POLITICS IS the method of solving people's problems by means of a government. The political method came in when the methods of self-discipline and religious faith had failed to solve the problems. They failed because they did not adopt atheism. Their failure necessitated the growth of politics.
Self-discipline and religious faith produced good men but not a good society. The Brahmin is a good individual, disciplined in personal habits and clean in personal hygiene. But Brahmins have remained in small and narrow confines while Hindu society in general stinks with filth. Likewise a Christian is polite in manners and fair in thinking. But Christian civilization has been found to exploit colonies and to bomb Hiroshima. A Muslim stands equal with his fellows at the prayer time. But he carefully safeguards his unequal advantages at other times. Obviously self-discipline cannot deal with wide populations and religious faith makes man more formal than realistic. Political method corrects the faults and solves the problems by being social and secular.
When the early priest used cudgels along with curses to punish "sinners", he was employing both the spiritual and secular methods to curb dishonesty. Out of the curses grew the religious method; the cudgels laid the foundations for the political method. The reality of the cudgels gave the political method more power and influence over the people than the religious method could command in the long run. While religion in its own way promoted virtue by promising heaven and deterred vice by inspiring the fear of hell, the political method is largely penal.
Government is the executive of the political method. It derives authority from the cooperation which people give and collects revenues from the taxes which people pay. If a considerable section of the people withdraw cooperation and withhold taxes, any government is bound to collapse. Though the people are thus the masters of their government, the mastership is possible only when the people know that they are the masters. But the slave-mind of the people prevents them from feeling that They are the masters of their government. On the contrary, they subordinate themselves to the very government which they set up and maintain with their cooperation and taxes. Hence in theistic civilization, kings rule as masters and people obey as subjects. Therefore, instead of serving the people by solving their problems, the heads of the State in theistic politics enslave and exploit the people. Kings grew autocratic, tortured the people and built their palaces and places of amusement with slave labour. The Colosseum of Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Kremlin of Russia, and the Taj Mahal of India are examples of the pride and pleasures of kings, while common people lie in miserable hovels.
Rationalists among politicians saw the injustice in political domination. They asserted the freedom of the people, rebelled against kings and replaced monarchies with democracies. Naturally, monarchists and royalists regarded democrats a heretics and persecuted them as such. Indeed democrats roused the spirit of freedom among the people and led the revolt against the godless theism of political domination.
Unlike monarchies wherein kings succeeded hereditarily, the heads of State in democracies are elected periodically by the people. Besides taxes and cooperation, democracy provides people with another control over their government in the form of the vote. Not only through non-cooperation and no-tax [tax rebellion] but also through voting differently, democrats can topple their governments and change their political chiefs. Thus as the word itself signifies, democracy (demos = People, kratos = power) is more a government of the people than kingship was.
A significant feature of democracy is the establishment of political equality among the people. Universal adult suffrage invests each adult with one vote, not less not more. This is indeed the establishment of political equality. The implication of democracy is that, if it worked well the political equality should lead to the establishment of equality in social respect and economic opportunity also. The all round establishment of equality would solve several of the problems of the people. So democracy enunciates the principle of equality and provides for its realization through political channels.
A right does not bear fruit unless it is accompanied by the consciousness of the claim. The consciousness is not possible as long as one believes that his life is ordained by powers beyond him. Therefore atheistic outlook is indispensable for awakening the consciousness and the will for the real working of democracy. Without avowed atheism, democracy turns into a formality of the exercise of voting franchise without deriving the benefits that are intended by it.
It is a sad fact that the fathers of democracy were heretical enough to overthrow kingship, but were not avowedly atheistic to rouse democratic consciousness among the people. Rousseau, who inspired the democratic revolution in France, believed in the supremacy of the Great Will and Voltaire did not disbelieve in the existence of god. Like several prophets, they were only partially successful in liberating people from theistic politics. Consequently, after the transient period of political uprising, people fell into the stupor of theistic beliefs. They became the slaves of the representatives whom they elected with their vote. The old story of the master becoming the slave of his creation repeated again in the age of democracy also.
In the absense of control from the people, the elected representatives, especially the presidents and ministers, are no less indifferent towards their duties to the people than kings were. Periodically the voter is coaxed or even coerced to exercise his franchise and there ends his mastership till the time of the next election The legislators are free to use the powers and revenues of the government for personal gain. Despite the voting franchise and political equality, the common people in democracy lie under the heel of their representatives. Equality is a subject for talks at election campaigns rather than a reality to be enjoyed in democracy. The democratic checks of Recall, Referendum, and Initiative do not improve the lot of the common man as long as he remains theistic.
The political ignorance and the slave-mind of the mass of voters in democracy give scope for the rise of political parties. Like the trader between the producer and the consumer, political parties function as middlemen between the voter and the government, and thrive on the political ignorance of common voters.
Parties may be actuated at first with the honest desire of channelizing the aspirations of ignorant voters. Each party professes a policy for the solution of the problems that confront people. The difference between the several parties is ostensibly the difference between their policies. Because decisions in democracy go by a majority vote, any party can serve the people well only when it obtains the majority of seats in the Legislative House. So each party competes with others to secure the majority of seats at elections or through defections, and the fight for power gets precedence over the desire to serve the people. The fight for power between the parties turns politics into power politics. Power politics is the inevitable consequence of the party system in democracy. Besides, neither the majority nor the minority party nor a coalition of parties is in a position to serve the interests of the people. The minority parties cannot serve the people because they have no power; the majority party cannot serve the people because the minority party does not give it peace. The minority parties constantly manoeuver to unseat the majority party and keep it on the defensive with hardly time left to think of the people. The little benefit that people get from democracy is from the administration of permanent services rather than from any of the parties.
Though the parties differ in their policies, all the parties have the common objective of serving the people. In that case, why do not all parties join to serve the people, instead of competing for power? Further, since democracy consists in the freedom of expression, it is possible that there can be as many policies as there are members in the legislature. Yet the democratic method of decision making requires that, after a free discussion on the several policies, the decision should be taken by a majority of free votes. Such a method allows scope for free expression of views and also for the mutual appreciation of different points of view. Thus democracy is essentially an open-minded approach to the solution of problems.
Open-mindedness lays emphasis for the solution of a problem not on any one policy but on a consensus of several policies. The various policies are but means to solve the problem. Each is important in so far as it helps the solution and is liable to be modified in relation to other policies. The final policy which evolves after a free discussion of several policies happens to be a synthesis of all of them. So to swear by a particular policy is evidently the dictatorship of the advocates of that policy but not democracy. In fact, party-ridden democracy, wherein the parties are bound by their respective manifestoes, blocs, and whips, is virtually the dictatorship of the majority party.
In the context of the open-mindedness, opposition plays a significant role in democracy. For the opposition to be useful, effective, constructive and dignified, it is necessary to regard each member of the legislature as honourably as the rest. But the party structure enables the party in power to vote down the opposition every time with its brute majority of votes, unless the majority party condescends to agree to the concession the opposition party begs for. Thus the opposition commits suicide when it becomes a party. In party-ridden democracy, the opposition has, at best, a nuisance value rather than a useful role. Whereas in naked dictatorship, the opposition is physically liquidated or is nonexistent, in party-democracy, the opposition is politely set aside. So for the opposition to be real, it should be partyless. The use of the opposition consists not only in the freedom to express the opposite point of view but in the possibility of the view being accepted. Party structure denies this possibility. Therefore, real democracy should function partyless. All policies, including the opposition, should be kept free and fluid. One who clings to his point of view, may be a martyr for a cause, but not a democrat.
A democratic cabinet accepts the decision by the majority of free and fluid votes of the legislators, present and voting, even when a proposal of the cabinet is rejected or amended. If the cabinet threatens to resign every time its proposal is not accepted in toto by the House, the government becomes the dictatorship of the cabinet, but not a democracy in spirit. The essence of democracy is respect for difference of opinion and acceptance of the decision by a majority of free and fluid votes. The condition is fulfilled when the legislatures are freed of parties. Such a democracy is stable and useful to the people since it solves their problems.
Another defect of the present democracy is that it functions as Nation States, sometimes with unwieldy populations and territory. The Nation State is not only sectarian from the standpoint of humanity, but it is too big to enable the representatives of the people to be in intimate touch with the people of their constituencies and to know their changing needs and growing ambitions. So the administration is becoming increasingly impersonal and bureaucratic, dealing more with files of papers than with beating hearts of the people. Hence the legislators are prone to use the powers and revenues of the government for personal comfort and prestige because of sheer helplessness to deal with huge populations, even though they are honest men in themselves. Therefore, National Republics rule over the people rather than serve the people.
Like partylessness, decentralization of the present Nation States is necessary for the proper functioning of democracy. Decentralized democracy organizes small and handy units for basic administration. The basal units consist around a thousand of the population and a territory of about twenty square kilometres. The size of the population is more important than the extent of territory, because the administration has to be in touch with every individual within the basal unit. By and large, the possibility of personal touch within human limitations of memory and direct reach is the aim of decentralization.
Each basal unit elects its committee for administration. The committee attends to the changing needs and growing ambitions of its people. For the satisfaction of the greater needs, like communications, exchange of produce, travel, and research, the basal units are progressively federated into larger units, tier by tier, until the whole humanity and the world comes within its compass. Each tier will have its own committee elected by the committees immediately at its base. The apical committees attend to the general needs, while the basal committees attend to the immediate needs of people.
Such a federated system of decentralization cuts across the sectarian considerations of nationalism and minority interests, which cause war and strife. Also, as every individual belongs to one basal unit or another, he is assured of social security in the unit. The system can replace the narrow family loyalties for the care of the individual. Leaving filial affections and conjugal love to the tastes of individuals, the system of decentralized democracy is an effective alternative to the old and conservative institutions of caste, tribe, and family. On the one side, it attends to the individual, and on the other, it enables him to grow into the World Federation of one humanity without the need of narrow loyalties to a nation or to a sect.
A type of decentralization was in vogue in ancient times. The City States of Greece and the Ganas of India were indeed basal units. But, as they were not federated progressively, they went to war with the neighbour units. In modern times, the Kibbutz of Israel, the Soviets of Russia, the Communes of China and the Panchayats of India correspond to the plan of decentralization. Yet they function within the limits and protection of the Nation State and so they are not free from the evils of Nationalism. The League of Nations and the United Nations Organization have the world outlook without the counterpart of decentralized basal units. Only Sir Arthur Morgan, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, and Jayaprakash Narayan could conceive the entire plan of decentralization and of federation together.
Democracy, partylessness, decentralization, recall, referendum, and initiative are methods which bring a government closer to the citizen. But they remain formal and do not yield the results they intend, unless man feels that he is the master of his government. As long as man continues to be slave-minded, he submits to a government of any form just as he surrendered to a god of any type. Hence the best of democracies turn into dictatorship. A dictatorship is not different from monarchy, except that in monarchies people obey hereditary princes and in dictatorships people obey unscrupulous demagogues. Slaves abet tyrants, whether the tyrants are priests, kings, or dictators.
The recognition of freedom of the individual gives a new complexion to atheistic politics. At first, it transfers the sovereignty from the State to the citizen. Though, in principle, democracy recognizes the sovereignty of the people, in theistic democracy, the sovereignty is enjoyed by the party chiefs in the name of the people, while people themselves remain slaves under their representatives. The atheistic outlook makes the sovereignty of the people real and effective.
The test of the sovereignty of the people is the establishment of equality. Though the universal adult suffrage established political equality through the principle of one man, one vote, the political equality has not led to equality in social respect and economic opportunity, because the people had not felt free enough to assert their sovereignty and compel the government to legislate in favour of social and economic equality. But atheists feel fully free. They assert their sovereignty and see that they achieve economic and social equalities through appropriate legislation.
Tax, cooperation, and vote have been the links between the people and the government. Because the slave-minded people had not used these controls effectively, people's problems remained unsolved by the government; and the forsaken people had no succour except prayers to god. Atheism changes the outlook. The activation of controls is Satyagraha. With no-tax, non-cooperation, elections, and direct action, people compel their representatives to legislate in favour of the establishment of social and economic equalities. Satyagrahaacts through persuasion, if possible, and through pressure, if necessary.
Since people were not awakened atheistically, democracy could not deliver the goods and thereby gave scope for the rise of terrorism. Atheistic awakening renders secrecy and violence unnecessary. Atheistic politics proceed to solve people's problems by means of active participation of the people in their governance.
The foremost among problems is the economic problem.
ECONOMICS deals with the satisfaction of man's material needs. The needs range from food and shelter to comforts commanded by conditioning air, ordering automatons, and using drugs. The material needs are different from the desire for honour, power, and pleasures of fine arts.
Because one has to live in order to live well, the satisfaction of material needs is the first obligation on human affairs. Yet man does not satisfy the animal needs in an animal way. Ideological considerations influence economic endeavours. Zealots smile at privation and persecution. Hope of heaven enables millions of people to endure the hardships of poverty with resignation. An affront of insult spurns luxurious comforts. As man's mood is thus a significant factor in the enjoyment of material comforts; attitudes of theism and atheism affect his economic relations.
Passive sufferance of inequality in theistic civilization allows difference between the rich and the poor to remain. Side by side with modern methods of agriculture and technology, which produce a ''surplus" of food and fancy articles and create new genetic forms of plants and animals, we find hungry people crying for food and fighting for place to live in. Charity is the only source of relief for the impoverished, and in theistic civilization, the needy live at the mercy of the greedy.
Atheistic economics is different. As all men are free, they strive to have equal opportunities to live and to live well. The promotion of equality in the satisfaction of the material needs of life is the principal feature of atheistic economics. In short, atheistic economics means the establishment of economic equality.
The two methods in vogue for the establishment of economic equality are Marxism and Gandhism.
The Marxian method is socialism or common ownership of means of production. But what is the symbol of commonness in which the ownership can be vested?
Because government is the executive of social relations, it is the effective symbol of commonness. In the context of a nation, national government, and in the case of the world, world government are the symbols of commonness. Therefore, in practice, Marxism means the State ownership of means of production. Wherever the Communist Party, which is devoted to Marxian ideology, entrenched itself in political authority, it replaced private ownership of means of production with State ownership, and attended to equitable distribution of economic produce for equal satisfaction of material needs of the people under its sway. Thus Marxism fulfills its purpose of establishing economic equality.
Gandhism adopts a different method for achievement of the same objective of economic equality. It is the method of Trusteeship. Trusteeship recognizes individual ownership of means of production. But Gandhism hopes that each individual would act as the trustee of his property and would share the benefits equally with the rest of people for common good.*
Judging by the results, Marxism and Gandhism could not proceed far to establish economic equality. In spite of their spectacular success at the start, both were halted in their march.
The Gandhian principle of trusteeship is intrinsically atheistic, inasmuch as it upholds freedom of the individual by respecting the individual ownership of property. In his zeal for the freedom of the individual, Gandhi was averse to the authority of a centralized government. He advocated the cause of "enlightened anarchy" and explained, "In such a state everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbour. In the ideal state therefore there is no political power because there is no State. But the ideal is never fully realized in life. Hence the classical statement of Thoreau that that Government is best which governs the least".*
Gandhi was convinced of the imperative need of economic equality. He regarded Working for Economic Equality "the master key to non-violent Independence".* In his lifetime, he was engrossed in the fight for the political freedom of India. He had scarcely time to develop the principle of trusteeship beyond its enunciation and persuading his nearest colleagues, like Jamanlal Bajaj, to its practice. Nevertheless, he warned: "A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of the riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good."**
In the post-Gandhian period, Acharya Vinoba Bhave popularised the principle of Trusteeship and put it into practice on a mass scale in the movement of Bhoodan-Gramdan (Land Gift). Its initial success was amazing and it attracted wide attention. But its progress slowed down considerably. In the end, it could not achieve half as much in the direction of the establishment of economic equality as Marxism could with its materialistic philosophy. When the first flush of enthusiasm subsided, the language of religion which Gandhi and Vinoba adopted as a part of the non-violent technique, settled down people in the old ways of conventional inequality.
The main drawback of the method of Trusteeship is its non-political character. In the modern age when social relations are growing in width and complexity, the institution of a government is indispensable to regulate relations. Evils of centralization should be obviated by increase in the democratic consciousness of the people and their control of the government, instead of dispensing with the government altogether. Therefore, the non-political stand of the Bhoodan-Gramdan was a mistake which rendered the movement pleasantly idealistic but regressive in practice. It could develop no sanctions for its promotion except persuasion, which, when it was couched in the terminology of religious faith, led people into the old ways of theistic slavery rather than encouraging them to work for free equality. Trusteeship became another word for a charitable disposition in a system of economic inequalities.
Further, the non-political position is tenable in principle, if people went to demolish the existing institution of the government with complete withdrawal of cooperation and taxes. But to ignore the government while paying taxes and respecting its laws is like maintaining a servant at a high cost but not taking service from him. So the religious terminology and the non-political stand seriously hampered the progress of Trusteeship towards achieving economic quality.
Marxism has projected the image of economic equality more markedly than Trusteeship has. It has enlisted wide support to its cause of socialism and has taken rapid strides towards the establishment of economic equality. But the method of class struggle which is described by Marx, has the same defect as the non-political stand of Trusteeship. Marx considered that "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles"* and that the government at any time is a reflection of the stage of class struggle. The present experience, however, does not lend support to the claim of the supreme importance to the class struggle. Wherever socialist governments are formed, the Communist Party captured power, not by the much-professed graded class struggles, but by mass revolts and army coupes, as in the case of conquests by non-communists. More recently, in Kerala (India) and in Chile, the Communist Party could get into power through open democratic elections. At best the promise of economic betterment which is very pronounced in Marxism, raises hopes in the downtrodden and gets their sympathy more for the Communist Party than for the non communists.
Yet the Communist governments have required totalitarian authority in order to wrest the private ownership of the means of production and to socialize them through State ownership. Not infrequently, people have resisted attempts at socialization and the dictatorship of the Communist Party. Propaganda against communism, on the score of loss of individual freedom, could mobilise people against communist regimes, and anti-communist armies have their victories too. The prolonged war in Vietnam and the division of the world into the Socialistic and the Democratic blocs illustrate that what is significant in history is not the class struggle but the conflict between the two groups of people who are for and against economic equality, regardless of their present economic situation.
That, in human affairs, consciousness counts more than the "class structure" is borne out also by the experience of the working of the Trade Unions. Trade Unions are class organizations which are mainly intended to safeguard the economic interests of the downtrodden against the exploitation of the richer classes. If the economic interests were supreme, each Trade Union ought to stand solid. But in reality, Trade Unions are easily split on appeals to religious faith, racial distinction, and by affiliation to political parties. Working men wage war against each other for national freedom rather than uniting to break their chains.
In countries like India, that have just emerged from colonial domination, big sections of the population lead a hand-to-mouth existence due to backward economy. Even if they do not forcibly overthrow social institutions, as Marxism expects of them, they should support Communist Party at elections, because the Communist Party is the spearhead of the proletarian revolution. But the millions of the downtrodden actually cast their votes in favour of the candidates who are known for their capitalist interests.
Again if the circumstance of poverty could create revolution, no circumstance was more compelling than the Bengal Faminein India in 1944-46. Thousands of destitutes died of hunger in the streets of Calcutta by the side of shops that were laden with provisions and food. A hungry dog would have pounced on the shops and swooped away some food from the stalls. Why, then, the hungry destitutes did not loot the shops ? All the police force of the city could not have prevented the rush of the desperate destitutes on the shops. What made the destitutes die of hunger rather than pounce on the shops was their co event ion al respect for private property and their ideology of fatalism. Therefore a revolutionary situation does not spark off a revolution unless the people have the revolutionary consciousness. Evidently the consciousness is more important than circumstances. Millions of 'Untouchables' and 'Blacks' have remained degraded and downtrodden for hundreds of generations because they lack the consciousness of freedom and equality. So the Marxian maxim that the "social being" determines the consciousness of man is not confirmed in practice. On the contrary, the consciousness of men is creating new situations in life.
The stalwarts who created socialist revolutions, like Marx, Engels, and Lenin did not belong to the proletarian class. To consider them declassed denies the basic principle of Marxism that consciousness corresponds to the class structure. Further, if Marx and Lenin could be declassed, any other could be de-classed too. The claim is as absurd as the first cause.
Trade Unions fail to achieve the objective of economic equality, because the diagnosis of the situation is false. In reality, the poor do not hate the inequality and rebel against it; they are as much capitalist-minded as the rich. The poor envy the rich and want to be rich themselves instead of wishing to abolish the private ownership of property and thereby pave the way for economic equality. A man longs to share property with the richer and not with the poorer. So it is the poor man's capitalism that protects the rich man's wealth, because the poor man does not help to abolish private ownership of property.
There is no class struggle in the social relations. The theistic society is a flux of inequalities, each one competing with others for a better place. Strikes by Trade Unions receive support in so far as they stimulate the selfish interest of the members by the inducement of higher wages. The slogan that keeps up Trade Unions is "higher wages for us", but not "food for all". Trade Unionism expresses selfish group interest rather than the desire for social well-being by the establishment of economic equality. Therefore, the socially conscious persons like Lenin and Ho Chi Minh required political dictatorship to regiment people for social well being.
Both Gandhism and Marxism were halted in their march towards economic equality, because both of them adopted a non-political approach. Trusteeship and class struggle related man to man without reference to government. In substance, if the rich man gives away his extra advantages to the poorer brother, it is Gandhian trusteeship; if the poor man takes away the extra advantage from the richer brother it is Marxian class struggle. But in the modern world, the economic problems are not so simple as to be resolved by simple giving or by simple taking. The institution of the State is developed in order to regulate the complex relations between man and man. A more realistic approach to establish economic equality is to solve the problem through State authority than to ignore it. In fact, though trusteeship and class struggle are non-political in principle, both Gandhism and Marxism had recourse to state authority to solve the economic problem ultimately. (Gandhi worked for the political freedom of India inter alia other colonial countries, while Marxists established political dictatorship for implementing socialism. Realistically, therefore, atheistic economics makes a political approach to the economic problem.
A government is common to all its people, the rich and the poor, the White and the Black, the young and the old, men and women. It also belongs to all people because they pay taxes and give cooperation directly or indirectly. Therefore it is the right of every citizen to demand from the government effective economic change.
A government means the personnel of the government. The personnel are different from the ordinary citizens as long the personnel hold office. They stand in a representative capacity, different from an ordinary citizen. Whereas a citizen can request a fellow citizen for a favour, he can demand the task of the government personnel. A citizen is a friend but the government personnel are servants of the people, whatever place they hold.
Theists could not get economic problems solved by the government because in their slave-mind, they cringed for favours from the government instead of getting things done by the personnel of the government. Theists regard the personnel of the government as masters and themselves as subjects. Atheists are different. They know that the personnel of the government are the servants and that they are the masters. So the atheists achieve through the government what the theists failed to do.
The atheist form of government is necessarily a democracy, since atheists brook no dictatorship. So atheists go to control their government through electing proper personnel at first, and next through the check of Satyagraha on the abuses of power by the personnel, as and when they occur. With such control over the government, atheists get the appropriate legislation passed for the establishment of economic equality. It is equally possible in a democratic setup for the theistic traditions to linger. They and the vested interests in economic inequality may oppose the legislation in favour of economic equality and pressurise the government in their own way. Indeed the confrontation is the occasion for atheistic education of the people. As the atheistic consciousness rises among the people, the appreciation of equality grows and asserts itself in the establishment of economic equality.
Partly due to the impatience of the communists and partly due to the materialist philosophy of godless theism which lacks faith in the freedom, of all individuals, Marxist method rushed to achieve economic equality through socialist political dictatorships. But their progress is stemmed by the democratic forces. So the Marxian method failed to proceed with the establishment of economic equality. That which is achieved through the consciousness of the people is more stable and progressive than anything forced on them. Hence atheism is superior to Marxism.
The equality achieved through atheistic economics touches an aspect of human personality which socialism neglects to appreciate. Respect for the dignity of human personality is as important as the satisfaction of the material needs. Prisoners do not feel happy, though they are assured of the schedule of food and amenities equally among all convicts. The sense of restraint in a prison damps the pleasure of their comforts, though some times they are luxurious also. So it is not food alone, but food with dignity is the need of mankind. The meanest of beggars more often than not refuse food thrown with frown. It is the concern of atheistic economic therefore to provide food with dignity for all.
Atheistic economics has two aspects, the first is personal, wherein he gets comforts with dignity; and the second is the social, wherein the comforts are provided for all the people.
The range of one's society may be narrow like a family or a nation or the whole humanity. While the limit of a family for economic consideration is the most common in the conventional life of individuals, a state is concerned with the nation under its rule. Atheists who have the human outlook should go beyond both limits and think in terms of the whole humanity. The comprehension may look ordinarily ambitious or even unreal. But to an atheist who feels a human, the consideration is natural. Though his government feels national, an atheist presses upon his government to share its benefits with more backward nations. Of course, in the context of economic equality, the distinction of affluence and of backwardness is invidious. On the other hand, the fall in the economic standards of one in the attempt to share advantage with another is certainly its gain in the moral level. And moral considerations are important in atheistic economics.
Food for all does not seem to be difficult in industrialized civilization. In some countries, like the U.S.A., the surplus food is posing the problem of prices. Instead of destroying the food for keeping up the price level, if the food is distributed, it would feed more mouths. Liberalization of the rules of immigration distributes population more evenly over the globe, brings more land under cultivation, harness river waters and produces food sufficient for all. Population explosion does not seem to be as much a threat as restrictions on the utilization of recourses. Free initiative and human ingenuity have immense potentiality. So atheism which seasons economics with ethics promises to provide food for all.
While provision of food crosses a big hurdle in human affairs, food with dignity is necessary to give scope for the development of human personality. Socialist regimes and affluent societies do provide food for all under their rule. But regimentation and doles of social welfare deprive individuals of the sense of participation in their affairs and narrow down interest in life. Therefore, atheistic economics recommend the organization of handy communities in which members live in close personal relations. The material resources of the community are either commonly owned or equally shared. Water and power supply, and health and educational services are fit for common management while agricultural farms and housing facilities can be shared personally. In such communities all members participate in commonweal and satisfy material wants equally to the extent they are available. The general level of life of the community rises with growth in the facilities of the community through common effort of the members.
As every individual belongs to one community or the other, it follows that the material needs of all people are attended to with dignity in their respective communities. The progressive federation of the primary communities into the world federation, tier by tier, opens the scope for every individual to grow beyond his community into dimensions as wide as the world according to his taste and talent. While primary communities are concerned mostly with basic needs of individuals, the tiers of federations not only manage wider needs like communications and exchange of produce but offer facilities for special interests like research. The primary communities themselves grow in size and scope with increase in social consciousness.
The impersonal character of urban civilization pushed out the many to fall into lethargy with a sense of helplessness after the satisfaction of animal needs, while a few exploited their passivity and built up unequal advantages. The community life, on the contrary, is highly personal and participatory. It cares for everyone, enthuses everyone, and helps the growth of individuality. Billions of people working in millions of communities produce wealth far greater than a few big factories can and thereby afford material facility for promotion of personality.
Thus in atheistic economics, man raises himself beyond the animal level and becomes an equal partner in social relations. The need for conflict, small or big, is at once removed by personal attention then and there.
Atheistic economics alters the form of technology from service to a few big interests to service to all human beings.
ORGANISATION of society and the use of tools are the two aids that have enlarged man's power of achievement to prodigious proportions. Out of social organization have sprung up the systems of ethics, politics, and economics. The making of tools have developed industry, agriculture, engineering and medicine which constitute technology.
Like the shaping of social institutions, fashioning of tools is wholly a product of human imagination. Animals use tooth and claw to manipulate food or to make burrows. But a child uses a stone to break a nut, a spike to dig the earth, and a pole to reach a distance. A recluse sitting in a cave may avoid society, but he uses some utensils and some improvised tools in everyday life. Tools have become a part of human life. Modern technology has increased man's powers as far as to promise holiday trips to the moon, to preserve youthfulness and to banish death.
In view of the potentialities of technology, it should have made man's life secure and comfortable. But the growth of mighty machines is creating unemployment among the people, except under conditions of socialist dictatorship. Industrialised Europe has thrown the millions of Asia and Africa out of employment. The manufacture of nuclear weapons has strengthened the hands of imperialists to annihilate fighters for freedom. So instead of benefitting humanity, the advances in the system of technology in vogue has proved a menace to human well-being.
Evidently, in the course of the theistic civilization, technologists have been amoral and sometimes immoral. They sold technological skill and achievement to capitalists and to imperialists for personal profit. Ignoring the claims of humanity, they became active accomplices in colonial wars, racial discrimination and communal prejudices. They were eager to find out the climate and contour of distant planets, but they were in the least concerned with their next-door neighbour's joys and sorrows.
In this plight, the addition of moral consideration gives technology the atheistic orientation. The criterion for the moral consideration is the amount of social benefit that accrues from a technological achievement.
The construction of a big machine is indeed a notable achievement of technological skill. A worker with a big machine may produce a hundred times the goods more than he can with simple tools. It is a gain from the technological point of view. But looked at socially, what should happen to the other ninety-nine fellowmen, whose work the machine has appropriated? They should go unemployed and depend either upon the doles of charity from the manager of the machine or on a dictatorial authority to distribute the produce equitably. So big machines render unemployment and capitalism or socialist dictatorship necessary. Even when some kind of equitable distribution is assured, big machines bring the problem of leisure in their wake. Many idlers enjoy what a few laboriously produce.
Suppose a type of work, like club-life or literary pursuit, is created for the idlers; it is bound to be different from productive labour. The other work also may be useful to the society in a way, but different persons will have different types of work. The differences in the work will entail division of labour.
Social organization based upon the division of labour works well where the several members are organically dependent on one another, as in the case of the bee-hive. Queens, drones, and worker bees are structurally different and are inter-dependent to constitute the whole colony. But ail humans are alike. Division of labour is not possible among humans, unless they are regimented by religious faith or by political dictatorship. Voluntary division of work is but an expediency and a temporary phase.
The caste system of Hindu social order was a stupendous experiment in the division of labour. Its binding force was faith in fatalism. Each Hindu believed that he was destined to be born in a particular caste and to do a particular work by the deeds of the previous birth. He could improve his caste only in the next birth by better dutifulness to his caste of birth in this life. Such a rigid system of caste, which was bound by religious faith and with threats of social ostracism, failed in the long run when the Hindus breathed an air of freedom, especially when democracy sponsored the political equality of all people. Today, caste distinctions impede the social progress of Hindus. Hindus cannot mingle with the main stream of humanity without reservations. So division of labour is not conducive either to the establishment of equality or to the development of social relations. Therefore, the method of social organisation for humans is cooperation among free and equal individuals. Accordingly, the mode of technology should fit into the needs of cooperation. This new technology is atheistic technology.
Atheistic technology adopts decentralization. Instead of a few big machines, it uses many small machines. Of course, operations like mining, metallurgy, and heavy industries stand on a different footing. The produce of each small machine is sufficient for the growing needs and comforts of an individual or of a small group of individuals. Small machines promote individual self-sufficiency at least in so far as the basic needs of life are concerned, like food, comfortable shelter, clothes, health, education, and recreation. The division of labour in which certain skills are monopolised by certain groups of people is avoided. On the contrary, atheistic technology will demonstrate that any individual can develop any skill. The possibility of the independence of the individual is the basis of co-operation. Otherwise dependence, not only in the case of the ownership of the means of production but in skillfulness, also gives opportunity for exploitation. Thus the atheistic technology of self-sufficiency which preserves the freedom of the individual, and avoids unemployment and exploitation; it replaces benevolent capitalism and dictatorial socialism with democratic cooperation.
The use of big machine in a Socialist State ensures equal distribution of economic goods. But in such a system there is divorce between the machinery of production, namely, the big industry, and the machinery of distribution, namely, the State authority. The separation of the functions requires dictatorial authority for the distributing agency, namely, the government. With this authority, the government of a Socialist State not only directs but controls the production in order to distribute it equally among the people. Even when the government owns the factories, the functions of production and distribution remain separate. When the functions are separate, it is possible for the dominant function to make the other subordinate to it.
But the atheistic method of decentralization contains the distribution within the method of production itself, that is, each one produces unto himself what he needs. But this is an extreme case of self-sufficiency and the freedom of the individual. Ordinarily, man is social, and a social group can be trusted with some amount of division of labour. A few can produce for others who may be engaged in such avocations as education and health services which are not strictly productive labour from economic point of view. But such a division of labour will not lead to dictatorship if it is confined to the limits of personal association among the members. In other words, socialization up to the basal units in a system of decentralized polity is not harmful, and is desirable, too. Such a socialized administration which is under personal knowledge and direct control of all the members of the basal unit is distinctly different from the Socialist dictatorship of the centralized administration, which is removed far out of personal touch of the citizen. Economic equality is, of course, the same both in the case of a Socialist dictatorship and of a decentralised participatory democracy. But the difference between the two is that the former entails dictatorship which curbs the freedom of the individual, whereas the latter gives scope for freedom of the individual along with economic equality.
Further, technology deals with tools and test-tubes which, like the files of papers of a bureaucratic administration, are essentially non-human. Unless the tools and files are kept small and under effective control, they impersonalise the modes of working, and tend to make social relations dry and cold, instead of keeping them sensitive and loving. The labour strikes and managerial lockouts that are characteristic of big factories and industrial combines in capitalistic economy betray the callousness with which the interests of the labour are treated. Also the production of nuclear weapons and the pollution of air and water with effluxes from factories and with sewage from cities totally disregard the security and safety of fellowmen. The indecent haste with which inorganic fertilisers are used to increase food production with a view to gain profit pay little attention to the health of consumers. The rapid depletion of mineral wealth and of coal and oil resources of the earth gives little thought to the needs of the generations to come. These evils are avoided by decentralized technology. Man to man relations can be preserved only in small scale industry. Moreover decentralized technology and handicrafts do not diminish the quantity of production. Just as a thousand candles together burn ten times brighter than a hundred-watt electric bulb, many small machines produce far more than a few big ones can.
Decentralization and handicrafts do not mean diminution of the articles of comforts that man desires. It only means equal distribution of the comforts among all the people. The comforts can increase limitlessly, provided each increase is available to all people.
Atheistic technology is made possible by atheistic awakening. When people feel free and equal, they cannot suffer the immoral distinctions between the rich and the poor, between the master and the servant, between the skilled and the unskilled, between the Brahmin and the Sudra. All men are alike in structure and talent. Geniuses are as rare as morons, and their occurrence does not affect the normal course of social relations. Atheistic awakening removes the sense of inferiority that the theistic faiths created in the masses of people, and rouses them into equal activity and gives them equal facility for the expression of talents and tastes.
AESTHETICS is the freest expression of human imagination. Philosophy, ethics, politics, economics and technology restrain imagination with the requirements of method and morality. In aesthetics, imagination soars free into the realms of fancy and creates fine arts. The appreciation of fine arts is called the sense of beauty.
Ideals, plans, and speculations are also exercises of free imagination. But they are directed to definite objectives. With no tangible objectives, they turn out into utopias and acquire the character of poetic imagination.
The separation of imaginative life from real life renders aesthetics enjoyable and dangerous at once.
Freed from moral responsibilities and the needs of truthfulness, aesthetics afford the pleasures of lotus-eaters. The joy is the most when saints in seclusion meditate on spiritual bliss. Poets, painters, sculptors, singers, and dancers are more social than saints. They give outward expression to their subjective experience and thus share their joy with others. The best of them tell the most of it. Yet there are restrictions inherent in the means of communication. So theists consider silent spiritual bliss superior to song and dance. Thus bliss is wholly personal while art is social also.
Art is not always for art's sake. A singer not only pleases himself but likes to please others when he holds a concert. Likewise pictures, verses, statues, and ballet are to delight others also. When a hungry man stops to listen to a musical note or to enjoy the colour of a daisy, the sense of beauty does not appease his hunger, but it illustrates the basic similarity of all humans in the desire for the beautiful. So the pleasure of art is more general than personal.
The freedom of the aesthetic pleasures from the hard realities of living contains dangerous consequences also. It distracts people from the production of material wealth. In a social order wherein inequalities prevail, the rich indulge in fine arts because they live upon the labour of the poor. They beautify their homes with ornamental flowers because they eat the food which the farmers grow. Roman lords enjoyed sport because gladiators died for their entertainment. In capitalist and aristocratic cultures, fine arts are turned into profession. Artists played to please others more than to please themselves. Moreover, art for job or for joy neglects to provide for the needs of life. The nobility appropriates the little that is produced and indulge in sensuous pleasures. The common people, from the depths of destitution, gaped at the heights of pomp. In the ages when art flourishes, man stands degraded. Roman art, French court, and Moghul pomp dug their own graves.
Atheism, with its devotion to equality and morality, assigns to aesthetics its rightful place in the scheme of life. Art should come next to food. The shades of difference in artistic talents do not justify inequality in the opportunity to live well. It is but the greed of a few to appropriate leisure for themselves in the name of art and force the many to drudge to feed the few. So the establishment of economic equality should take priority over the expression of the aesthetic talent.
Moments of joy should not be divorced from the acts of real life. Life should be a continuous stream of pleasure without the crests of ecstacy and the depressions of drudgery. Everyone can learn to do every act in a beautiful way. Our dress and our gestures, our hair styles and manners of conversation, the words we write and the houses we live in, each can be made to look beautiful in its own place. The separation of work from play and of factory from club leaves dreary deserts in the span of our life. Taj Mahal with slums by the side of it is a monument of imperialistic pleasure rather than a work of art in life. On the other hand, atheistic aesthetics beautifies every moment of life of every man.
Theistic festivals and sports are examples of the separation of art from labour. Festivals are occasions when people relax from arduous duties. Far from producing material wealth during festivities, they use up the store that they had accumulated earlier by production. Likewise, sport is unproductive labour. While turning a millstone to grind corn is considered labour, it is sport to turn a heavier stone but not to grind corn. Whereas tending a fruit orchard is labour, pruning roses is a pleasure. Atheistic aesthetics, on the contrary, associates production of material wealth with pursuits of pleasure.
Strangely, the relations of sex have evoked the most artistic expression among humans. The act of sex gratification is mingled with attempts to make the person and place, the mood and manner, to appear beautiful. The raptures of sex have provided a variety of themes for song, poetry, dance, painting, and sculpture. The nobility of sacrifice and acts of heroism are associated with sex relationships.
Early religion combined acts of sex with their ritual and revelry, partly due to the needs of procreation and partly in response to the aesthetic cravings. But organised religion, which developed strong notions of other-worldliness, distorted life by despising sex along with all mundane desires. The austerities of religious discipline were severe on sex relations. Yet human passions are too strong to be diverted into the unknown regions of the other-world. The beautification of the places of worship and the pleasures of festivities have not proved adequate substitutes for the sex impulse. Requirements of religious respectability created surreptitious means for gratification of sex. Though adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are denied social or religious sanction, they do have shady dealings in theistic societies.
The influence of religious belief on sex relations was two fold. First, it organised the family into a rigid institution; second, it imposed secrecy on sex relations.
Family was already a unit of economic and social security. Religious belief added sanctity to family relations. It formalised marriage with religious ritual, laid down rules of inheritance, restricted the dissolution of marriage, and prohibited sexual relations outside marriage. Moreover religious faith extolled the virtue of celibacy and looked upon a celibate with greater respect than upon a married person. So orders of monks, nuns, friars, rabbis, mullahs, fakirs, sadhus, and sanyasins became integral part of religious organizations.
Woman's lot became harder by the imposition of religious restrictions on sex relations. A man can contract secret sex relations with impunity. But woman's motherhood is an open witness of a sex act. Between the two parties to the same act, man goes free while the woman has to bear the full responsibility of the situation. The unwed motherhood of Kunti and Mary could not be concealed by the outstanding achievements of Karna and Jesus. So myth and miracle were woven round to justify their irregularity. Millions of women should be silently suffering the torture of cruel custom without religious protection. The difference between man and woman in this respect and the justification for polygamy are a sordid confession of man's selfishness. Several kings took pride in harems of concubines while women were kept in Purdah, veiled from a stranger's gaze and preserved as private property.
Atheistic aesthetics remedies the injustice done to women by discrimination between sexes. Woman is not an object of man's pleasures. She is as much entitled to satisfy her aesthetic pleasures and sex desires as man. So she can be liberated from the shame of unwed motherhood, when family loyalties are revised and the surreptitiousness of sexual relations is removed. Secrecy is anti-social anywhere, and more so in the realm of sexual relations.
The family has been a hoary institution which represented the beginnings of social organization. On the one hand it provided social and economic security to the members of the family, especially to those who are too young or too old to look after themselves, and to the sick and to the disabled. On the other, it provided for sexual pleasures through the alliances of marriage. Despite the advantages, family has been a tiny unit of social association, too small to meet the demands of an ever expanding civilization with its widening social contacts. So what was a useful unit in early times has proved an impediment in course of time for the progress of human happiness.
Two evils result from the outmoded institution of family in the modern age, namely, sectarianism and suppression of women.
The dos and don'ts that gathered around the family traditions encouraged inbreeding to tighten the family ties. The conventions of endogamy preserved the purity of features and culture. But endogamy bred sectarianism too. The sectarian attitudes of caste, race, region, and of nationality are the result of inbreeding. The sectarian pride of purity of race caused wars and conflicts in the modern world. The disasters that accompanied the notions of "Aryan Kultur" under the Nazi regime, of the "two nation" theory of Quadi Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and of the policy of "white-man's" superiority in South Africa, Asia, and Australia threatened to destroy civilization itself by plunging it into the bloodshed of war.
The conventions of marriage that formed a part of family tradition, allowed less freedom to woman than to man, especially in sexual relations. Thereby, family loyalty resulted, by and large, in suppressing womanhood, which forms half the population of the world. The examples of Jhansi Laxmi Bai and Joan of Arc are exceptions that prove the rule. The opportunities of men far outnumber those of women who are confined to the home and kept under purdah.
In the modern age when the State takes up the functions of social welfare and economic security, family loses half of its weight. The Women's Liberation Movement tears the purdah and claims for women equal opportunities with men. So family relations can no longer enjoy the privileges of former times. It can remain only as a symbol of filial affections and of conjugal love. Nothing prevents a man and a woman and their children to live together, but they do so with free choice but not in obedience to a custom. Yet promiscuity looks outrageous to those who are accustomed to man's impudence. Just as democracy sounded the death knell of imperialism, promiscuity overthrows masculine supremacy and takes a big stride towards the equality of sexes.
At first, mixed marriages mark the transition from conventional marriages to promiscuity. Mixed marriages contract alliances outside the traditional sanctions and widen the scope of marital selection. Inter-marriages between persons belonging to different castes, religious denominations, racial groups, and nationalities pave the way towards the development of one humanity, Of course, a marriage alliance affords emotional alliance also, along with sex satisfaction. Yet, it attaches a stigma to unwed motherhood and imposes a special handicap upon the women. Just as the Blacks are discriminated in humanity by virtue of the colour of their skin, the woman is discriminated by virtue of her motherhood.
It is promiscuity that removes the basis of discrimination by colour of the skin as well as by motherhood. Wide promiscuity blurs the ethnological characters and there will be no motherhood by wedlock. The woman becomes an equal partner with man and stands as a mother to a child without reference to a father by wedlock. The advantages of promiscuity for the establishment of equality of women with men are effectively realised when the responsibility of social security is taken up by the State.
Promiscuity has its outstanding advantages in the modern world. It pulls down the sectarian walls of caste, race, community, nation, or region and proceeds to mingle humans into one humanity. As promiscuity spreads, ethnological features too get blended and blurred. The wide mingling of humans and the objective of one humanity removes the causes for war and conflict.
Inbreeding is found to degenerate vitality and vigour. The purer the castes or communities, the weaker and the more susceptible to disease they are. The hill-tribes everywhere and the Jews of Kerala are examples of such deterioration. On the other hand, extensive cross-breeding reinvigorates humankind with virility and hardiness.
Family loyalty exposed woman to man's lust and compelled her to bear children. Except having recourse to contraceptives and subjecting her health to interference with drugs, she had no alternative to restrict child bearing. Marriage was necessary in primitive times when growth of population was needed. Now if the population explosion is a reality, then married life is sure a disadvantage. Discarding of marriage allows the option to the woman to have or not to have children. She cannot be compelled by a "husband" when her interests forbid bearing children. So discountenancing the system of marriage limits population by rational means.
In the absence of easy divorce ties of marriage formalise love and compel affection. Promiscuity keeps love ever fresh with the freedom to choose the companion. Just as private property encourages selfish interest, man's or woman's sense of possession of his or her partner in marriage rouses envy and ill-will in social relations. Promiscuity, on the other hand, allows free choice of the partner and gives dignity to sex relations.
Promiscuity frees woman of the reproach from motherhood outside marriage which had oppressed woman so long. Fatherhood loses importance and motherhood gains respect as a source of filial affection and the nursing of children. Celibacy, for long or short periods, is a matter of individual likes. It has no more value than fasting for reasons of health.
An important outcome of promiscuity and removal of secrecy from sexual relations is the development of aesthetics independent of sex. Sex is as necessary for procreation as food is to satisfy hunger. The secrecy that surrounded sex raised unnecessary curiosity and morbid interest in sex. All the activities of life seemed to be centred around sex. It was a lopsided development of life, which ignored the ideals of fellow feeling, moral dignity, and freedom from fear and want.
When sex is open, humans lose the unhealthy interest in it and divert their attention to nobler ideals. Colours of clouds, murmurs of brooks, the nobility of service and sacrifice for common good, and moral excellence should attract artists more than sexual passion. The expression of aesthetic taste is not impaired; in atheistic aesthetics the theme changes from selfish interests to social good. That is beautiful which makes others also happy.
The Atheistic Way of Life
THE ESSENCE of atheism is the freedom of the individual. Freedom releases the immense potentialities of human imagination, initiative, and effort that lay suppressed under theistic faith. Free individuals feel masters of situations. The mood of supplication and complaint, inherent in prayer to god and petitions to government, has no place in the atheistic way of life. Atheists always assert; they never surrender. They take no failure; everything is an experience that improves the method for further attempts.
Atheists too have their faiths, fancies, and ideals. But their scientific outlook distinguishes between faith and truth. Accordingly the purpose of life changes. It is not the fanciful salvation after death, but happiness here and now. So, with technological skill, atheists harness wind, water, and earth for the fulfillment of man's desires. They endeavour to control drought and disease and bid fair to conquer death. The by products of artificialness, like over population, pollution, and depletion of natural resources, are dealt with realistically through decentralization.
Atheists face facts without fear. "What is to be done?" concerns them more than "Why it is so ?" Findings of post-mortems in social affairs have their limitations with atheists who open new avenues with fresh initiative every time. For history seldom repeats itself with atheists.
The mundaneness of atheists does not stagnate in self indulgence. Kings and capitalists had to escape into spirituality for peace and consolation. Atheistic mundaneness, on the contrary, increases social awareness and keeps atheists busy in zealously guarding the needs of honesty and equality. Atheists are militantly social. Injustice and inequality anywhere is the active concern of everyone everywhere. Obviously, poverty, violence, and discrimination have no place among atheists.
The distinction between the majority and the minority communities loses validity in the atheistic way of life. Whatever label minorities take, race, language, nationality, culture, economic opportunity, or political party, all claims of minorities are basically sectarian. Atheism which mingles all people alike in one-humanity cannot allow such claims. Everyone has to feel free and live equal with another, without taking shelter under the cover of a label.
Theists also talk of one-humanity. But they cannot promote equality, since they do not recognize freedom of the individual. The recognition of the freedom marks the difference between theism and atheism. So atheism succeeds where theism fails
In the attempt to mingle all people together, habituation to dos and don'ts stands in the way. Different sets of dos and don'ts, pertaining to details of life like dress, diet, form of address, type of work, and days of rest, have kept apart groups of people in conflict with one another. Theism sustained the differences through force of custom and faith in vision and divine revelation. But atheists are realists. They know that dos and don'ts are expediencies of common understanding and routinizations of common chores. They have to change with the needs of people. All morals, civilities and habits are subject to sociability, ease, and equality. A do or a don't that breeds sectarianism, secrecy, or discomfort is evidently outmoded and it has to be rejected and a new one formed to keep life happy, progressive, and sociable. No do or don't is abiding except as a social obligation to be consistent in word and deed.
While the individual is the basis of all civilization, he fashions aids and systems to facilitate ease and association. The best aid in modern times is the institution of a government. Therefore atheists are political. They control the government and bend it to serve their wants instead of allowing it to exercise authority over them. Indeed, people are masters and governments are servants.
Thus the atheistic way of life is full of initiative. It continually progresses towards increasing happiness every time through scientific understanding and technological control of the forces of the world. Its objective is equality; its method is openness; its means is political action; its driving force is the moral freedom of the individual.