Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Task before Lokavidya Jan Andolan

The current socio-economic and political situation

The present system of life and living is characterised by the dominance of commodity exchange in all walks of life; a result of the invasive and extensive spread of the capitalist-market system into the lives of ordinary people. This has led to an all round commoditization and monetisation of all human thought and activity. Our thoughts, words and deeds are dominated by the imperatives of the commodity-market, in short, there is an all-pervasive pressure to make monetary profits in any and all our actions. Nothing escapes this over-arching 'value'; be it family relationships, social relationships, vocation-related interaction, politics, policy formulation, education, sport, entertainment; everything. As a result almost the whole of human society has become bereft of 'human' values ; values which seem to have sustained human society and the natural environment thus far.

All parameters of life and living are, therefore, dictated by the leaders of the ‘first’ world, the nations that comprise G8 and G20. All of them have chosen a centralised capitalist path of economic development and actively promote the spread and reach of the globalised market system. Economic strategies that are pursued are entirely based on (material) profits and so are all ‘social and moral values’ ; and this has resulted in a total lack of human values. For the majority of deprived peoples, this consciousness has permeated their entire beings and drags them along like zombies. This is evident when we notice that, today, all developmental strategies are measured and linked to statistical markers(such as stock market indices, GDP indices etc) and do not (need or) relate to the human being; modern economic activity can as well be carried out by a world populated by working robots rather than human beings except that humans are needed for the consumption of consumer products!

The absence of the human being, as being central to all aspects of life and development(alienation), has for long been seen as being due to an erosion of faith in the various religious dogmas that pervade human society. But then, modern Science and Technology has effectively put paid to all such dogmas. Now solutions to environmental degradation, wrought by centralised developmental strategies , are being sought through the intervention of ‘people-oriented’ Science. Such strategies may well suit the needs and aspirations of the peoples of the developed world and their followers in the under-developed or developing worlds; however, for people who continue to live by their knowledge in every corner of the globe(which could be about 2 billion people out of which about 800 million reside in India), what we have referred to as the Lokavidya Samaj, this is the death knell. Their very survival as active, contributing human beings, is under threat* and their liberation from extinction depends on their seeking solutions to survival through their Lokavidya.

* Note: Every section of Lokavidya Samaj faces the threat of ‘extinction’. Farmers, who toil under very harsh conditions to produce ever-increasing quantities of food, are being forced to commit suicide because of very adverse market conditions. Weavers too have been driven into poverty and suicide. Artisans of all types and small shopkeepers , have all but disappeared and now are forced to work as unskilled labourers(coolies) in large establishments. Dalits and Tribals are under constant attack even when they carry out their ‘traditional’ vocations. Displacement from Lokavidya-based livelihood activities and the collapse of the local economy and ‘culture’ is the widespread feature of the development strategies of the market economy together with all these very visible horrendous consequences.

The influence of Globalization and the Internet on the market-system

During the past 30 years or so, called the age of ‘Knowledge, Globalization and the Internet’, the capitalist-market system has undergone radical change .
Alongside there have been struggles against the debilitating effect of such changes.

Capital’ now refers to finance capital and the ‘Capitalists’ are those who have control over finance capital. The ‘market’ is now global and every human is (forced to become) a market-participant. The Internet has facilitated the growth, expansion and scope of this globalized, finance-capital dominated, market system and has, intentionally or otherwise, aided and promoted the commoditization of all human thought and activity. Some of the ‘values’ that drive this market, society and media have their roots in old world consumerism. The political leaders of this system desire, and seem to be working towards creation of , a uniformly subjugated mass of consumerist, commodity-ruled , profit-minded global citizens. The degradation of the natural environment that has resulted from this path of ‘economic development’ has been unprecedented and now threatens the very sustenance of life on the planet.

The Internet has also facilitated the growth of a globalized ‘cyber-society’ and ‘social-media’. This has resulted in an unprecedented exchange of knowledge and ideas on all aspects of life, living and nature. It has also brought these globalized citizens closer to one another; almost within reach of understanding the vast complexity of nature and human society. The Internet, apart from altering the ‘terms of trade’ of the market-system, has also brought into focus the differences in trade practices, social norms and hierarchies in different parts of the world. One of the fall-outs of this ‘consciousness’ has been the resistance to globalised markets, fight for control over local markets, and increased sense of national and/or local identity. A majority of exchanges in the social-media relate to various aspects of these differences and their cognition on a hitherto wider and unknown scale. The wanton destruction of the natural environment has come in for the most criticism via the Internet and social-media. It is our belief,however, that the real resistance to these changes and their disastrous consequences for human society, can come from Lokavidya Samaj because it’s very survival depends on it.
What we can see today, is the total absence of ‘dharma’ in human thought and action and/or its subjugation by the dominating principles of the capitalist-market system. The task before LJA is therefore to re-establish ‘human values’ ,this dharma, in today’s world through collective social and appropriate political action. Such action would help the vast majority of its members to survive the assault on their existence, and their contribution as productive members of human society. Concomitantly and hopefully, it could provide an alternate paradigm of development and politics for the whole of human society.

The need to establish Lokavidya Dharma as a way of living

The main aspect of this 'dharma' is that it legitimises only those actions that do not 

i)deliberately(consequentially) and adversely affect the life and livelihood of human beings and the natural environment anywhere 

and that do not
ii)violate the principles of equality and social justice.

This dharma has continuously ‘evolved’ over the ages, through conscious social and political action over the ages. The final 'nail in the coffin'- the dehumanisation of society and thought, however, has been firmly plunged in by the capitalist-market system. What we see today as 'corruption' is just a public manifestation of the all-pervading influence of capitalist-market thought and marks the distance society has moved away from dharma.

Let us take a few examples. Terrorists 'entered' Mumbai through a small fishing village on the beach near Colaba in 2008. Similarly terrorists entered the Pathankot airbase via a 'un-monitored' part of the international border in 2015. All these entry points were obviously routes routinely used by smugglers with the connivance of the local people/police who routinely accept 'favours' in exchange for 'unhindered passage'. The 'facilitation' of such access through the giving and taking of some bribes etc. That is, some rates have been assigned to avil of such 'permits/licences' in order to bypass norms, rules, laws, regulations etc and has become a common practice in everyday life. This is what everyone refers to as corruption and not a gross dereliction of duty or violation of oath of office. The blatant killing of dalits and tribals, dowry-related deaths and such other inhuman acts are also indicative of this ‘degeneracy’. In reality, we have become 'dharm-heen' i.e devoid of (or indifferent to) any dharma!

The main activities of LJA towards re-establishing Lokavidya Dharma

We shall look at the situation in India. All political parties today are essentially competing to take control of the leadership of the capitalist-market system in India. This market system, as we have seen, promotes a dehumanised path of development and concomitant destruction of the natural environment. It does not and can never address the problems faced by Lokavidya Samaj or re-establish Lokavidya dharma.

Lokavidya Samaj is comprised of about 800 million citizens distrubuted along the length and breadth of this country. From times imemorial, they have been living by Lokavidya. During this period, Lokavidya and Lokavidya Samaj have undergone innumerable changes – they have never been static or immutable. However, the existence of Lokavidya Samaj has never been under threat as it is today. And since it comprises of such a vast number of human beings (about 12% of the global population) its destruction or survival would have great impact on human society as a whole. The conner-stone of it’s survival, through the ages, has been it’s dharma; which is neither static or immutable but seems to have been guided by principles that mandate the sustenance of all of human society and the the natural environment. This makes the position and actions of Lokavidya Samaj very important and relevant in today’s world- provided that it is able to re-establish the pre-eminence of , what we call, Lokavidya dharma.

All characteristics of inter-relationships, between various members of society, are primarily, and in the main, determined by interactions between individuals and between communities/collectives, and governed by the evolving dharma that determines these relationships. Concepts of equality, fraternity and collective governance evolve through such economic, social and cultural exchanges . This dharma manifests itself through the method of governance(politics) and the relations of exchange(market economics) .

We recognise that every individual is a repository of knowledge and skills and is inherently capable of contributing to societal development. There can be no knowledge hierarchy and hence no social hierarchy. Knowledge equality is the basis of social equality and social justice. The system of governance that will give life to this concept of equality and social justice is Lokavidya Swaraj**. We have argued for the establishment of Lokavidya Swaraj through a bottom-up structure; the village Gyan Panchayat upward to the National (Rashtriya) Panchayat.

The structure and working of the Gyan Panchayat will ensure equal participation of and privilages to, all members of the Gyan Panchayat who, by virtue of their knowledge-identity, are elected as equal members of this Panchayat. This fundamental unit of the political structure of governance would project the needs and promote the aspirations of ordinary people (the Lokavidya Samaj) and seek a ‘path of development’ consistent with and capable of fulfilling such aspirations.

It is thus the task of LJA to campaign for a knowledge-based identity of the individual rather than any other birth-determined identity (based on gender, caste, creed, race, religion etc) and the establishment of Gyan Panchayats comprised of such elected gyanis to deliberate over what needs to be done at each local level to achieve true development, equality and social justice.

One of the important means of actualizing the 'ideal of equality' enshrined in Lokavidya dharma, would be the establishment of Lokavidya Bazar** ; because the Bazar is the place (both conceptually and physically) where there is continuous and purposeful inter-dependent interaction between the various constituents (gyanis) of the Samaj. Lokavidya Bazar is a process of supporting and sustaining Lokavidya-based livelihoods by establishing new concepts of 'value'(price/cost) and norms of exchange. Where prices and exchange are guided by the requirement of providing ordinary needs for the sustenance of a minimal dignified life for all members of society and not for profit making. This is the basis and agenda of the movement for the establishment of Lokavidya Bazar.
**Note: The ideas about Lokavidya Swaraj and Lokavidya Bazar have been elaborated in our publications; available in Telugu, Hindi and English at

These then are the main tasks before Lokavidya Jan Andolan today and members of Lokavidya Samaj and its supporters cannot rest until these are fulfilled. In the intervening period of normal political activity(elections) and economic activity(local market), the stress should be on identifying those resolutions and actions that promote and give fillip to the principles underlying Lokavidya Swaraj and Lokavidya Bazar.

May 2018