“What is the greatest wonder in the world?” This is one of the five critical questions The Lord of Death (Truth), in the epic Mahabharata, asked his son, King Darmaputhra. He answered, “Even when man perceives people around him dying he amasses wealth as if he had no death.”
Can one define poverty? Is it a relative entity? Does material surplus make anyone rich and happy? Was Mr. Gandhi, ‘the half naked fakir’ in Churchill’s words, a poor man? What if someone invents an unnatural machine, ignoring plants, to synthesize glucose out of carbon dioxide and water that could produce cereals through transformation? Will it eradicate hunger? No! It would be more dangerous than atom bomb! The easy food security might tempt people indulge in sex and violence all the more. The world would become more populous, polluted and sad. Why? Biological factor! Homo sapiens are not exempted from the natural laws applicable to other species; free will is restricted.
Cause of cause
Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Christ, Mohammed and many other enlightened personalities tried their best to establish equality and prosperity among mankind. Did they succeed? To a certain extent! Why they couldn’t do it completely?
Human beings, except a few, are creatures born with unquenchable greed. Why? Is greed vice or virtue? There is nothing in the world that is solely virtuous or bad; even venom has its use in spite of its misuse. Greed is essential to strive, to participate in the inter specific and intra specific competitions and to emerge victorious. The one without greed is equal to a hermit, causing no public harm but good for nothing. Therefore greed, along with jealousy, plays a key role in hard work and competition. That is why nature created mankind with these characteristics that are required for natural selection and progress.
But, greed and envy, combined with lust, when overflows, become very dangerous. Wealth accumulates in a few hands. The rich becomes richer and the poor poorer. There begin the problems. What was the root cause of the World Wars? Why did Iraq capture Kuwait?
Great philosophers realized a single individual’s suffering as that of the entire humanity and vice versa. This is the difference between enlightenment and knowledge. Therefore, they exhorted people to distribute wealth among poor. Can I, an Indian, boast of some of my countrymen who grew to foremost billionaires when the majority of Indians are struggling hard to survive? No! Should I be envious and ashamed of them? Again, No!
I feel guilty of eating three times a day when I remember those who are starving in the African deserts days on end. I am a sinner who wears beautiful clothes when people are naked or half naked in some parts of the world. I am a culprit who does not shout against the expenditure on weapons in the disguise of nationalism. I am a vain man who feels proud of the nuclear tests that our scientists conduct and hence I am a hypocrite when I blame Americans on the question of the Little Boy. I am a coward who does not take up arms and fight against those terrorist attackers. Can I claim to be a saint if I pray everyday, undergo fasting invariably? Words without actions are the worst sin.
Where is the problem?
Modern man treats for kidney when his heart is in trouble; medicine is applied for the wrong organ. He points angrily at another man when his other fingers are turned at him. Why some countries remain poor? Is it due to the lack of natural resources alone? Is it due to hostile environment? No! Is it due to wars as happen quite often between India and Pakistan or Israel and Palestine? Is it due to civil strife? If yes, what is its cause? My humble first hand observation together with the analysis of global poverty has led me to deduct the cause of poverty anywhere in the world as follows (This is only at national average. There are lots of exceptions individually).
1. The lack of hard work; strikes and boycotts, sluggish bureaucracy
2. Less concern about other individuals; extreme selfishness, living for money.
3. Less honesty, cheating, not keen to keep word; less discipline
4. Finding out others’ faults not own; discouraging innovative ideas
5. Choosing shortcuts to become rich; drug trafficking, alcoholism, lottery
6. Superstitions; slavery to tradition and faith, no liberal outlook. Religion and nationalism prevail as bad master, not good servant
7. Reproduction is preferred to other productive works
8. Less toleration, devotion and sacrifice for nation; hatred prevails, not love
9. Poor planning; resources are underutilized and poorly distributed
10. ‘Rulers’ and administrators luxurious, own welfare is preferred to national, international and social interest; corruption, ego, less transparency
These problems may be genetic, incurable and geographically distributed naturally along with the origin and evolution of the earth. It shall be a good subject of research for anthropologists. These ten points contribute either directly or indirectly for unstable political systems and poor growth rate.
Long term strategy for economic stability
1. People should control their sexual urge. Overproduction was necessary when population was less in the long past. No social justice can be attained in a Malthusian system, where population increases geometrically. It is true that everyone has the fundamental right to reproduce and that manpower is the greatest resource. But, individuals of the most populous countries should not have more than two children for each family until the population shrinks by war or natural calamity. This control should be through social commitment, not by law.
2. Middleclass people to billionaires must be ready to distribute among employees the profit and wealth excess than their ‘fair survival’. Fair survival can only be slightly excess than the national average. For instance, when the national average is the ownership of a bicycle a rich man should be contented with a car, not an aircraft.
3. Hard work and making profit should be encouraged. Setback for capitalism at the time of writing this essay should not be taken for granted. Countries like US have undergone so many recessions since World War II but survived. Invariably the present one also will heal leaving some scar. So is socialism or communism. All are good. The world should be varied; that is the beauty! Whatever be the ‘ism’ proper distribution is very essential.
4. Agriculture and other primary sectors should be the base of every nation. India and China are less affected by the present depression not only because of the overwhelming population but due to their strong backbone of agriculture. Farmers and fishermen should equally be respected as grand slam winners, white collar ‘rulers’, film stars or other gladiators.
5. Expenditure should be minimized worldwide for defense and offense. Temporary profits of a few individuals by producing and selling weapons will not be of any use in the technologically advanced/advancing world. Why? A single nation can easily destroy the world. Can one say that the same capability would not come to the hands of individuals in future?
6. Forums of women and men, with the assistance of government, can start many ventures as initiated in Kerala, India. This is a good model for the other countries since profit is distributed.
7. Conservation of natural environment is important. Depletion of natural resource affects all the economic sectors. Though modern man cannot adopt the humble life style Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, Gandhi and a few others preached and practiced, the greedy attack on non-renewable resources will backlash mankind. Developing science and technology is very important for human progress but nature should be protected.
Short term remedies like tax cut, spending more to create more jobs, more budget to enhance manufacturing and service sector, helping private sectors to come out of the crisis, finding alternative markets, developing infrastructure, proper distribution etc. cannot be ignored until Doomsday.
Profit is a Trojan horse. It is indispensable for the investors of Greek army to enter Troy of Global Economy and to emerge victorious. Greed, envy, lust etc. hide in it. These come out, conquer the market and plunder it. Finally, those beneficiaries also submerge in the turbulent sea of economy since they cause imbalance by creating poverty. No IMF’s Ulysses-cunning can rescue them because there is the subtle account of sweat, blood and tears of the miserable people with the Book of Nature. The only way to come out of this natural cycle is enlightenment: loving one’s neighbor through actions, not words; helping through deeds not prayers.
However, greed and envy are required in a moderate amount for the progress of humanity. All human labor needs those vices as tip. But,
‘Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.’
-T.S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land