1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what
you reject, but I wonder what are you for? What institutions
do you favor that will be better than what we have for the economy,
polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you have vision for?
I believe the Progressive Utilization Theory or Prout is the best alternative socio-economic model for the world. The founder, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar of India (1921-1990), called it "Progressive Socialism", and I believe that is an apt description of this system. It is based on cooperatives, the economic self-reliance of every region, ecological sustainability and universal spiritual values.
This is not a rigid mold to be imposed on any society, rather it is a set of dynamic principles that can be applied by the people of any community or country to improve the quality of their lives. It guarantees the minimum necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, education and health care) to all. Its goal is full employment. It is egalitarian, putting ceilings on salaries, wealth and land ownership. The gap between the living minimum wage and the maximum salary will have to be gradually decreased; however, it should never be reduced to zero. Prout is based on human psychology, allowing somewhat more income or other non-monetary benefits to motivate people to study more, to develop their skills and increase their capacity to benefit society. This difference stimulates initiative and creativity. Prout advocates local-based solidarity economies, promoting community, service-mindedness, compassion and altruism.
Economic democracy can be achieved when people can create their own economic future in their cooperative workplaces. Grassroots economic planning, based on cooperatives, is crucial for raising the standard of living and empowering local communities. In a Prout society, the role of government would be to stimulate this balanced economic growth, rather than engage in direct management of the economy. Prout’s goal is to share the resources of the planet in a sustainable way for the welfare of all living beings.
Prout’s spiritual perspective includes the concept that we are part of one human family, without distinction of class, caste, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, beliefs or anything else. The concept that everyone has divine consciousness within and hence is beautiful inside with intrinsic value, leads us to the obvious conclusion that everyone deserves respect and nobody should be excluded.
Prout advocates a universal bill of rights that the constitution of each country should guarantee, including the rights of every community and linguistic expression. Furthermore, Prout advocates that individuals should have the right to sue the government to force it to provide access to the minimum necessities and jobs. No expression of these above rights can be allowed to violate cardinal human values. Of course, the penal code must also be based on universally accepted human values such as the right to a decent life. Capital punishment is banned.
To address the root problems of war, to guarantee human rights to all, and to ensure social justice, Prout proposes that a world government be established. World consciousness is certainly moving in this direction. Every year there are more requests made by governments, organizations and the media to the United Nations to resolve injustices and conflicts, and find common solutions to global problems. Information networks, citizens’ associations and cosmopolitanism are opening people’s minds to the ideas of universalism and global consciousness.
2. Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what
you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and I know you
write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do
you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming
year, or for your next ten years?
Thirty-one years ago I chose to become a revolutionary monk. The orange uniform that I wear signifies that my life is dedicated to the service of humanity. I practice meditation and yoga every day to transform myself, to be an example of unconditional love and the peace that I want the world to experience. I believe that as a monk, if I confront and fight against all types of religious dogmas, I can work fulltime to build a better world, able to go anywhere at any time.
Three years ago I chose to move to Venezuela, inspired by the significant advances of the Bolivarian Revolution. I started and direct the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, an independent not for profit foundation, which promotes and strengthens cooperatives to transform individuals and empower communities. We offer appropriate training courses that focus on their real problems and needs. We are also making policy recommendations to the government to promote sustainable organic agriculture for economic self-reliance, tax reform, etc. The focus is how to practically apply Prout principles to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life of the people.
To create a total transformation benefiting all humanity as well as the planet itself, requires great effort and struggle. Awareness is a key factor in social change. Whenever exploitation occurs, it is the moral duty of good people to raise the consciousness of everyone about it. At the same time, practical alternatives such as Prout need to be publicized. The world capitalist system is dangerously unstable and volatile because all financial markets are hopelessly interdependent. Add peak oil and climate change to this crisis, and the immanent collapse of global capitalism will suddenly cause every country to desperately seek alternatives to survive.
The world needs leaders with moral force, spiritual vision and courage to fight injustice and exploitation. Anyone can become an ideal leader by setting a personal example of honesty, self-discipline, sacrificing spirit and dedication to the welfare of humanity.
P. R. Sarkar said that at this time, “your actions now are equal to a hundred years.” Many scientists would concur, because our present industrial economy is endangering the life support systems of the planet with a speed that was unheard of in the past. A tremendous urgency exists to offer humanity a practical, ecological alternative to reverse our self-destructive course. The survival and security of our future generations is at stake.
Unfortunately, many people become frustrated and depressed because whereas their concerns encompass the world, their ability to influence it is extremely small. In fact, the only real control we have is over our own actions, words and thoughts. However the environmental slogan, “Think globally, act locally” has great significance. By keeping a universal perspective for the welfare of our community and all humanity, if we do something positive wherever we are, we actively contribute to the healing of the planet. In this way, our circle of influence can also expand, because a positive example inspires others to also help. Many small efforts, when coordinated, create synergy and achieve concrete results.
The French writer Víctor Hugo wrote, “There is something which is stronger than all the armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” I believe that economic democracy, cooperatives, and Prout are ideas whose time has come.
3. You are at home and you get an email that says a new
organization is trying to form, internationally, federating
national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can
you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say,
"yes, I will give my energies to making it happen along with
the rest of you who are already involved?" If so, what are
those conditions? Or – do you think instead that regardless
of the content of the agenda and make up of the
participants, the idea can’t be worthy, now, or perhaps ever.
If so, why?
Yes, I would be interested. Does the organization’s vision include cooperatives? Is it universal in scope? Does it include an ecological and spiritual vision? Does it seem to have potential? Are they just talking, or are they DOING something?
4. Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and
our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future
in the present? If not, why not? If yes, can you say what, very
roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an
organization you would favor?
Of course. We must walk our talk to inspire others and ourselves. We must respect diversity, and celebrate our solidarity. Conscious and nonviolent communication and consensus-based decision making should be included.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others
did not answer it?
I answered to share visions. I appreciate that the Znet community is proactively trying to develop workable alternatives to the current global economic structture. I have a small hope that Prout would also be considered seriously in this endeavor.
I suspect that many others did not answer because they have little time. First they postpone answering, then they forget. Another reason is that there is so little serious debate about our dreams for a better world, that many doubt that it will seriously happen even in this forum.