|Fighting Out Exploitation|
|Written by Dada Maheshvarananda|
exploitation is a key objective of Prout. Exploitation means an
economic, political or social relationship in which certain persons
are being mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others. This
cruelty and injustice can also be directed at animals, plants or
Exploitation is treating human beings as mere means to an end or mere "objects" or “resources”, with little or no consideration of their well-being. This can take the following basic forms:
P.R. Sarkar points out that throughout history, most moral values have reflected the interests of the rich and powerful. Each ruling class has exploited other classes through force and cunning, creating rules and justifications for those rules to suit their interest. Human history is a chronicle of exclusion and power.
Psychological Roots of Exploitation
Rather surprisingly, Sarkar also asserts that exploitation has psychological roots. He states that when people become increasingly engrossed in materialism (what he termed “carbonic pabula”), their mind gradually sinks towards crude matter. Greed increases, desiring the wealth of others. He states, “Capitalism, state capitalism, communism, nationalism, communalism, parochialism, provincialism, socialism, caste-imperialism, male chauvinism, lingualism… are all the same psychic ailments in various forms and figures.”
In his explanations of Bio-psychology, he explains that in the anahata cakra, the psychic center located in the chest, are the mental propensities [vrttis] of greed [lobha], avarice [lolata'] and hypocrisy [kapat'ata' vrtti]. “Hypocrisy can take many forms, but we are mainly acquainted with the following three: (1) getting one’s purpose served by exploiting or cheating others; (2) unnecessarily dominating somebody to conceal one’s own ignorance or weakness; (3) pretending to be moral by criticizing the sins of others, which one secretly commits oneself.” These negative tendencies exist in every human being, and greed [lobha] is one of the six enemies of the mind. One must constantly fight against these propensities, and meditation, as well as yoga asanas and vegetarian diet are effective ways to overcome them.
Different Forms of Exploitation
Nationalism, which Sarkar called geo-sentiment, when it is expressed as the superiority of one's country over others, is a basis for the exploitation and invasion of other countries.
One type of socio-sentiment is racism. In many parts of the world, people of lighter complexion discriminate against and impose inferiority complex in people of dark skin. Even in so-called progressive societies, people of color have a harder time finding a job, don't earn the same pay, have a harder time renting an apartment, wait longer for a taxi to stop and are stopped by the police more frequently. In fact feelings of racial or cultural superiority are also part of our psyche, and they need to be overcome through conscious communication and working together with people of other groups.
Another type of socio-sentiment is sexism. Oppressive interpersonal relations, manipulation, suppression, domestic abuse and violence are all tragic expressions of sexist exploitation.
Sexism causes many women to have a different experience of education than men. Studies in the United States found that from primary school to graduate university, women are more likely to be silent in the classroom than men. Teachers tend to interact with males more frequently, and females are still directed away from technical and scientific fields. Sexist terms and language are still in many US textbooks, such as the history guide that states “Brave pioneers headed West with their wives and children,” ignoring the fact that the women were just as much pioneers as the men.
Here's a quick question: Name 20 famous women of history (not in entertainment). Most people need much more time to remember 20 famous women than famous men, and many cannot even do it!
Sexism is very insidious, and its expectations hurt both boys and girls as they grow. Boys are often expected to know everything, while too many people don't trust a girl's intelligence. Girls are expected to act weak even when they are strong, while boys are supposed to act strong even when they feel vulnerable. Boys are taught that competition is the only way to prove their masculinity, while girls are called unfeminine when they compete. To free everyone, we must throw away these dogmatic stereotypes.
Religious socio-sentiment also exploits people. Some religious leaders instill dogma, guilt and fear. They deny logic and reasoning, insisting that their followers have “blind faith”. They instill inferiority complex, and extract money, promising “a place in heaven”, amassing great wealth from the people. Instilling the absurd idea that women are somehow spiritually inferior to men was done by various traditional religions to subjugate women to be the servents or slaves of men.
The Reality of Exploitation
Exploitation affects all of us. Take a few minutes to reflect in your life and list the times that you have experienced or witnessed:
The great Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, analyzed four ways that people are oppressed: by conquest, divide and rule, manipulation and cultural domination.
I had the honor to interview Freire at his home in Sao Paulo one month before his death. I asked him about cultural invasion, which he had first written about in his famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I pointed out that in Southeast Asia where I had worked, it is clear that American pseudo-culture is being imposed on those ancient cultures by capitalists, so radical students and progressives are able to mobilize resistance. However in Latin America local programs are produced, so most people do not perceive this sophisticated form of capitalist domination. Freire replied, “Today domination through the economy and politics must necessarily take the form of very refined control or a cultural invasion. At times the invaded do not perceive that they are exploited! The development of our critical capacity is always very necessary, but also more and more difficult.” Pseudo-culture exerts a very negative and divisive influence, confusing people as to who the real enemy is and weakening the people’s will to unite and resist. Freire's appeal for our critical capacity resonates with Sarkar's call to develop rationalistic mentality through study to understand dogmas and resist them.
Freire, and later others, developed the following analysis of what is oppression:
1. Being without power, when you can get power.
2. Only doing what another wants you to do who has power over you due to their social position, rewards and coercions, their technical expertise or referent (attraction) that you lack.
3. Not being able to voice what you want because you do not believe in your voice.
4. Not being conscious of the power game.
5. Not being conscious of the resources you have to transcend oppression.
6. Being temporarily without power (disempowered).
7. A conflict of power between the oppressors and the oppressed.
Theater that Fights Exploitation
Another great Brazilian who worked with Freire is Augusto Boal who founded the “Theater of the Oppressed”. His simplest technique, which any group can easily do with no training, is “Image Theatre”, making images of oppression. The group decides how to represent an example of oppression as a photograph with statues. Static human bodies represent feelings, ideas, relationships. The audience moves about and comments on the nature of the oppression that they see.
“Forum Theater” is a second theater form that Boal created. First the group chooses a real case of oppression that a member experienced or heard about in an intimate way. They develop a short skit to represent it. After the short play is over, the audience is then asked to suggest alternative nonviolent ways to stop the oppression. When someone comes up with a reasonable idea, he or she is asked to become what Boal calls a “spectactor”, joining the play which is repeated and trying out the new words and actions. The other actors try to respond as they think their characters would. This is an excellent way to demonstrate the power we all have to act differently to stop the oppression.
A third technique that Boal created was “Cops in the Head”. Many times oppressed people are submissive because they have internalized voices from their past, such as "you can’t do that", "you're stupid" or "you're no good." These “cops in the head” effectively prevent people from resisting oppression. This skit acts out how the voices of different people from our past are still controlling our lives. We need to identify these voices and liberate ourselves to become revolutionaries.
Neo-ethics to End Exploitation
As we saw earlier in the explanation of Bio-psychology, Sarkar asserts that exploitation and imperialism are deeply rooted deep in the human psyche. To “wipe them out” he says two things are indispensable:
First, the Supreme Entity is to be accepted as one's goal, the supreme desideratum of life. This is because only a spiritual outlook, and the desire to progress towards the Supreme Entity, can overcome deep-seated tendencies for greed and exploitation.
An historical illustration of this can be seen after the successful Communist takeovers in various countries during the Twentieth Century. Many of the revolutionary leaders who had fought and sacrificed to free the people from capitalist exploitation, themselves began to oppress and exploit those who they felt came in the way of their new society. Former capitalists, soldiers, intellectuals and dissidents were imprisoned or killed. Just as exploitive capitalists had treated human beings as a means to an end, the exploitive communists also believed their ends justified the means, no matter how brutal.
Oppression and exploitation of others is done by Marxists and capitalists, by religious leaders and atheists, by blacks and whites, by women and men because it is deeply rooted in us. Which is why a universal spiritual perspective, seeing all as our brothers and sisters, and a devotional longing for the Supreme is needed to free humanity. Prout recognizes the existential value of every being; this value supercedes the social value or utilitarian value of a being. Hence every life has spiritual potential and should be preserved and encouraged as far as possible.
Second, Sarkar says a happy adjustment and balanced blending is needed between material (“carbonic”) and non-material aspects of mind and body. This is the middle approach of yoga, balancing one's lifestyle and daily practices for all-round physical, mental and spiritual health. It is Sarkar's “subjective approach and objective adjustment.”
Sarkar said these two outlooks are fundamental to Neo-ethics, a modern interpretation of the ten ancient ethical principles of yoga, Yama and Niyama. These are universal in nature and spiritual in outlook, guidelines for how to live in peace with oneself and the world. He viewed Neo-ethics as tools for liberation and not for suppression. “This is a panacea for social ills and psychic disorders,… by removing economic exploitation, political suppression, religious indoctrination, cultural imposition and social subordination.”
Dada Maheshvarananda is a yoga monk, activist and writer. He is author of After Capitalism: Prout's Vision for a New World with preface by Noam Chomsky, translated into 10 languages. In 2006 he founded the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela. See www.priven.org or write him at maheshvarananda[at]prout.org.