EXCERPT from chapter 6
6. The Quest for the Highest Profit
It is becoming clear that the pursuit of the highest profit, currently taken for granted, represents a moral degradation of economic activity. In fact, this principle changes the nature of economic activity and perverts it. The nature of economic activity consists of responding to needs – our own need to earn a living and build up family assets as well as responding to the needs of others by providing goods and services. As soon as the main goal is no longer to meet needs but instead to amass wealth, economic activity finds itself veering off-course.
Anthropologists and historians have explained that the sense of self-interest as distinct from the
collective interest did not exist in so-called ‘primitive’ societies; even in Europe up until the 18th century, communal moral values took precedence over individual radicalization.
“Although we tend to view the profit motive as universal and rational […] anthropologists have discovered that it is not traditional to traditional societies. Insofar as it is found among them it tends to play a very circumscribed role, viewed warily because of its tendency to disrupt social relations. Most pre-modern societies make no clear distinction between the economic sphere and the social sphere, subsuming economic roles into more general social relationships. Pre-capitalist man “does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, and his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end.” (1)
We have evolved in the wrong direction. This evolution shows us for what we are, as it expresses a way of being which is self-centered. In acting in this way, we take our self-interest to be the sole and unique code of conduct. As for the rest – it’s very simple – we cannot see anything else. This exclusive egocentrism is part of our nature; it is the principle of survival. If we remain fixated upon our own profit without limitations, however, it becomes a form of addiction, just like any other biological excess, alcohol or drug abuse or perversion. It creates a mental condition where one is no longer concerned with the rest of the world or other people, but simply oneself in an exclusive way, ready to let everything fall to pieces for the sake of intimate self-gratification.
A long time ago, Confucius observed “Where there is justice, there is no poverty.”
Greed is glorified by those that profit from it, but it is, in reality, one of the main causes of social suffering. The pursuit of profit leads to all kinds of excess, both visible and invisible, and it is responsible for the main problems of our world. Under-development, poverty, the decline of moral values in a consumer society, ecological degradation on a planetary scale – all these things originate from a vision of human activity founded on the principle of narrow-minded self-interest.
EXCERPT from chapter 7
When we observe the behavior of multinational corporations, we often compare them with modern- day dinosaurs, roaming all over the planet and devouring everything they see around them, crushing anything that gets in the way of their primitive animal appetite. What, exactly, can they be blamed for?
They can be blamed for doing whatever they please. The facts and figures in this chapter mostly come from the website Global Issues. (1)
Firstly, this is due to their size and their power. We know that among the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are multinational corporations and 49 are states. A good example is that the annual revenue of Motorola is said to be equal to that of Nigeria.
Corporations directly influence our lifestyles, encouraging a model based upon consumption. Advertising teaches people to believe that the main goal in life is to consume.
Corporations also influence the way in which the media presents things; either they own the media directly, or they support them through advertising. They have direct control over the ideas people have.
Corporations influence governments through lobbying, pressure groups and campaign contributions.
We could claim that our behavior is Nature’s way, as Nature is organized so that one half of creation feeds upon the other half. Once digestion is finished, Nature returns to a state of perfect unity and perfect harmony☺. But this is only true to a certain extent, and we ought to try and go beyond this as it is in our conscious nature to do better. Making competition the norm for economic relations between human beings implies living according to the law of the jungle. We want to make a profit, a considerable one – a fast buck – and we grab it as best we can, and in doing so, we devour a part of our partners’ existence. Who said that cannibalism was over? We blithely rob each other as we ourselves have been robbed.
But does that not mean that we our heading towards our own extinction?
EXCERPT from chapter 8
8. The Growth of the Masses
The Industrial Revolution – the visible face of capitalist culture’s expansion – and the distinctive social structure it produced occurred at the same time as another phenomenon – an extraordinary explosion of the human population.
To have an idea of the teeming, proliferating masses who did their best to survive in the most abject poverty, one only has to think back to the exodus of the peasant families (who, until that time had been living self-sufficiently) from the countryside into the sprawling cities the industrial age had spawned – or reread the social novels from that period. Today, the same scenario is unfolding in the big cities of the Third World. It is the same phenomenon, the same development mode – amassing wealth in the hands of a small minority while generating poverty for the masses.
One only has to visit the luxurious manor houses the large industrialists had built for themselves, modeled on the palatial mansions of bygone years. Rhode Island has plenty of such ostentatious homes, but they can be found in many other parts of the US and Europe too.
There is a direct link between poverty and the growth of the masses. Poor people see a large family as a better chance to get by. They have many children – far too many – because they have to. It provides the opportunity to have more wage earners in the family as well as some guarantee for their old age. A large family means security. Above all, it’s an instinctive defense reaction when faced with a destiny they can no longer control.
The economic conditions which create poverty, then, are also the source of the appalling demographic imbalance rampaging across the world.
Our society is running off-course and we are heading towards a dead-end, creating a world which is more and more difficult to live in, and this can be seen in every aspect of life – environmental, demographic, economic, political and psychological. If we continue along this path, sooner or later human society will destroy itself.
EXCERPT from chapter 9
9. A Cancer-like Growth
…. Let us take a look at what a few authors among the many from various backgrounds have to say:
“… The current size of the human population has wreaked unprecedented damage on the biosphere, and is going to accelerate that damage. Millions of plant and animal species have been driven to extinction. … A billion people are hungry, morning, noon and night. The ozone layer is thinning, with consequences that are lethal for every living organism. The air, water, and soil across the planet have been fouled. The forests in many countries are gone or nearly gone. And the mammary glands of every mother on Earth are now infiltrated with DDT and other harmful chemicals. These essential facts — truths that distinguish this century from any other in our history — are all the byproduct of uncontrolled human fertility and thoughtless behavior.” (1)
….. It is time that we reconsidered the basic principles governing the Earth. This is an account by Frank
Brunner in an article on-line, “The Internal Logic of the Common Good”:
“Wherever life is observed, organization for the common good can also be seen, so that each element of an organism contributes to the prosperity of the others. In this way, the various organs are complementary, and each benefits from the smooth functioning of the others. This organizational principle can also be seen in a biotope, where vegetation, herbivores, carnivores and carrion eaters perform complementary functions.
On the face of it, each one of Creation’s organisms could be organized in a specific way due to chance. It is, therefore, interesting to understand why everything in Nature is organized according to a logic of common good.
If the organism’s various organs, or even one of its cells, functioned in an anarchic way, instead of completing each other in a logic of common good, the organism could not live. It would be fundamentally deprived of coherence. Cancer is an example of a cell multiplying anarchically, without adhering to the logic of the common good. The cancer dies along with the organism it destroys. By going against organization for the common good, it brings about its own destruction. This principle of organization for the common good is obviously a vital one […]
This is how, in society just as in biological organisms, malignant growth occurs when the surrounding safety checks which ought to prevent the error no longer function. There is no longer any regulation – quite the opposite – the harmful activity no longer encounters any restraints, and by developing, acquires new capacities to proliferate, progress and resist any form of control.
The human masses and GNP are two agents which stimulate each other and form a single, prolific growth just like millions of anarchic, unthinking cells which cannot stop multiplying and consuming energy. An ever increasing population is required to create more growth, and ever greater growth in order to meet the needs of the population; more and more markets for more and
more profit, more and more wealth…and then we have to create a still larger population in order to generate a little more wealth.
“Even though every species – and each individual within every species – is exclusively concerned with its own self-interest, all these self-interests are interdependent and coordinated by a logic aiming to promote the common good […]
For example, if we consider the life of a tuft of grass, some elements soak up solar energy, others soak up water and others soak up nutritive elements from the soil, but each of the elements with their specialized functions participates in the prosperity of the tuft of grass as a whole. There is a general system, as though designed to coordinate self-interest within a logic of common prosperity; a logic of the common good. We can see that none of the cells which make up the tuft of grass, from the roots to the tips of each blade, is excluded from the “benefits” of this organization for the common good. This organization for the common good is, by its very nature, undiscriminating. Each of the combined cells derives a selfish profit from this common prosperity and thus, egotistically, it is in its own interest to participate in the functioning of the phenomenon. The blade of grass benefits from the activity of the root while the root benefits from the blade’s activity.” (4)
….. As Frank Brunner writes in “The Internal Logic of the Common Good”,
“The more we analyze this logic of the common good, the more fascinated we become by the extraordinary coherence of its conception. We see that this logic of the common good implicitly contains notions such as solidarity, fairness, freedom, etc […]
EXCERPT from chapter 10
10. A Matter of Conscience
As David Loy explains, the world’s crisis is a crisis of values; a crisis of conscience:
“The ecological catastrophe is awakening us […] to the fact that we need a deeper source of values and meaning than market capitalism can provide […] It is intolerable that the most important issues about human livelihood will be decided solely on the basis of profit for transnational corporations […]
More or less everybody now knows that market systems are profoundly flawed […]
The spiritual problem with greed — both the greed for profit and the greed to consume — is due not only to the consequent maldistribution of worldly goods […] or to its effect on the biosphere, but even more fundamentally because greed is based on a delusion: the delusion that happiness is to be found this way. Trying to find fulfillment through profit, or by making consumption the meaning of one’s life, amounts to idolatry […]
We are beginning to realize that if everyone consumed as much as we do in the West, it would require five or six planets like this one. That gives us a bit of a headache. We are drunkards waking up after a binge. We have consumed such a vast amount, and consumed really badly, and now we have very serious hangovers.
EXCERPT from chapter 11
11. The Principles for Change
From Individual Consciousness to Universal Intelligence
To some it may seem obvious that intelligence, or the mind, or light, already existed in the universe and that they were there before mankind appeared. It would seem that the universal mind strikes the animal consciousness of the self and is reflected as in a mirror. Or it could be said that in humans, the primary consciousness of the body takes on the role of picking up the universal mind just as a mirror picks up light. Our eyes and ears and bundles of neurons are radars which pick up and reflect external intelligence. This external intelligence then becomes both external and internal to human beings.
We are bathed in a universe of intelligent energy surrounding us, just as fish bathe in their watery world, but we are no more aware of it than a fish is aware of the water around it. Nonetheless, this intelligence is all around us, from the adaptation of the most basic cell through to the most complex organic formations (isn’t it just fascinating to observe flowers?) to the movement of the celestial spheres, and this intelligence governs the universe. Yet we believe ourselves to be set apart from this intelligent environment in which we live and of which we are a part. Mind exists as much within us as around us. What could be more subjective than mathematics? The intellect determines that two plus two makes four, and this is just as true outside of us as in our conception; there is continuity between our intellect and that of the world. Beyond the consciousness of personal existence which our precious brains gather from physical perceptions, these same brains act as instruments to receive the mind surrounding them.
When a scientist jumps up in his bath shouting “Eureka!” it’s because a new connection has been established with the universal field of the mind.
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