sri Lanka is that the rulers are far removed from the Buddhist Philosophy and too close Western Christian philosophy. 

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