From the book: The Eye of the Needle by Richard Turner
The Christian human model is one of freedom and openness. To love means to be free and open to other peep Certain kinds of social institutions make people unfree in themselves by subjecting them to hidden conditioning mechanisms, and also make them unfree for other people, by setting up harmful power imbalances between people. Freedom for oneself and freedom with other people require certain kinds of social institution
Only in a participatory democracy can we both cooperate freely and openly with other people and at the same time maximize our own personal range of effect be choices. Only in a participatory democracy are we able to develop the psychological skills and the knowledge required for social action, to control the meaning of our work, to control those hidden social forces that places constraints on us in a capitalist society and to minimize the abuse of power that threatens in all organization life structures. The imperatives of organization we have come across require planning and a certain amount of decision-making hierarchy. But there are mechanisms that can be used to minimize the problems arising from this. Those "imperatives of human nature" 'that are usually advanced as arguments against the kind of society envisaged are, we have seen, the products, rather than the causes, of contemporary society. They cannot prevent the operating of the Utopian South African society I have described.
We must now finally return from "utopianism" to "all other things being equal" realism, to the argument that in fact all other things will remain equal: that the change in consciousness that would replace competing egotists by individuals seeking loving communication with their fellows will not occur; that therefore we must place all our hopes and articulate our strategies within the present social and political framework; that we must try to ensure simply that within a consumption-oriented capitalist society, the extremes of wealth and poverty do lot grow too great.
The best way that I can demonstrate the practicality of my utopianism is by showing the impracticality of such "realism." Leaving aside the question of whether the continuation of the present is desirable, we must ask: Is the continuation of the present a possible future? The answer is that it is not. The stability of present capitalist society rests on growth. It requires growth because capitalism is intrinsically growth-oriented. It also requires growth because the only way that those at the bottom of what are still very unequal societies can be kept happy is by the promise that eventually, 'through continued economic growth, and if they don't rock the boat, they will get what those at the top are getting now. But there are limits to growth: And those limits are not in the far distant future. They are probably within our lifetimes, and certainly within the lifetimes of our children.
The limits to growth are twofold. There are limits to the physical resources of our planet. And there are limits to our ability to dispose of our own rubbish. If we continue to expand our production at the present rate without pollution control, then we shall suffocate our planet, If we do introduce widespread measures to minimize pollution these will increase considerably the capital cost of production and thereby will use up even more resources. Even leaving pollution aside, as the accessible mineral resources are used up so more old resources have to be used to discover and extract new resources in more and more inaccessible places. Neither atomic energy" nor "science" is likely to solve these problems. The use of atomic energy requires a rare our more that is just as likely to be soon exhausted as are or our more usual fossil fuels, coal and oil. Nuclear reactors also produce dangerous radioactive wastes that are very difficult to dispose of safely. "Science" may course come up with some new technical solution to the problems of pollution and resources. But it is not likely to. And it would be highly unscientific to continue merrily along, on the assumption that "a new invention will appear as we reach the brink.
Unless we end our obsession with growth and reallocate the resources that we do have left to provide for our vital material needs-food, shelter, and health-we can look forward to a future of famine, growing inequality, social conflict, and universal hate and fear in the struggle for survival.
Population control is, of course, important; ultimately the world cannot sustain the present rate of population growth, even if we all live at survival level. But it is only part of the answer. For several decades past the United States, with 6 percent of the world's population, has been accounting for about 50 percent of the annual use waste of resources. The average American consumes about much as twenty-five Indians. This is not a very good position from which to preach to the Indians about the dangerous pressure of population growth upon the world's resources. The United States economy drains off resources from all over the world and is, at the moment, by far the biggest single threat to our common heritage. They a Similarly in South Africa, the white minority, with an average income about twelve times as great as that of blacks, consumes far more of the country's resources than does the black majority. White consumption control would be a much more effective means of immediately protecting those resources than would black population control.
The argument against an unequal society and an unequal world is practical as well as moral. An unequal society is expensive. Resources are continuously wasted in control mechanisms. Those on the top have to have a hierarchy of control and a vast organizational bureaucracy to make sure those at the bottom are doing the work they are being paid to do. Those at the bottom are interested in their wages, not in their work. They waste physical resources and they waste their creative capacities.
Ultimately this wastage of human resources is even more serious than the waste of physical resources. As we have seen, the nature of the social structure and of the socialization processes in unequal societies is such that those at the bottom are stunted. Blacks in South Africa, workers in a capitalist society, women in a male-dominated society, all of these are deprived of their autonomy, of their ability to create, to innovate and to participate. What society has made of them is then produced as an argument for the necessity of the continued existence of that form of society.
A grossly unequal society is immoral at any time. In our time it is also stupid. We can no longer afford the waste of resources involved. We can no longer afford to stifle creativity, inhibit cooperation, and foster fierce and destructive competition for scarce goods.
We have no choice but to look for happiness not in things but in relationships with other people.
Meanwhile in South Africa, the whites are preparing to fight to the death for the right to own a second car.
They are arming themselves to kill people for more things. How practical is it to want a second car when the world is running out of petrol? How practical is it to try to pass a camel through the eye of a needle?