12. ECONOMY OF IMBALANCE, WASTE AND HARM
PREAMBLE AND IMPORTANT WARNING
Nothing we are publishing under the title ‘Contemporary Issues’ should be read as an unmitigated condemnation of the Western civilization. Like every human institution evolving over millennia civilization is the common product and property of the whole mankind and this is specially true of the Western recent ‘edition’ of it. The West is a relative newcomer into civilization- say the last 2500 years while the Middle Eastern civilization is at least twice as old. Without the means of developed and advanced enough technology (like house and road building) too cold and too hot regions of the earth could not maintain enough populations with enough opportunities to create advanced civilizations and this has been true for both tropical jungles of the equatorial and cold jungles of north western Europe. It took the lucky populations of the temperate belt of the earth to make the first great advances and benefiting from their accumulated technologic know-how other residents of regions followed suit.
Today the situation is almost the opposite of the yesterday- Given good building technology and indoor temperature regulation the residents of the cooler and wetter regions of the earth are perfectly able to work and build achievements almost irrespective of outdoor conditions with the added benefit of extreme fertility of the water logged land- fearing no famine like in the drier regions! Suitable animal and plant species are simply flourishing here as well as in the tropics without the oppression of the stifling heat paralysing movement and the pests devouring all around them.
All in all there is no doubt that Allah moved fortunes over times and places in the course of man’s history each region and favoured races of this world having their heyday in adding a few more bricks to the edifice called civilization. Without
This is the same thing as saying that we muslims have as much a deserved share in the present level of development of the most prosperous societies as any other group and if anything only more. Overall and minus any too clearly un-Islamic few features the Western civilization is ours as well and a total condemnation of it is out of question. In fact many things Islam aspired at but could not produce enough of are now common features of the Western civilization and taken for granted. Perhaps the best example is the welfare state.
We must bear all the above in mind while we analyse and criticise the Western civilization and not get the impression that it is a largely negative picture. If anything the opposite is the case and we Muslims have a lot to learn from it as we stand to contribute to its partial correction and improvement.
Lastly we are not economists and therefore all our small ventures into economic analysis can only be simple and brief and not too authoritative we must admit.
Economy means the totality of the activities of people in producing, distributing and consuming goods and services. The science dealing with these activities is called economics. Both involve quantities, prices and monetary transactions.
Economy is the lifeblood of a society. It began in primitive societies whose first means of exchange was barter. Money came later and evolved from light weight yet precious materials to today’s paper and eventually electronic money, i.e., transactions effected by transferring numbers representing monetary sums from one account to another without the parties involved touching any banknotes and coins. But what did not change is the fact that each and every economically active person must buy or sell good and/or services to get what he wants in terms of the same.
We have two contrasting types of national economies today representing the two extremes of economic power.
On the one end we have the highly developed economies in which at least two things stand out: First, almost all adults between 18 and 65 are working at a gainful job and the productivity is very high. Productivity means the amount of wealth each worker creates over the capital expenditure per unit money (£, $ etc.) of investment per unit time (e.g. hour). For example in a workshop if the production cost of an item produced is 50 % of its factory outlet sale value while in another rival workshop, thanks to more efficient machinery and better trained and motivated workers the same ratio is 40% the productivity of the second workshop is much higher. Businesses often rise and fall on account of their productivity as do national economies. The causes are many but let a basic list suffice, viz., inadequate or too much investment (wasteful investment like too luxurious premises or too many employees), good or bad levels of staff training and corruption (especially the case is nationalized industries).
Highly developed economies of rich countries are highly productive. They create more wealth than they consume that is. Nationalized industries are often have poor productivity records and ironically dominate the economies of many poorer countries. They just bleed themselves to death. Apparently a long time will need to pass before today’s poor nations come anywhere near the economic power of the rich, if at all.
Poor countries (which makes about two thirds of the whole) have low productivity with very high unemployment levels. They cannot invest enough, cannot train enough people with enough skills and also due to social backwardness (like tribalism which is a recipe for bloody rivalries, waste talent by nepotism and resources by corruption. Because they are often at the tribal level of social development (and therefore seeing others outside their respective tribes as fair game) no just and democratic central authority can be created. Only most savage dictatorship can ensure a semblance of law and order at the cost of the corruption the dictator and his elites (often from the same tribe) must perpetuate in true tribal fashion, i.e, ‘we against them’. Because dictatorship is the most lucrative form of gangsterism rivals are must be lurking somewhere and coups and counter coups follow each other, wasting as well as destroying more national assets. Each incoming coupist gang take over from another to put their cronies in lucrative positions and eat more of national assets and embezzle foreign loans often obtained by bribery- the foreign banker issues a loan with his share already pocketed and then blames the debtor and robs the small investors in his bank of their share of the capital.
In between there are semi-developed nations which may or may not one day join the rich club- or fall to the bottom.
MALADIES OF NATIONAL ECONOMIES
An economy is like a living organism. It has its health and illnesses and even genetic merits and defects all of which need be researched and addressed.
The words like ‘growth’ and ‘contraction’, ‘inflation’ and ‘deflation’, unemployment and under-investment… apply to economic health indicators.
In the context of the modern Western economies some main strengths and weaknesses may be enumerated as follows-
Strengths: Adequate investment, high productivity, good marketing, favourable foreign exchange balances, a very developed middle class with great productive and purchasing powers and a well-subsidized small poor class, often for health reasons. And extensive social and health security net.
Weaknesses: Excessive and extensive de-spiritualization of the human psychology, increasing dereliction of natural biological ties between individuals which ties which are irreplaceable as civilizing means, a wrong concept of full employment, taking unnecessary health risks and outrageous waste.
As for the non-Western economies the following may be cited. To the degree that these economies are unaffected by the Western model-
Strengths: Good family ties narrowing down and cheapening social welfare while also promoting spiritual satisfaction, healthiest nutrition when food production is adequate and basic hygiene is observed (both not too common however)
Weaknesess: Low productivity, high unemployment, lack of even educational opportunities let alone jobs, almost non-existent national social and health care, high mortality and sickness rates, unprepared for natural disasters and famines and unstable regimes, often both oppressive and corrupt and lastly civil wars always behind the corner.
As such there can be little doubt that the West is the far better place to live even for the religious and traditional minded people not least because it is a very tolerant and socially charitable environment which will not even resist being persuaded to change itself to anything else provide it is made legally and democratically!
Because we live in the West and all the world is gradually Westernizing our present study shall be more confined to diagnosing and prescribing for the Western economy. We therefore leave its healthiness side as granted and concentrate on its maladies to see if we can offer some remedies which will not harm its healthy aspects.
EXCESSIVE AND EXTENSIVE DE-SPIRITUALIZATION OF PSYCHOLOGY
Western mind compartmentalizes the human life too much as if a person can or should function as another machine in a production line and be or do nothing else then suddenly be a loving father (at home) and then a passionate party member and voter and then a sexual opportunist or drunkard… as if he is an actor moving from role to role. He has no time to be his whole self and listening to his heart and developing moral and spiritual powers are not only luxuries for him but he is given no time for it even if he wanted to. Cut off from blood relations as well as childhood friends and moving from place to place for economic reasons and always almost in debt in a thousand ways for half of the Western adults even marriage is a luxury and a home meal with any loved ones a rarity.
The problem of dehumanisation (as de-spiritualization has been called) of the citizen has been on the agenda in the West since the Industrial Revolution (as from 18th century) and its primary and worst victims were the economically displaced lower working classes called the proletariat. The misfortune of the humble majorities of Western societies were being serfs (land-bound slaves of landed the classes who for their part were born ‘rulers and luxurious idlers) and then proletariat (factory-bound slaves of the capitalist bourgeoisie). This working class majority never really recovered from their morally and spiritually primitive formation despite the mass education at state cost because that education was also designed by the rising bourgeoisie who prescribed it more as a training medium for their future employees than all-rounders with their moral and spiritual potentials also taken care of.
So, son followed father into mechanical employment and de-spiritualized leisure (mainly filled with drink, irresponsible sex and rough hobbies and entertainments- cinema, sports and ‘holidays’ etc) while daughter excelled mother in defeminization (and into masculinization). For masculine skills and dress, habits and evasion of sexual responsibilities were more suitable for the capitalist and given the ever-increasing need for more hands in factories and farms women had to be defeminized. As a result both schools and media served the capitalist on whose money they depended directly or indirectly. The nobility itself had almost always been immoral if steeped in good manners; for excessive comforts and powers over others could only lead to moral decay. As late Sir Winston Churchill said “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Modern Western education only enhanced this de-spiritualization and made more persons less spiritual and moral if sometimes superficially more well-mannered in general.
With this spiritual inadequacy came the ruthless exploitation of the workers by the capitalist and then ruthless unionism of the workers trying to match the monetary greed of the employer with counter greed so great that at times it caused the collapse of the whole economic enterprise by making production uncompetitive. An exception to this mutual ruthlessness has been, at least until recently the Japanese economy and those emulating it like
A de-spiritualized person compensates or rather avenges his loss of a worthy potential by indulging more of his beastly possibilities. This means the cult of the body and all that makes its lusts’ satisfaction fuller and greater. All sorts of contrasting and often mutually exclusive bodily or gustatory obsessions devour the man- on the one hand he may exercise to keep fit and look younger while on the other he indulges in drugs beginning with alcohol as well as excessive sexual activity which destroy his fitness and good looks. This vicious circle of contrasting but all the same equally wasteful habits wastes economic resources as well as harms the environment which then adds to the ill health. In brief a hedonist (carnal) philosophy of life is one of obsessive and excessive indulgence of the senses which pursuit renders its owner blind to harms and evils which may naturally follow it. If one of these harms and evils is ill health the other is waste.
To see how let us follow a typical urban middle class prosperous adult, say a single young woman. She works at a 9 to 5 office job, owns by mortgage her own small apartment and a small nippy car and survives more on ready or take-away meals. Her home is fitted with all the labour-saving as well as entertaining amenties (like a ‘music centre’) and she has both regular friends of both sexes as well as casual friends with whom she can be more risk-taking and adventurous.
To start with, her main concern is avoiding pregnancy and therefore she regularly swallows contraceptives. These make her significantly more prone to may serious illnesses in later life, from circulatory diseases to malignancies. Additionally, the promiscuity which is now almost the norm even among a significant number of married people of both sexes is getting its toll also on her. From cervical cancer to AIDS she is under constant risk. Yet and ironically enough, to make herself more attractive and competitive in areas wider than but including sex she has to spend fabulous sums on fashion, cosmetics, massage and other ‘therapies’…. so that about up to one third of her earnings are spent on such least essentials. This area of spending supports an industry of extreme trifles by the survival standards of the poor nations to whom she should ideally have a duty to care as a fellow human being if civilization means anything. Now we may stop and consider: Is it really good value for money to buy a range of illnesses each more terrible than the other simply because our bodies blindly itch and crave for many things whose indulgence makes them even hungrier and greedier? Is it a wonder that while the rich nations both create and waste their wealth on health-damaging indulgences the poor (and often poor because they are robbed by the richer nations) resentfully think about wrecking the joys of their richer brethren by exporting to them their resentment and frustration in the form of terrorism.
If Marx had preached the bloody proletarian revolution it was because he had a ready audience in the badly oppressed and exploited workers of the Industrial Revolution. Thanks to his preaching we to this day have militant hard leftists cores in all Western societies who, among their other mischiefs, routinely use the 1st of May date every year to wreck business premises and waste police resources on a massive scale. To date, these groups formed and reformed disruptive and sometimes plain terrorist cadres who did everything possible to rock the social boat we are in in the hope that it sank and their socialist boat rescued and claimed the survivors. Again thanks to the strength of our liberal and prosperous and well-educated societies no Marxist revolution has succeeded among us but they succeeded only too well among poorer nations to whom they brought more harm than good until eventually became disreputable even in their homeland Russia. But so long as social and economic disparities remain so great the pooer nations shall keep trying to avenge their deprivations and humiliations by producing terrorists mad with anger and resentment.
The truth is that were the richer nations replaced their priority of hedonist wasteful indulgence with humanist or pious charity towards their underprivileged brethren the poor nations they could get at least two bonuses each more glorious than the other. They would improve their own health including their spiritual well-being and also win the thankful affection of their recipients the poorer nations. As the Arabic adage goes “Al insan abeed ul ihsan”, i.e., man is the worshipper of favours. We see in the European Union an example of equally prosperous and well-educated nations are able to live together under one political umbrella and resolve their differences peacefully if slowly by negotiation and arbitration- which is what civilization is about. But poorer nations cannot. They are still mostly tribal, badly or non-educated and too hungry for everything they normally crave like us. Their thinking is shallow and primitive and they have not been taught to control their passions like a grievance or jealousy. On the contrary they take pride in their passions, regard them manliness and are prepared to kill or get killed for their sake!
A recent example may illustrate this point. A Middle Eastern man walked into an institution in a Western capital he was visiting and asked for some help. Another person around slightly questioned his petition. The visitor was so sensitive and touchy to all things he saw challenging his ‘honour’ that he immediately fell back into Middle Eastern hate and death rhetoric trembling with anger and itching for more provocation. “In my country” he said “We are preared to kill two hundred innocent people to get at and kill the one who offended our honour” he snarled! The other fellow instantly and wisely withdrew from further confrontation. The man of honour continued a bit longer and then left in disgust. Not only that blood-oozing part of the World but all under-developed parts like the Indian subcontinent and Latin America and even fully Western European lands like Sicily are still tribal, too honour-conscious to disregard an atom of ‘disrespect’ from anybody as thgey see it and go about with guns and knives in case they will have to prove their manliness. Which means before or at least simultaneously with eceonomic investment these nations need massive investment in modern education WITH moral and spiritual savers added or retained as the case may be.
If the richer nations can do this they can do it by enriching their own education with moral and spiritual savers. Given the present complacent satisfaction with their hedonism this looks a tall order- but all the same remain necessary.
THE DERELICTION OF BIOLOGICAL TIES
We had explained elsewhere that man’s becoming civilized passes through a gradual expansion of his social horizon whereby he identifies with wider and wider extents to beings. As a newborn man is only and for himself while as a true saint at the other extreme he is one with God in caring for all. In between we have the family circle then the clan its extended form. At this level of civilization morality applies within the family and then the clan. Those outside the clan are fair game. Then out of necessity clans learn to congregate and become a federation called a tribe. Almost all societies in ancient history, including the sophisticated and pompous Greeks and their pupils the Romans were stuck at this tribal stage. The first to break out of this mould was Christianity and then and far more successfully Islam. Islam made its members, at least in principle world citizens of one civilization of universal values-sharing and peace, skipping the nationalistic stage altogether. This said stage however was created in Europe beginning with the French Revolution (1789) and became popular after 1800 in all
Not that Islam, by universalising fraternity and morality denied or suppressed family, clan or national solidarity. One the one hand Islam re-affirmed and reinforced family ties and clannish and tribal obligations while on the other it made their honouring conditional on observing justice across the board. So, a Muslim gives priority to, for example, the fulfilment of his filial obligations to his family first provided he is not committing an injustice to anybody, even a non-Muslim!
If, for example, my group (family or tribe etc.) is persecuting a non-related Muslim or non-Muslim it is my duty, if I have the power, to help the persecuted person. Because serving justice among men is serving Allah and His Messenger and it was for that reason that Islam was founded and Muslims under the Messenger of Allah sws fought against their families and clans and tribes. In other words as far as universal justice and filial obligations were concerned Islam struck the ideal balance not sacrificing one to the other and that has never been matched by any other teaching.
For its part nationalism as a modern phenomenon rapidly destroyed tribal and clan solidarities (in fact these social units disappeared altogether) while at the same time not only eroding the close family ties but also reducing any surviving families into what it called the ‘nuclear family’- mum, dad and child(ren). This also is under serious attack- mum and dad are often unmarried and dad is sometimes unknown let alone be around. The so-called single-parent family is threatening to become the norm in the not too distant future. Even more disturbing is the single sex parents family in which a gay couple look after a child or two who may or may not be related to either of them. The intrinsic if often unspoken assumption seems to be that blood relationship is not important and any adult can play a parental role to any child; there is no natural basis to parenthood and people can play the role just like an actor or actress can play any role in a movie. Add to these the new experiments in genetics like cloning and we have in our hands a total degeneration of natural biological roles and all the rich and profound emotions go with them. Men just ‘loves’ and even ‘marries’ another man and they together raise children obtained by adoption or created by cloning in their names. Which means while normal biological family is being ruthlessly persecuted abnormal and loony ideology-based family forms are being created.
There can be little doubt that this subversion of everything natural with the artificial or false is universalising civilization the wrong way. Instead of Islam’s universalisation of civilizations which is based on universalising the common traditional values of all humanity and thereby making them a single brotherhood the current artificial universalisation by the loony- ideologically motivated is after destroying all common nature-based traditions of mankind and converting them into actors and actresses (until the hoped-for disappearance of sexual differences themselves) playing any role, anywhere, towards anybody with neither compelling emotional attachment nor any sense of the sacred to rule out any abuse or atrocity. Nazis were already committing biological atrocities for loony- ideological reasons, atrocities like exterminating the supposedly inferior races as well as inferior individuals like the physically or mentally defective.
Although we are not that ‘advanced’ yet, the social experiments and their baneful results are already becoming very serious and the consequences include the economic. The decline of the natural family institution as well as its fragmentation are creating a need for more and more homes. In all Western countries there is an insatiable demand for more and more housing units each with fewer and fewer occupants. The single-occupant home threatens to be the norm and at the present may well represent a fifth of all households. Add to this the single-parent and the now normal two-parent with only one or two children households and we see that people for one reason or another are not living together enough but learned to enjoy their own company and cannot bear others being around much. The more households we create with fewer occupants the more buildings we must build and the more fridges, washing machines, TV and music sets… we shall need. By traditional standards these mean waste and compares shamefully with the homelessness or congested households in the poor countries which should be our responsibility to help as fellow human beings.
The waste caused by the dereliction of natural biological ties are thus two-fold- the economic waste as explained and the spiritual bankruptcy because people are forgetting to enjoy their mutual company and becoming lone-wolves surviving on private enjoyments increasingly artificial and imaginary like porn-watching and computer games and net-surfing and the additional waste all those quick and ready meals and other quick fixes to increase their leisure time for indulging their aberrations and perversions. Add to these the almost mandatory drugs to sooth their existential torments and the ever-increasing diseases and their treatments all caused by the meaninglessness and loneliness of their existence and you have a very inflated bill to foot.
Even more ironically the breakdown of social ties and the alienation of individuals amount to the very opposite of their civilization which is their ability to live more as a group than as isolated individuals. No wonder totally unnecessary crimes like child abuse, random rape and murder of total innocents etc. are becoming more prevalent as are many other strange crimes committed by loners and drifters and thus costing the economy billions in policing and punihing and many other expenses. Preservation of biological ties could plummet all such occurrences,
THE WRONG CONCEPT OF FULL EMPLOYMENT
In the traditional socialization model women were not idle but busier than now and employed at a worthier job- the production of highest quality new citizens. Everything else equal, no institution can raise new citizens of higher physical and spiritual quality than the institution of motherhood, especially within marriage, and if raising of new citizens needed improvement by modernization (i.e, giving benefit to it offered by science) the best way for it would not be replacing the natural mother with something else but equipping her with additional skills and tools science can offer. She could be helped in her duties not only with a washing machine but also more medical, nursing and mentoring and counselling knowledge and skills and presto the family home becomes a small private university of child rearing.
Instead of doing this sensible and compassionate thing the modern economy tore the women apart from her natural function she innocently and rightfully shared with all animal species, deprived the young from their best food the mother’s milk and best education the mother’s mentoring and acculturation. The mother is rushed to a workplace from the dark hours and the baby traumatically torn from her is rushed for its part to a nursery to pass another impersonal and confused day in the hands of ever-changing carers doing their job for money and going about it like machines. It is as if everything is geared towards to destroy man’s natural and most nutritious attachment to his genetic roots so that he becomes a more like robot under the thumb of his employers and a more self-indulgent consumer all of which are convertible to cash and more economic growth.
Soon the child’s sensitive, mother-oriented heart loses its tenderness and romanticism (which later becomes love and marriage and loving paretnthood) which are fundamental to spiritual growth and full humanization. Instead the child reluctantly becomes another selfish loner alienated from social and spiritual yearnings and claimed by autistic carnal fixations. Accordingly children as young as 10 or so may begin on both drugs and sex and crime to both finance such a dissolute life in desperate need of more mind and body-fixing consumption items buyable from either the corner shop or the illegal drugs or sex-peddler. Mum and dad are simply too little seen and they may anyway having their own fixes similarly. All these new tastes make the economy grow in favour of the businessman and his underground equivalent the gangster - and the taxman.
The degeneration of the new generations means that new fathers and mothers will be less and less suited to and available for responsible parenthood, which means a vicious circle of destruction of the family as a social and civilizing unit as well as the further degeneration of the new generations shall feed each other to spin faster. The depressing results of this social deterioration are best seen in public schools. Discipline there are more dependent on individual disciplining skills of each teacher than any intrinsic sense of decency and propriety in children themselves (although a minority of them have it) and most teachers are not happy with their jobs and many leave in disgust. In the past teaching was one of the most glamorous and satisfying professions and the teachers had the added happiness of life-long friendships with their pupils by whom they were treated almost like a parent any time they met. Now most parents even do not get from their children what old teachers got from their old pupils. With such advancing spiritual bankruptcy it is no wonder that people are resorting to expensive remedies like more alcohol and drugs, more sex, and with the decline of conscience crime is soaring.
So, modern ‘full employment’ is not about doing the best for the true welfare of the citizen (whose natural equipment are as much for spiritual development and fulfilment- for he or she is a human being and just another mammal) as physical fulfilment in terms of bodily growth and health. A most athletic and winning gangster is not an example of human welfare. An honest, self-supporting, well-mixing and consistently and wisely charitable man or woman is. To produce the latter should be the main objective of all economic activity and an economy which undermines if not entirely writing off family unit is just harming our best interests even if gradually. Catering for man’s spiritual needs should be an inalienable part of economy and an adequate enough section of the population should be employed there- permanently.