From Critical Thinking:
“An economist wrote a letter to the Financial Times recently: [December 11, 2014]
Sir, Reforming immigration policies for Europe — and the other rich countries — may not even be needed if the technology gurus have it only half right (“Ageing Europe needs new blood to restore its economic health”, Global Insight,” December 8). The prospects for adopting labour-saving technologies in many of the labour-intensive sectors in the economy are improving annually: self-checkout at supermarkets, self-check in and out at hotels, self-ordering and bill settlement in restaurants, self-administered health diagnostic tests and so on all translate into a reduced need for workers per dollar of gross domestic product on the one hand, and fewer total workers along with higher levels of GDP on the other.
Horses were used extensively on the farm and in transport in 18th and 19th century America and Europe, but once mechanisation and electrification were implemented, and the railroad, automobiles and buses became commercially viable as transport alternatives, owning horses became a hobby of the rich, and the horse population declined quickly and dramatically. The same can probably be said about humans in the 21st century: we just don’t need that many of them — and, in the rich countries, they are expensive to “produce” (prenatal and postnatal care), “assemble” (nurture and educate), and “maintain” (from adolescence to death).
Ira Sohn, Professor of Economics and Finance, Montclair State University, NJ, US”
“Sohn’s letter is an exemplar of the psychological impact of today’s political economy, alluded to last night by Robin Upton in his presentation, the Stockholm Syndrome of Money at Birkbeck College, London. Money simplifies complex social decisions into a simple profit and loss equation, in which conditioned self-interest is the dominating influence. If the meaning of life is to make money, the logical decision is to eliminate “dead weight” in the form of excess human beings. Slavoj Zizek explains it in terms of utilitarianism versus the abstract and ethereal.
“For Zizek, the issue of ‘disposable lives’ in the contemporary period does not simply relate to some small or invisible minority. According to the new logic of global capitalism, the vast majority of the worlds citizens (including almost entire Nations) are deemed to be worthless and superfluous to its productive needs. Not only does this point to new forms of apartheid as the global cartography for power seeks to police hierarchies of disposability, it further points to a nihilistic future wherein the aspirations of many are already being sacrificed.
“While Sohn’s proposition is accurate to the extent we don’t need so many people to work, clearly the current political economy is incapable of responding to the paradox: we need fewer people to work but the economy needs “consumers” with adequate income to sustain it.
Not new but seldom expressed so clearly
Here we find another example of “Free” Market Euthanasia being promoted from the highest echelons of the Economists club. Without shame, without compassion, without a shred of doubt. It is exactly as many students of Economics and some lecturers setting up the Rethinking Economics movement are denouncing: neoliberalism is the only model worth teaching and implementing. Thatcher’s TINA (“there is no alternative”) continues to dehumanise one of the most important areas of human culture.
So the sign of the system is violence, not just the violence of war and torture but Economic Violence that kills many more people than any other form of violence. Any person who dies of a treatable disease because of lack of money dies of Economic Violence, any person who dies for lack of drinking water dies of Economic Violence, every person who dies trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape famine and disease dies of Economic Violence, every trafficked person forced to become a slave or a prostitute is a victim of Economic Violence.
And according to Professor (?!) Sohn et al, this is the way it should be.
Active nonviolence is the only way to transform this violent system
Many people wonder why the pitchforks are not coming out, since inequalities are so blatant. The answer is that they are, just in the wrong place and the wrong way. The system has taken care to promote violence as the only way to fight violence. From endless remakes of vigilante heroes’ movies to we-want-the-young-to-rebel Hunger Games (no matter how lovely Jennifer Lawrence might be) the message is always that you have to start or join some violent initiative to fight for justice. And we know full well what today’s options are. So the system has absolutely no problem to neutralise rebellion, or use it for its own purposes on a case by case basis.
Active nonviolence is not just about going out to protest in a nonviolent way, but most importantly to create a Culture of Nonviolence, a coherent set of practices based on the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would have them treat you” (Silo, and many, many more) to reach all areas of society, including the 1%. There is no doubt that establishing the classic “us and them”, in this case 99% v.1%, resonates with millions of people, but if we are not capable of setting up an all-inclusive future there is no way out for this violence. A Culture of Nonviolence is a Culture of Reconciliation. A letter like the one to the FT could also be seen as a form of provocation. “Keep them angry because that keeps the system going.”
Paradoxically, do not try to scare your oppressor, for fear is the enemy of compassion. I guess “Professor” Sohn deep down must be a very scared little boy. All bullies are, and cover their fear by ill-treating others.
The politics of “too many people in this planet” is also echoed by more local “too many immigrants in this country” parties. Does it ring a bell?