Vimukt Shiksha - September 2001
Learning to Challenge the Global Economy
The Continuum - Colonialism-Development-Globalization
What Makes Globalization Different from Its Predecessors
Globalization as 'McDonaldization'
' Free' Trade in the WTO?
Global Rhetoric vs. Reality
Case Study: Capturing the Classroom
Big Business of Education
Buying and Selling Knowledge
Behind Closed Doors: Business Plans
There's No Bang in the Buck
Why We All Lose in the Race to Win
Exposing the IT Revolution
Case Study: Universalizing Consumer Culture
Myth of Microcredit
Great Debt Dilemma
Rethinking Swadeshi During the Great Indian Sell-Out
Is Socialism the Answer?
Why It's Time to Stop 'Leaving it to the Experts'
Why Bigger Is Not Better: Making Way for the Small
Freeing Our Expressions
A Turn Towards the Local
The Resistance of the Zapatistas
From the Four Directions
Closer to Home... IDSP
Special Insert: The Political Economy of War
The Algebra of Infinite Justice
Is It All about Oil?
Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
A Letter from Parents
* * * * * *
“Even if the cargo on a boat is distributed evenly, the boat will inevitably sink under too much weight — even though it may sink optimally.”
- Herman Daly
What is the global economy? How does the global economy impact/reshape the purpose, content and pedagogy of education? How does factory-schooling strengthen the global economy? How can we (re)generate diverse spaces and learning processes for challenging the global economy?
In education circles around the world, educators are being told that they must overhaul their education systems to help their citizens compete in the Global Economy. The World Education Forum’s Dakar Framework for Action describes the benefits that are waiting to be reaped by All: “Globalization is generating new wealth and resulting in greater interconnectedness and interdependence of economies and societies.” Those of us who are somehow not convinced by all this hype are told that nothing can be done to stop the Global Economy. We just have to squeeze out a place for ourselves in it.
Sadly, most educators know very little about the Global Economy: how it is shaping them or how they can re-shape it, or its many implications for education. First, the Global Economy seeks to remake us All into ‘Global-Citizen-Consumers’ — competent in consuming what we do not need, consuming what we cannot afford, consuming ourselves into oblivion. Second, new education models are busy converting diverse learning spaces into marketplaces/malls: by bringing products directly to children in their schools and homes, and by commodifying and re-selling the common gifts of humanity — knowledge, intelligences, creativity, spirituality, Nature, etc. Third, custodianship over people’s learning processes is being transferred from the inefficient/insensitive Welfare State to greedy, unaccountable Corporations. Lastly, diverse modes of human expression, reflection and dialogue are being colonized by new technologies. In the sterile virtual world, people’s minds are not only being overwhelmed with decontextualized information, they are being ‘rewired’.
Educators should be concerned that the Global Economy not only impacts education but threatens what it means to be human. Fitting into the Global Economy means adopting the value system of the ‘bottom line’: efficiency, profits, foreign investment and competition. Any crime against humanity — ecological destruction; cultural and linguistic homogenization; massive social displacement, the illegitimate concentration of power; the manipulation of genetic codes; brutal violence; genocide — can be morally rationalized on the basis of this bottom line. While some may appear to benefit from this economy in the short-term, the long-term consequences for life on this planet will be disastrous.
The fatal attraction of the Global Economy lies both in the unfulfilled promises of Development (good health, democratic and peaceful relationships, greater leisure time, less poverty) and in the achievements of Development (massive, unsustainable infrastructure that, to maintain itself, continuously needs new resources — which it doesn’t have and must take from others). The culture of schooling has also brainwashed us into believing several tantalizing myths of Progress: bigger is always better; science and technology can solve all our problems; survival of the fittest is the natural law; economic growth trickles down to the poor, etc. Even worse, it has manufactured inferiority, selfish individualism, and impatience which has made us lose faith in ourselves and in our local communities. We are forced to spend our time watching the Left and Right publicly debate whether State vs. Market institutions should have more power (i.e., who will be better at distributing the weight on the sinking boat?).
Luckily, globalization is not an irreversible or unstoppable process. As the Global Economy spreads around the world, so do the pockets of dissent. The vast majority of people in the world are still not part of the Global Economy; nor, despite what the mainstream media propaganda tells us, do they want to be. Many groups are struggling to regenerate ‘the local’: to reclaim their whole Selves and their communities from the myths of Progress and dependency on the State/Market; and, to replenish their own wells of practical knowledge, wisdom, love, interdependence, creative expression of life-affirming living. New possibilities for unlearning and re-learning for challenging the Global Economy eagerly await to be created. We invite you to join us in this process.
Despite different names, the cultural, psychological and economic forces that have shaped the last 500 years of human history are closely linked to each other. From the European ‘discovery’ of the New World(s), through years of imperialism and colonialism, from the post-War Development decades (1950s-80s), to today’s era of globalization. Together, all of these time periods constitute a continuum, defined by the similarity in their goals, processes and outcomes.
For example, a desire for gold and natural resources, upon which to build empires, motivated the Europeans to colonize the rest of the world. Similarly, in the last several decades, the pursuit of profits, of markets and commodities, has driven both the Development and the Globalization agendas. Some would add that these periods also share an ‘altruistic’ agenda: to civilize, develop, or protect the Other (i.e., those peoples with languages, cultures, histories, values, etc. different from the elite Euro-American white male). That is, pillage has been justified on ‘moral’ grounds of “making the world safe for democracy”, “reducing poverty”, or “enduring freedom”.
Terrorism and genocide have been the main processes used in the continuum. In the first 450 years, physical/military prowess was a decisive factor; in the last 50 years, more subtle tools of domination have emerged (the United Nations, free trade, universal schooling, mass media, Human Rights, Science/Technology). But regardless of the tool, all of the processes devalue the Other in order to manipulate/manage Them. This manifests not only in the language used to describe common people (from “wild”/”primitive”, to “backward”/”undeveloped”, to “technologically deprived”), but also through the violent elimination of knowledges, languages, and other living traditions.
Such processes have led to similar outcomes. Colonialism, Development, and Globalization have all resulted in the exploitation of people and of natural resources, brutal oppression, and widespread injustice. The psycho-cultural internalization of the West is another common effect in the continuum. Each period has undertaken measures to ensure that the Other consider the West to be progressive, advanced, and living the future of their dreams. Those who most successfully internalize this ‘truth’ (i.e., the babus) are then used to manage the exploitation process from within. What this leads to is a ‘mono-culture’: the destruction of diversity in favor of homogenization, and the concentration and control of raw materials in the hands of an elite few.
Sources: Z. Sardar, et al. The Blinded Eye: 500 years of
V. Shiva. Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge
Transnational Corporations (TNCs) (or Multinational Corporations, MNCs) are businesses that seek to increase their profits by expanding their operations across country borders. They invest their capital where there are the least restrictions, and where they can pay the least amount possible in taxes, for raw materials, for labor, for ‘acceptable’ working conditions, for environmental clean-up/responsibility. By moving across borders, not only do they reduce production costs, but they also find new markets for their products. From both angles, they make higher profits.
Transnational Institutions (the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund-IMF, and the World Trade Organization-WTO) are international bodies that empower TNCs by prescribing certain policies to developing countries (see below). They are able to force these policies on countries, by either threatening economic sanctions, or by promising debt relief to countries and/or granting them new loans. The powers/policies of these institutions transcend those of national authorities (like the Parliament). They also lack any ‘democratic’ input (that is, any input from experts or citizens who do not represent corporate interests).
Free Trade Agreements/Liberalization are policies to open countries’ national borders to
unrestricted foreign investment and trade.
Free Trade implies a reciprocal agreement between countries (i.e.,
Canada-US-Mexico’s NAFTA), while liberalization is one-way opening to outsiders
Source: J. Brecher & T. Costello. Global Village
or Global Pillage.
Simple Questions by Non-Pompous People
- Why are our rulers pretending to rule or have power when it is becoming ever clearer daily that the policies they enforce on us are made outside this country and rammed down our throats?
- We do not understand the meaning of ‘National External Debt’. There is no time when the people, that is us, gathered and instructed our leaders to go borrow such huge amounts of monies that we are now alleged to be owing... Should we really be repaying such ‘corrupt’ loans forever at the cost of our national livelihood?
- If two financial organizations (the World Bank and IMF) can dictate to the rest of the world and make decisions for us all without our participation, what is the meaning of the democracy that these organizations recommend to us?
Globalization as 'McDonaldization'
With 25,000 outlets in 115 countries,
the American fast food restaurant, McDonald’s, is ubiquitous. In The McDonaldization
of Society (
1. Efficiency – optimum (fastest) method for getting from one point to another;
2. Calculability – emphasis on quantitative aspects (time/money) of product/service;
3. Predictability – assurance that product/service will be same over time, in all locations;
4. Control – over both the consumers’ and the employees’ experience; heavy use of technology to limit human error.
Ritzer’s argument is that McDonaldization has infiltrated almost all aspects of modern society, from travel to healthcare to language. In education, this process is unfolding in many ways. Multiple choice exams replace creative essays and projects (efficiency in grading); quantity (of students, hours in class, in test scores, etc.) takes priority over quality; teaching, curriculum and textbooks all conform to predicable routines; and children are increasingly controlled through rigid structures, rote memorization and external discipline. Such mass production is also evident in the proliferation of ‘designer’ school franchises, like Delhi Public School (DPS) and Egmont’s “Euro Kids” preschools.
Some see McDonaldization as positive: “It brings ‘quality’ products/services equally to all consumers,” they say. But they seem to have confused equality with ‘sameness’, and quality with ‘bland-ness’. Indeed, most who experience the monotony of McDonaldization feel disconnected from their unique selves, diverse societies, and from nature. Such alienation, dehumanization and boredom only appear to increase over time.
'Free' Trade in the WTO?
Since joining the World Trade
In theory, everyone benefits from free trade. The WTO website <www.wto.org> explains: the best quality products become available at the lowest prices, the cost of living drops, incomes rise, economies grow, life is more efficient, global inequality is reduced. Why then, in the 5 years since the policies of the WTO have taken effect worldwide, has the opposite occurred? Why, for the majority of peoples, are wages decreasing and the cost of living increasing? Why has inequality between the North and South and within countries increased sharply? And who benefits if free trade ignores public health issues (such as food safety standards), undermines working conditions and accelerates environmental degradation and biopiracy?
Originally conceived in 1821 by David Ricardo, the free trade theory was based on the assumption that capital is immobile and that production stays within a country’s borders. Today, however, this is clearly not the case. Employers can instantly move their operations to countries where production and labor are cheaper, and where there are minimal restrictions on environmentally harmful processes. Workers around the world thus compete with each other for lower wages and worsening working conditions. Meanwhile the lion’s share of benefits goes to the North, to the world’s largest corporate and financial institutions.
In addition, WTO exercises authority on issues such as the use of pesticides or biotech materials in foods, and the public’s access to local medicine (which corporations are rapidly claiming ownership of through patents). WTO policies and processes are not democratically accountable; rather decisions are made behind closed doors and enforced with the threat of economic sanctioning. As a member of the WTO, the Indian government makes its population vulnerable to policies that are not aimed at improving equality or well being, but toward increasing short-term profits for corporations. Thus, before supporting prescriptions to increase economic growth, it is crucial to ask the questions that the elite and experts refuse to ask: “Growth of what? Free for whom? Who wins and who loses?”
Danaher and K. Burbach (Eds),
Global Rhetoric vs. Global Reality
The world’s richest fifth receives 82.7% of the world’s income and resources, the poorest fifth receives 1.4%.
The assets of the three richest people in the world between 1994-1998 were more than the combined GNP of 48 least developed countries.
The UN Human Development Report states that per capita incomes in 80 countries are lower than they were a decade ago.
UNDP reports that US$50 billion in “aid” flows annually from the North to the South. The South loses US$500 billion every year in interest payments on debts and from the loss of fair prices for commodities due to unequal terms of trade.
“Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
— World Commission for Environment & Development
Tropical forests are disappearing at the rate of 100+ acres per minute.
Between 150 and 200 species of life become extinct every 24 hours.
Bush announced that the
— Bill Clinton, 1997
The WTO has the right to overturn any health, safety, or environmental laws (local, state or national) which are perceived by other nations to be unfair barriers to trade.
Since the implementation of SAP in 1991, the World Bank has ‘monitored’ India’s macro-economic policies (foreign investment, balance of payments, money supply, etc.) — all functions which were formerly held by the Government of India.
A Case Study: Capturing the Classroom
Lifetime Learning Systems (LLS) is a marketing service that specializes in producing and distributing corporate-sponsored ‘educational programs’ that promote companies’ products or general views. Its materials especially target under-funded schools, which are eager to obtain new resources. Examples of LLS’s clients and products include:
- Lederle Laboratories, which produces Centrum Jr. multivitamins, hired LLS to make a teaching kit to introduce 4th, 5th, 6th grade children to the importance of using vitamins to maintain good health.
- For General Mills, Inc., LLS created a “Grow-Up!” teaching kit on fruit and nutrition for preschool children. Each kit contained certificates, growth charts, booklets for parents, & 96 ‘candy’ product samples.
- Northeast Utilities hired LLS to distribute films, booklets, teaching kits, board games to local schools, with the objective of “re-educating consumers about the energy crisis and increasing public support for nuclear power development”. Northeast later conducted a survey, which found that public opinion had shifted 20% in its favor.
LLS says its materials are reviewed by educators and textbook publishers and have received “consistently positive responses” from teachers. But those representing environmental and consumer concerns stress that these materials offer biased mis-information. They say that most teachers are unaware of corporate promotion techniques and “do not recognize propaganda when they see it.”
· Would you accept corporate-sponsored materials into your classrooms? What are the trade-offs?
· How can we recognize and counter such corporate manipulation in classrooms and, as importantly, in our daily lives?
The Big Business of Education
Calculations are based on the following assumptions:
20 crore children, age 6-14, will all be enrolled in school with UEE.
Annual student costs include uniform, shoes, stationary, textbooks, bag.
All children will take additional tuition at the rate of Rs.200/month.
Teachers supplied at ratio of 40 students: 1 teacher.
200 children/school in rural areas; 300 children/school in urban areas.
Schools built/year at 1980-1995 rate.
Computer/printer: school; rural = 1; urban = 5.
The Buying and Selling of Knowledge
The Knowledge Economy is considered to be the most evolved phase of the global economy. Its cornerstones are the same as the industrial-technology economies: private ownership, production and consumption, for the highest profit. Once considered the collective domain of humanity (shared with all for the benefit of all), today intellectual resources are marketed as ‘products’, to be bought by and sold to the highest bidder.
The commodification of knowledge occurs in several ways. For example, we ‘pay’ for knowledge when we send our children to private schools or tuitions, or when we ourselves attend special workshops and courses. In doing so, we affirm two ideas: (1) information can be given a price, and (2) the ‘quality’ of information you access will vary, depending on the amount of money you have. In other words, the knowledge economy follows the rest of global economy; it increases levels of inequality by linking participation to a price.
Knowledge is also being bought and sold
through patents and copyrights. Laws are used to declare ideas, products, and
even living things, to be the ‘intellectual property’ of individuals or
corporations. But although one might
want credit for his/her contributions, patenting prevents the general public
from using creations without permission and payment — which again means that
only those who can afford to pay, get to use it. Ironically, many of the people who acquire
patents steal and manipulate knowledge to claim it as their own. For example, in
Buying and selling knowledge is a growing epidemic in universities around the world as well. In the guise of donations, private companies give equipment, buildings, facilities, professorships, research grants, etc. to universities. In exchange, the university provides them with exclusive rights to the research produced. “Commercially-sponsored research” means that companies’ interests are dominating the research agenda — which could seriously limit which questions are asked, which are not, and how the studies are designed. For example, many universities only put their money into commercially lucrative disciplines (science/technology) and stop funding humanities and social sciences, which do not yield profits in the global market. Further, many privately-funded studies are biased; professors receive additional monies from the companies that fund their research and so, not surprisingly, end up giving conclusions that endorse corporate interests. More and more it seems research is done for private gain (profit) rather than for public good.
Members of a learning community can reflect on the following questions:
- How can we credit inventors/creators for their work and encourage new creations, in the absence of patents or copyrights?
- How can we draw upon other understandings of knowledge (as shared wisdom, for example) to begin to de-link it from the market economy and profit motives?
Source: E. Press and J. Washburn, “The Kept University” in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 285, No. 3, March 2000.
Behind Closed Doors: Business Plans
In April 2000, the Prime Minister’s
Advisory Council on Trade and Industry produced “A Policy Framework for Reforms
in Education”. Co-authored by M. Ambani and K. Birla, the report articulates a contradictory vision for
- expand private and community-supported schools;
- allow foreign direct investment in education;
- form partnerships between industries and universities;
- use computer technology to establish education networks in villages;
- diversify revenue sources (private financing in school/universities);
- develop student loan and credit markets for higher education;
- keep the economy free from controls to foster a market for education.
For these traders and industrialists, education means big money. For example, the report anticipates recurring expenditures on all three tiers of the education industry to be Rs.1,80,000 crores by 2015, and capital expenditures to be Rs.89,000 crores. Learning communities must ask themselves: (1) do these businessmen really have the best interests of our children and society in mind?; and (2) will spending more money solve the deep crises facing education?
There's No Bang in the Buck
In this excerpt from “Beyond Money: Deschooling and a New Society” <www.life.ca/nl/44/gatto.html>, John Taylor Gatto discusses how the abstraction of money and of schooling have devalued social relationships and real learning processes:
“At the turn of the 20th century, a profound social thinker in
I mean [this point] to be a lesson for our schools too… Experts who are the sellers of school services to the government have consistently misdiagnosed and misdefined the problem of schooling… Our cultural dilemma has nothing to do with children who don’t read very well. It lies instead in the difficulty of finding a way to restore meaning and purpose to modern life. There is no point in reading if it seems to lead nowhere. We have progressively stripped children of the primary experience base they need to grow up sound and whole by pricing abstract study higher… When we fail to take into account how most children, rich or poor, really learn – by involvement, by doing, by independent risk-taking, by shouldering responsibility, by intermingling intimately into the real world of adults in all its manifestations – when we set up a laboratory universe in which all are confined with anonymous strangers, then we have created in advance a world of failing families, wrecked cities, and blasted individuals...”
Why We All Lose in the Race to Win
Competition is glorified in today’s world. Companies are incited to compete in the global economy, to make competitive products and services and to have a competitive workforce. Similarly, every aspect of schooling trains children to compete — if not in formal contests and exams, then for grades, ranks, labels, teacher approval, etc. But just as only a few employees are given bonuses, so do only a few children receive prizes, certificates or other rewards. The rest are declared losers; their failure is explained by either a lack of hard work or a lack of ability. Although the situation may seem unfair, we are all told that, in the ‘survival of the fittest’, competition is the only way to motivate us to be productive and to do our best.
In No Contest: The Case Against Competition (1992), Alfie Kohn refutes this myth, as well as three additional myths about competition: that it is part of human nature; that it is the only/best way to have fun; and that it builds character and confidence. He explains that those who are pro-competition subscribe to a win-lose view of the world. Both the dominant economic structure and the school deliberately make ‘success’ scarce, by creating unnatural situations where only a few can win and the rest must lose. They then use these ‘successes’ as evidence to promote more cutthroat competition. Kohn cleverly elaborates, “Capitalism works on the same principle as a glass company, whose employees spend their nights breaking people’s windows and their days boasting of the public service they provide.”
And far from making us do our best, competition actually inhibits us. Kohn cites multiple studies that show that in competitive atmospheres, people produce less spontaneous, less complex, less diverse, and less creative products; while the reverse holds true in cooperative atmospheres. This ‘paradox’ happens for several reasons. First, competition restricts our vision; it makes us narrowly focus on ‘winning’ the reward, so that we neither use our time or our resources well. At the same time, it breeds hostility, anxiety, fear of failure, and fear of risk-taking/exploring, which further constrains our creativity and performance. Lastly, competition results in a “loss of community and sociability and a heightening of selfishness.” It prevents us from working together or caring about each other. These outcomes of competition not only affect the losers, but also the winners.
Those who advocate competition fail to see the fundamental difference between ‘learning’ and ‘competing’. With learning, we give attention to accomplishing the task, the skill, or the goal, because we value the effort itself. With competition, we focus on defeating others; the quality of our work is only important insofar as it wins us the reward.
Kohn makes strong recommendations to abandon this competitive ethic and adopt a vision of cooperative learning, so each of us can achieve our full potential in ways that are beneficial to the whole community. The “enormous potential of mutual benefit (cooperative) strategies will not be tapped — or even understood — until we broaden our perspective beyond the narrow prejudice that we always do best by trying to beat others.”
Please discuss with your family, friends and colleagues:
How is competition promoted in your community?
What are spaces/opportunities for promoting cooperation instead?
What are some strategies for challenging competition and ensuring everyone’s success in learning and growing?
Exposing the Information Technology Revolution
“What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labour-saving machinery. Men go on ‘saving labour’ till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. . .Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the backs of millions. The impetus behind it all is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed.” - M.K. Gandhi
The increase in information and
communication technologies (ICTs) is seen as a major
contribution from the global economy.
Educators favor ICTs for connecting learners
of all ages and for bringing them more information. With
But serious reality checks are in order before we swallow the ICT hype. For one, there is very little research to prove that ICTs actually enhance human learning. In fact, several researchers now argue that ICTs damage many natural learning processes. They limit children’s creativity and imagination; diminish self-motivation and attention spans; and reduce risk-taking ability. They also distort the brain’s growth, motor skills, depth perception, and hand-eye coordination. ICTs also take time away from other learning opportunities and relationships. Instead of playing, pursuing arts, strengthening different relationships, or participating in real work/home activities, children are sitting in front of computers. An entire generation may be growing up anti-social, impatient, withdrawn.
Advocates suggest that ICTs increase communication among people from all corners of the world, thus bringing us together in a ‘global village’. While one may ‘connect’ with the less than 10% of the world that has real access to ICTs, the nature of such interactions is usually superficial. The medium is inherently limiting to many forms of human expression, dialogue and ways of knowing. Info-glut is also becoming a huge problem as we are bombarded with more (irrelevant) information than we can digest. In addition to this are all the cyber-village horror stories: viruses, pornography, credit card scams, hacking, stalking, and even serial killers.
It is also questionable whether ICTs really save us time. We are continuously faced with a paradox: with more technologies in our lives, we have less and less time to reflect deeply on or dialogue about who we are and where we are going; we must spend all of our free time attending to the technologies. As Eduardo Galeano describes, “The car, the television set, the video, the personal computer, the portable telephone and other pass-cards to happiness, which were developed to ‘save time’ or to ‘pass the time’, have actually taken time over.”
Nor do ICTs really democratize society. Unjust and illegitimate institutions of authority use ICTs to dominate with greater force and sophistication. Public funds are being diverted to subsidize ICT infrastructure, which is primarily utilized by private companies, while public services like post offices and libraries decline due to lack of funds. Plus, information is not free—it requires money to access most interesting content on the world wide web as well as to make/maintain web sites. We also remain totally dependent on product obsolescence cycles (which force us to buy new hardware/software every 3-4 years).
Lastly, while ICT professionals in the ‘new economy’ might sound appealing, one should note that this economy is already over-saturated and has begun to down-size itself.
Today, ICTs largely remain a ‘solution’ in search of a problem. Many of the so-called sucess stories, particularly those concerning rural areas, must be more critically looked at. ICTs can play a role in society but we must be careful not to let ourselves get swept away by the hype. Learning communities should reflect carefully on:
- How are ICTs reshaping/controlling our minds, our lives and our relationships?
- In what situations are ICTs useful tools?
- What are the trade-offs that come with making ICTs a development priority?
- Who actively pushing for more ICTs? Why?
Too many people spend money
they haven’t earned,
to buy things they don’t want,
to impress people they don’t like.
- Will Rogers
Case Study: Universalizing Consumer Culture
— In D. Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, 1995
Do you feel that
- Are their any links between NGOs, development projects and building rural markets?
- In what specific ways can people be prepared so that they are not manipulated by such campaigns?
The Myth of Microcredit
Microcredit is the extension of small loans to those without access to lending institutions or too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans (mostly women). It allows them to borrow money at bank rates and start small businesses. Microcredit advocates say it encourages a savings habit, gives women seed capital to generate an independent source of income and thereby empowers them, both in their families and in the larger political economy. Microcredit is thus presented as a way to ‘flatten’ the economic hierarchy, to reduce poverty and ensure that people have more choices.
However, there are several flaws in the microcredit solution — including the fact that it does not question the institutions/values of this system, which manufacture greed and exploit people and resources to make profits. Rather, it subscribes to the belief that poverty can be alleviated if people simply get money, work hard, change their consumption patterns, and try to fit in the System. Studies also show that it undermines culturally-specific roles and relationships.
The second problem with microcredit is who controls and benefits from it. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest
(CGAP), which was set up by the World Bank and is
composed of OECD countries, co-ordinates microcredit
operations worldwide. In its first 2½
years, CGAP provided about US$18 million in grants to microfinance institutions
and US$400 million for microfinance activities.
But what of
‘successful’ microcredit programs? Paradoxically, it seems they have created a
new breed of institutions, laws and regulations, which seem to reduce the
self-sufficiency and independence of ‘beneficiaries’. One loanee from
As the “Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Role of Microcredit in the Eradication of Poverty” acknowledges, most of the ‘success stories’ are isolated cases. It further explains that donors do not have the money to sustain poverty eradication worldwide through microcredit, and that microcredit does not address root causes of poverty. It also shows no conclusive evidence that microcredit really empowers its beneficiaries, as loanees require profit margins of 30-50% to get out of the loan-debt cycle. But the report does clarify the real goals of microcredit schemes: to create deeper and more widespread financial markets in developing countries, by using the small enterprise sector to strengthen the private sector and by promoting sustained linkages to commercial capital. In light of this, learning communities need to think about how to reduce, not expand, peoples’ dependency on cash and the Market economy.
Sources: The Virtual Library on Microcredit; A Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the Role of Microcredit in the Eradication of Poverty; Sarah Blackstone, “Bandaid Bandwagon,” in The New Internationalist, July 1999; John Samuel, “The Holy Cow of Microcredit,” in Butterfly Futures, October 1999.
The Great Debt Dilemma
An international campaign, Jubilee 2000 calls upon creditors — individual country governments, the World Bank, IMF, and private banks — to cancel the unpayable debt owed to them by the world’s poorest countries. (Unpayable debt is that which either cannot be paid, or can be paid only with enormous human suffering.) Jubilee 2000 explains that developing countries’ trillion-dollar debt has had a number of serious consequences in both the North and the South. It has invoked large-scale environmental distress. Developing countries are growing cash crops, using chemical fertilizers, over-fishing their waters, engaging in the ‘garbage trade’, and selling off natural resources (particularly forests) to obtain the foreign currency to pay back their debt. In addition, flooding the international market with their exports has lowered prices and led to unemployment and lower standards of living in these countries. And the SAPs of the World Bank and IMF have made governments reduce spending on social services (like education and health care), cut back on food and other subsidies, privatize public industries, and replace small farms with large-scale cash crop farming.
UNICEF and Oxfam add to Jubilee 2000’s efforts with the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. They ask countries to prepare Debt-for-Development plans, which revise public spending, poverty reduction, and macro-economic strategies. If approved by donors and the IMF, HIPCs will receive debt relief and increased aid to help them in achieving Education For All (among other goals).
Why Canceling Unpayable Debt Alone Is Not a Viable Solution
Despite the validity
of the criticisms and the simplicity of the plan, Susan George, one of the
pre-eminent authorities on
Also, one cannot assume that this process will help the poor. If the loan money/projects did not trickle-down to these communities, it is unlikely that the savings of debt cancellation will. Moreover, 100% of debts must be cancelled, not just unpayable debt. As it is, most countries are only servicing 50% or less of their debts, which means the so-called ‘payable’ debt will still remain. In addition, all countries must have their debt cancelled simultaneously. If only a few countries’ debts are cancelled, they will become isolated by the global market, since no one will want to provide them with fresh loans or import their goods out of fear of future cancellation. This ‘all-or-nothing’ scenario makes it unlikely for Jubilee 2000 and HIPC to succeed.
Most importantly, George explains, “The debt crisis is a symptom – one among many – of an increasingly polarized world organized for the benefit of a minority that will stop at nothing to maintain and strengthen its control and its privilege.” Although debt harms the world’s social majorities — who were not even consulted by the elite who took and benefited from the loans — the root of the crisis is a particular model of Development, which requires large amounts of capital and global market-related strategies. Therefore, even if some debts are cancelled now, so long as the elite of the South (now supported by an ‘educated’ middle class) pursue this kind of Development, debts will continue to accumulate, and all of the problems described will continue to occur even more violently.
Sources: Susan George, A Fate Worse Than Debt,
Rethinking Swadeshi during the Great Indian Sell-Out
In Inviting the “Invaders”: India, Inc. – for Sale (Jaipur, 1998), Dharmendra Bhandari describes how the Government of India is selling off its industries, assets and resources to private companies, in order to service its massive debt. Following the World Bank and IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program, Indian banks have been taken over by foreign interests; TNCs have swept in and destroyed local industries; and each Indian man, woman and child bears a Rs.10,000 debt on their heads. Calling for swadeshi, Bhandari asks the Government to impose stricter financial controls on corruption and to give preference to Indian companies over foreign ones.
Swadeshi has re-emerged in the age of
globalization. For many Indian
industrialists, it means protection from TNCs, until
they are able to create their own to compete in the global marketplace. For others, it means ‘India-First’; they
encourage people to buy only those products made in
These understandings of swadeshi greatly contrast with those of Gandhi and Ananda Coomaraswamy. For Gandhiji, swadeshi was a spirit of selfless service, conscious self-denial and simplicity; that is, “the Swadeshist will learn to do without hundreds of things which today he considers necessary.” Swadeshi means living within the local – supporting our localities by encouraging our neighbors to take up healthy occupations, by seeking interdependent solutions to local problems, and by creating self-supporting villages, who exchange only the necessities that cannot be produced locally.
Ananda Coomaraswamy added another dimension to swadeshi: valuing the creative and aesthetic elements of the local. He was concerned that Swadeshi literature seemed to emphasize India-based production of European things. In the process, local arts and crafts were destroyed and the status of artisans degraded, in order to produce cheap imitations of European-type luxuries and styles. Coomaraswamy called upon Indians to stop the Indian boycott of the Indian craftsman; he explained that “imitations, whether in [made in] Swadeshi factories or in our lives, of things European are, and must always be, for ourselves socially and industrially disintegrating, and for the rest of the world wholly valueless.”
Coomaraswamy also distinguished between true and false
swadeshi. True swadeshi posits that human beings are more important than products and
profits. It respects the dignity of
labor and is therefore opposed to mass production, mechanization, dehumanizing
working conditions, and other aspects of industrialization. “True Swadeshi
should be to restore, not destroy, the organic life of the village
communities.” False swadeshi, on the other hand, “does not object to crowding craftsmen into
factories, where drunkenness, physical degeneration, [psychological impotence]
and all other natural results of the factory system follow.” Coomaraswamy felt
strongly that if
Taken together, these visions demonstrate that swadeshi can be self-organizing, regenerative and rejuvenating. It can challenge the brutality and exploitation occurring in Indian villages by the hands of Indian industries and Multi-National Companies, which seek to suck the village dry to increase their revenues. A true sense of swadeshi can also lead us to question the cheap imitations of Euro-American culture/values that many of the so-called educated are currently engaging in.
Members of a learning community can discuss the following questions to explore swadeshi:
- How would concepts of freedom, diversity, and creativity manifest themselves in a swadeshi economy?
- In what ways could Big Business, consumer culture, speed, profit, efficiency and free trade be resisted through swadeshi?
Sources: M. K. Gandhi, Village Swaraj. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing, 1996 ed.;
A. Coomaraswamy, Art and Swadeshi.
Is Socialism the Answer?
“During the Cold War, the operating principle was that capitalism and socialism were competing ideologies. In truth, they were two sides of the same coin. Both view human beings as purely economic creatures and are based on the worldview that the world is secular and materialist, that there is nothing sacred about anything. Both agree that men and women pursue mainly economic prosperity and nothing else; both rule out the existence of God except as a personal view of the believer. Both regard human beings as essentially atomized individuals and do not recognize any natural, cultural, and social human collectivities having common faiths, ideals, goals, or way of life. Capitalism believes in sharing the burden of the state with the market, and trusts the market more than it believes in the state as the delivery mechanism. But socialism does not believe in the market and believes only in the state. This is the sole difference. Thus, capitalism and socialism are the same content in two different containers. And yet the world for almost the whole of the 20th century believed that they represented conflicting ideologies.”
— S. Gurumurthy, “Swadeshi and Nationalism”
Why It's Time to Stop 'Leaving It to the Experts'
The global economy is inundated with experts, ‘dispassionate, objective, rational’ technocrats who claim to be able to solve all our problems. In Trust Us, We’re Experts (New York: Putnam, 2001), S. Rampton and J. Stauber unmask this misconception by showing how the public is continuously being manipulated, how consent/disapproval is being created, through the Public Relations (PR) industry. It uses strategies like the “third party technique” (where ‘independent’ experts reassure consumers about producers’ services/products) and “information glut” (where the public is jammed with so many statistics and information that it gives up trying to sort it all out). Indeed, the bulk of research studies published, opinions in the newspaper, and the interviews given on TV are produced by ‘experts’ hired by companies who need to sell a product (chemical pollutants, cigarettes, ‘wonder’ drugs, etc.) or to generate a good public image.
We need to support learners in unlearning this ‘cult of expertism’ as it undermines our ability to make good decisions for our lives and our communities. Our blind trust in and reliance on experts also guarantees that corporations/institutions can get away with dangerous practices. Rampton and Stauber encourage us to question/rethink our relationships to authority and the information they spread. We can reclaim control over our decision-making by: (1) exposing word games and propaganda, (2) recognizing science’s uncertainties and limitations, (3) paying attention to nuances and details, (4) tracing the sources of experts’ funding, (5) seeking out more perspectives, and (6) following our feelings and recovering faith in our own capacities to know, learn and understand.
Why Bigger Is Not Better: Making Way for the Small
“We have to support our small heroes… Who knows, perhaps that’s what the twenty-first century has in store for us. The dismantling of the Big. Big bombs, big dams, big ideologies, big contradictions, big countries, big wars, big heroes, big mistakes. Perhaps it will be the Century of the Small. Perhaps right now, this very minute, there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us…”
— Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good, 1999
ago, E.F. Schumacher declared that “small is beautiful.” Last year, Arundhati
Roy championed the small in her opposition to the Sardar
Sarovar Dam (a.k.a. the struggle in the
Schumacher offered at least three reasons for why small is beautiful. First, he said that when things are kept small, they become more accessible to everyone. That is, while the Big is narrow and exclusive (one needs large amounts of money, power, status, degrees to participate in it), the small is open, inviting, and available for all to engage with. Second, in contrast with the sweeping and destructive effects of Big industries that use Big machines to produce Big products, there is less impact and strain on the earth’s ecologies when production and consumption are carried out on a small scale. Unlike the Big, which inflicts irreversible environmental, personal, and social damage, the small gives the earth and all its life forms time to replenish themselves in ecologically balanced and compassionate ways.
Thirdly, the small ensures spaces for human creativity and meaning-making. It refuses to operate in accordance with the assembly lines, efficiency, homogeneity, and standardization that govern the Big. Instead, it sees diversity, aesthetics, expression and sensitivity as crucial elements of humanity, which deserve far greater recognition and appreciation than they are afforded in the current global economic framework. In this way, the small does not dismiss pilot activities or individual experimentation for not being ‘up-to-scale’. Unlike schools or the global market economy, the small does not present itself as appropriate for 300 million children or for every country in the world. Rather, it understands that micro-level innovation can inform and alter the macro-level in deep and meaningful ways, simply because it comprehends and cherishes the uniqueness of contexts, communities, and cultures as the sources of real transformation and serious change.
Today, we suffer from what Schumacher terms ‘giant-ism’ — a philosophy that assumes that Bigger is not only better, it is the best. However, valuing the small is not to say that there is no place for the big. What is needed are open opportunities to determine the appropriateness of scale. To decide when big (with a small ‘b’) is necessary or when small makes more sense, we need to first understand what our goals are: human dignity, social justice, interdependence, the production of wealth, or something else altogether. Once we acknowledge our goals, we can reconsider scale accordingly. For example, if we begin to articulate what constitutes our ‘needs’ vs. what constitutes our ‘wants’, then we can begin to understand what kinds of consumption and production are appropriate for meeting these (and how much waste we can avoid). Similarly, we can reflect on our definitions of ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘disparity’, and ‘success’ and ‘failure’ in light of scale. In carrying out such dialogues, it becomes clear that bigger is not always best and that small can be very beautiful.
Freeing Our Expressions
Each one of us is an intricate web/history of experiences, stories and relationships, which forms our ‘essence’ and the basis of our learning. This web is never stagnant or final; it changes with new experiences/stories. Expressions are integral to these webs. They are the ways by which we understand, nurture and share our relationships with nature, with cultures, with our wisdom traditions and languages, and with each other. Expressions foster vital social linkages of trust, love, and interdependence, and also utilize and enhance individuals’ diverse learning styles, wisdoms, intelligences, and talents. Examples of expressions include paintings, team games, music, planting and harvesting, embroidery, poetry, pottery, dance, nature walks, weaving, festivals, drama…
Expressions are fundamentally different from hobby classes, child-centered schooling, or cultural program-competitions. First, there is no method of comparison in expressions. This means no labels, no ranks, no tests, no grades, no measures, no punishments, no rewards — in short, no mechanism for distinguishing between ‘better’ and ‘worse’, and no incentive for fear and dishonesty. Because no one individual or institution controls expressions or their value, each of us can contribute to conversations about our and others’ expressions. The bases of such dynamic, ongoing conversations are genuine caring, diversity, respect, and a desire to learn and grow together and to enrich each other’s expressions.
Second, expressions have no spatial or temporal limitations. They do not have to occur in schools, under the authority of an expert/professional, in a fixed amount of time. And they cannot be manipulated to teach addition, spelling, chemistry. Third, expressions are honest, they come from the heart. They are faithful to one’s experiences and convictions — in short, to one’s life and inner self. What takes priority in expressions is not the technical product (the play, the poem, the pot, etc.), but rather people and their processes of creation and discovery—whenever, wherever or however they happen.
Regenerating our expressions challenges the commodification of living creativity — the mindless, soulless consumption of readymade products, ideas and actions — in today’s global economy. Reconnecting with our expressions, our selves, contexts and communities, can begin by:
- Working together in small groups to explore dancing and drumming, or similar dynamic, whole-body, multi-sensory movement-expressions, which interest us and which connect to our specific places.
- Participating in individual and group apprenticeships with local community members, such as farmers, woodworkers, ironsmiths, potters, weavers, etc.
- Facilitating unlearning workshops with teachers, parents, and administrators, particularly in current urban settings, to overcome the fear of ‘vulnerability’ and to uncover and rediscover one’s own expressions.
Contact Munir Fasheh
<firstname.lastname@example.org> of the Arab Education Forum (
A Turn Towards the Local
To counter some of the effects of globalization (unemployment, pollution, waste), people worldwide are regenerating their localities. They are undertaking experiments to reconnect to each other, to their places and ways of living, and at the same time, to challenge globalization, which extracts and exploits Nature’s gifts, individual people, their knowledges and community ties. These initiatives, which keep wealth circulating within the locality, should not be seen as ‘models’ but as experiences to inspire further discussion/creation:
Exchange Trading Systems (LETS): LETS is a system of community exchange,
in which individuals ‘trade’ their skills, creativity, productivity, services,
ideas in the absence of money. Those who
participate in LETS offer their services/products and are credited with a unit
of exchange. This unit replaces money;
it is a symbol, noted on paper or in a computer database, which can be ‘spent’
on other services/products in the locality as needed. Members of a community — businesses,
industries, individuals — utilize this unit to generate jobs and opportunities
while, at the same time, ensuring that resources and services stay local. LETS also eliminate
the wage inequality associated with paid work.
For example, in LETS, a welder, a doctor, and a gardener can all
participate together in a community of exchange, where the value of their work
is judged by each another, not by an external market. Originating in
Local Currency: As more and more local banks are being taken over by outside holding companies, some businesses and communities have responded by issuing their own currency. For example, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA, a restaurant owner decided to issue its own currency when he was unable to secure a new loan. He sold each ‘note’ for US$ 9 and made them redeemable later for US$ 10 worth of food at his restaurant. In this way, the owner was able to raise the money he needed; his customers essentially had given him small, short-term loans. The success of these ‘Deli-Dollars’ inspired other businesses to do the same. These currencies demonstrate that wealth can be locally generated, maintained and used, and that small businesses can function without dependency on banks.
Supported Agriculture (CSA): Local food production for local
consumption is the basis of the CSA movement.
Localities in a number of countries, like
Community Sharing: People around the world are also challenging private ownership by collectively sharing their commodities and resources. They are striving to de-link social status from private ownership of products, like cars, houses, electronics, appliances, etc., as they see that this ‘cult of privacy’ has led to pollution, waste, personal frustration, social discontent, and a strain on resources. In working towards collective collaboration, individuals are experimenting with carpooling, car-sharing, and car-free days (thus reducing the number of cars that are purchased and/or driven daily). Others are trying co-housing (living in housing communities with common spaces/facilities and shared responsibilities). New kinds of ‘libraries’ are also being developed, where tools, appliances, technologies and electronics are donated, along with books, music and videos, to be borrowed, used and returned by different members of the community. These different sharings enhance community interdependency and also reduce levels of private consumption/expenditure and garbage.
Meeker-Lowry, “Community Money,” and D. Imhoff, “Community
Supported Agriculture” in The Case Against
the Global Economy.
Established in 1995, Redefining Progress is a public policy organization that seeks to ensure a more sustainable and socially equitable world by generating and refining innovative policies that balance economic well-being, the environment, and social equity issues. It uses research, the media and other tools to transform conventional economic thinking in public dialogue, policy discourse, and individual decision-making.
For example, to encourage debate about the true meaning of progress, one of their main efforts is creating and sharing a more accurate measure of progress: the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Unlike the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the economists’ traditional measure of ‘success’ (the amount of money transferring hands in an economic year) — Redefining Progress uses the GPI to offer a more meaningful accounting framework. It starts with the GDP but then adds in unrecognized non-monetary contributions (household and volunteer work) and subtracts crime, debts, family breakdown, unequal distribution, depletion of natural resources, pollution, and the other negative ‘externalities’ that accompany economic growth. It created the GPI because it feels that any model that considers terrorist bombings, a high divorce rate, and natural disasters to be ‘economic benefits’ — as the GDP does — is truly absurd.
The Ecological Footprint records consumption of food, housing, transportation, goods, services, and waste. It determines how many acres of productive land and water one occupies, to account for his/her production, consumption and waste. The average American occupies 24 acres, while the average Indian occupies 2 acres; but the Earth can only offer 1.06 acres per person, if 80% is left to the 25 million other species that live on it. The Satisfaction Barometer is a ‘subjective’ measure to assess peoples’ degree of contentment with their personal, social, civic lives. It asks the questions about progress that are often ignored by the media and education system, such as: “Do you have time to focus on what is important to you? Do you feel you can make a contribution to the world? Do you live in a community that you love and that loves you? Are you in control of your life or is your life controlling you?”
“We have nothing to lose, absolutely nothing, no decent roof over our heads, no land, no work, poor health, no food, no education, no right to freely and democratically choose our leaders, no independence from foreign interests, and no justice for ourselves or our children. But we say enough is enough! — Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, 1993
What sets the Zapatista Movement apart
is not the revolt per se (for there
have been many), but rather the nature of the struggle against neo-liberalism.
It grows out of profound reflections on life, values, possibilities, desires,
and human dignity. It has sustained
because the peoples involved know what they are fighting for — not just an end
to overt policies that kill them, but to nurture the processes/values they want
to live by. The Zapatistas are also
aware of the nature of co-optation — of how easy it is to become that which you
resist. So they have consciously decided
not to form a political party, nor to seek power within the Mexican
government. Instead, they demand an end
to oppressive political regimes and conventional ‘democracy’. In its place, the Zapatistas seek to catalyze
dialogues, through which the peoples of
The EZLN already uses such dialogues in
its working relations within communities.
It believes in “leading by obeying”; the leaders are not heroes to be
worshipped, but men and women who see as their duty to obey the commands of
their communities. Every proposal is
shared and discussed first within communities; the leaders serve more as
messengers than directors. When they are
not working for the Movement, the leaders live among the people they serve.
Indeed, the Zapatistas are completely rooted in the local and do not claim to
represent more than themselves — even though their concerns resonate with
social majorities, both in
Notably, the people actively committed to the Movement come from diverse indigenous tribes; all together they speak more than 50 languages. But EZLN does not prescribe or impose a set way of living and organizing. For them, unity does not require eroding individual tribes’ identities, nor their traditional meanings of life and its links to the universe, the sacred and nature. Instead, the Movement respects and values differences, pluralism and diversity; it sees these values as essential for preserving and promoting human dignity.
In addition to actively opposing the
liberal economic policies of
Source: G. Estava, “Basta! Mexican Indians
Say ‘Enough’!” in The Post-Development
Today, all over the world, there exists a movement to reintegrate the outward and inward aspects of our lives. According to Duane Elgin in Voluntary Simplicity (New York: William Morrow, 1993), individuals and groups are making conscious decisions to live more voluntarily and more simply. “To live voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully… to be aware of ourselves as we move through life.” To live more simply is “to establish a more decent, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: the things we consume, the work we do, our relationships with others, and our connections with nature and the cosmos.” Taken together, voluntary simplicity is when “our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living,” in which we actively seek out and create balance, purpose, and meaning in our lives.
People who have chosen voluntary
simplicity tend to make a lot of changes in their own lives. They create spaces
to discover their full potentials; spend more time/energy with family, friends,
community; and seriously alter their consumption
habits, in terms of food, clothing, transport, waste. But they also connect their personal
experiences to larger institutions. For
example, they challenge the market economy’s push for “identity consumption” –
which is based on the advertiser’s fiction, ‘you are what you consume’ – and the role of the
mass media in promoting a “cultural hypnosis of consumerism”, particularly
through television. They also raise
questions about the brutal exploitation of Nature, the perpetuation of
injustice, and the current attitudes of the mainstream (denial, helplessness,
blame, and escape). Those who apply
voluntary simplicity believe it can help us to confront the crises before us,
both on personal and societal levels. It has the capacity to strengthen the
compassion, consciousness, and ingenuity we need to creatively envision new
possibilities for humanity’s future.
Many communities in
“What prevents school reform from happening isn’t bad people, I think, but a strange economy that renders many lives absurd... Think of the economic tragedy that would occur if schools taught critical thinking. If they encouraged individuals to be strong and think original thoughts. If they taught the philosopher’s secret that nothing important can be bought... If they nourished a love of quality. Who would crave the mountains of junk our mass-production economy distributes? Who would eat the processed food? Who would wear the plastic shoes? ...How could the mass economy survive without the ‘training’ schools provide?” — John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind of Teacher, 2001
From the Four Directions
From the Four Directions believes that how we organize our communities and organizations — the values and practices we use — will determine whether we create a world that affirms and nourishes humans and all life. However, the dominant management model (which is being spread into corporations, government institutions, NGOs, universities, etc.all over the world) is destructive, for it privileges efficiency, growth and profit above everything else. From the Four Directions seeks to organize people at the grassroots level to challenge the inherent values of this management model by supporting life-affirming leaders of all ages. It defines leaders as “anyone who wants to help at this time” and seeks to weave together a worldwide network, by making visible their common concerns and dreams, through continuous dialogue.
From the Four Directions creates local leadership circles, based on the principles of diversity, interdependence and human goodness, around the world. In these circles, leaders have the opportunity to think and reflect with others, to develop new, life-affirming practices, and to support each other’s courageous acts to change their world. These leaders together become a community of practice that work to nourish and sustain the human spirit. For more information on From the Four Directions, contact:
Margaret Wheatley, President, The Berkana Institute
And Closer to Home… IDSP
The Institute for Development Studies
and Practices (IDSP) in
IDSP then works on developing local contexts and applications to counter dominant institutions and systems. For example, IDSP learners are engaging their communities to revive spaces for collective dialogue, cultural production and cooperation for collective learning. Such dialogues include the discussion on common practices, on Development and Globalization, and their merits or demerits, purely on the bases of morality and spiritual traditions. There are also efforts to revive rich local literary and language traditions. Groups are engaged in bringing young people together to understand and value their local and regional masterpieces of articulation and expression, which combine the rhythms of language and sound with the profound messages of human dignity and social justice. For more information on IDSP, contact:
Dr. Qurat-ul-Ain Bakhteari, Director, IDSP
Email: email@example.com; Web: www.idsp.sdnpk.org
Z Magazine: <www.zmag.org>
Global Issues: <www.globalissues.org>
Center for Popular Economics: <www.PopularEconomics.org>
Articles and Books
Please stop by 21 Fatehpura
at your convenience to check out the books, articles, newsletters, and original
research in our
Chomsky, N. Profit
Gupta, S., et al. The
‘APPEAL’ Handbook for Field Activists.
Hoogvelt, A. Globalization and the Postcolonial World.
Mander, J., et al. The Case Against
the Global Economy.
Robins, K., et al. Times
of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to
the Virtual Life.
SPECIAL INSERT: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF WAR
offers a few insights around the events of
The Algebra of Infinite Justice
his September 20 address to the US Congress, President Bush called the enemies
For all the claims of sorrow and
sympathy, there could not have been a more timely or fortuitous event for the
Bush administration than the attack on the
But after the September 11 terror
attack, the Bush administration, aided by a cynical, sophisticated media
campaign, has been working to whip up a patriotic war fever that will enable it
to overcome, at least temporarily, its immediate problems… In the name of
national unity, the Democratic Party has given Bush a blank check to wage war, increase
military spending and curtail civil liberties…Tens of billions of dollars will
be pumped into the economy in the form of military and security spending, and
to rebuild the devastated sections of New York City… Every restriction on US
military might and on counterrevolutionary activities of the CIA will be
lifted... Can there be any doubt that this crusade for ‘peace’ and ‘stability’
will [enable] the
Is It All About Oil?
recent study for the World Bank states that the proposed pipeline from
Testimonial of John Maresca, Unocal Oil Co., before
“Why Do They Hate Us?”
This list presents [selected] specific incidents of
1949: CIA backs military coup deposing elected government of
1953: CIA helps to overthrow the elected Mossadeq
1980-88: Iran-Iraq war. When
1984: U.S.-backed rebels in
1988: Saddam Hussein kills many thousands of his own Kurdish
population and uses chemical weapons against them. The
could prepare a similar list for
Members of learning communities can draw from this page to discuss: What are at the roots of the conflict? What genuine spaces for expressing dissent exist (beyond voting, law suits, and UN declarations) for those being oppressed in today’s society? What do you think should be done in order to generate new and lasting possibilities for peace and social justice?
Thoughts in the Presence of Fear
I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day.
II. This optimism rested on the proposition that we were living in a ‘new world order’ and a ‘new economy’ that would ‘grow’ on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would be ‘unprecedented’.
III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity was limited to a tiny percent of the world’s people, and to an ever smaller number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly prosperous.
IV. The ‘developed’ nations had given to the ‘free market’ the status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal costs of doing business.
V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes…
XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go on as before with the corporate program of global ‘free trade’, whatever the cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or public debate…
XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use in not to serve industries, neither by job-training nor by industry-subsidized research. It’s proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or ‘accessing’ what we now call ‘information’ - which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.
XXVII. The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a ‘new economy’, but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy.
- Wendell Berry, 2001 Full article available on <oriononline.org>
A Letter from Parents
Dear President Bush:
Our son is one
of the victims of Tuesday’s attack on the
Your response to this attack does not make us feel better about our son’s death. It makes us feel worse. It makes us feel that our government is using our son’s memory as a justification to cause suffering for other sons and parents in other lands.
It is not the first time that a person in your position has been given unlimited power and came to regret it. This is not the time for empty gestures to make us feel better. It is not the time to act like bullies. We urge you to think about how our government can develop peaceful, rational solutions to terrorism, solutions that do not sink us to the inhuman level of terrorists.
Sincerely, Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez
A Letter From
“To: Matthew Rothschild, Editor, The Progressive Magazine
... You asked me what it’s like to be in a Muslim nation when the bombs are falling nearby? I do not doubt your intentions, but under the current circumstances your query struck me like a brutal threat. As if you were trying to tell me that it is now our turn to face the music. Such is the gravity of the situation here. Such is the level of hatred we somehow see targeted towards us — the Muslims.
I wish I could tell you that I feel horrified; I wish I could tell you that I feel terrified and petrified. I wish. All I can tell you is that I only feel convinced. I feel convinced that if we, as humans, continue to refuse to recognize the appalling consequences of oppression, fundamentalism, and social control, we will be faced with an irreversible destruction scenario before we know it.
I can always try and emulate Mr. John Pilger [journalist and author of Hidden Agendas (New
Press, 1998)] and remind the
As a civilian of a ‘
- Mashhood Rizvi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mashhood is Editor-in-Chief of EDucate!, a magazine based in
“You can’t beat cancer by killing every cell in the body — or you could, I guess, but the point would be lost. This is a war of who can hate the most. There is no limit to that escalation. It will only end when we have the guts to say it really doesn’t matter who started it, and begin to try and understand, then alter, the forces that generate hatred.”
- Barbara Kingsolver (American
Visit the following websites for more provocative articles on the conflict: <www.corpwatch.org/issues> and <www.zmag.org>