Idolatry of Growth

By Rodrigo Saldaña Guerrero
TCRR Columnist from Mexico

Among the most characteristic features of Modernity is the trend to think of history as a linear movement, decided beforehand. It tends thereby to simplify the horizon of thought. Instead of admitting an indefinite number of options that weave an extremely complex but enormously wealthy landscape of possibilities for human minds, this way of thinking solidifies into dogma the fashionable ideas. It considers unthinkable the notion that a dominant current of thought might be altogether on the wrong track. Progress can not go wrong, it maintains.

This trend leaves out of consideration a huge number of interesting options. It also ignores parts of the population that do not adhere to the conventional wisdom. They will have to come round, or else they will be left aside by the ineluctable march of history. I want to point out here to two regrettable consequences of this simplifying.
For one thing, it tends to neglect the value of doing a job well. If market is the king of economical history, betting on it is the only important aspect. How well you administer your business is of no importance whatsoever. If, contrariwise, government intervention is where the future of the economy lays, the skills of public managers is similarly unimportant. History is on your side, and you can not but conquer. I think, on the other side, that you build micro economical factors and they will produce, on time, the macro economical ones. Deciding what macro economical model is right is senseless, unless you take into account its generation from the micro economical level.

I suggest that private and public managers are doing, in general and in Mexico at least, a bad job. Even if the model they have chosen was the right one, in other words, they would be implementing it badly. We have neglected a vital point: helping people develop the skills to do jobs well, any jobs. Most Mexican politicians lack political skills, most Mexican administrators lack managerial skills. Most important skills, furthermore, are communitarian ones. They do not appear in the abstract: they exist to do concrete things. Helping people find their true calling and develop the relevant skills, without knowing in advance what kind of configuration or gestalt they will build with them, but knowing what tasks of human relevance we need to perform, would be a better approach to development.

This approach has to start from the ideas, desires and feelings of everyone concerned. I think that the idolatry of progress described before tends to ignore them, as I have already said. I see in many countries that for the different sides of the political battlefield people on the other ones do not matter. The right side will win, and what the rest of the people feel about it is negligible. Their right to look for other lines of personal development is trampled upon, or their activities along those lines are brushed aside as negligible. This cast of mind tends to personify the State as a Leviathan, a rather strange thing to do complacently for people who supposedly abhor totalitarianism.

In many countries a lot of the citizens do not vote, and of those who do a very sizable percentage side with the opposition. The winning party considers its victory, nonetheless, as crushing and definitive. Besides leaving behind a scandal ridden mess, as other Republican ages have done (the Grant, Harding and, to a lesser extent perhaps, Nixon, presidencies), the Reagan-Bush years will leave an inheritance of division and perhaps hate in the U. S. To act as if the whole people backed them, when in reality a large part of it bitterly opposes them, is surely a receipt for disaster.

But U. S. Republicans are not the only ones to follow it. In several countries a political section is pushing for an agenda of change in legislation pertaining to religious or sexual matters as if being in power was the only important point. What they need to accomplish success is a cultural revolution, but what they are trying to accomplish is just a political coup. Years after a Center Left coalition ended the reign of the Chilean Right, quite a lot of voters continue voting for this option. This means to me that the Socialist-Democratic Christian Coalition has not achieved a clear cultural victory. The issues of the past have not been really resolved. This does not prevent the sympathizers of the winning coalition cheering unreservedly for their triumph, as if it had been truly definitive. The situation in Mexico is even worse.

During the decades of six-year reigns, when a fascist corporativism masquerading as revolutionary nationalism stifled any outside forces (or, at any rate, tried to) there was very little dialogue going on in Mexico. This regrettable lack continues today. The Mexican Left inherited from Marxism several convictions. One is that it is the natural and indisputable representative of the people, another that the State was hopelessly alienated until the Proletariat came to power by force. As a result of this, the Left did not try to convince the people that it was right: history was sure to do the job.

The Left gets in Mexico the votes of a very small percentage of the population, but aspires to impose its agenda on the whole country, anyway. Another feature it inherited is a tendency to a monolithic unity. This cast of mind does not inspire it to remedy that lack of dialogue described above. All this helps make the political scene, in a difficult election year, a contest for power between closed factions, rather than an opportunity for a shared effort in democracy building.

A large part of our world adores growth, considers it inevitable and, also, the solution to any problem around. The growth thus idolized is abstract growth. What we know about it is only that it will happen. The growth there is in a given situation, on the other hand, is a concrete growth. It has very definite features. They are not very nice ones. It generates jobs for people who do not exist (young, experienced, with fantastic school achievements, and who, having all those assets, are looking for jobs) and leaves without jobs more and more real people. It produces things people really do not need instead of those we do need, and it demands that we buy all those things we do not need and can not afford, to keep the economy going.

In other words, the growth we do have is not the solution of our problems, but rather one of their main causes. As far as the political horizons of Latin America are concerned, the trouble is compounded by the fact that this growth has little or no relation with what we really want, need, can. Human development should stem from this that we want, need, can, from the concrete circumstances and human scale in which we live. And these are communal circumstances: this is a trip we must do together. Is the mess we live in, in a large part, the result of trying to conduct it separately, each on our own?

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Educator, Lifelong Student

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