Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Collectivism: The Missing Element

by Ram Mohan, July 5, 2011

Thus the key question is why unity among peoples of the world is not being achieved. The failure to achieve unity comes from two extremes:

  • Call for unity without any programme or objectives
  • Unity must embrace everything --  All or Nothing approach

The two extremes arise because of the failure to understand that any unity is for the purpose of collective action.

There is a feeling of uncertainty and of lack of progress all round. That does not mean the struggle for survival, the eternal force of Evolution, is at standstill. Nobody has given up and nobody ever will. But why the apparent random motion is not finding a direction forward is the big question.

There is much talk about the Environment and about threatening (or already underway) climate changes. Most of the talk is about who should bell the cat and only very limited nominal action is being taken, The corporate world which exploited the Environment just the same way it exploited Labour, does not want to take any responsibility except continuing the exploitation as before. Its political mouth pieces resist any changes saying that the corporate world will pass all the cost to the consumers as the profit margin is sacred.

Gradually it is being accepted that the current World Economic crisis is worse than the Economic depression of the 1930s.  The attempts by Governments to bail out the corporate world   have not produced any results but probably leading to a situation when Establishments and Governments need to be bailed out. Again it is the consumers who have to face the music and they are being accused of consumer resistance which is blunted by artificial sweeteners like “buy one and get one free”.

The Global Environmental crisis and the Globalised Economic crisis are certainly the fundamental underlying factors responsible for the uncertainty and lack of progress manifesting in different forms among Countries, Nations and even among all non-state organizations, spreading paralysis. The decaying imperialism rejuvenated into aggressive Globalised Capital but the deepening crises made it to withdraw in favour of the less productive Globalised Establishments whose only strength is UNITY.

Whether it is preserving the Status quo or whether it is preemptive strikes against potential Resistance, the Establishments are united. But the Resistance is divided and isolated, and unable to arrest the spreading paralysis. It is obvious to anyone that the lack of unity among the peoples of the World (particularly when the oppressive globalised establishments are thoroughly united) is the major cause for the spreading paralysis although the environment is soaked with calls for unity among peoples of the world.

Thus the key question is why unity among peoples of the world is not being achieved. The failure to achieve unity comes from two extremes:

  • Call for unity without any programme or objectives
  • Unity must embrace everything --  All or Nothing approach

The two extremes arise because of the failure to understand that any unity is for the purpose of collective action.   No two persons will have the same ideas and same objectives in all respects. As one spiritual leader said there are as many religions as there are human minds. A mirror image can be found only inside a mirror. However it is possible to find common ground and hence collective action for myriads of activities. The extent of collective action can vary from two for a family objective  to billions for a new world order. The more common ones for collective action are trade union demands, student rights, women’s rights, Human Rights, Right of Self Determination of Nations and the like. It is quite common to find the same individual in different groups for different types of collective actions.  A person could be in collective action in the family for the welfare of his family while being in collective action in his workplace for the welfare of mates, in collective action for the liberation of his Nation, in collective action against exploitation in his country as well as elsewhere. It will not be a problem if all these actions are complementary and again that is possible if equitability within groups and equitability between groups are recognized, accepted and practiced. Unfortunately, ignorance, prejudice and the like prevail over equitability.

Ignorance and prejudices blind us from seeing equitability and then inequitability leads to negate collective action because collectivism and inequitability cannot go together.

Man was a Revolution in Evolution. The three cardinal features that distinguished Man from Animal are: Language, Technology and Collectivism. While the development of any of the three cardinal features, enhances the development of the other two, development of Language is more broad based with increasing literacy. But development of Technology and Collectivism is confined and controlled to be in advantage to the ruling class.

Speaking the same Language or singing a song in the same Language, particularly if that happens to be the Mother Tongue, creates a strong bond and facilitates the development of Collectivism since communication is the first step to Collectivism. Technology, defined as the means to convert Resources into Requirements, is advanced by the development of tools and machines and hence a collective effort. Language is the medium of communication and Technology is the medium of action. Words, speech and Language correspond to machines, techniques and Technology

When Man appeared in Evolution, he was physically very weak compared to his predecessors and further the offspring had to be nurtured for a relatively long time compared to his predecessors. Thus Collectivism was a necessity for survival whether in the initial phase of hunting or nomadic life or in the subsequent settlements for agriculture.    The Collective struggle for survival during this period without classes and without property (no surplus) is called primitive communism.

When surplus production was possible due to nature’s abundance or otherwise, the need to store it, the need to protect it etc. created the ideas of property, security, ownership, the classes etc. The idea to control the surplus gave rise to oppression followed by the division as oppressors and oppressed. The oppressors took control of Technology and Collectivism and encouraged free development of these among the oppressors. The oppressed had to be given access to Language to understand the requirements they had to comply with.  Thus the oppressed had to be satisfied with literacy and sustenance to comply with orders and the oppressors developed Language, Technology, Collectivism and even democracy among themselves to higher and higher levels. Thus slavery and serfdom for the majority of the oppressed coexisted with advancing ancient civilizations of the major River Basins (China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece) including ancient Tamil Sangam Heritage.

The abundance of Nature, however, permitted the population to expand until just after the first millennium, when Nature could not provide without significant development in the scale of Technology.  Industrial Revolution was that significant development of Technology in that part of the world (Europe) that was least developed at that time. It was also the period of development of capitalism and evolution of Nations (historical evolution of a community with common territory, common Language, common Technology and common culture). Uneven distribution of resources led to uneven development of capitalism leading to powerful Nations becoming Imperial Powers suppressing weaker Nations as suppliers of raw materials and consumers of industrial products of Imperial Powers.

Since the end of World War 2, the suppressed weaker Nations intensified their struggle for National independence and recognition of the right of self determination. However the former imperialist powers cleverly manipulated the borders of countries without caring for the boundaries of Nations, when handing over political power. Thus while the dominant Nations (eg Sinhalese in Sri Lanka) of countries received political independence without economic independence, smaller Nations (eg Tamils of Sri Lanka) had neither political independence nor economic independence  While this demarcation was the cause of many internal problems as in Sri Lanka, the former powers also clearly laid the ideological foundation for stagnation and status quo. The former powers knew that the interrelated development of Language, Technology and Collectivism is essential for progress and therefore the best way to deny progress was to prevent the local development of these three cardinal features. Development of appropriate local Technology was made difficult by transferring advanced Technology along with the necessary personnel at very high cost.

Further Collectivism was virtually eliminated by propagating the ideology of Individualism at all levels and promoting divisions of sorts in society. This two pronged attack by the Establishments of the World is fundamentally responsible for the lack of unity and lack of Collectivism of the oppressed peoples of the World. While the oppressed peoples are suffering from these machinations of the Establishments, the Establishments themselves are united and fully engaged in Collective action as was the case in Vietnam War or recently in case of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eelam and Libya. During the Vietnam War, the opposition to the war also was globally united as it was in the bipolar world environment. But in the subsequent environment of the Uni Polar

World’s Globalised Capital or the subsequent environment of the Multi Polar World’s Resource hunting, Unity and Collectivism of the oppressed peoples have no chance unless the people can get rid of the cancerous ideology of Individualism and division.

The more the brainwashing in Individualism, the more separation occurs in society; the more the separation, the more individualism is reinforced.  Individualism has its imprint on the practice of Socialism, Science and Spiritualism, thus retarding the progress of all aspects of Life. In social science (socialism) or social affairs, its name is individualism. In science, its name is isolationism and in spiritualism, its name is Ego. In all its forms, it ignores the effect of context and environment and negates Collectivism, the development of which along with development of Language and Technology is paramount for development of Man. It is precisely for this reason, all Establishments promote Individualism.

In the workplace, collective bargaining by trade unions is discouraged in favour of individual work contracts and in most occasions one does not know the salary of a colleague. In schools assessments are based on individual performance, though nothing in the World can be accomplished by any individual by his sole effort. The fact that Money (artificial creation by Man) can buy anything hides the fact that even for a simple action like sitting or walking, we depend on the Labour of many living and dead. Laws of Society and even Human rights are very clear and concerned about individual rights and duties but ignore collective rights and even collective identity. The Right of Self determination of Nations is a good example of collective right ignored as is well known to Eelam Tamils and other Nations without State. It is said that there are nearly 6000 Nations without State of which more than 230 are well defined and well documented while only 193 (including the most recent addition of South Sudan) have their Right of Self Determination recognized by the so called United Nations.

The Ideology of Individualism is so well entrenched in all of us that in all associations including Family and Marriage, we look for what we can gain as individuals instead of thinking what can be done for the advancement of the Association or Union. Probably it was in vain that Gandhi quoting Ruskin said that “the good of the individual is contained in the good of all”. Group prayer (the reason for temples, churches etc) is common to all religions and it is said in Spiritualism that “Ego” is the last obstacle to be cleared before Liberation of the Soul.  It is further said that it is easy to get rid of the unholy ego of “I am the greatest” but it is very difficult to get rid of the “HOLY” Ego of “I am the most pious” or even “I am more pious”. “I” must disappear for ultimate Liberation.  It clearly follows that Ultimate Liberation is a “COLLECTIVE AFFAIR”. So is Liberation from “want” and so is National Liberation. Is it any wonder that in Evolution, Man is distinguished from the predecessors by Language, Technology and Collectivism”?

What is missing for Social and even Spiritual Progress is COLLECTIVISM or Unity for Collective action for common objectives.