Global Threats

Background paper for the 2017 Prout Convention

 

General Discussion

We are living in times of both unprecedented dangers to humanity as well as great opportunity. The global threats we face are twofold. On the one hand, there are the threats that impact people’s lives at the present, including unemployment, refugees, inequality, dictatorship, corruption, etc.

No matter how bad these are, they are reversible. Even if millions, or even billions of people should die due to war etc., human civilisation and life on earth would go on.

But we also have put events in motion that threaten to destroy the world’s capacity to support life. These threats can be irreversible, and there is no guarantee that we can recover. Global warming and the destruction of the world’s eco systems belong to this group.

There is also another way we could classify the threats, depending on when they occurred. We have some long-term threats that have been gradually building up over the past decades, such as financial instability and environmental destruction. Then we have topical events such as Brexit, the refugee crisis, and the election of Donald Trump, these are new things that suddenly have appeared on the scene.

One may be tempted to discard these recent disruptive events as being part of the first category, things that may be bad but won’t have a long term impact, but it is not that simple. For example, Donald Trump’s rejection of scientific facts and insistence that global warming is a hoax can lead to decisions that will have dramatic long term effects on our climate, and could speed us to a point of no return. An even faster route to destruction would be the eruption of a nuclear war, possibly with North Korea as the triggering point.

These are issues that no human being can be indifferent to.

At the same time, the very gravity of these threats is creating an unparalleled polarisation and mobilisation of people that do not want to just sit quietly and watch from the sidelines anymore.  There are signs of a great awakening of awareness and consciousness that makes the need for a broader, more inclusive outlook an imperative of the times.  It is a time not only to reflect on the concept of coordination cooperation, but also to actually discover ways to put it into practical action. Already many individuals and groups are taking action and using new models of communication and connection to create a more just world. The 2017 Prout Convention is designed to help participants to become aware of progressive responses and to participate in them effectively – bringing unique elements from PROUT to help strengthen these responses.

 

Suggested Topics

 

Topical

Return to Fascism

There seems to be a return to fascist, right wing, and nationalistic sentiments. One meaning of the term fascism is a system of autocratic government with control of industry and commerce or close ties between the government and big business, and the election of Trump as president is a prime example of this. Rarely have the ties between big business and government been more obvious.

But Trump is only one part of this trend. The recent influx of refugees in Europe has triggered many nationalistic movements that exclude foreigners and are openly racist and intolerant toward minorities. Few people saw Brexit coming, but it was generally fuelled by the opposition to foreigners entering the UK. Similarly, the popularity of Marine Le Pen in France and the possibility of her winning the French presidential elections was unthinkable only a few months ago. However, if she wins (still uncertain at the time of writing), there will be a severe impact on the EU at large.

The implications of this trend should not be underestimated. When intolerance spreads and becomes the accepted norm, almost any group can become the target for hate without any reactions from the public. Racism, religious intolerance, sexism, and other forms of discrimination rise, and there is clear evidence of this happening. Hitler and many other dictators rose to power on such waves of discontent. It could happen again. 

However, there are new elements that may not have been present in the past. Due to new means of communication like the Internet and social media, people are more aware, and can be made more aware of what is happening, and mobilise to bring about progressive change. Parallel to the negative trends there are also positive ones, like new levels of tolerance and universal sentiments. These are trends that give us hope, and trends that we need to promote, grow and sustain.

It is also extremely important to analyse and address the root causes for the increase in intolerance and discrimination that are very often inextricably linked to the inequality crisis and a human tendency to want to externalise problems onto scapegoats.  As Neohumanists and Proutists it is important to have clarity on how these dynamics work and develop practical strategies for fighting them.

Trump has risen to power, but not without international uproar, massive protests, continual satire, a large number of legal cases being filed, etc.  People are fighting back and they are not few in number.  Indeed, the rule of the 1% is becoming painfully obvious even to those who tried to ignore it or cover it up, thanks to his rise to power.

 

The Loss of Truth

They say that truth is the first casualty of war, and it is now happening right in front of our eyes. In the past when politicians tried to deceive, they had to be clever about it and not get caught in the act. Donald Trump has shown that this is no longer the case. Trump seems to have the ability to say the most outrageous lies openly and with great fervour, and if it later turns out to be completely false his followers do not seem to mind! Many people believe the lies and, even when proven to be lies, many seem to disregard it and forget that it ever happened. Lying is no longer a stigma, and it is far more important that things are said with great conviction than that they have any relation to truth!

This shows the power of the narrative over facts (as understood in CLA, causal layered analysis, presented by Subodh at last year’s Convention). It doesn’t matter how many facts you present in order to expose lies and give counter arguments, unless you successfully manage to challenge people’s perception at the level of their worldview and change the underlying story that is being told (narrative, mythology). That is for example what Naomi Klein is attempting to do in her current campaign to challenge Trump with “brand jamming”, based on the understanding that his power is derived from his brand, i.e. the story that is told about the successful businessman who is “the boss”.

What we are seeing is the greatest display of doublethink that the world has witnessed since Orwell coined the word in his novel 1984. Doublethink, as Orwell defines it, ‘means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.’ [1]

Elaborating on this concept, Orwell writes:

Doublethink… [means to ] use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.[2]

 

[…] It needed also a sort of athleticism of mind, an ability at one moment to make the most delicate use of logic and at the next to be unconscious of the crudest logical errors.[3]

 

While the majority maybe be steeped in doublethink, the small group that promotes it probably do not believe in the lies. They deliberately foster doublethink in society as a means of control.

Still, now that the distortions have become so gross that they are obvious, can we use this to expose the lies and get people to think for themselves? How can we take advantage of this to promote a demand for economic democracy and away from self-serving politics?

 

The crisis (and potential collapse) of the European Union

While many free market dogmas that cause and perpetuate inequality in Europe have been enshrined into the EU, it is true that we have had one of the longest times of European peace in history, if we exclude the Balkans and Ukraine.

So, the question of what happens to the EU is not only academic. First of all, in the wake of Brexit and nationalistic tendencies in France and elsewhere, will the EU collapse? If so, what will be the economic and political consequences of this? Is the sceptre of war inside Europe, or possibly with Russia, something that can be ruled out?

Are there any possibilities for us to reform the EU, if it does not collapse? Can we make it based on Proutist principles rather than Free Market principles? What would the role of Samaj movements be in all this? There are many urgent and interesting areas of discussion here.

 

Long Term

Subordination/exploitation of women, and women’s leadership

Women have systematically been exploited and suppressed throughout history. Even Tantric texts such as Mahanirvana Tantra (which Baba quoted in his discourse on the Seven Secrets of Success, where Guru Shakash is taken from, etc.), are unashamedly sexist and lay down the most terrible social codes for women.

This exploitation has varied throughout history and does vary greatly in different parts of the world. Even in today’s “modern” societies, the exploitation and/or suppression exists in more or less subtle forms, such as unequal pay for the same job, representation in top management, psychological and cultural suppression, etc.

Violent forms of exploitation such as human trafficking, sex slavery and other forms of direct oppression are also still very much alive today. Even though forced labour and trafficking involves men, women and children, it disproportionately affects women, as 70% of the victims of trafficking globally are women and girls[4].

But apart from these issues exploitation and injustice, is the fact that men and women alike miss out when women are not allowed to express their full potential. Society as a whole suffers and is kept from flourishing and benefitting fully from everyone’s physical, mental and spiritual potentialities.

Gender disparities in the areas of employment, legal rights, access to loans and financial services, discrimination in the arts, sports and many other areas impact all of society and not the least, the economy. Studies have found that gender inequality is responsible for decreased global growth; and a recent study by McKinsey estimates “a 26 percent increase in global GDP, or $28 trillion in 2025, should women participate in the global economy at the same rates as men”.[5]

The focus of studies such as these on gender parity in work (performed in the market economy), however, demonstrate the continued disregard (and externalisation) of the economic as well as social value (and costs) of all the unwaged reproductive labour most often carried out by women.

It shows one of the many ways that capitalism and sexism/patriarchy are co-dependent: Just as fear is fundamental to the capitalist system, capitalism depends on the division of labour and exclusion of fundamental reproductive work that is done within “the household” from what is considered “the economy”. Making sure that this remains women’s work has been a powerful means of keeping it undervalued, while keeping women and all of their work, also when within the market economy, undervalued and under-remunerated.

But throughout history, women have also bravely resisted this patriarchal oppression of women as well as other marginalized groups. Many feminist activists and theorists have highlighted the systems of oppression and their intersectionality (connections between sexism, racism, homophobia etc.), and have contributed greatly to anti-capitalist thought – what can we learn from them? What are ways of overcoming the subordination and exploitation of women, creating new gender paradigms, and exploring and fostering the role of women’s leadership for inclusive societies? We want to highlight success stories of resistance and unity, where gender inclusive leadership is working and is to the benefit of everyone. A recent example is the Women’s March on Washington (and all its sister marches around the US and the world), which brought together numerous groups and stakeholders through in an inclusive women-led movement that was the greatest demonstration of resistance to the Trump administration’s takeover.

 

Environmental Destruction and Climate Change

This is a topic we have raised before, but it does not make it any less urgent. The longer we sit idle without tackling it, the greater the risks of literally wiping out the human civilisation. In this topic one could include the risk of nuclear war, which would be the fastest way to destroy humanity.

While things like political oppression, the killing of innocent people and gender inequality are created by human beings, human beings can at anytime reverse the trend. Not so with environmental destruction. Passed a certain limit, we may be powerless to restore the Earth’s ability to sustain diverse and advanced life forms.

Although we as a human society have not yet managed to change our destructive course, there are important glimmers of hope and a rapidly rising consciousness. Great technological advancements in renewable energy, resource efficiency/circular economy and social organisation are making it easier and more convenient for individuals and communities to reduce their carbon footprints. And consumers are increasingly signalling their demand for a “green economy”.

At the same time, more and more people are standing up for the environment and speaking out. High profile celebrities are joining the ranks of indigenous communities, NGOs, scientists and other stakeholders who are resisting, advocating, raising awareness, and lobbying politicians and businesses to act in protection of our mother Earth. The insufficient response, blatant disregard or complacency from governments and economic elites is being challenged by great popular outrage, as seen for example in the worldwide People’s Climate Marches, courageous acts of nonviolent resistance at Standing Rock and elsewhere, and the recent, unprecedented March for Science (in the US). Surely these movements could be enriched by more Proutistic ideas and responses!