An Evening with Dada Maheshvarananda, Author of After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action

Afri – Action From Ireland are pleased to present an evening with monk, author and activist Dada Maheshvarananda who is in Ireland meeting with leading activists, academics and public figures, including President Higgins.

Dada was born in the U.S and as a student, he adopted a radical approach to social change, and was inspired to become, in the words of Che Guevara, a “true revolutionary guided by great feelings of love.” In 1978 he became a monk in India, dedicating his life to the service of humanity; since then he has continuously worked in different parts of the world. He teaches meditation, yoga and other techniques for personal transformation free of charge, and the Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), a post-capitalist model to empower people and communities to create a better world.His most recent book is After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action was published in 2012. His first book, After Capitalism: Prout’s Vision for a New World with a preface by Noam Chomsky was published in 2003 and has been translated in 10 languages. In 2007 he founded the ProutResearch Institute of Venezuela in Caracas, where he currently serves as director.

The meeting takes place at Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey St. Dublin at 7.30pm on 17th February.

Entry by donation.

Register online here or email admin@afri.ie

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Column: Why We Need to Move Beyond Capitalism

Global capitalism has failed the world but we now have an opportunity to forge alternative ways forward, according to author and activist Dada Maheshvaranandal, the man Che Guevara described as “true revolutionary guided by great feelings of love.”

Capitalism supports a common belief, an unconscious assumption held by many people that rich countries, companies and people became rich because they were smarter and worked harder. This unspoken, unverified belief is not only widespread among the rich, but, sadly, many middle class, poor and uneducated people in the world also share it. Everyone who shares this belief will logically also believe that poor countries remain poor because their people are not as smart and do not work as hard.

The reality is quite different. For hundreds of years, the rich countries have stolen the wealth of and exploited people in the rest of the world. And though the global capitalist system has changed a lot in modern times, it is still unjust and based on profit, selfishness and greed. It excludes more people than it benefits. Today nearly half the world’s population lives, suffers and dies in poverty.

Global capitalism is terminally ill. It suffers from inherent contradictions that include growing inequity and concentration of wealth, addiction to speculation instead of production, and rising, unsustainable debt. Committed to growth at all costs, global capitalism has become a cancer, out of control and lethal to the world in which it lives. It is contributing to climate change and destroying our planet’s life support systems. It cannot last.

Capitalism works really well for some people, but not for everyone. The disparity between rich and poor continues to grow. The wealth of the world’s 51 richest people more than doubled during the last eight years, to more than US$1 trillion. This is more than the combined annual income of half the world’s population–three billion human beings.

When wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few and not circulating productively, ordinary people have less and less purchasing power. As Australian artist Angela Brennan wrote in one of her paintings, “Every morning I wake up on the wrong side of capitalism.”

I think that many Irish people can relate to this sentiment. Tiny Ireland has spent €67 billion bailing out its bankers, meaning Irish taxpayers are paying the value of 42% of Europe’s bank crisis. This is a cost of €9000 to every Irish person, compared to the EU average of €192. Incredibly, 400,000 Irish, mostly young people, have left the country since the 2008 crisis, looking for work in other countries. A major study by University College Cork found that most of the emigrants are graduates and most were unemployed. Tragically, these intelligent and energetic minds don’t believe their homeland can give them the opportunities to survive and to grow.

Ireland, like the rest of the world, needs a clear, compelling vision of an equitable, sustainable economy that provides a high quality of life for everyone–a dynamic economy of the people, by the people and for the people. Economic democracy stands for the empowerment of people to make economic decisions that directly shape their lives and communities through locally-owned, small-scale private enterprises, worker-owned cooperatives, and publicly-managed utilities. It decentralizes decision-making and gives citizens the right to choose how their local economy should be run.

Professor Noam Chomsky, who contributed to my book After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action, said, “You can’t have meaningful political democracy without functioning economic democracy. I think this is, at some level, understood by working people. It has to be brought to awareness and consciousness, but it’s just below the surface.”

Ireland can become much stronger and more resilient to future economic shocks if it builds a more self-reliant economy in the essential goods and services sector. The demand for these remains relatively high even during severe economic downturns. So investing in building up this sector economically with political and social support can do a lot to create employment and ensure the economy is better protected from financial sector bubbles of a global scale.

For example, Ireland spends half of its food bill on imported food products, so there is potential for circulating that money locally and bringing those jobs to Ireland. Locally-grown food is healthier and more ecological. Many more people can learn to grow organic food, and if they work together cooperatively, they can share the workload and avoid the heavy burden that farmers in the past believed was inevitable. Cooperatives enable farmers to pool their resources, purchase inputs, and store and transport their market produce more easily. Most importantly, they eliminate intermediaries–traders who buy produce very cheaply from the farmers and then sell for a high price to city retailers. Instead farmers’ cooperatives would sell directly to consumers’ cooperatives, benefiting both.

Ireland also imports more than 85% of its energy, and most of Ireland’s energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels that destroys our climate and our environment. Ireland has the potential to produce all its energy in a renewable way with appropriately developed wind, tides, wave power, biomass and hydroelectric sources. With the right vision and leadership, there is no reason why Ireland can’t become a world leader in wave technology.

This does not mean that all trade with other countries should be stopped. Ireland is an island nation and must continue to forge global links. A better global-local consciousness, promoting ‘Made in Ireland’ products will help Ireland at home and abroad. Ireland is in a unique position to forge a new way forward. Economic democracy can re-energise Ireland’s local economic potential to service its citizen’s needs and develop a more self-reliant and resilient local economy.

Dada Maheshvarananda is a yogic monk, activist and writer. His latest book is After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action . He is the director of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela. He is on an Irish tour where he has been meeting with those interested in alternative models of social change, including President Higgins. An evening with Dada Maheshvarananda, hosted by Afri, takes on Monday evening at 7.30pm in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin. Register online or via email admin@Afri.ie 

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