Armed Consumerism Rejected
By J C Kapur
nuclear armoury and modest affluence, Indians attract more attention in the West
than they did in the days of poverty, hunger and weakness. “Wisdom of a poor man
is despised”, said the Writ. Now we pay attention to Indian political thinkers,
not only to guru. I had an honour to meet few of like-minded people in India,
and one of them is J C Kapur, the chief editor of the
World Affairs magazine (where he published some of my writings, and was duly
told off by the Israeli ambassador in Delhi). JC Kapur wants his India to be a
friend to China and Russia. He is worried that an independent and special Indian
way of development came to naught, and India is about to be integrated in the
world of “armed consumerism”. Kapur seeks “free spiritualised socialism”. He is
strictly anti-Cartesian, like so many good people among our friends.
(Incidentally, Simone Weil had thought that even the horrors of the WWII were
due to Descartes and to his spirit of science unbridled by morals.) Now we
present a short talk given by JC Kapur in the “Russian Athens,” the city of St
His main points:
of cultures caused by globalization, leads to hegemony and domination by
those who manufacture and control this globalised culture. In order to
dominate, they have to destroy – not just the nuclear sites, but self-esteem
of the nations.
socialist system made a historic blunder by continuing to accept the
Cartesian separation of matter and mind, and of the physical universe and
market system became a body without soul… the answer is in synthesis of more
responsible and controlled free-market with a free spiritualised socialism.
Address to the VIII International Likhachev Scientific
Conference (Readings), held on 22nd and 23rd May, 2008 at
St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences., on ‘Dialogue of
Cultures and Partnership of Civilisations’.
CONTINUITY OF CULTURES OR CHAOS OF CIVILISATIONS
By Jagdish Chandra KAPUR
Cultures as an expression of continuity progressively evolve
out of the environment, faiths, metaphysics, aesthetics and science. The roots
of some cultures go back many millennia, and are perennial, with belief in
nature, the unity, oneness and interconnectedness of all its phenomena. There is
a continuous process of evolution of all parameters; which sustain the
creativity and the continuity of the cultural streams in balance.
The creativity of many of the contemporary cultures has been
largely conditioned and dominated by techno-economic and material factors. As
culture is not a linear process; it does not follow the pathways of science and
technology. The scientific evolutionary processes will not lead to the evolution
of ‘universal values’. Contemporary Science itself has now reached a stage of
uncertainty, where it cannot harmonise with the metaphysical concerns of
cultures. The new sciences are even questioning the very existence of material,
because all material forms are structured on energy particles. That materiality
is an illusion, is the foundation of belief in some of the traditional cultures.
A rudderless monetised science must either take a step to the next level of
consciousness and be disciplined and evolve an ethical and moral code or it will
continue to drag cultures, into its own labyrinthine future and lead humankind
into an aggregating and a continuing civilisational crisis of vast magnitude.
The consequences of globalisation of an ‘Armament Protected Consumerist
paradigm’ are the manifestations of this process, and are an expression of the
imperial ambitions. Its infrastructure and structure of values are designed to
advance and protect an increasingly autonomous system. The Globalisation of
consumerist values is also undermining the continued evolution of millennia-old
perennial values. All this to sustain an illusion of a new human future on
earth, while in reality we are proliferating to their very end; our ecological,
physical, cultural and human resources.
The understanding of the perennial cultural streams, and
nature-based tribal cultures; and myths; with their reverence towards nature or
ecology becomes the bridge between science and spirituality, can possibly
provide us deep insights into the ecological, social, and psychic tragedies
which are becoming a part of the twenty-first century. Some cultures of the
East, with deep-seated restraints (as against the excesses of the consumer
society), and Confucian hierarchical orderliness can play a role and help to
trigger new, sustainable and compassionate lifestyles and make a much wider
contribution to the human future. But to this, there is a very big question mark
as to whether the aggression and violence in the international system will let
this transformation take place in peace.
From the colonial times; behind the declared humanist
objectives and civilising missions, of democracy freedom and human rights; there
was an unstated agenda of integrating vulnerable economies into a narrowly
controlled financial system for the benefit of a few. Working under an illusion
of the invincibility of their armed might; the dominant systems all along have
been endeavouring to prevent the evolution of new paradigms of human development
(Soviet Union was one such example). Civilisational parameters, where they are
directly under human control as was in the case of pre-colonial crafts, evolve
harmoniously. But when external, technological and colonial factors begin to
intervene, such harmonisation recedes.
Many culturally advanced nations are now being obliged to
step back; or down so as to be in step with the consumerist culture. The level
of economic development of these countries gets conditioned by the closeness or
the integrative potential of their culture with that of the role-model. Or in
other words, transition from culturally based restraints and orderliness to
media-promoted consumption and extravagance, and all the way to armament
protection in an increasingly insecure world.
Should the psyche of the people of the perennial cultures
that evolved over the millennia, be transformed for the acceptance of an alien
technological culture and its vision of the world. Nirvana or salvation or
realisation of the highest human potential- all belong to the realm of
spirituality and are far away from mammon worship and its infrastructure of
robots, mental capability limiting devices and big pressure media mind control;
with inbuilt aversion to the spirit of religions. Mass moronisation, terrorism,
genocide, poverty and wars are the consequences of such desensitisation of the
finer human instincts. And this path is visibly leading us to great social
upheavals and ecological disasters.
But an unplanned dismantling of the consumerist paradigm will
not be possible without providing a humane and sustainable replacement.
Millennia of human knowledge and experience within traditional cultures and
religions needs to be protected. There is thus a need for a new world view. We
have also to reflect on the mind sets of the 18th century that still
prevail; and are being projected onto the twenty-first century issues. For
It was February 1835, a time when the British were striving to take control of
the whole of India. Lord Macaulay, a historian and a politician, made a historic
speech in the British Parliament, commonly referred to as The Minutes,
which struck a blow at the centuries old system of Indian education. One can
re-tell his speech in following plain words: I have travelled across the length
and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a
thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people
of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless
we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural
heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient
education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign
and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their
self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a
truly dominated nation. This is the gist of Macaulay’s speech.
How do nations save their cultural heritage from the increasing intensity of an
onslaught by the forces of unreason? How are we to preserve
or safeguard the potential and the effectiveness of dialogue as a civilised
instrument for a peaceful discourse? In the midst of fundamental concerns about
the illusions and the aggressive intents of the major beneficiaries of the
globalising world, who are not prepared to face the shifting realities of the
changing world environment, and who through new social arrangements, are
attempting to bring the entire world into a single civilisational model, with
its own definition of democracy, human rights and justice.
Therefore we are standing at the crossroads, in a significant
moment in the history of human civilisations i.e. between two worlds.
The whole world is now being pushed onto the path of
uni-culturisation of cultures, globalisation of consumption and is being brought
physically closer, spiritually apart. It is changing with every scientific
breakthrough and descending, uncontrolled to the lowest common denominator of
human existence and survival.
Therefore, our only hope is to find ways for the creation of
‘Universal Values’ through a dialogue. There is also a need to decelerate the
consumerist paradigm and to re-examine the limits of the free market economy and
enforcement of ethical, moral and policy constraints. This is exactly what the
power system today is fighting against.
The socialist systems made a historic blunder by continuing
to accept the Cartesian separation of matter and mind in policies. Also that of
the basic structure of the physical universe and the unique awakening into
consciousness. Both exist but not independent of each other. One belongs to the
realm of culture and the other to civilisation.
The free market system to gain freedom in the service of
capital and forgetting that labour and its work came before, chose the path of
Cartesian Separation, and in this process became a body without soul, an
ever-enlarging ‘Rambo’ in search of a more and more powerful gun, in an
increasingly violent and complex world. We have therefore to give a soul to
Rambo and seek new answers through a synthesis of more responsible and
controlled free-market with a free spiritualised socialism. An attempt at a
mixed economy in post-independent India was continuously under pressure and lost
out after the retreat of the Soviet Union in 1990s
As everything spelled mono translates into hegemony, a
dialogue of cultures, presupposes plurality, and a desire to seek new and more
harmonious and sustainable possibilities for the co-existence of diverse,
material and metaphysical arrangements. So as to be able to absorb the emerging
new knowledge, not only external, that of science, but also internal, that is
spiritual. Because cultures, are the software around which civilisational forms
are structured and the clash of civilisations transcended. Therefore, every step
in the direction of containing, abridging or aborting the continuity of
perennial nature-based cultures will be a step towards an uncontrolled chaos,
and a rapid descent from the eternal to the temporal.
Some years ago, an academic called the retreat of the Soviet
Union as the end of history. In reality, it may well be the beginning of the end
of the Cartesian Separation of the body and the mind, materiality and
The destruction by colonialism of traditional, largely self
contained societies brought a great poverty to the world. By bringing about a
still more radical break with old traditions that is now being attempted, all
potential for creating a more humane order will be obliterated. We are already
witnessing this breakdown being brought about by an unchangeable, Illusion of
world domination and an urge to control and define all things and phenomenon.
This has brought us to an uncertain world with an uncertain science, an
uncontrolled economic and human crisis and a disrupted evolution of
consciousness. A planned, controlled chaos is losing its control points.
Thus two different worlds with different basic experiences of
reality, provide of two different values of feeling, thinking, and living. With
one launched on a self-destructive path and the other struggling to reconnect
its past with the new world of science and evolve sustainable lifestyle within
their own cultural restraints and in harmony with nature. To safely transit from
the present to the future and to restore sanity to the human system, we have to
start with culture, and reconnect the realm of culture and civilisation because
through culture alone the dying human instincts can be restored and order
directed towards a new stream of peace. Nations or ethnicities, faiths and
cultures, needs and resources, need their own civilisational forms to integrate
with their own continuity. Thus the diversity of cultural continuities is the
foundation for the potential for friendship at the level of the people.
Civilisation can never be safe by confining the true culture
to a small minority and converting the large mass into mere consumers, whereas
consumption is transformed into a cultural expression. The consumer culture of
senses is now being enlarged and globalised to save the ‘Armament Protected
Consumerist Paradigm’. Since the colonial period, partnership of civilisations
has been and continues to be a partnership of interests. Now cultures are being
abridged and peoples are the victims. When reasons and sensitivities are
restored, it is the partnership of the peoples that will prevail.