It’s hard to understand the concept of Gandhian Economics (one of his most brilliant contributions) without the fundamental principle that upholds it: human beings need work. It is as much of an economic principle as it is spiritual, coming directly from the ancient Hindu scriptures, such as the Gita, that says “humankind and selfless service were created at the same time.” Beginning with this idea–that we need to work–already throws a wrench into the machine of capitalist economics, which promises more down time when we turn our efforts over to machines. Really, such ‘rest’ is only an illusion. Human beings rest when they feel they’ve made a contribution (note “selfless service,” in the Gita quote). So he’s not talking about any kind of work, and certainly not dehumanizing factory work for low wages and the promise of a week-long vacation once a year. Gandhi maintains that we need meaningful work; work that draws out the best in us, and places human dignity front and center. Imagine–he actually revived spinning and weaving in India during the Freedom Struggle. People had left it aside, and so whenever volunteers would go out into the villages they would offer courses in the textile arts.
Imagine: what if tool building became a local enterprise, with skilled artisans upholding an ancient tradition, and distribution was local? What if our clothing were a local enterprise, where people learned the art and design of clothes-making? Shoes? Why not? And certainly, it goes without saying, food falls into this category, as well as household cleaning supplies! Whatever could not be produced in small batches by local employees would be called into question: do we need this, does our planet need this? Not only would it solve the unemployment problem, it would re-ignite community building. Gandhi had a huge faith in human creativity coupled with our desire — our need — to do meaningful work. Taking the opportunity to produce the items that we need away from us only creates monopolies and dependencies, in short, violence. A nonviolent society requires that we call everything into question, and our economic model really deserves a review, doesn’t it?
Take stock of what you have around you. What was made with human hands and what was made by factory work? Ask yourself whether it could be produced locally and if not, how important is it?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org