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Free Economy At Work

by Sukumar Pathak

Tuesday 8 May 2007


”And Men Have Lost Their Reason.”
—’Julius Caesar’ (Act III)

Threat of Global Warming

According to a new study by scientists from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Texas Tech University (USA) and Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre (Australia), much of the earth will face an enhanced risk of heat waves, intense precipitation and other extremes in weather. The study appeared in the December 2006 issue of the Journal Climatic Change. The School of Oceanographic Studies of Jadavpur University (Calcutta), while working on a Government of India funded project as part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), gathered some glaring climate change indicators at the Ganga estuarine area in the Bay of Bengal. The team found that the seas were rising across the 100-island conglomerate, called the Sunderbans. The annual cyclones, which wreak havoc in the small islands, were more intense now causing more coastal flooding, erosion and more saline water moving into the islands. The sea level could go upto 3.5 mm. a year over the next few decades because of the global climate changes washing out some of the islands in the Sunderban conglomerate. A report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued in Paris, contains the strongest evidence yet that
Human interference with the climate system is unquestionable. What humans have done over the last couple of hundred years is unprecedented. These scientists have made increasing heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere responsible for the global warming. (vide news item, dated February 3, 2007)

How Did It Happen?

THE CO2 concentration in the air has been going up at the rate of about 0.3 per cent a year due to the increasing fossil fuel consumption and if it continues unabated, the earth’s temperature is likely to rise to twice is pre-Industrial Revolution level by about 2060 AD. These daunting figures, collected by organisations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), indicate a strict control and regulation on our fossil fuel consumption. But while the danger posed by global warming is admitted and its principal agent has been also identified, the corrective measures adopted to stem the damage have been half-hearted so far. Between 1950 and 1986, for example, fossil fuel consumption worldwide increased more than four-fold. And no wonder, for high-pressure salesmanship newspapers, magazines and numerous TV channels are everywhere telling the people to buy more automobiles. That the urging has not been in vain will be testified by the following figures: An item in Business World of January 10, 2002 reported with great satisfaction that the total car sales in India in December 2001 rose to 36,627 units from 30,864 units in December 2000. Market leader Maruti Motors posted a 6.6 per cent rise selling 24,313 cars against 22,791 in December 2000. In the two-wheeler segment, scooter sales in India recorded a 25 per cent rise at 62,346 units in December 2001 from 49,873 in December 2000. Motorcycles jumped to 2.57-lakh units (a 47.2 per cent increase) from 1.74-lakh units in December 2000. Another news item, dated March 17, 2004, in The Telegraph, Calcutta, contained a statement from V. Piparsania, Director (Sales) of Ford India, in which he said:

Our target is to sell around a million units by 2007 which means we would have to grow at an average rate of 10 per cent.

The figures released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers showed that eleven car companies sold a total of 6,20,725 units in the April to February 2001 period—up by 31 per cent from the 2000 figure. Their profit-accrual may blind the motor car manufacturers to the risks from increased CO2 emission. It seems everybody in India—barring a few environmentalists—is elated by the spectacle of mounting motor car sales. Delivering the keynote address at the Seventh Project Uptech of the Auto Component Industry in Bangalore on August 19, 1996, P. G. Kakodkar, the then Chairman, State Bank of India, jubilantly referred to a survey which had revealed that the world car population was expected to double from the present 500 million to one billion by 2025 AD. Even a sober person like a State Bank of India chief tends to be carried away by the car sale figures!

The Gap between Knowing and Doing

WE know of the fact of global warming and its grim consequences. Activities are seen all around at the same time which have the sure effect of adding to global warming. These cannot but be described as irrational even when they happen to be highly profitable to the manufacturers of automobiles, for example, because these activities show us to be off our head in that here we do not (or cannot) follow the dictate of our intelligence: to quote a line from the great Indian epic Mahabharata, “janami adharmang, na cha mey nibritti…” (I know it should not be done, but I cannot stop). We should take note of warnings like those given by the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Octavios Paz, while accepting the Prize at Stockholm in December 1990:
The life on this planet is threatened. Our thoughtless culture of progress has turned us into a suicidal race.

To say our profits are really losses are strong words indeed, but they depict the real picture. The chief drawback of profit-oriented economy is its compulsion to grow or to collapse—this compulsion is a consequence of the unequal income distribution upon which such an economy is based about which Dr David Jenkins, Bishop of Durham (UK), in an article, ‘Commonwealth and Common Ownership’ had in 1987 warned:
The earth’s ecological systems cannot any longer sustain the growth necessary to feed capitalism. (His article was published in the New Socialist magazine in December 1987.)

Private enterprise for profit (or capitalism) has faced criticism on different counts: that it ends up, inevitably, in an age of high technology, in monopolies in particular sectors; that it has an unequal income distribution arrangement. A recent point that has unavoidably come up against the capitalist economy is that in its quest for fresh fields for investing its surplus, it pays little heed to conservation of resources and environmental protection. The most significant criticism, however, is that by making money the great objective of human endeavour capitalism does not allow the human brain to be used for those purposes which “stretch out into the future, which can never be fully achieved but are growing and infinite with the infinity of human endeavour,” as was spelt out by Bertrand Russel.

“Get Money, Money Still and then let Virtue follow if She Will.” —Pope

THE obsession with money turns us away from the marvels of which the mind of man is capable of. We have no time to be interested in the exquisite poetry of India’s Kalidasa or of England’s Shakespeare, for example; or in the music of Tansen of India and of Beethoven of Germany. Worshippers of money advise us not to differentiate between the beautiful and the beastly, between the heavenly and the hellish, in short between good and evil. To demolish the world of values which the human mind has created, that is what they want, for they say these values are archaic and outdated. To appear clever and cute we must devoid ourselves of all value-judgments. Mankind’s new masters are known as the “rich and famous” whose exploits in making millions are constantly presented to us by the press and the TV. We occasionally hear of ‘got-up’ matches (cricket/football). Do we care to know of the ‘bought-up’ press and TV of our time? The brunt of brutalisation of the male in a capitalist society mostly falls on the women. It may seem unbelievable that, though this period is declared as the period of female emancipation, more and not fewer women than ever before are victimised every day by the vicious commercialising process. Women are not always aware of the debasing and demeaning because, for one thing, feminism has been somewhat of a lopsided movement with its major concern with conjugal problems ignoring the hugely tempting rewards which trick them into becoming profitable commodities. The tricks used include presenting their offers as support to women’s liberation masking the sinister aim to push our women towards something that is nothing but prostitution. The instances of devaluation of values are to be seen everyday—thanks to the chief agents of the devaluation work, namely, the press and the TV. Thus the conspicuous coverage the media gave to Amitabh Bachchan presenting a Bentley car to his son, Abhishek, was aimed at focusing public attention on high-cost commodities like Bentley/Rolls Royce etc. A subtler and more sinister motive was to instil into our youth an attitude of hero-worship towards the ‘Rich and Famous’ of the land replacing thereby the men of science, of literature, of music, of arts. The servile media of the ‘Rich and Famous’ want new heroes for the people in the form of the millionaires and billionaires in this era of what they call ‘globalisation’. Ben Afflect, who played George Reeves in the 1950s tele-serial Superman, commented at the 2006 Venice Film Festival:
Nowadays people pay attention more and more to actors’ private lives alongside their movies…. (News item, dated Venice, September 1, 2006)

According to the Oscar-winning star Sir Michael Caine, he was struck by how banal were the films made today at Hollywood, because these lacked dialogue, character and plot. Their emphasis was on special effects action and violence. He lamented how the pursuit of money was stifling creativity. (News item, dated September 4, 2006, The Times, London) The way the media try to deflect people’s attention to the flippantly irrelevant was exemplified in the news that Maria Sharapova, the Russian lawn tennis player, was to bring out “a new sexy outfit to liven up the Australian Open” in January 2007. (News item, dated Melbourne, January 14, 2007) Sharapova is a good tennis player; our “creative” journalists, however, are bent on promoting her as a ‘beauty queen’ rather than a woman player highly skilled in her game. The press and the TV are in this hand-in-glove with the fashion products- sellers who were prepared to pay an estimated 22-million dollars as ‘endorsement fees’ to Sharapova, the ‘model’ (and not Sharapova, the tennis star)! The number of women (and men) must be few who can resist such tempting offers and remain steadfast to their chosen calling. Anything done-literally anything—for money by the present-day media is done in an exercise of her/his right to freedom. They choose to forget that no right, no freedom can exist without the existence of society and that acts that damage or destroy the social structure damage or destroy also the system of rights. The alternative to society is not wholesale freedom but a return to the law of the jungle where “the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. (Hobbes: Leviathan) Will a woman choose to be a home-maker or, for that matter, choose a sober calling on reading “Model Lyn Talbot wears the world’s first million dollar hat, encrusted with diamonds, pearls, sapphire, topaz at the 5th Annual Millinary Collection in Melbourne”? (News item, dated October 6, 2004) Will she not be tempted to think she can be such a ‘model’ if she tries enough? However, the best ‘story’ for the media was the one which was splashed as “Spears Bares All” that said,

Pregnant pop princess Britney Spears is baring all on the cover of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ magazine’s August 2006 issue. On the cover Spears cups her breasts with her hands while showing her protruding belly. (News item, dated New York, June 29, 2006)

The news item did not mention the princely sum the “pop princess” charged for her act of “baring all”. Other types of “baring-all” acts, equally profitable as “showing her protruding belly”, have been hit upon by the media—the great worshipper of ‘freedom’ of our time—for example, some women in the USA/UK, on being pregnant, are entering into contract with TV channels which specialise in such matters to allow a live broadcast of their child delivery! For a very high fee, of course. Such shows are surely not to disseminate knowledge of gynaecology/obstetrics but to cater to a perverse curiosity after creating the curiosity. The purveyors of such programmes’ earnings are enormous and so are those of the women they are able to bring into the business. What is new (and dangerous) is that these days these peddlers in female bodies dare care carry on their trade openly with a bold face because of the cooperation from the media who help mask such trades as ‘female emancipation’ or as the ‘right to freedom of action’.

Just as the profit-seeking economy is polluting the earth’s air and water through ever increasing use of its resources, use of the female body as a money-making commodity is similarly polluting the social atmosphere.
These conscience-free characters represent the clearest examples of how very important moral values are to society and its members. Without these moral controls society would be either unworkable or a living nightmare. (Understanding Social Life by Paul Secord, Carl Backman and David Slavitt; publisher: Tata McGraw-Hill, 1978)

Like obsession with money in industry and trade, turning our women into marketable objects is also an irrational act; which is its strongest possible criticism, for when a man or a woman ceases to be rational he/she ceases to be a human being. Making a woman a merchandise is irrational because it suppresses the beautiful emotions, the feelings, the sensitivity which only a unique organ like the human brain can give to a man or a woman.

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