Enclosure of the mind?

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This course has helped, more than anything else, to put my thoughts into a new order. It has helped to pull together disparate ideas around poverty, inequality and development. Those lingering ideas that the capitalist structure of our societies undermines struggles to address inequality and that market rules are woefully inadequate for dealing with the reality of human experience.

Reading Shiva’s Earth Democracy this quote struck a chord:

 “Globalization is, in fact, the ultimate enclosure – of our minds, our hearts, our imaginations, and our resources. Until corporate globalization claimed the resources of this planet – especially water and biodiversity – to be tradable commodities, it was recognized that water couldn’t belong to anyone.”

Vandana Shiva (2006) – Earth Democracy; page 30

The Globalization movement has created the illusion that it is the only viable route for the distribution of resources, food, materials and goods. Anything else was an undesirable interference with the “invisible hand” of the market.

The dominant view has become that this is normal. That this is the world we live in and way things are. Capitalism has been growing and expanding for several centuries. But this was not always the way, nor is it the only way today. Examples exist of community farming projects, pooling human resources to build barns and schools or even almost entirely cooperative communities such as Salinas in Ecuador. However, examples of alternatives are virtually unheard of in the mainstream and often ridiculed as unworkable on a large scale. But why must alternatives be scaled up like corporations, with one size fits all business models?

Corporations are allowed to enclose natural resources to:

  • Make money (and amass wealth for their shareholders)
  • Create jobs (but do corporations create jobs. When a MNC moves in, how many well paid jobs are created for local people?)
  • Create products we can consume (but did we even need the products before we saw the advertising?)

What consideration is given to the natural environment? If the natural environment is not a commodity then it is an externality, outside the market and therefore without value. But the natural environment is the very basis of all live, including human life, on this planet.

If globalization gives us the reasons why we should enclose minerals in Greenland, or water sources in Canada, where to the reasons not to enclose come from? And what about people? How does a corporation, following the sole path of globalization in search of profit ensure a fair and equitable society for all people?

Globalization and the pursuit of profit are not the only mechanisms for regulating the movement of goods, whether food, water, metals or anything else.

Seventh Generation Sustainability is just one example of an alternative. The origins of the term come from the Iroquois, a First Nations people in North America, but have been adopted much more widely. The basic tenant is:

“We cannot simply think of our survival; each new generation is responsible to ensure the survival of the seventh generation. The prophecy given to us, tells us that what we do today will affect the seventh generation and because of this we must bear in mind our responsibility to them today and always.”

Quite a radical concept when you consider that the business plans of most corporations only stretch 5 to 10 years into the future! So why is so hard to believe in an alternative to the way things are, and to make that come to life?

Rational self-interest drives the capitalist system. Has this view point, this way of thinking, enclosed our minds so we cannot see any other options? Capitalism teaches that we are individuals, not communities or societies. Has this become a self-fulfilling prophesy; is this the only way we can react now?

free thought004 copy

To finish, I’ll give you an example of this enclosed way of thinking. On October 26th Sabine posted on the sale of mining rights in Greenland and the devastating environmental impact this could have. Click though to the original article in the Financial Times and this comment stands out:

“Those who don’t want Greenland to mine for Uranium have an option – buy access to the land for the same price as the uranium miners are willing to pay, and then see if you can make money via your pet green project.

As they say – pay to play.”

This demonstrates such narrow thinking. Nothing beyond profits matters, the world’s resource are there to be bought and owned. To suggest otherwise is foolish and naïve.

Have our minds been enclosed? Has our collective ability to think and problem solve together been compromised by a world where profit, market rules and globalization are portrayed as the only way?

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2 Responses to “Enclosure of the mind?”

  1. sdiederichs Says:

    There is a wonderful book “the wind is my mother” written by Bear Heart who is a native american shaman. It is about spirituality, community spirit, sharing knowledge, sustainability and relaying values to the younger generation. A great read.

  2. izabelamichno Says:

    I agree that this is a certain enclosure of the mind and it is even noticeable in the everyday work in the Third sector. John Hilary, the director of the War on Want NGO has recently published a book, called the “The poverty of Capitalism”, where he strongly criticises the weaknesses and the compromises done by NGOs to align themselves with governments and corporations. Making the rhetoric more mainstream and more donors friendly, NGOs sometimes loose the “radical” and uncompromised nature of their action.

    http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/nov/22/john-hilary-uk-charities-lost-radical-soul

    This is maybe another sad example that people’s mind is somehow enclosed, and perverted by money making scope, even in the charity sector.
    Having said that, I still believe the mind is free and no encloses are be possible. What is however happening is that the human nature leads to simplify and to arrange things at their convenience. Money is power, and power is often what people seek.
    History shows that revolutions are possible and the power of many is stronger than any system. I believe capitalism is not less at threat than any other system. When people will decide capitalism is not what their want, it will be put to an end.

    “Hesitating to act because the whole vision might not be achieved, or because others do not yet share it, is an attitude that only hinders progress.” Ghandi

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