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The Marrriage of Mighty Opposites...

 
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:12 am    Post subject: The Marrriage of Mighty Opposites... Reply with quote

The Marriage of Mighty Opposites: socio-economics for freedom & prosperity...

Some of the media hype surrounding climate change and the 2012 predictions may seem far-fetched to some, but must at least give us pause for thought.

Humanity has values in common, call it philosophy, religion or by another name, there are certain things that we can find in common.

Traditionally though, humanity has also suffered from clashes of opposites and imbalances between opposites, but the hopeful aspect of the predicted upcoming upheavals is perhaps that the time has come at last when opposites will come into balance rather than them repelling or being in conflict with each other, in other words it is now time for a marriage of opposites.

Take an example, gender, masculine and feminine. In balance, neither dominates the other, each has its own special gifts and needs, and through understanding each other men and women can live and work together harmoniously.

What’s all this got to do with economics, you may wonder. Well, human values, what we hold in common, can provide a basis for social and economic arrangements, even though these will be expressed in a great variety of ways, in different places and at different times. But how might that work in practice? What do such values provide? What about justice – what is justice and economic justice in particular? There are many ideas about how a just society might be structured, where everyone contributes effectively and draws out what each needs. In the Hindu religious tradition, from where the teaching of Advaita Vedanta philosophy is drawn, which is an expression of the belief in (and indeed experience of) the underlying ‘unity’ of all living things, there are also ideas concerning the social order, in particular a caste system and claims that this would be the ‘natural’ way for humanity to live together in peace and prosperity. But there are those that are considered to be virtual slaves or even ‘outcasts’ under this ancient system, and women tend to be held merely as chattels to men under such systems. So, it would not be appropriate to work towards this for the future, and if some try to enforce such a system we may indeed experience a mighty battle, a clash of mighty opposites, involving both values and gender. However, the basic notion that people can be divided into categories or types vocationally under such systems might translate today as the expression of talents, what we are good at, what we love actually, since these two generally go together. The difference is fundamentally one of control. A caste system is necessarily based upon force or coercion of some type, be it obvious or hidden in some way. Whereas the nurture and development of talents and skills is open and based upon freedom.

The role of women under such a social order as that presented in the Hindu caste system (for example in ‘The Laws of Manu’) needs a great deal of consideration. Modern women may wonder what role they might be expected to provide under any such similar system today. Women have historically been suppressed and even violated for millennia, to the detriment of the whole of humanity. Nature has been ‘tortured’ and plundered to force her to give up her secrets and her gifts for human use. The rising of feminine energy that is also said to be an aspect of these coming events has a pivotal role to play, according to many commentators on this subject. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee describes this period of transformation in his book ‘The return of the feminine and the world soul’. The ‘feminine’ values cooperation over competition for example, it cares and nurtures, not only for its own young, but for the environment and the whole family and society, all quite naturally. We only need to allow it to blossom. To do that the masculine has to step out of the way in terms of allowing the healing powers of the feminine to go to work to protect the environment and to set up systems that will lead to harmony rather than conflict in the future. According to Vaughan-Lee the feminine will need the protection of the masculine in this work. This will be the role of the men. Historically men have tried sometimes to control and even ‘possess’ the feminine, to control nature, but now they need to learn how to protect without overwhelming the feminine, without trying to control the feminine. If they can achieve this balance they will hasten the transformation.

Returning to economics, the ideas of Henry George could perhaps help to provide the conditions which could lead to the kind of socio-economic foundation conducive to freedom, where people’s talents can flourish, conditions where people can find their own level, their own way of contributing to society. Henry George gives us a kind of blueprint for the reform of capitalism to achieve this by harnessing the natural surplus of economic activity (derived from unearned income) for the needs of the community (what we call taxation today). But under a transformed system this tax would not be pernicious. So the Revenue and Customs advertising might actually become true: tax doesn’t have to be taxing! However there is rather a big step between principle and practice. The work of Henry George concerns how to reform the capitalist system to a more fair playing field for everyone. For instance, income disparities. There have been many suggestions throughout history, from Plato to Rousseau, that no individual’s income should be more than a multiple of about 6 to 10 of anyone else’s, in other words the opulent incomes of some compared to the pitiful incomes of others would be redressed. This may frighten those on very high earnings, particularly the bankers! Well, something has to give. The system is not sustainable as it is, and if it is not reformed will simply collapse or implode of its own accord which will be worse for everyone, including the bankers. But this basic concept of Henry George to utilise the revenue attributable to location (or ‘unearned income’) for the communal needs releases the income of those that work from the burden of taxation (ie. income tax: PAYE & NI). This means that the real wages that people earn would rise moving towards that level playing field and helping to ensure that one income in a family would be enough, encouraging women keen to raise their own children, who would be able to afford to. Extended families might not be forced to live so far apart in the search for work, and women might find ways to come together to help each other whilst they also participate in creative and vocational activities, without the pressure of the current 9-5+ drive and competitive conditions in the workplace today.

The release of employment from taxation would have the added benefit of encouraging employers to hire people rather than to capitalise, except where capitalisation is essential. Hence the potential for full employment would also be created, further encouraging a level playing field in incomes, as well as encouraging a move towards more sustainable production processes (based more on labour than capital inputs) and a more balanced distribution of wealth.

At the same time the shift of some of this surplus from private to communal use would also take the drive out of profit seeking/maximising, reducing the extortionately high incomes some receive through unearned income.

Consumerism is also an aspect of imbalance since it is a result of greed on the one hand and poverty (hence envy) on the other, so that some are able to fulfil all or many of their material desires whilst others aspire to the same level of consumption simply because they can see others have it, but all they can afford is cheap mass-produced goods. So, this leads to a drive towards excessive production to feed both the endless desires of the rich but also the needs and desire to be included of the poor, who cannot afford even their needs to be met through quality goods. So, a system that rewards greed creates both poverty and envy and excessive consumerism seems to be one manifestation of this.

But what about philosophy, spirituality, religion and values? Conditions conducive to honesty that run counter to those that encourage greed on the one hand and poverty on the other, that encourage people to give freely of their talents whilst being rewarded equitably, that provide for mothers to be able to nurture their own children and for good education to be available, and encourage diversity in every area of life and production – all these things are founded in a spiritual outlook to life. All are conducive to human spiritual development, perhaps the point is they are founded on a spiritual basis to social arrangements? God or spirit is always there, it is up to us how to live with each other and with nature.

Returning to the title: the marriage of mighty opposites, here the apparently opposing ideas of a caste system based upon the suppression of women, which would inevitably be based upon force or coercion of some kind, versus ideas of thinkers such as Henry George, conducive to social justice based upon equal opportunities, and most importantly freedom, could in the modern world translate as conditions conducive to realisation of talents, where women not only fully participate, but indeed take the lead in the transformation required to bring about peaceful prosperity in harmony with nature.

This period of transformation may be turbulent as traditional conflicts are bound to surface between these mighty opposites, such as that discussed here – a social system based upon caste versus one based upon equal opportunities, until the balancing influence begins to bring the apparently opposing ideas into peaceful harmony. Failure could be catastrophic.
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Richard Glover



Joined: 29 Sep 2008
Posts: 185
Location: Ealing, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yours is a thoughtful post. What appears to be opposing forces can often be seen as mutually supportive when in harmony. Your example of male and female is a good one; a marriage can be of antagonistic opposites or a harmony of complementary forces. What seems to make the difference is a sense in each of a greater whole, which could be called harmony, love, mutual respect, tradition etc. As you wrote, the greater whole can also be made very obvious when everyone's existence is threatened with a global catastrophe.

A scientist can be seen as one who is searching for the laws underlying all things; sometimes this can be a cooperative venture, and at other times there can be intense rivalries. This could be a search for one law or for my status as a scientist or my idea of what the laws are. Equally is true of the philosopher and religious devotee, and we should not forget the economist!

Your comments on the varieties of ways in which common values are understood and expressed also seems true. I do sometimes wonder if our present love of democracy (at least in many parts of the world) is just one of these varieties or is actually the best. If it is one of many, that is best suited to us today with the general availability of education and wealth etc, then perhaps at other times a more top-down approach could be equally appropriate. I do hesitate to judge other peoples and cultures and other times. No doubt many examples can be thrown at me on this, but so be it, it is a personal trait.

Today in our culture, as you say, our differing tendencies are best managed through an open nurturing and development of talents and skills. This would logically also be true of marriage, science, religion and philosophy; we should return to economics as well.

The vision of George’s concept leading to happy families, workplaces and society is attractive. Another thread “Why haven’t the ideas of Henry George been implemented?” was started by you and produced the most posts by far. He may well have been right in principle, but he is virtually unheard of. With the recent soul-searching on how things went so wrong so unexpectedly, his name has occasionally come up, as have his ideas; his picture recently even got to the Financial Times! Nevertheless the world does not seem to be moving in his direction. Everyway that we can discover and express more equitable understandings and visions of social order can help. There does seem to be a lot of work needed here. In a small way, I suspect we both hope this forum could play a small part.

Your description of the caste system in opposition with George did somewhat baffle me, but only because I would have placed George vs modern capitalism as being the conflict staring at us in the face, at least in the "west". The full participation of women in the transformation of society is essential, although I would have expressed some of this slightly differently; I hope that each women and man can take the lead in gaining a greater sense of the harmony uniting us all.

Your final advocating of a social system based on equal opportunities will I am sure strike a chord with nearly everyone. This does recognise the essential freedom of each person. This freedom is best expressed when we work together in society so that greater opportunities are available to each and all. I am reminded of the beauty expressed in a garden, an expression of harmony between gardener and nature; left to itself, nature would have run wild, yet beautiful; the gardener could have spoken about his vision and it may have been a beautiful speech; but put these together with love and respect, and that is a beauty greater still.

Hopefully we can all continue searching and expressing the greater harmony, and for the benefit of all.
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your comments.

You wrote:

Quote:
Your description of the caste system in opposition with George did somewhat baffle me, but only because I would have placed George vs modern capitalism as being the conflict staring at us in the face, at least in the "west".


Yes, I should explain that. It is because it was rather due to an 'internal' SES starting point. I wrote this in March I think and I had in mind a comment I had read in the new translation of the Laws of Manu that has been undertaken by members of the SES (which I forced myself to buy)! Here is the quote (page x of the Introduction) which suggests that some kind of ‘caste’ system may be ‘natural’ for humanity:

"The four classes of society and the four stages of human life

With the aim of promoting stability and prosperity, society is arranged in four classes:

i) The Brahmana, the priest and teacher, performs sacrifices, and studies and transmits the teachings of the Veda.
ii) The Ksatriya, the warrior and ruler, governs and protects society.
iii) The Vaisya, the merchant and farmer, cultivates the land and ensures the material welfare of society.
iv) The sudra, the labourer, offers service in support of all.

A similar division of society is laid out by Plato in the Republic, and is also reflected in the feudal system of the Middle Ages, with the Priest, nobleman, townsman, and serf. Perhaps some such division is natural to all human societies."


So, it was with this in mind that I attempted to try to bring together the ideas I had learned in economics in SES with those of the Hindu tradition about caste and gender which seem to run strongly in the philosophy side of the SES.

So, I agree with you that Henry George's work would be seen as in 'opposition' to modern capitalism, but I think that it is really the reform of capitalism that he is driving at. A shift in the source of taxation to put it in a nutshell.

I have not studied the rest of what you have said properly yet, but wanted to clear up the bafflement, which is quite understandable.

Best wishes, Leonie
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 216
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your observations and comments Richard.

You commented:

Quote:
The vision of George’s concept leading to happy families, workplaces and society is attractive. Another thread “Why haven’t the ideas of Henry George been implemented?” was started by you and produced the most posts by far. He may well have been right in principle, but he is virtually unheard of. With the recent soul-searching on how things went so wrong so unexpectedly, his name has occasionally come up, as have his ideas; his picture recently even got to the Financial Times! Nevertheless the world does not seem to be moving in his direction. Everyway that we can discover and express more equitable understandings and visions of social order can help.


It is interesting that although his work is, I believe, said to have had millions of readers, yet it is relatively unheard of today and contemporary economics certainly does not include his ideas. The problem seems to be one of understanding I would suggest (on the one hand) – people just don’t get it and it takes a lot of effort to understand it all. Most people are either too busy or not sufficiently willing to give it the time it needs to gain a full understanding of the ideas. Also, of course the drives towards private ownership are keeping things the way they are. Vested interests are very powerful and many powerful, wealthy groups and companies would not be interested in a more equitable distribution of wealth. These influences have the capacity to steer politics and governments so things continue the way they are in spite of all the recent troubles. Breaking the mould is very difficult. It makes one wonder what it would take for a more radical reform of economics to take place?

This brings me onto the comments about gender. I understand your point about leadership being the realm of both, but the point as I understood it of the work of men such as Vaughan-Lee is that because masculine leadership and values are still the dominant standpoint today, women need to be encouraged and assisted in taking leadership roles to bring in the feminine perspective.

I think there is great hope for such a 'marriage' of efforts and see it already in some of what might be called fringe activities and groups, but they tend to be grassroots initiatives, and require support from governments, which as we have discussed, is still elusive.

I have not studied Ian’s lecture (World without want) properly yet, but I note that whilst he has pointed in the direction of some solutions, he has not as yet taken the lead in putting forward actual policies for the political level that could be taken up today.

Perhaps Ed Miliband may be interested in the work of Henry George?!
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