The Doctrine of Universal Acceptance

The central principle and fundamental doctrine of the Western life and philosophy is hedonism: maximum pleasure for the largest number of people for the greatest length of time. The doctrine found its appeal world-wide, and by now it has been embraced by all peoples of the earth including Muslims. Add to the doctrine its own prescriptions and proscriptions, and you have a complete religion. Traditional religions: Islam, Christianity, et al, come next. They are for rites, rituals, and ceremonies. You may turn the Himalayas upside down. But you cannot reverse the order. First hedonism, next traditional religions – if there happens to be a next.

It shouldn’t take long however to figure out that this is a self-destructive principle. For, the question that arises is: pleasure at whose cost? It cannot come at no one’s cost. Consider material objects: cars, telephones, TV, computers, refrigerators, etc. These are considered to be capable of providing pleasure. Of course, they are not. At best, they provide comfort and, at worst, plenty of pain to man and society. However assuming that they do provide pleasure, a large number of people have to toil to produce them for the pleasure of a few. That’s visible around us. Hundreds of millions toil in industries, working day and night to produce these gadgets and appliances. But when they are produced, their quantity is not enough for all to have. Most of them are taken away by those at the top. A few go to those below them, and none to the great many at the bottom – the toilers. In the meanwhile, those who received them want better design, better quality, better performance, etc. The toilers get busy at producing against the new demands. The cycle goes on: products for a few, peanuts for the rest; pleasure for a few, toil for the rest.

Robots proved no answer. While they themselves need to be produced, and then maintained, they need further manpower to run. Every robot requires – directly or indirectly – ten men to design it, produce it, use it and serve it. Those who are thus engaged – busy with the robots – do not enjoy doing it. Computer is another good example. Makes things easy. True. But it is a source of trouble for many. There are millions – programmers and others – who toil before them, programming, running, and maintaining. The difficult tasks are subcontracted to the poor – like those in India – and are rewarded with a salary much better than that of a doctor or engineer. They are also rewarded with back-breaking tasks that include staring at the screen for twelve hours, suffering radiation effects, and queuing up at the hospital for blood clotting. Psychiatric disorders come as bonus. Pleasure for a few, toil for many.

In this system, the more you need of pleasure, the more you will need the material objects; and therefore, the more the people will have to work to produce those objects. So that you never end up with what you can call as the “maximum pleasure, for the largest number of people, for the greatest length of time.” But rather, it works out to be some pleasure, for a small number of people, for a short period of time (waiting for new models to appear) at the cost of toil for a large number of people.

Can this cycle be broken? The believer’s immediate answer would be ‘yes’. That will happen when enough is produced for everyone to have everything of desire. “So, let us get to work. Back to toil.” But consider. The more you assemble in factories, the more of those parts of which they are composed will have to be manufactured. That means more of ancillary industries. And, to do that you will need more of raw material industries. To do that you will need more of mineral processing industries. To do that you will need more of mining industries. Finally, you will need more machinery to help men do all the above: assembly, manufacture, etc. Again, the number of people required for more of mining, more of processing, more of manufacturing, more of assembling will be so high – if everyone has to have those pleasure-giving appliances – that at no stage human population will be enough to achieve the end.

Two more facts emerge. Is there enough raw material on the earth to make available to everyone, all the basic pleasure-giving objects? Let us say a comfortable little house, some furniture, a TV, refrigerator, computer, washing machine, oven, telephone and a few toys for the children. We understand this is a short list for a pleasure seeking people. They will call us ascetics. But let’s move with this moderate demand and ask ourselves: Is there enough raw material in the earth for production of these items in sufficient numbers for everyone to have? We know fairly well the resources this earth has and the answer is a firm no. It has only a fraction of what humans will require for this purpose.

Next, the process of manufacture of pleasure-giving objects started, any idea how long it will take to make available for everyone the items listed above? The answer is: it will take several centuries. So, given the raw material, a great majority of people will remain toiling for next few centuries.

So the West came up with a new bright idea. And all its ideas are bright. Cut down the population so that there are fewer people demanding the pleasure-giving objects. But that bright idea leads you right into a dark tunnel. By its application, the West enjoyed a limited success for its own population, but it was at the cost of the rest of the world toiling under neo-colonial system. (Ultimately they had to import those who would toil for them). In any case, neither adding people, nor removing people will give us any universal solution. To get this clear, imagine that you have on hand just a thousand people and start allocating men for farming, mining, transporting, processing, manufacturing, assembly and distribution, and you will find that you just don’t have enough people for giving everyone what they want. We have not yet discussed research, health, education, art, literature, youth and old age care, vacations, travels and so on. And, can you forget allocation of forty percent manpower for producing arms and fighting the thousand men next door, ready to take away all you have produced if you blinked an eye? If you did, it would be better not to start with the exercise for finding manpower to produce pleasure-giving objects for all. Enough to look at hundreds of millions below poverty line all over the globe. Don’t forget to visit the American slums. One fourth of its population lives in poverty while the rest, save for a few at the top, toil.

But there is no shaking people’s faith in the doctrine. Three hundred years, and yet that exactly is what they are doing at the moment. And that is what they propose to be doing through the next millennium: following the golden trail laid down by the West, under the expert guidance of World Bank, IMF, and other such trappers. (If they refuse to be trapped, they will have to remember the forty percent spoken of above. Remember the Red Indians that were 40 million when the Europeans started pouring into the New World, America, who, at the end of the struggle, were reduced to one million? That’s what happens to a people who refuse to allocate forty percent of their manpower and resources for defence: they end up a Myth). Ever since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been trying to produce pleasure for all. But the fact is they could not even provide basic needs for all. Forget about a comfortable life. Talk not of the pleasures of life. It is true that some people do have things: some things. But where is the life full of pleasures for them or for the others?

Who can recognize an animal better than a biologist? The very first sentence of the first chapter of Richard Dawkins’ best-selling science work, The Blind Watchmaker reads as follows: “We animals are the most complicated things in the universe.” What he didn’t write is that mankind today resembles a donkey with a carrot dangling before it, except that in this case the carrot is a few centuries away, and the distance remains as the donkey advances. Yet “they,” the animals are trotting forward. (They call it march forward). The run will end when materials end – a century or two hence. Hopefully the animal of the biologists will revert to be man again then.

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