EXCERPT from chapter 12
12. For the Happy Few
There is another way to broaden consciousness, which, rather than learning, involves developing profound knowledge, also known as wisdom.
This way consists of heading not towards the object, but towards the spirit, or towards oneself, the inner self, towards the center. Science stops with concepts, but this other way goes beyond that, where science cannot go, towards a perception that is unitive rather than dissociative. Instead of making intelligence work by means of ideas, it entails allowing the intuitive vision to grow. It entails developing consciousness and the spiritual level, not through reflection but outside any reflection.
In order to develop consciousness through meditation, one has to turn towards the mind itself. Consciousness is pure spirit, present unto itself and prior to any content. You can’t see it under an electron microscope or in a particle chamber. It is spirit without any other subject but itself, no object but its own presence, its own vigilance. It cannot be reduced to a concept, as it is there before concepts, sensations, emotions or feelings are formed. This original spiritual energy, the emptiness which is something within the void, is neither wave, nor particle.
Meditation should not be seen as an abnormal or artificial practice. The resulting benefits and well- being are natural reactions. During meditation, it has been observed that the brain’s electrical waves alter to lower frequencies (those of relaxation, of consciousness with no external activity) while the level of endorphins temporarily increases, suggesting a rise in neuronal transmission and therefore reception.
In reality, all of us enter a state of meditation spontaneously, for example when we are working in our vegetable gardens or taking the time to knit or draw or paint a picture, or when we pause for a while in silence contemplating a beautiful landscape and then realize that we haven’t noticed time passing. We have remained aware, but have lapsed into absence without realizing and have made an unexpected detour outside time. Meditation simply activates and boosts a normal process on the path to our evolution. It can be done without any religious commitment – and besides, it is strongly believed that some animals meditate.
With meditation, we gain perspective on our motivations: we sharpen our awareness and strengthen free will. Thus, when it comes to making economic decisions, decision about our livelihood and consumption, we can better resist compulsions driven by fear, craving, and pride and choose instead a moral course that aims at true well-being. In this way, we begin to see how mental factors form the basis of all economic matters, and we realize that the development of this kind of mental discernment leads the way to true economic and human development.” (1)
EXCERPTS from chapter 13
13. The Ways in Which Change Is Occurring
Living systems evolve of their own accord. They devise the transformations they require as the need arises. The same thing happens with global society.
A living system’s evolution is activated when internal fluctuations have driven it to a state which is far from being well-balanced, reaching a critical point which demands further adaptation.
For over half a century, society has been stirring with movements to initiate its evolution. The social unrest and student movements in the 1960s, counter-culture movements such as the hippies, consumer groups, feminists, ecologists, anti-nuclear protesters, pacifists, human rights groups and NGOs, and, more recently, organizations for economic justice, anti-globalization and pro-fair trade are all movements which seriously call the system into question and contribute to changing it. We can add to this list all the demonstrations against wars of which people do not approve, trade union demonstrations against delocalization and political demonstrations against injustice for minorities or forms of apartheid, as well as social forums. These movements are varied and dispersed, but they are also connected by countless local and international networks. They are part of an active, established and permanent phenomenon. Through these movements global society is looking for a way to evolve. This growing awareness is shooting out in many different directions and will eventually give rise to the birth of a global society founded upon new economic and intellectual principles.
Economists were very happy to borrow Darwin’s idea that our world is a place of brutal struggle where the only fittest survive. Competition is at the heart of business; internal competition to ensure high performance and external competition to seize a share of the market.
But it turns out that those ideas are now completely out of date. Admittedly, competition has a role to play to maintain healthy businesses, and challenge can encourage creation and innovation. But this is not as fundamental or universal a factor as has been made out. There is, of course, competition in Nature, but it is incorporated within a more general framework of cooperation. Modern science proves that cooperation or symbiosis is the most universal principle in living systems’ organization, from single-celled organisms right through to the higher forms of life. It is thanks to the partnership between several species and also within the species itself that life has been able to continue and evolve.
The essential principle with regard to maintaining and developing life is not competition but cooperation, not cannibalism but mutual assistance. As early as 1902 Kropotkin showed that the driving force behind evolution was not principally competition within a species for limited resources, but instead cooperation within the species to increase the chances of survival when faced with harsh external conditions. He claimed that when circumstances put a community (human or animal) in danger, it reacted by increasing its communal cooperation. Exactly the same thing is happening in today’s world.
EXCERPT from chapter 14
14. Observing the Changes
Movements such as the microcredit movement in Bangladesh which began in 1976 are appearing spontaneously. …..
“Once we learned that hunger results from antidemocratic political and economic structures that trap people in poverty, we realized that we couldn’t end hunger for other people. Genuine freedom can only be won by people for themselves.” (1)
During the 1980s in Latin America (where entire sections of the population were excluded, which naturally drove them to invent ways to survive), various types of solidarity-based economies sprang up and are continuing to grow.
EXCERPT from chapter 15
15. Solidarity Economics
The solidarity economics movement defines its motivations and aims very clearly:
…”Our proposal is a socioeconomy of solidarity as a way of life that encompasses the totality of the human being, that announces a new culture and a new form of producing to fulfill the needs of each human being and of the entire humanity.”
This is a Copernican revolution involving a qualitative leap which testifies to a growing moral awareness. Deciding to go from dependence to autonomy, from exclusion to independent integration, means transforming not only working conditions but also how we all relate to everyone involved, and therefore transforming the social environment by adopting new values. The solidarity movement does not mean depriving oneself of one’s personal advantages for the benefit of an anonymous community but instead extending limited self-interest to encompass a larger whole. It involves exceeding the limitations of one’s blind spot to see the bigger picture and seeing one’s self- interest as part of the good of the community. It means forgetting one’s obsession with personal greed. It is a moral revolution.
When someone asks the big question, “so what’s the alternative?”, solidarity economics answers not with a Big Scheme (a “third way” beyond the Market or the State), but with another question: By what means, on whose terms, and with what guiding ethical principles will we collectively work towards new economic structures and relationships? This is an economic process, not a plan; it is a strategy for economic organizing that starts with our already-present practices…”
Polanyi, (quoted by David Loy in “Religion and the Market”) (3) observes that when capitalism reduced labor to a commodity, on the one hand, it led to a fantastic accumulation of capital, and on the other, a radical collapse of traditional community life, as the new economic forces drove villagers off their land.
“To separate labor from other activities of life and to subject it to the laws of the market was to annihilate all organic forms of existence and to replace them by a different type of organization, an atomistic and individualistic one.” Such a system would very soon “annihilate the human and natural substance of society.”
But it is precisely this human and natural substance of society that solidarity economics has started to recreate by repairing the breakdown caused by market economy.
These bonds of solidarity – ethical and human bonds – will recreate global society along new lines.
EXCERPTS from chapter 16
16. Entrepreneurial Concepts
Even though people have gone to great lengths to discredit or ignore Marx’ analysis, it nevertheless remains totally valid. It is still true that capitalists possess the means of production, and therefore they are able to pocket profits and determine working conditions. The two parties to the contract, i.e. the employer and the employee, are not in an equal position of power, and consequently, the employer can continue to reap the benefits of the employee’s labor, and continue to accumulate wealth. The issue of the sharing of profits remains a fundamental moral problem in society as the acquisition of wealth is established in an exclusive monopoly.
Can capitalism be reformed?
While the system pursues its excesses until it makes itself sick, at the same time we can see the efforts capitalism is making to clean up its act.
Is it possible to imagine a balanced form of capitalism?
Some companies which provide jobs and pay a decent wage would have to close shop if they were forced to do even better.
But in prosperous companies, employees remain in an archaic situation:
“Workers have no choice but to rent out the strength of their arms and the intelligence of their brains to those who have capital. Capital does not produce anything, it simply buys creative ability.” (3)
It is said that in business, each person receives their share depending on what they bring to the company, but this share is very difficult to evaluate. We should bear in mind that it is not capital that creates wealth, but labor. Capital plays a passive role – we could call it ‘inert capital’ – while labor could be considered as ‘active capital’, without which nothing could be created. Obviously, inert capital can create the conditions for a company to exist, but it is unjust that inert capital should have an excessive advantage over active capital. Labor is not a commodity; it is act of creation.
“Capital does not generate value in itself, and can only grow if it is valorized by productive labor. Yield from capital is therefore always taken from the value created by the workers.” (4)
Studies into finding solutions to replace capitalism generally settle on a democratic, participatory, solidarity-based, self-managed economy. (5)
Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone have written an essay which ought to become one of the new books of the Bible for modern times – “Cooperativization as Alternative to Globalizing Capitalism” Geo, October 2005. (6)
Using Mondragon as an example, their realistic and soundly-documented study shows that cooperativization constitutes the ideal remedy for the ills of this world.
With 30,000 employees and $5 billion in annual turnover, the Spanish cooperative of Mondragon remains the most impressive success story in this field. Here are a few extracts from their arguments:
“Can we construct a better world than that of globalizing capitalism? Yes! Through cooperativization. We claim that first-world networks of worker co-ops – like the one around Mondragon, Spain – if re-oriented so as to solidarize with the alter-globalization movement, could almost fully replace capitalism by a democratic economy […]
“Productivity and profitability are higher for co-operatives than for capitalist firms […] Studies of job creation, worker compensation, and job security yield similar results […]
The productivity advantage of democratic production stimulates cooperativization. This advantage is likely due to harmonizing of conflicting imperatives. Absent rewards, workers in capitalist firms withhold their skills. By contrast workers in democratic firms, no longer pitted against each other, have strong incentives to share skills. And since effectively exercising collective creativity is pleasurable, management supervision is less necessary, a big savings. Also lifted is the even greater burden of supporting absentee shareholders. Co-ops thus have a flexibility, financial buoyancy and re-investment potential lacking capitalist firms. Members are not resentfully slow, care for equipment, avoid waste, and minimize downtime and absenteeism. Large-scale production still needs skilled managers, but direct market feedback, freed of “noise” from managers with inimical interests, allows faster remedy of management errors […]
Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone point out that Europe generally is having a worker co-op boom. There are up to 83,000 companies of this kind in 42 countries, providing 1.3 million jobs – twice as many as 20 years ago. There are cooperative networks in Japan, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela etc.
In the meantime, we should take capitalism at its word and allow companies which are run according to new standards to enter into the game of free, peaceful competition.
May the best man win!!
EXCERPTS from chapter 17
17. Balance Is Well-Being
Economy is divorced from morality, although the fabric deep within us is woven from morality. In this material world were we live, nothing which can be done or thought by a human being may be dissociated in any way from its moral aspect. Our moral nature is not a merely an accessory, or a cultural coloring – it is part of our very nature – and not our intellectual, emotional or mental nature, but rather our more essential and profound being, our intangible, spiritual nature – the nature about which we know nothing, but which is always present, silently observing everything.
Man believes himself to be complete, but he is not. We are imperfect beings who must continue to evolve. Believing oneself to be complete is a form of blindness…
Looking Towards the Future
The answer that we come up with is that those problems can only be resolved by developing our individual conscience. Evolution occurs on a personal and conscious level. This enables us to tackle the conditions of economic activity in a spirit of fairness and freedom. The solution can only be found along the path of liberation, the path of autonomy and responsibility, in other words, the freedom of each person in his work. While one person remains oppressed or precarious in his or her material resources, this has not been accomplished. The first step towards the joy of living and quality of life lies in equal prosperity for everyone. It is up to us to act; up to those of us who are suffering to undertake these changes. When the spirit evolves, practical solutions may then be found.
We have recently observed that perfectly adapted responses have begun to emerge, and this is very encouraging – there has been an evolution in perceptions and a new form of adaptation. This is particularly true of the principle of solidarity-based economy, which is not sentimental philanthropy, nor simply an appeal for voluntary self-sacrifice, but rather an understanding that it is in everyone’s best interests.
The solution gives us the capacity to take our destiny into our own hands, making us independent and responsible both towards ourselves and others. Economic activity is moving onto a different level, becoming part of a vision with a broader conscience.
Then, external proof with external aims will follow. The best kind of satisfaction is not maximal satisfaction (which is an illusory and contradictory concept), beyond which we trip up and out troubles really begin, as we all know.
Happiness established in solidarity and cooperation is profound and enriching. It opens up to others;
it opens up one’s conscience and becomes happiness based on trust, giving access to more profound, more sustainable, truer perspectives. This is why achieving true well-being may be defined as what enables real human development.
Determining our Path
Personal evolution is the key to the world’s salvation. This occurs naturally with the evolution of the collective conscience, but ancient traditional methods of personal development such as meditation may also provide crucial support. Simply practicing energetic, gentle gymnastic techniques such as Yoga or Qigong can result in profound personal fulfillment; they enable us to draw what we require to progress directly from the surrounding field of energy. They give us the possibility to draw directly the physical, mental and spiritual energy we need to establish sound health and a firm basic happiness, and, in the long term, to advance along the path of our evolution which consists of further awakening our conscience.
Let’s enjoy ourselves!
Let’s take a moment to enjoy ourselves imagining this Utopian world which is not yet born, but which is entirely within our reach, if we could only realize it.
Let’s visualize the radiant future which we have the means to achieve; a world where everyone has enough to eat; a world where the most advanced knowledge is evenly distributed; a world where prosperity is a fundamental reality for everyone.
It is time to recognize that material values and moral, spiritual values are inextricably linked, and all elements of the same reality. It is time to recognize that it’s moral values which should be guiding our evolution. It is time to appeal to enlightened individual consciences, rather than just ignorant self-interest as before.
The road will be long, but there is no other way.
As a first step forward, the way for humanity consists in achieving material liberation. If we manage to attain this liberation, the path to a beautiful future will be guaranteed for the rest of our human journey.
End of Part I
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