Opening Remarks at the Third Economics of Happiness Conference held at Bangalore, March 14-16, 2014
(video recording and transcription by John, L & W Road project, CED.. video to be shortly put on You Tube. For Full HD video contact john(at)doccentre.net)
Localising as most of you know, is so much like what Gandhiji was talking about. So we are not talking about any thing new. What is new however is globalisation - Globalisation in its current form, is a monstrous system that many people have still not really understood, or looked at enough. And so in order to counter balance to globalisation, localisation as a systemic alternative direction, literally the opposite direction of globalisation, seems to be very appropriate in this modern age. It can often feel overwhelming for people to hear about globalistion. And people think ohh, not another issue to deal with, We have enough with global warming, global terrorism, global financial crisis, so do we have to think of it as a separate issue?.
From our analysis, globalisation is the central systemic issue. It is a trajectory whereby, governments are handing over the power to speculative investment and giant corporations that stalk the globe for cheap labour, cheap resources, and there are demanding of governments that they give them global infrastructure they need, the cheap labour they need, the cheap currency --they are asking for quantitative easing, which means lower the value of your currency and these giants are interlinked with this flood of money and pressuring governments in such a way that they are saying if you dont do as we say, we will go elsewhere. You are going to be left out this global rat race really. And Governments everywhere are fully, basically going with a begging bowl, to global capital, and I dont know a single government, that isn’t bowing to weight of that centralised system.
To hear about that can be overwhelming, But, I believe that it is incredibly empowering for all of us to know that in all our struggles, and all the issues we are facing whether it is genetic engineering or , whether it is nuclear power. You will be hearing from our Japanese colleagues about the horrific situation of the Japanese government, announcing that they would open 10 nuclear power plants. You must have heard about Mr Abbot in Australia, who is announcing to the world, "We are open for Business" -- open to Global Speculative Investment. Let us have more trade treaties, that give even more power to deregulated banks and corporations. )
So this can all seem overpowering, overwhelming. But I believe that understanding that all our issues, are linked in one systemic issue can actually help bring us together into a powerful movement. It doesnt mean abandoning our focus on education, on nuclear power, or genetic engineering. It simply means that we all have a shared agenda which is economic system, which is transforming that economic system is a shared agenda, We dont need to become one united organisations, under one umbrella, structural umbrella, But I think if we have intellectual umbrella, I think we will see that we can become so much more powerful, than what we are now.
What's so wonderful about localisation, in contrast to globalising, it that it isn’t just an idea. Localising is a reality in many parts of the world, and is so much, as we know, part of traditional structures, to have communities that are rooted in things and have economies, economic transactions that are guided by spiritual and community cultural values, by humans seeing what makes sense. This is in direct and stark opposition to what is happening in the global economy, where we have what I call Drone economy -- the drones are unmanned aircraft that allows someone to sit in Las VEgas, and basically play a video game, going in nice and clean , spend the day in front of a screen, killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan -- never seeing them. They are dots, they are numbers. They can have a nice meditation practice, they can be extremely ethical in terms of recycling their waste, in terms of not wanting to kill animals, they become vegetarian but, the work they do, distanced in this way, the long distances are structurally linked to a blindness to almost an impossibility of being ethical, of being passionate. So the distances are so fundamental to this evil system,-- that shortening those distances, bringing together production and consumption, is what localisation is about.
And what is so empowering and so wonderful is that this is not only our traditional structure. But there is this new movement emerging particularly in the industrialised world, of doing exactly that. Consciously, shortening the distance between production and consumption, and those shorter distances, bring with them a multitude of benefits. We are seeing in the emerging local food movement, that structurally when a farmer sells to a market closer to home, the economic pressure is to diversify, to produce more than just one mono-crop. This is an incredible and vitally important fact that we really need to register and communicate, because these long distances not lead to this drone economy where we cant see who we are killing, or what we are poisoning, what we are polluting, but the shorter distances are necessary to rebuild ecological sustainability - fundamental lyecological to have more localised economy. It is also about rebuilding, that experience of interdependence, that is fundamental to all spiritual teachings. As we start rebuilding the connections we experience our interdependence with others and we start creating visible and accountable structures, so that ethics.. once again we are able to distinguish what is ethical and what is not. We are able to feel, we are able to use more than this part of our bodies ( pointing to the head) all abstract, over-intellectualised view of the world that is fragmented and that cannot be whole. When you are so distanced from the impact of what you do, impact on other people, impact on nature, it is virtually impossible that to act out of wisdom or compassion. So localisation is about wholism, it is about holistic, experiential knowledge, it is fundamental to reclaiming our humanity. It is fundamental to reclaiming and recognising who we are, how we've evolved. We had evolved in groups -- intergenerational groups, connected across the age divides. We have evolved connected to the living earth, to the animals to the plants. We have evolved in tune with life. Localisation is about reconnecting to life, and about re-building structures, where we once can experience, that living nature around us and in us.
The wonderful thing is that as a movement, this has grown despite the fact that this globalising power which as I said every government to my knowledge ( there may be very few: north Korea maybe) including my Scandinavian heritage, all the scandinavian countries are caving in, to the pressures of deregulated capital, deregulated corporations, and that exerts tremendous pressure on all of us, pressure to compete for very few scarce jobs. Why do we have unemployment? Why is there such a thing as underemployment? It is entirely a function of a political choice, that we as society should be involved in making. We will only be involved in making those choices, if we become more economically literate. We will understand that unemployment, is completely unacceptable, on a crowded planet. There is endless important work to be done, in caring for the living earth, caring for our children, caring for the elderly, endless work -- why are we herding people into urban ghettos, and telling them that they can do nothing, that they is no role for them, This is a violation . a true violation that should be punishable .
How can we go along with a price structure, that makes almost every thing natural too expensive for people. We are going along with a system that artificially makes plastics and fossil fuel based production more inexpensive. This is a political choice. We are not counting . It is not just that we are not counting, this so called externalities, we are not counting the way we subsidise this system with our taxes.
When we find that around the world food that comes from 10,000 miles away costs less than food from one mile away. (first of all, how many of us know that that is true? How many of us know that food from thousands of miles away generally costs less than food from one or ten miles away. ) I am afraid that most members of the environmental movement don’t know that and don't talk about it .I think this maybe one of the single most important points to raise, as we try to raise awareness about the need for economic change. This is a fact and I have studied it in the case of butter in Ladakh -- suddenly Amul butter from the other side of the Himalayas are selling for half the price of local butter. How is that possible? It is possible because of the systemic transformation that has to do with about our children are educated, with the sort of jobs and functions they fulfill, it has to do with the infrastructure that is built up by government and tax funding, it has to do with subsidising trade and transport, and it has to do with very importantly, with psychological blackmail. We have terrible tyranny evil system telling young people that if you want to be somebody, maybe, if you want to be loved and appreciated, you need to be considering this new cool brand , which is an outside product, you must be wearing the right cloths, you need to look like , it is an inherently urban western consumer culture that is foisted on children and basically what you have is an economic system, that is intervening in a truly universal human need which is particularly felt by children. Little children, upto the age of seven , it has been recognised that even in terms of their brainwaves, who they are physiologically, they are open and desperate for leadership and for love. For being loved and appreciated. This economic system, is sending a signal to our children, that says if you want to be loved, you need to buy these products, otherwise you are nobody. You will be left behind.
The economic literacy that is really also about psychological literacy, is about recognising that truely universal is the need for love and the willingness to love. The desire to love, the desire to cooperate. It doesnt mean that you cannot have certain forms of competition, that they cant be healthy. Doesn’t means that it cant be useful, fun, but the driving force in todays consumer culture is perverting the need to belong, to be loved, and it is probably worse at the centre of the system. In United States today, those pressures, which are having stronger and forceful than say India, is the corporate system that is forcing consumerism, is leading to children of six being put on anti-depressants, being put on all kind of medications, numerous illnesses, attention deficit disorder. You have chidren as young as six asking for plastic surgery. Virtually very part of their body, they feel they have to remodel to conform to the standards o this consumer culture.
So Localising, which brings back is a conscious attempt, to take our children right from the screen to living real life role models, blood and flesh role models who are never perfect --none of us are perfect-- we all have our strengths and weaknesses, so children grow up with realistic sense of who they can be. That is again what localising is about , where we regain our humanity, it is about regain who we really are, who we really want to be, who we really long to be.
It is so wonderful to see that even in the heart the central part of this corporate system, in the United States, in a city like Detroit, which has been ravaged by globalisation, where people had been pulled in to become slave labour in the car industry and then the car industry dumped them, with nothing. Even in this city, people are reclaiming their right to be productive, to reconnect, that relationship with the production and consumption, there are locals initiatives ( think there are something like.. there are several hundered in the city of Detroit), and people are reporting the benefits not just in terms of healthy food, in terms of being able to survive in the heartland of globalised system, but are talking about the rejuvenation of connections between people that bring happiness. And this local food movement, is growing very rapidly, despite the pressures, from the global economy, and from corporate rule.
So I hope that you will join us on this journey of building a paradigm, a economic literacy, campaign that will show us why we all need to recant, .., why the ninety nine percent, have so much to gain, and in fact why the hundred percent has so much to gain. Which is also, we need to stress, th e need for compassion, compassion to those individuals, who are sitting in front of those computers screens, doing their drone like investment, or even killing on the other side of the world. We cant stand in judgement on other people, where they come from, how conscious they are, let us be compassionate, let us make sure that this is a movement, that is based on compassion, and non-violence.