To Swaraj, Or Not To Swaraj… Swaraj
Despicable, disposable consumerism will be the epitaph on the grave of modern industrial capitalism once we’ve dirtied too much water, damaged too much arable land, and mined too many of our available ores to sustain our consumption. Marketers convince us to buy products based on brand association and relative pricing rather than quality and durability and landfills receive the brunt of this excess.
Products built to match modern consumer demands focus on low prices and flashy extras to attract consumers, and to benefit the producers the products are built to stop working within a certain time frame, preferably after the product’s warranty is voided. This has lead to massive dump sites full of relatively new electronics, appliances, and vehicles that leak pollution into the environment.
When Gandhi entered a war of peaceful non-cooperation with the British Empire one of his strategies was to undermine the Corporate stranglehold the British had on India. This resulted in a movement for Indians to spin their own cloth, and make their own clothing using Indian grown raw materials. It came to be known as the homespun movement and it weakened the strength of Britain’s textile industry on the Indian economy. He also encouraged a general boycott of British industries and institutions. Years later and after entering and leaving jail this strategy culminated in the victorious campaign that made the British finally provide significant concessions to the Indian people. Journalists witnessed British soldiers beating thousands of peaceful Indians as they lined up to harvest salt, which British Imperialism demanded control over, from the Indian shoreline.
This strategy of noncooperation which Gandhi employed to overcome the British Empire might be a necessary ingredient in the fight to save industrial society from itself. There is a massive oversight in the economic perspective. The perspective sees the law of supply and demand for reaching an equilibrium price as a natural law but it relies on human approximations of value which are created with imperfect information and can be artificially altered with incentive and disincentive. When we price oil, the plasm (as in blood) of industrial capitalism, we aren’t calculating the value of the decrease in air quality that comes with every gallon of oil we burn. And we aren’t counting the destruction of ecosystems as the companies spill or improperly ‘dispose’ of oil to save costs. Our perceptions are skewed by the massive subsidies these industries are able to lobby out of our governments to produce fossil fuel energy. Therefore, the concept of price that economics gives us does not accurately illustrate the costs that we pay as a society for oil.
In that same vein of thought, when we buy disposable commodities we aren’t considering the lifetime cost of their wrapping. This concept of Cradle-To-Grave production is contrasted with Cradle-To-Cradle production in the book of that name. The book is printed on a paper made from recycled plastic and it looks toward creating a paradigm shift which would emphasize using environmentally sustainable technologies and practices in manufacturing which bring a benefit to society and the environment after the product is used-up, rather than being a burden.
Now, the Indian allegory applied to the world today would see the ‘consumer’ people as the Indian populace and the capitalists as the imperialist British. They have occupied our spaces and overrun our governments, they are in the process of sucking the wealth and resources out of our economies, they’re using the martial forces that our taxes pay for against us, and they are winning/destroying the Earth’s capacity to hold us. The people need to strip their power and influence away from them. Research in the social sciences and popular sentiments indicate that peaceful resistance will be our most accepted and successful strategy. This all points toward a strategy of nonviolent, noncooperation in the crony corporatist economy and the development of networks to serve the needs of the people in the meantime.