Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gandhi and the middle classes

We watched Richard Attenborough's Gandhi last night. I was watching it after perhaps thirty years. Still an amazing film.
The amazing thing about Gandhi was not just his feelings for his countrymen and their suffering, he was able to express and communicate this suffering to the media and, through it, to the whole world.
What middle classes lack is the ability to communicate their feelings and their suffering to the wider audience. Partly, they don't do this because they feel that compared to the poor, these would be considered luxury problems. Partly, they don't do it because they think the rich have no feelings and would not care. And perhaps, partly they don't do it because it's not the done thing.
Secondly, Gandhi is able to sacrifice. He is able to take blows, physical and emotional, head on. If you want to be a leader, I guess this is another ability to be acquired. Many of us lack this. We are ill equipped to play political games because, alas, we have never played them. The only way to learn is to play the game and take the knocks.
If you think of it, the genius of Gandhi went beyond the Swadeshi movement of buying national goods and protesting in a non-violent way. It went beyond sustainable development and peaceful manifestations. It went to an ideology of living a simple life and doing things for others. Perhaps the time has come to find a way to simplify our lives and sharing.
Each day, the middle classes need to ask: do I need this? If not, why buy it? If not, why produce it? Intelligence purchase and intelligent consumption will lead to more sensible signals to the market place to stop producing items which are just being stored. With lower production, we will need to work less.
This need to work less can be channeled into two directions: a few strong greedy people cornering all the work or, alternatively, sharing the work with all. These are social choices. Pure capitalism leads to the strongest cornering the markets. Social capitalism leads to buying the right to share the work so that we see more joy around us. This political purchase is like any other economic purchase, except that it needs to be done collectively, just like buying buses and trains.
I think if the middle classes start doing this, they will lead the poor to new and beautiful directions which the rich will one day have to follow. Just like the world had to follow Gandhi.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How to share work within the middle classes

In one of my previous blogs, I had suggested that out of job Bank of America executives should start their own cooperative banks (they are called credit unions in the US). I now read that a lot of customers are taking their money out of Bank of America and putting it in credit unions. Not many have read my blog. I'm happy they got the message on their own.

How else can we help each other? Well the first thing to do is to share the work. If you are on a full time job working like a fiend, maybe you need to slow down. Perhaps you need to reduce your worktime to 80% (four days a week). Many employers do not like this, but if you can find a friend who is out of work and could help fill in this remaining time, they may just accept.

France started the 35 hour week. Yes it has worked. Yes a lot of people say it did not work. I've already mentioned in a previous blog that to get the full benefits even the top brass and senior management need to share the work week instead of trying to show how good they are by working weekends to earn money which they cannot possibly spend and slow down the multiplier.

Another idea would be to boycott all politicians and journalists who are looking for growth in developed countries. This is utter nonsense. Why push people to an objective they clearly do not want to achieve. If they wanted more goods, yes, we can talk about growth. But they don't. They want more equity. They want more time to spend the earnings of past growth. They want more humanity and a place in the world where they can be happy and not isolated.

Are their any journalists talking about changing the entire structure of what politicians should be promising you? Have they influenced any politicians?

Perhaps the time has come for you to take part in new politics: the art of finding what people really want and finding ways of giving this to them. Why not? If you have the time to read this blog you have the time for action. Do you have further ideas for sharing work? Please post them on the comments to this blog.

Of course, what is true of developed countries is not necessarily true of developing countries. Politicians who only know the growth mantra should be told to look there.  A lot of work needs to be done to eradicate poverty in Asia and Africa.