Books and documents:
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà, Brauli Tamarit Tamarit.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Magdalena Grau, Agustí Chalaux.
Chapter 15. There is no return: the damnation of the West.
The most feasible and positive hypothesis is the second one: this
option, that is the modification of the monetary system, becomes a possibility
and an immediate need (to go beyond «official history» which
started with anonymous currency, writing, corruption and imperialism) hoping
that it will help to walk towards the first option (demonetization and
getting out of the trading system) in another historic state, which we
do not feel probable in the middle term.
The failure of a return to communism-collectivism by force is much more
dramatic and eloquent than the failure of a return to voluntaristic communalism
of Christian or hippy inspiration. In the two attempts there has been a
confusion between 'community of ethnic origin', strongly endo-structured,
and 'voluntaristic collectivity' with a more or less free 'co-election'.
Collectivity, if it takes place freely, may become ethnically/ethically
communalized after long processes. But neither freedom in the communist
case, nor enough time in the communalist case, have gone with the essays
of a 'return to the origins' carried out in this century in the West.
Now, without actual communities, rooted and structured around the reciprocal
gift and outer barter, the West is condemned to work with productive specialization
within large areas of population. And with this detail both the first option
(demonetization), and the third one (currency is not a key item) may become
illusory or irresponsible. To go on thinking, as up to now, that the type
of currency is not a key item is, in fact, to accept things as they are
and to give up a possible instrument to modify them.
All over the world, north and south, east and west, under capitalism
and socialism, a more or less subtle corruption is ever present, and the
monetary imbalances of a State affect, for good or for ill, the economy
of the others. The divorce between money and actual production causes the
life of millions of people to sink or to lift up, and condemns them to
starvation or to opulence.
There are now persons from all continents who, from their non-western
life experience or from anthropologic research, doubt that Western civilization
is as beneficial as it has been shown to us up to now, not only for other
cultures but even for its own children. There are already voices which
consider necessary a change of meaning and of route if we do not want to
follow the path of destruction. Some voices are heard which denounce the
inability of Western culture (too bedazzled by its technological miracles)
to understand the contributions and the dynamics of other cultures...
«Economicide consists of destroying the economic reciprocity
bases of communities, either to impose denationalization, or to impose
collectivization. Economicide is today the most secret weapon, but possibly
the most effective, of the West against the 'Third World' (against 2/3
of the world1)».
«Collectivization [...] suppresses individualism, prestige
or personal responsibility and, therefore, it hampers competition among
all of them to produce more and better. The invalidation of prestige as
an immediate consequence invalidates the creative or productive work of
surpluses. Individuals have nothing else left, as a motive of production,
beyond biological self-consumption. Collectivization, therefore, establishes
a dynamics of under-development of reciprocity communities. Its failure
is clear in agricultural societies of the Soviet Union, of the GDR, of
Poland, of Czechoslovakia, of Vietnam, of Nicaragua, of China, at least
before it reinstated family and communal exploitation2».
«The confusion between community and collectivity is final
and as serious as the confusion between charity and gift which carry out
most non-govenment organizations to help the Third World3».
«The underdevelopment of marxist inspiration is no better
than the capitalist help to the Third World. One uses development as a
Trojan horse to destroy the Third World economy, the other refuses to acknowledge
gift -a present- and reciprocity as the basis for another economic system
different from that of generalized exchange.» «Both
show that they obey well to the logic of the exchange market, while the
community is based on reciprocity».
To acknowledge the right of other ways of living to exist, is not only
a right which every Westerner affirms in the Declaration of Human Rights,
but also a means to find the ways which have been lost in the West: the
measure of things. Western ethnocentrism blinds our so-called objectivity
in most observations. Not only must we respect the other cultures out of
consistency with our formal tradition, but their life may help us to relativize
our richly miserable civilization.
can be reached by two different ways. Needs can be easily satisfied either
producing much or wishing very little. The most common conception, in the
style of Galbraith, is based on assumptions especially suitable to the
market economy: that men's needs are great, if not infinite, while their
means are limited, even if they can increase. In this way the gap between
means and ends may be reduced by means of industrial productivity, at least
to the point when the «basic necessities products» become plentiful.
But there is also a zen way to wealth which starts from premises different
from ours: that human material needs are finite and scarce, and technical
means are immutable but, generally speaking, sufficient. With the zen strategy,
people enjoy an incomparable material abundance [...] with a low standard
«This is, in my opinion, the best way to describe the hunters-harvesters
and the one which helps to explain some of the oddest economic behaviours,
such as 'prodigality', that is the tendency to consume rapidly all the
available reserves as if there were no doubt that more can be obtained5».
Free from the obsession of want, never being in a hurry, to 'work' 20 to
30 hours a week, to have a lot of free time to sleep, to talk, to visit,
to dance and eat together, the non-depletion -with no return- of the natural
environment, human evaluation being considered more important than the
simple meeting of material needs, the absence of chronic starvation...
are the main features defining this way of life which the West considers
«primitive» but at the same time also as the 'lost paradise'.»
On the contrary the opinion we have 'primitive' life conditions is what
has been transmitted to us by most anthropologists: «'A simple survival
economy', 'limited free time out of exceptional circumstances', 'relentless
demand for food', 'meagre natural resources, only very relatively trustworthy',
'absence of economic surpluses', [...] this is how, generally speaking,
anthropologic opinion expresses itself with respect to hunting and harvesting6».
«It is possible that (this opinion) be one of the clearest prejudices
against the Neolithic, an ideologic appreciation on the ability of hunters
to take advantage of land resources, which is in perfect agreement with
the historic attempt to deprive it of this good. We have inherited this
prejudice of Jacob's descendants who «were dispersed to the West,
to the East and to the North» doing wrong to Esau who was the elder
and a valiant hunter, but who, in a famous scene, sold his birthright7».
On the contrary, we should need a more distinct and realistic view on
the wonders of the progress of our Western civilization: «The industrial
and market system introduces poverty in a way beyond all comparison and
to a degree which, until our times, had never been seen by far. Where production
and distribution are governed by the performance of prices, and all sustenance
depends on earnings and expenditure, the shortage of natural resources
becomes the clearest and easiest to estimate the starting point of all
the economic activity8».
«Shortage is the sentence given out by our economy and, therefore,
also the axiom which rules Economy: the application of insufficient means
against alternative ends to obtain the greatest possible satisfaction under
«Having credited hunters with middle-class motives and paleolithic
tools, we judge their situation desperate10».
«We feel inclined to think that hunters-harvesters are poor because
they possess nothing; perhaps we should think that, for this same reason,
they are free. 'Their extremely limited material possessions free them
from all sorts of worry with respect to their daily needs and allow them
to enjoy life (Gusinde, 196111)'».
The author becomes paradoxically subversive: «The amount of work
(per capita) increases with the evolution of culture and the amount
of free time diminishes12».
«But, in the first place, what should we say of today's world?
It is said that one third to one half of mankind every day goes to sleep
hungry. In the old Stone Age proportion must have been much lower. The
age we are living in now is that of an unprecedented hunger. Now, in the
age of the greatest technologic power hunger has become an institution.
We can turn over another venerable sentence: hunger increases relatively
and absolutely with the evolution of culture.
«This paradox completely illustrates my point of view. Hunters
and harvesters have a low living standard because of circumstances. But
taken as an objective and with suitable production means they may, usually,
easily satisfy all their material needs. The evolution of economy has known,
then, two contradictory movements: enrichment, but at the same time impoverishment;
appropriation of nature, but expropriation with respect to man. The progressive
aspect is, no doubt, technological. This has shown itself in many ways:
as an increase of offer and demand of goods and services, of the amount
of energy at the service of culture, of productivity, of the division of
work and of freedom with respect to environmental conditions13».
«The most primitive population in the world had scarce possessions,
but was not poor. Poverty is not a small amount of things, it is not only
a relationship between means and ends, but mainly a relationship among
persons. Poverty is a social condition, and as such it is an invention
of civilization. It has grown with civilization, as a jealous distinction
among classes and, fundamentally, as a dependence which can make peasants
more sensitive to natural disasters than any Winter camp or settlement
«Primitive economies were sub-productive. Most of them, both farming
and pre-farming economies, do not seem to take advantage of all their economic
possibilities. Their working capacity is not made the most of it, technological
means are not properly used and natural resources are not taken advantage
of.» «Production is low with respect to the existing possibilities.
In this respect, 'underproduction' is not necessarily incompatible with
a primitive 'wealth15'».
«The 'economic problem' may easily be solved using the techniques
of the Paleolithic period. This implies that only when culture reached
the peak of its material achievements, it built an altar to the Unattainable:
These references to human diversity in the past and in the present on
how to spotlight economy may produce some yearning for the lost paradise,
an idealistic anguish of an impossible return. This is the damnation of
the West: to study, to know, to compare other ways of human living, and
feeling that there is no turning back. But not going back does not mean
to inconditionally support all the present as the only way to the future.
The West has a will and an ability to modify history according to the progressive
awareness of the fact that there are always several options.
Simultaneously with this awareness of the 'fragility and utopia of the
universalization of endless progress and development' we must be able to
find ways which will allow us to re-direct, before it is too late, the
suicidal trend in which we have involved the planet's life.
Where should we start? with the change of mentality and with awareness?
but how shall we attempt this while the education, communication and information
means mould the consciences and the values of most of the planet's inhabitants
according to the prevailing Western model? How can we free these means
from dependence from the States and the great companies?
If we want to start with a political change, how shall we attain that
organizations and political parties be less conditioned by those supporting
their electoral campaigns?
If we want to start with an economic change, how can we overcome the
crises while economic science gropes about?
If we want to start with an inner conversion, how can we attain it while
'the spirit of freedom' is to a large extent imprisoned by the religious
institutions which serve power?
If we want to start with ecologic changes, or with the North-South relations,
how can we stop the great pressure groups and the States with the right
of veto from boycotting more or less openly all the decisions detrimental
to their interests?
We may ask the same question with respect to another subject: how can
we start a change of monetary system if the present anonymous currency
is a subtle weapon used by all these factual powers to stop the changes
which must be urgently achieved? Possibily one of the differences in the
fact that a type of currency may be modified by passing a bill, in one
day, and that when a new informative and responsibilizing currency is introduced,
it can help solve of most of the difficulties we have just mentioned, while
changing any of the other structures requires very complex, long and complicated
processes. In our time we may learn from history that any great revolutionary
change in the end becomes blocked by the great problems which have not
been faced and poisoned by the anonymity of currency, which spoils everything
At the beginning of this chapter we said that the hypothesis of modifying
the monetary system appeared to be more feasible and positive than the
other two. We shall now see its social feasibility and we shall leave its
technical feasibility for the following chapters. This statement, that
an instrumental change (a tool for other changes) is easier than a direct
change on complex structures (whether economic and political structures,
or cultural-inner structures, still more complex), is a hypothesis. That
is, it has not yet been consciously tested, and this, has an advantage
with respect to the other outstanding 'revolutions'.
This suggestion of a monetary reform, of an instrumental change, has
the advantage that, opposite to revolutions demanding a change of customs
and institutions accepted as normal by western population (abolition of
private property, of parliamentary democracy, of formal liberties...),
the change of currency does not affect the existence of these institutions,
but affects what the same institutions and public opinion denounce as a
danger of a lawful state: the inability to fight against corruption and
delinquency; the ineffectivity of the judicial system; the lack of responsibilization
of free acts, both in the market and in politics; the inequality of opportunities;
the lack of solidarity of economic redistribution; the unfair and heavy
taxation; the manipulated uninformation; the non-participation in the systems
of political decision-making... That is, the change of currency can help
to deepen the democratic and mercantile tradition. If judicial equality
and personal freedom are formally proclaimed, we must find the means to
bring about their actual application in as many situations as possible.
With respect to the socialist West we might also establish a parallel
of social hypocrisy between proclaimed formal rights and reality. But perhaps
at present it is no longer worth it. Facts speak more clearly than analyses.
Perhaps of the two systems which we have compared up to now we might
find a creative way out taking positive elements from the two, thanks to
the possibility, offered by the new type of currency, to directly control
the agreements reached in common in a new Europe, not divided in blocks
nor in nation-states.
Temple, «Alternatives au Développement», Centre Interculturel
Monchanin, MOntreal, 1988, p. 105.
Sahlins (1974), «Economía de la Edad de Piedra», Akal
Universitaria, Madrid, 1983, pp. 13-14.