Friday 18th Jan 2019
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Deconstructing the System That Engulfs Us

Cover Story

, by KAMRAN SHAHID ANSARI

“Capitalism has destroyed our belief in any effective power but that of self interest backed by force.”

(George Bernard Shaw)

It is true that our perceptions and emotions, most of the time, are shaped by the environment which surrounds us. It is the experiences we undergo in our lives and the events we go through that slowly juxtapose beliefs and opinions in our minds and hence we develop a view regarding the world and the issues related to us. One of the classic examples of such development of perception can be understood from Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Both of them wrote the Theory of Social Contract, yet the perception of both, regarding the nature of man or the state of nature, was exactly the opposite of each other. Hobbes saw human beings as selfish and those who were driven only by self-interest while the other considered them to be those who were driven by mutual assistance and relatively kind beings.

This difference in perception was because Hobbes witnessed the English Civil War that broke out in 1642 which was bloody and where people were driven by their own interests, whereas Locke experienced the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which was more or less a bloodless revolution. Hence it was just the different experiences Hobbes and Locke had in their lives that made them to have an entirely different perception about human beings.

We can apply the same theory of developing-of-perception in today’s world as well where people are coming up with various solutions to the innumerable problems which the humans are facing and interestingly we will find that the solutions are stemming from nowhere but they are the result of the system that is being implemented upon the people and their past experiences. To illustrate, let us take the example of the issue of traffic jam in major cities of the world. Most of us witness heavy jams while commuting daily to offices or colleges and when asked as to what should be done to alleviate them from this misery of jam, most of them reply that there should be broader roads, more flyovers, etc. This perception of building of roads struck the minds of the people because they experienced in the past that the government partially solved the problem of traffic by building bridges, roads and flyovers. However, we fail to contemplate that such was never the permanent solution to the problem. There is a need to dig more into it so as to read the fine print that lies hidden from the eyes of most of us.

The core of the problem lies in the system - capitalism – that is being implemented upon us. If we contemplate on the word capitalism, we see it has two meanings, one is related to money or wealth and the other is the centre or the city where all the hustle-bustle takes place (capitals of the country or states). Capitalism is a system of life that is primarily based on the concept of benefit or profit. The notions of self-gratification started to appear in the 16th century and later they got reinforced by Adam Smith in his book An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Profit or benefit became the prime factor in doing business. The necessary result of profit earning was to create big centres in only some parts of the world so that the masses migrate from their native places to those few big centres which would obviously result in the huge amount of workforce getting concentrated in only some parts of the world. As the general rule of the thumb is that the prices fall when the supply is more, it was but natural that the labour would become cheap and the workers had to satiate themselves with whatever the capitalists would pay them. As the primary aim of the capitalist was to earn money, he would set the bare minimum for the worker and he had to settle with that bare minimum because, first he could not go back to his native place as the opportunities to earn are absent there because of the centralisation, and second if he refused to accept it, he would have nothing even to maintain the subsistence level.

Now, if we see the issue of traffic with the different spectacle, we will realise that broadening of roads, building bridges and flyovers are nothing more than the makeshift arrangements, forget about them being the solution to the problem as the real issue is the centralisation and unless decentralisation takes place there is no solution in future. It is because of this centralisation that the prices of commodities rise steeply, because the demands become more and the supply remains less and the industrialists put the price tag of any amount they like. This makes them earn more profits; first, because of the ever rising demands and secondly because of the cheap work force that makes the production cost even less. So it is the issue with our perception to problems that manifests itself in the way we see the solution to it. So it is the fallacy of capitalism that it makes people oblivious of the real issue and allows them to beat around the bush with no practical solution in their hand.

Let us understand the fallacy of capitalism with another example. We all know the hullabaloo regarding the drinking age for adults. People are made to believe that the real problem is with the young boys who savour alcohol as they are not mature enough to handle themselves under the influence of alcohol. Again we need to put the spectacle again and see from where the arguments are evolving. Everyone is aware that alcohol is the mother of all evils and most of the crimes all across the globe are committed under its influence, yet instead of putting a blanket ban over it, people are forced to debate on the drinking age while leaving the real issue in the lurch. Any sound mind would fail to comprehend as to what difference would the age 21, 23 or 25 would make, yet the system which engulfs us has programmed us to think in the very manner which it wants us to think. The reason why there will be no debate on its ban because it fills in the exchequer of the government and those elites who are involved in it earn hefty money from it. Hence the solution is to keep the people brainstorming about the drinking age.

A month ago Delhi witnessed the ghastly rape incident which created a furore not only in the national capital but all across the country and even abroad. The victim succumbed to her injuries and the people started demanding stricter laws in order to contain such beastly acts that have become the order of the day and are perpetrated against women in the country every 40 minutes. The demands for stricter laws fail to take into account the system that shrouds us wherein commoditisation of women results in higher sale of products. People have been programmed not to look at the filthy songs of Honey Singh, who glorifies rape and whose songs find great acceptance in pubs and bars. They further side-lined the shameless projection of women in item numbers in Bollywood and the thriving business of prostitution wherein women’s body is humiliated and exploited every day without fail. No one cared about the ever growing porn industry which daily indoctrinates and titillates the minds of young boys and girls and degrades the status of women from a human being to a toy that should be used to satiate the whims. All this never became part of the discussion because capitalists make hefty sums of money from it and hence the atmosphere was created as such that only the formation of strict laws would make the world a happy place.

Same is the case with politics wherein all political parties are corrupt and the system feeds our mind that the solution is to form another political party which should be value-based and corruption-free. However we fail to take into account the international factors that shape the policies of nations and no party, no matter how genuine it is, could work independently. Prabhat Patnaik mentioned in his recent article in Frontline titled ‘Ways to Neoliberalism’ that “when it comes to economic policies that crucially affect their lives, the people’s choice in elections becomes irrelevant, for no matter who they vote for, they get the same policies, whose essence is to keep the finance capital happy.”

Indeed there is a need to broaden our spectrum to understand the world around us. One of the prayers of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) was, “Allahumma Ara’ani Kullu Shay’in Kama Hiya” (Oh Allah! Show me all the things as they are). We also should make this supplication so as to understand where the actual rot lies, because the famous saying says, “If you know your enemy you are safe.” Here we need to know wherefrom actually these problems stem so that we may effectively deal with them.



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