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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Is trickle down the only solution?

In this age, when having a socio-political opinion can harm career and relationships, most people may just offer a shrug to this question. Many would also say that it is not possible, that all progressive endeavors (particularly communism) have failed, and that the current dominance of conservative values together with state-insured capitalism (the US bail-out) is the only way to improve living conditions, even if it works at a rate comparable with radioactive decay of Uranium-235. And a risk-averse belief in God and that poverty and inequality are his will has helped even educated professionals to turn a blind eye to that two year old child begging for money at the streets.

But why did all progressive endeavors fail? One of the key factors has been the lack of willingness of the masses to be free, something that has troubled revolutionaries perennially. Che found it unbelievable that the rural peasants, for whose well being he was betting his life, were ever so willing to betray him. Gramsci explained this as an outcome of the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie. So the likes of Bukharin and Rousseau opined that the masses have to be coerced into freedom. But while Carlos Marighella proposed to achieve exactly this through struggle by a few proletarian “heroes” in his Minimanual for the Urban Guerrilla, such strategies when deployed in practice by the likes of Baader-Meinhoff Gang or India’s urban Maoists, failed to gain any measure of traction. The fact is that the underprivileged are as human as anyone else and have the same gene expressions that lead to feelings like selfishness, self-preservation instinct, herd mentality, class and caste consciousness, prejudices and greed.

The second is the problem with the progressive movements and their flag bearers themselves. The proponents of these movements, particularly the Social Democratic parties lost all credibility as they made one compromise after another, the biggest mistakes being declaring religion a private affair and participating in elections that gave enormous power and benefits to a few individuals. The Communist countries also suffered from lack of support from a general public who were still ignorant and seeped in age old prejudices and irrationalities. The fact that power was so concentrated in the hands of a few individuals in these communist countries also led to oppression and widespread resentment. Also, many of these organizations suffered numerous splits. While this was to be expected as by nature, progressive ideas, that try to shape the future, are bound to have many possibilities and therefore the resulting divisions. All the same, such splits have successively weakened their positions.

Of course, progressive movements had to also encounter the massive force of inertia and comfort provided by a traditional (known) way of life. But all the same, it may be too early to write them off. Weren’t republics considered a dead idea after monarchy prevailed over Rome? But the idea of the republic became irresistible after 1800 years following the French and American revolutions. And the groundwork for this had been the heightened awareness about individual rights brought as ideas of Renaissance pioneers and the likes of Martin Luther and Spinoza spread among a sizeable mass of people. In fact, history of mankind has been one of increasing awareness and availability of rights.

So as education and critical thinking becomes more prevalent, the foundation will be laid for the success of the next round of progressive movements. Developments in science will make everyone understand better the injustice of inherited wealth affecting the life story of a man. Science will also help iron out the genetic differences that result in different intrinsic capabilities for us. As you can see, such groundwork will take time, but the conclusions are inevitable. When everyone realizes that circumstances beyond one’s control have so much influence on one’s life and that there is no such thing as God to make it this way, will they still be able to turn a blind eye to that two year old child begging in the streets?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

as usual, a well written post - coherent, readable and insightful.

while i agree with most of your assertions on the failure of progressive movements, i have to add - it's an a la carte of belief out there, but perhaps capitalism (being has trapped every one from being conscious of the dire reality, from feeling and discerning real emotions and difficulties, entrapment that is easily dismissed as selfishness.