Sunday, November 28, 2010

Influx of capitalistic values into democracy

Influx of capitalistic values into democracy



In most of the countries in the world, irrespective of the political system, capitalism is the reigning economic system. Freedom of enterprise is its hallmark. Competition to sell more, or create high demand for own product over that of others is also its inevitable feature.

One of capitalism’s great champions of our century Ms.Ayn Rand says Capitalism is the very symbol of man’s ultimate freedom. It gives the entrepreneur the ultimate expression of his creativity. It gives the same freedom to his customer, as well as employee too. They are also free to choose his product or his employer! An atmosphere  of complete freedom!


Modern world is totally unaware of, or even ignorant of the foundational roots of capitalism: how did such huge surplus capital got accumulated in Europe and America that made industrial revolution possible ? Was that the fruit of man’s free enterprise and liberal freedom ? The clear answer is a firm NO ! That huge capital accumulation was the result of plain and atrocious PLUNDER of European nations upon the new world colonies like India, Africa and the native America !

Irfan Habib’s paper ‘ Capitalism in history’( link: http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w26/msg00176.html)
 describes the horror of this story as follows:

Three major components of colonial exploitation from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century must be distinguished: the Spanish mining of silver with forced labour in the Americas; the forcible transfer of millions of Africans as slaves across the Atlantic; and the levying of tribute on Asian shipping and land. England came in time to be the major beneficiary from all these three practically simultaneous processes of forcible subjugation and destruction of non-European economies.

Between 1500 and 1650 nearly 112.5metric tons of silver were annually transported into Spain through official channels. E.J. Hamilton, who gave this estimate, speculated about its influence on prices in Europe—the so-called price revolution—and the redistributive consequences of such inflation, benefiting mainly the employers and the merchants, at the cost of wage-labourers and custom-bound rentiers. This, he thought, generated capital in Western Europe that could ultimately ignite the industrial-revolution. It must be remembered that the crucial link here is not between the rise of capitalism and some incidental monetary process, but between it and the reckless exploitation of the Amerindian peoples, who because of deficiencies in their instruments of war, were absolutely helpless victims of their rapacious conquerors.

There is yet another aspect of silver influx which Hamilton and his critics do not consider. As silver stocks rose in Western Europe, and silver prices in terms of gold plummeted year after year. Western Europe gained a continuous advantage over the rest of the world in the transactions of trade. By 1600 Western Europe exported possibly 100 tons of silver annually; during the seventeenth, the annual average rose to 150-160 tons. There was a wholesale diversion of Asian exports of manufactures, especially textiles, and drugs and spices from interregional traditional commerce to Western Europe in return for bullion. The new trade was largely controlled by European merchant-capital, spearheaded by the Dutch and English East India Companies; and its continuous expansion from silver exports greatly enlarged the size of European commercial capital.

Carl Marx adds his version of the said story  in his ‘Das Capital’ : "The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into a preserve for the commercial hunting of black-skins, are all things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation’


'The Guardian' Article ( August 2005)  by Richard Drayton gives the finishing touch to the story: See link: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/aug/20/past.hearafrica05)
"For the colonial Americas were more Africa's creation than Europe's: before 1800, far more Africans than Europeans crossed the Atlantic. New World slaves were vital too, strangely enough, for European trade in the east. For merchants needed precious metals to buy Asian luxuries, returning home with profits in the form of textiles; only through exchanging these cloths in Africa for slaves to be sold in the New World could Europe obtain new gold and silver to keep the system moving. East Indian companies led ultimately to Europe's domination of Asia and its 19th-century humiliation of China.
Africa not only underpinned Europe's earlier development. Its palm oil, petroleum, copper, chromium, platinum and in particular gold were and are crucial to the later world economy"

Please share another narrative by Erik Flanagan, from link: http://debate.uvm.edu/dreadlibrary/flanagan.html ( The Dream Library, article 'Black struggle in Colonization')

At the time of the Spanish infiltration, the island of Jamaica was inhabited by hundreds of native people known as the Arawak Indians. These people were gentle and peaceful people and were virtually unprepared for the onslaught by the Spanish settlers. Explorers set out across the island in search of gold and jewels, which proved no avail, but did realize the profit that could be made from the natives as free workers for them. Soon almost all of the Arawaks were under the blanket of slavery with no defense against the powerful white oppressors. Columbus observed a natural landscape with a tone of awe and wonderment, a land of unmatchable beauty. The Arawaks, however, provided a tone that contrasted powerfully and give a real account of the passions of these white men.

" Vast numbers died as a result and thousands more committed suicide by hanging themselves or drinking poisonous cassava juice to escape from their bondage. Mothers are said to have murdered their children rather then let them grow up and suffer the slavery they had known." (Floyd, 1979, p. 31)
The Spanish settlers of the time used every ounce of available resource (the Arawaks) that they could get their hands upon for their own profit. Although this time in European history is noted for it's vast leaps in exploration and prosperity, this quote explains the means by which they achieved their goals. This exploitation of the native people of Jamaica by the white man displays the framework that was so deeply grained in to the minds of the future white rulers that effected the treatment of Blacks. By the mid seventeenth century there was not a drop of pure Arawak blood left on the island of Jamaica (Carley, 1963, p. 23). African slaves were brought in by the Spanish as laborers over the years, but the majority came with the new British rule over Jamaica."

But when the reigning political system of modern day- Democracy- has also adopted the above principles of capitalism for upholding freedom of man, it makes an interesting study. This turn out has directly eroded the underlying sacred goals of democracy and transformed it into a matter of entrepreneurship for political parties ( or that of the old colonial PLUNDER ?) collectively, and its leaders individually - -for capture of governmental power and enjoy its fruits by those entrepreneurs.

Whatever listed in the election manifesto are their products to sell. The constituencies are their personal MARKETS !. Election manifesto is the product catalogue. It consists the various goodies they would offer to people if voted to power. It also boast about the calibre of their leaders. It offers not only various infrastructural items like roads, electricity, water etc, but also notional products like freedom, equality and justice.

These entrepreneurs attempt to  influence the buyers  of these products, using all kinds of  propaganda techniques, including services of the top niche marketing gurus. What they want from people in return are their mandate, their life deciding vote.

In this fierce competition, winning is not only the game, but pinning down the competitor too forms integral part of the game. It often moves beyond mere counter propaganda - -it turns nasty, and at times bloodier than the battles for the throne that Kings had fought  in older times. Political killings are not something new in democracy. 

Though under capitalism man stands reduced to his primordial jungle elements,the compulsions of the norms of civil society has made him pretend his compliance. But this hypocrisy will bare its teeth the moment one reaches the limit of his pretense - - within seconds the world can turn into a jungle !

Capitalism gives all the care to keep the mainstream world look like the well decorated lobby of a star hotel  - - the PR factor is central for big business.

The most glaring negative value that capitalism has brought into the democratic society is the self asserted special rights for the rich and powerful.  The pity  lies in the fact that  such assertions are always passively allowed by the less privileged, as if it is a natural law, though democracy was born in human society to replace this old belief.

Capitalism pre-fixes each one’s place in the society as it was during the old caste ridden times.  Citizen has a place, a pre-defined value, and a state provided identity. Any one who dare to ascertain one’s individuality over and above such pre-fixed role will court trouble. He runs the risk of being branded a trouble maker, an odd man out. Hence, one has to bury his individuality within, to make a typically good, law-abiding citizen of the country, willing to carry flags of his masters and leaders, when ever called for.  

Like the unchallenged rights of the strongest in olden times, people have no option but to submit to the various institutionalized authority points created in the capitalist system.

There is no respect or relevance for an activity or a cause that has no CASH VALUE .If only some monetary return is coming forth from such activity or cause, it is considered worthwhile.  People indulged in such worthless activities are considered foolish  and useless.

A natural outcome of this obsession for cash value is that the rich and powerful are always treated in high esteem. World is at their beck and call. Such highly placed institutions in democracy – the Media -  too are victims of this tendency . They are too willing to come out with flashy stories of people who have made it to top, as if to beckon the world to emulate them as shining examples of human achievement.

 Universal goals like human civilizational advancement, by spreading the themes of equal respect for one and all in the society etc. are thrown in the air by this sector, as this sector is mostly owned and run by capitalistic entrepreneurs. Media is helpless but to act as passive conduit for the values and norms of their master class.

Hence media always fail to stand beside the most creative members in the society, who usually are fiercely independent, never conform,or yield to the preferences of the mass. Media never make icons from this class, possibly fearing loss of their monopoly of opinion on social issues.

Like the political class, media too swear by the voice of the mass,( peoples' voice !) to carry their view point home. They often represent, and side with the kind of mediocre mass, that had asked their then rulers for Socrates’ death , and  crucifixion of Christ !  This turn out of the media is the saddest aspect of the phenomenon taken up in this write-up !

Though right to question any one and everything is allowed in democracy, no one would dare to defy such highly institutionalized authority, for fear of losing one’s livelihood. It is abundant freedom for all, but the courage to exercise such freedom is taken away  by these indirect methods. Thus, free spirit of the majority population stands abducted, and consciously kept under check in capitalism.  

Democracy, thus has become a meek and obliging maid in the capitalist society.


The most sad thing is that no one seems aware of this transformation of the great political system of people into a pure commercial enterprise by a few. Media, the watch dog in democracy has become the enthusiastic drummers and bugle blowers of the system in its existing form due to reasons seen above.  

Democracy has become what its leaders do. Its endless, reach no where debates, their fist-fights in parliament, their self-deception and double talk -- -all are well aired in TV , as well as printed in the press, resulting in the legitimization of all these acts as routine part and parcel of democratic process! People are asked to accept it and feel proud of such legacies, because it is after all ‘by the people, of the people and for the people’ - -line by line and dot by dot, by its book definition!

Is it not time for us to revisit democracy’s  foundational principles?

Media may kindly share our cause of reinventing democracy and help our age to contribute something to history.

By : Abraham J.Palakudy  
An independent researcher and seeker in fields like mind, Reason, philosophy,Spiritualty and Polity

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