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Mining and People’s Culture

Pyara Kerketta Foundation

& B.I.R.S.A. (Bindrai Institute for Research Study & Action )

16th December 2003 – Hazaribagh JHARKHAND

Mining and People’s Culture[1]

Xavier Dias

Can we sing in these bad times?

Yes, let us sing of the bad times.

Bertolt Brecht

Culture & its Economic Roots

Culture is not shaped by people alone nor does it evolve in a vaccum. Culture evolves from the interaction of the people with the economy and politics of the particular time. The uncritical acceptance of the character of the economy and politics leads to the development of a kind of culture. If the character of the economy is creative and has place for creativity and creation then the culture it spawns will imbibe these cultural characteristics. If the economy is destructive Challenging an unjust system brings in its own culture its called popular culture or people’s culture. Therefore culture is not a fixed or permanent thing it is dynamic.

Jharkhand Dominant Culture

Jharkhand has been categorized as a colonial economy. If this is so then the colonial character of the economy and politics of Jharkhand has shaped what we have today as culture. But the effects or benefits of this economy and politics of Jharkhand has not been the same for every one living in this homeland. Generally we can say that there are two kinds of people affected/influenced by the Political Economy of Jharkhand.

1. Those who benefited by the colonial economy and politics

2. Those who are its victims.

Naturally therefore the development of the culture of both these groups are different.

For those who benefited from the system it meant an assurance of survival, employment, health and educational possibilities.

For those who were its victims it meant, deprivation, dispossession, peril to life and property and denial of their traditional economy the very roots of their existing culture.

What then was the character of this economy?

In classical economic terms it is called ‘the penetration of Capital/money’ into an economy that was not a money economy. In real terms there was not much of ‘penetration of Capital’ but rather the extraction of goods from this area to be converted into ‘Capital’ in another location. It was more of export of ‘capital’ rather than import or penetration of capital. The tools for expropriation i.e. technology, railways, electricity etc was brought in. But the colonisation of Jharkhand was not to create a ‘capitalist economy’ and its benefits, but instead to plunder and then abandon.

An International Phenomenon

This characteristic of capitalist economy i.e. plunder and then abandon, from one region to develop another region, is not only found in Jharkhand but all over the world where the natural resources i.e. forest, minerals are in abundance. Similar situations exist in the developed countries, in Australia or Canada and even USA in their mining regions.

If we mark on a world map all these regions where mining is undertaken, we will find that most of the places are the homelands of the Indigenous or Adivasi Peoples. It is certainly not co-incidental that Indigenous lands are plundered. There is a political reason for this but it would be out of the scope of this paper to go into this question even though it is a very important one to be understood.

If the character of the political economy of Jharkhand was so i.e. plunder and abandon then what kind of a culture could it have spawned? And secondly,

if the economy was based on solely the ‘extractive’ industries with no ‘product’ to be created, then what further effect would it have?

Mining and lumbering, are two visibly destructive industries. The earth is terminated of all life around the region and apart from termination of life, it leaves back tones of toxins and hazardous substances that continue threatening all life for years even after it is extraction is complete.

Negative Impact of Production

Areas where the extractive industries operate, experience one part of the capitalist process of production and not the whole process of creation or manufacturing of the ‘product’. They invariably witness the ‘destructive’ part and are denied what could be considered as the creative part i.e. of manufacturing of the total product.

A very simply and simplistic example would be to take a potter, who only digs the sand to be taken to some other region to be converted into pots. Would he/she be a potter or a mazdoor selling just sand? And what would the culture of such a community be then?

In a colonial economy of Jharkhand, what then can the ethos of the culture be for those who are considered as ‘beneficiaries’ of this economy? What then can the esthetics, morals or character of the Society be?

Those who ‘benefited’ from this economy and political process will have to answer this question at some stage in History. But the honeymoon is over. Jharkhand is no longer the land of Nirvana.

After Globalisation

The word ‘Capitalism’ ‘Capitalist’ are common words in Jharkhand. Not only in our cities and townships but today in remote areas people understand these two terms. Capitalist are the middlemen, the exploiters, the Mining industrialist and incidentally or very specially in Jharkhand it also means the Government, the State and its Civil bureaucrats.

Today this common understanding of Capitalist or Capitalism is insufficient. For the character of Capitalism has undergone a big big change. We are each day experiencing it but not analyzed it. This paper would like to help the audience to analyse it. For as I have said if this was the giver of ‘nirvana’ it may not continue to be so benevelovent.

What we have to understand today is that the character of Capitalism during the past 150 years has not been the same. Up to the late ‘70’s Capitalism was associated with certain benefits for the people. Health, Education, Civic amenities etc. It was called ‘Welfare Capitalism’ Even though most of the benefits of this Welfare Capitalism are concentrated in the Western World a fairly good amount of it did trickle down to the Third World. It was this welfare aspect of capitalism that hid its real character from the masses of common people. The idea that Capitalism can make our country like Japan or the USA was at the back of the mind of many people aspiring for emancipation from slavery, poverty and inhuman conditions of living.

Capitalism has changed or is growing so fast that its logic is now being exposed, because the welfare aspect of capitalism is over. What is this change and what is this logic?

Nation State As Protector

The old variety of capitalism was simple; a capitalist manufactured goods sold them made profits and profits made more profits and the capitalist became a rich man. The capitalist had to be protected in this process. Protected from his workers, the might of the common people around him and from competitors in other countries. The State or the Nation State came in and gave him the protection. The protection of the Nation State thus became very important and therefore a Police force and Military Army were maintained. The whole population had to be geared to protect this ‘Nation’ and therefore ‘nationalism’ has become a second religion.

Birth of Corporations

In this process, Capitalism grew by leaps and bounds. The capitalist no longer was just a individual or a group of individuals. They became ‘Corporations’. These Corporations did not stay in one Nation and but moved overseas and set up shop in different Nations and thus they became Multi-Nationals (MNC’s).

Nation-State now Redundant

The logic of this process was that the need for a the ‘Nation State’ and nationalism declined. In other words they did not need the Government of a State to ‘protect’ them. But instead they do need the Government of a State to rubber stamp all their needs in order to give their needs a ‘democratic’ colour. So after the ‘80’s we see the rise of the Multi-National Corporations and the decline of the power of the State.

There were certain events in global politics that expedited this process. In 1972 the Worlds Oil Exporting Nations formed an organisations called OPEC Oil & Petroleum Exporting Countries that raised the prices of petrol and diesel or petroleum products so high that it created huge profits for the oil companies. The Oil Companies are one of the biggest MNC’s. This resulted is huge amounts of cash/money floating around the world. The US economy was then de-linked from the Gold Standard and this further increased the cash reserves of the world. Such large amounts of money is no longer even called cash or money in English it is called ‘Fiscal’, that is why you hear this word more often today.

The Money Industry

This money had to be invested in places and it was safely invested in ‘stocks & shares’. This money had to earn profits and so it had to be invested in more and more industries. If it had to be invested in industries then the industries have to manufacture goods for people to purchase. There is a limitation to what people can purchase and so this manufacturing of consumer good economy cannot grow as fast as the Corporations need them to.

So they have to manufacture goods that can get consumed or wasted faster. The best goods that cost a lot of money and burn up fast are weapons. They consume large amounts of money and they get used very fast. So a lot of this money is put into the weapon industry.

Now a logic has to be created to use these weapons and war is the best dumping place for them. Therefore war has to be created. Be it in the dozen of wars going on in Africa or the bigger wars like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Out of Peoples Control

This amount of money floating around the world is now so huge that it does not require a consumer good manufacturing industry for it to make profits, money or fiscal has become an industry in itself. The growth in this ‘fiscal industry’ is so huge and rapid that there is no democratic way to control it. It is like a huge demon that is growing and lives on blood, and each day needs more and more blood.

What is being explained here is not going to be easy to understand unless one studies the worlds economy in more detail. But what is necessary to understand is that:

1. Present Capitalism is not the same ‘Capitalism’ that we were talking about a decade ago.

2. that this present Capitalism called Globalisation is not concerned about the Welfare of Society.

3. that it is so huge and out of control it is like a 10,000 tonne dumper truck coming down Mt Everest with no driver at its control.

4. that people are not controlling this 10000 tonne dumper truck but it is following its own logical path.

5. It has grown in such a way that existing democratic institutions like Governments or the UN or other bodies have no power to control it.

6. That for the truck to go according to its path it needs to more people to work for lesser wages, therefore you have more people unemployed, more employed for lesser wages

7. Hence forward all minerals and forest products will have to be sold as cheap as possible, surely cheaply than the previous year.

In short it needs people all over the world to work harder and produce more than their forefathers but expect lesser in wages than their fathers.

Violence for profits

In order to have its way it needs people to be divided, it needs social unrest, wars, conflicts. For then the State will spend more on ‘Security’ on Defence, on a terrorist scare, and the Corporation will supply them with the ‘systems’ and equipment to fight terrorist. Thus it needs people to kill one another, it needs violence blood shed because this can earn profits. Thus violence has become an end, violence a means, violence has become the money spinner of the New Capitalism of today. And thus the New Capitalism of today needs violence as you and I need Oxygen.

Therefore for those whose culture is drawn from this Colonial economy the Nirvana is over, the question is What Next?

Popular Culture, Peoples Culture and the Culture of Resistance

Culture is also created and formed by those who chose not to accept the logic of this system or the logic of this 10000 tonne truck. It is the culture that tries to to understand it, study it, and fight it. The history of the people of Jharkhand, the victims of this system is full incidences of resistance. It is a culture of emancipation, it is a culture of democracy and a culture for justice. It is a culture that puts life in the centre of all human activity and not profits or not wars. It is a culture that has the potential to lead us to a true Nirvana.

December 11, 2003.

C:\Documents and Settings\Xavier Dias\My Documents\Xd Articles\Mining and Peoples Culture Draft Xd ready.doc

[1] This is a draft article and the author has to upgrade it.