Rising Expectations, Social Unrest & Development

4. Guaranteed employment
The truth about the linkage between rising expectations and social unrest is further demonstrated by other sources of internal violence in India. India witnessed secessionist violence in Punjab during the 1980s and on a continuing basis in Assam. Since 1947 armed left-wing extremists called Naxalites have exploited the resentment of impoverished, landless tribal communities promoting violence in a number of states, including West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. Naxal violence is clearly based on economic deprivation, rather than religion or politics. The annual death toll in Naxal-related violence averages about 1500 lives in recent years.

During the past three decades of Naxal unrest, the central and state governments have tried in vain to tackle this problem effectively. Then in 2005 a more ambitious program to eliminate the economic roots of social unrest was launched by the newly elected Congress Government, which passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), a landmark legislation guaranteeing a minimum 100 days of employment in public works projects to people living in 200 of the poorest districts in the country. In 2008 the scheme was extended to all the districts of the country. Despite its many deficiencies, NREGA is India’s most comprehensive effort to wean people from social unrest by trying to ensure jobs to the poorest of the poor. The government’s offer of guaranteed employment opportunities is not a mere welfare scheme. It is the main plank of a strategy to neutralize social unrest in the country by channeling the energies of the discontented into productive activity. Psychologically, it provides the poor with a minimum sense of security and reduces the incentive to violence.

5. Palestine
Development is not merely a question of material accomplishment. It is an organic social process which follows a natural evolutionary course. Social unrest is an inevitable phase of that evolution. What appears as unrest when seen from a partial perspective acquires a different meaning when we view development as a whole. The main thesis of this paper is that rising expectations release enormous amount of social energy that spills over into social unrest when no suitable positive channels are available to utilize it for social advancement. Harnessing that energy for constructive purposes requires appropriate social organizations and productive skills. Over the last 200 years America harnessed the energies of a heterogeneous, impoverished immigrant population in an atmosphere of freedom through emphasis on innovative economic organization and education to build the world’s most prosperous society. A clear focus on prosperity as the main goal and the intense cultivation of work-related values directed those energies for national prosperity. The Americans had to invent new technologies and organizational arrangements to achieve their goals. But developing countries today need only adapt the available technological and organizational resources to their requirements, making it possible for them to dramatically abridge the time required for achievement.

This thesis meets its most severe test in application to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Palestine, a problem that traces its lineage back to Biblical times and combines in a single issue all the political, religious and economic strands that fuel social unrest in the world today. Trying to untangle the past record of right and wrong, claims and counterclaims will not lead to a solution. A good faith effort to find a solution should not start there. It should begin with a clean slate and examine the options for the future. Palestine is equipped with all the human, economic, technological, organizational, educational and physical resources needed to achieve rapid development and become a showcase of prosperity. The whole world has a stake in resolving this problem rapidly and permanently, since much of the instability and violence in the world sprouted from the seed of Palestine and claims continued justification today because of the unresolved problems in this region. For that reason, the whole world can and should contribute to the solution, and the UN is justified in demanding or even compelling the cooperation of all the parties concerned.

Two decades ago an Israeli Prime Minister remarked that Palestine has all the essentials required to become another Singapore. Had that remark been heeded, the Arab-Israeli conflict could have been permanently resolved by now. Even now it is still practicable. Singapore raised its real per capita GDP from about $2000 to $22,000 in 50 years (measured in constant 2000 dollars PPP). During the same period the GDP of Palestine rose only from $1000 to $5000 dollars before sliding down by 40% after the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. Available development experience shows that Palestine can be turned into another Singapore by 2020 or even sooner. Unless prosperity comes to Palestine, weaning the people from violence is an unrealistic proposition. Prosperity would divert the energy from protest and agitation to productive engagement.

Experts in Middle Eastern affairs may point to numerous attempts to use economic incentives to resolve this conflict, which have failed to make headway, but past attempts have been far too modest to succeed. Development experience shows that potential gains must be very substantial before people will break existing patterns of thought and behavior. Much of the money that has been injected into the Palestine economy has come in the form of aid, which saps local initiative, fosters a sense of dependence and resentment, and is highly susceptible to corruption. Investment, not aid, is the solution. What is required is a coordinated effort of the international community backed by a determination to convert Palestine into a Garden of Eden. The financial cost would be miniscule by international standards. The gains, even in direct monetary terms to the world-at-large, arising from reduced violence and security risks would repay that investment a hundred-fold.

Enough studies have already been done to identify the potential. One British study published in 2007 identified five essential components for economic recovery of the region. Even this modest scheme would double per capita GDP in the region in five years and restore the higher living conditions prevailing in the late 1990s.2

Another study done by the Peres Centre in 2006, based on intensive discussions with Israeli and Palestinian business communities, projected a larger vision. Identifying specific opportunities for economic cooperation and integration in agriculture, textiles, tourism, IT and other sectors, the study concluded that Palestine could increase its exports 20-fold and triple its GDP in a span of 5 to 10 years. More importantly, the number of employment opportunities in Palestine could double. Employment is the real key to eradicating social unrest in the region. This plan would have virtually eliminated unemployment and added 10% more to Israeli GDP. This did not actually happen for various reasons, but the potential to make it happen was very real. Instead, during the last decade unemployment rose from 14.3% to 23.6%, providing the ideal kindle for violence.

These studies represent a good starting point. But in order for any viable program to be initiated and sustained, the vision and the goals must be far greater, otherwise it is likely to remain a non-starter. Halfway measures will not suffice. The goal must be to improve living standards in Palestine to the level of Israel or Dubai, which is practicable if the unrealized potentials are fully tapped. It would convert Palestine from a festering wound of discontent and extremism into an inspiring model for the whole world. Nor is such a notion utopian. Ireland, a country of roughly equivalent population, did it on its own initiative and resources over the past two to three decades. It can be done here in a much shorter time. Rapid social development will channel the energies released by rising expectations into productive activities for prosperity and replace the painful recollections of the past with the anticipation of future accomplishments.

Stability is essential for this accomplishment. Rapid economic development within a certain range is inversely related to political freedom, as the example of Singapore illustrates. Singapore achieved its remarkable performance by keeping social energies under control, while rigorously implementing government programs. In the given context, the UN is in a position to impose that stability in Palestine as an essential step toward world peace and global development.

The key to speeding up development is social organization. Potentials may exist, awakening can occur and energy may be released. But social organization is essential to convert the potentials into actualities and deprive instability of the fuel which sustains it. That requires providing the essential infrastructure for governance, quality education and economic development. The UN can take upon itself the responsibility for providing that infrastructure and ensuring that stability prevails, while development activities are being carried out. Organization has to be supplemented by productive skills. A comprehensive survey of skills required for increasing GDP ten-fold will reveal a big gap between what is required and what is available. Preparing people with the necessary skill to fill the gap will generate a centripetal force that will attract more opportunities to the region and facilitate each step of its development.

There is no single solution to the Palestinian problem. There are many solutions that can all be applied to the situation in a mutually reinforcing manner. When this approach is adopted, current problems can be converted into opportunities for the development of the region, just as the inferiority complex of the Irish became an impetus for progress. The fervor and intensity that has engaged the inhabitants in incessant warfare over the Promised Land can be redirected to bring peace and prosperity to the entire region. The Irish example reminds us that intractable religious and political issues need not be permanently resolved at the outset. Rapid economic development can alter the social attitudes and perceptions as well as the ground realities that make arriving at final solutions so difficult at the beginning. The fact that a number of European countries have surrendered some of their sovereignty to a common organization is the culmination of 50 years of cooperative interaction amongst erstwhile enemies, not the original pre-condition for their working together.
6. Laws of Development
Specific applications of the principles given below will vary from country to country and from region to region. Nevertheless the basic features of the principles are universal and applicable anywhere at any time. A few of the most salient of those principles are summarized below:

  1. Society is in constant movement and that movement seeks progress. Society self-regulates its movements with regard to production, consumption, communication and knowledge acquisition and dissemination, and is always trying to raise these to higher levels of complexity in order to continuously make its organizations more efficient and effective.
  2. Society evolves by raising its consciousness and becoming aware of untapped potentials. It progressively shifts its focus from concrete physical realities to possibilities that are real to the mind. The heightened awareness releases greater energy which is directed towards greater achievements. Social awareness is transformed into results by the development of social organization. Like business and governmental organizations, social organization is the fabric of interconnectedness that enables society to channel its energies to fulfill its aspirations. Organization absorbs in productive activity the energies released by aspiration.
  3. Society organizes itself at successively higher and higher levels. First it strives for bare survival and preservation, then for growth and expansion, then for development of higher levels of productivity and complexity, then finally for the evolution of new and higher forms of social activity and social organization. The transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture, trade, industrialization and urbanization traces some of these steps.
  4. The only lasting form of development is self-development. Development that comes through the aid of others may give temporary relief but will not generate the attitudes, skills and organizations needed for permanent development. The policy of aid is inconsistent with the principles of development. The Marshall Plan helped war-torn Europe to quickly rebuild itself, mainly because those nations were already developed and had the necessary social organizations and infrastructure. In most cases aid has only deterred development.
  5. Learning by trial and error is a slow and wasteful process of learning, which is the prevalent mode of learning when knowledge about the development process remains subconscious. When people acquire a conscious knowledge of the development process, they can learn quickly from the experience of others without having to pass through every experience countless times before they acquire knowledge.
  6. Society is an organic, integrated whole. Problems develop when disharmonies emerge between parts of the whole. Looking at a problem from the perspective of the whole can eliminate the disharmonies among the parts and, thus, solve the problem. Solutions are available at many levels-physical, vital and mental.3 Problems turn into opportunities when we shift the focus from the physical to the mental. The Peace Pipeline is a good example. Diplomacy refines the physical urge for violence into vital negotiations across the conference table. Law turns vital negotiations into a set of mental principles. Military problems can be given political solutions and political problems can be given economic solutions, etc. When solutions are given from higher levels, they tend to be more effective and longer lasting.
  7. A solution that can be meaningfully applied in one place cannot be applied in another place unless the essentials of the problems are the same. The essence alone is applicable at all times and at all places. Forms and appearances are changeable and can be given up, but the essence of the past experience has to be retained. Specific strategies applied in one location can be successfully applied in another location only when the specifics match. Liberal democracy that was cultivated in Europe was transplanted to North America more successfully than to parts of Asia, because the political culture of Asian countries differed very much from the culture of liberal individualism that evolved in European countries.
  8. Most nations have developed on the strength of one or few capacities such as freedom, sea-faring (England), quality of industrial production (Germany), technological innovation (USA), natural resources (middle East), social structure (Europe), intellectual resources (China), cultural energies (Japan), etc. A strategy that capitalizes on all of the cultural, political and economic capacities of a nation can take it to the leading position in the world.
  9. Resources are created by the mind when it recognizes something as valuable and useful. The potential resources available to any nation are far greater than what any nation is using. These resources are in the form of knowledge, human capabilities, organization, technology, education, social and cultural resources etc. Though the value of natural and technological resources is widely acknowledged, the power of cultural and organizational resources is not very much appreciated. The phenomenal mobilization during war-time in America is an example of the power of organizational capacities that are normally not fully mobilized during peacetime. More than physical or technological resources, it was psychological resources stemming from the value of self-reliant individuality that propelled America’s rise to world leadership.
  10. No nation need take centuries to attain high levels of development. Even backward nations can develop quickly, as Ireland and the Asian Tigers have shown. America compressed ten centuries of European development into one century. It is true that many centuries were required for the world to develop all the various aspects that contribute to a high-level of accomplishment-productive skills, technology, organization and education, etc. Each aspect was developed in isolation by a few nations and later spread to others. Now that the parts have all been developed, they can be quickly combined for the growth of the whole. The world has all the knowledge, information and experience needed.
  11. Peace is not merely the absence of violence. It is a positive condition of stability and harmony that can be established at various depths in society, founded in turn on production, distribution, money power, organization, social cohesiveness and cultural emotion. The deeper the foundation, the more stable and lasting the peace.
  12. Social evolution is moving progressively from smaller social units such as family, village, tribe, caste, ethnic or linguistic group and nation to a single, integrated global society. Language, law and money are social institutions that have played a vital role in linking people together harmoniously and productively within larger social units. Today the internet is emerging as the first truly global social institution and infrastructure for an integrated global society.

7. Global Peace and Development
The principles and process of development are the same for the individual, family, organization, nation-state and for the whole world. At each level peace and stability are indispensably required for development. When the activities of the smaller unit are aligned with that of the bigger unit, the scope for development is vastly enhanced. The evolution of city-states and feudal kingdoms into nation-states illustrates the power that issues from coordinating and integrating activities at a higher level. Today it is not just nations that have an opportunity to advance rapidly. Humanity as a whole is poised for a quantum leap forward, when it moves beyond the limitations imposed by the nation-state as the European Union is doing. Viewed in terms of global social potential, the opportunities for everyone are exponentially greater.

A few important initiatives can release latent human aspirations and energies and provide a stable and peaceful foundation for society to evolve to higher levels of global organization.

  • Abolish veto power in the UN Security Council as the first step towards developing a truly democratic form of global governance.
  • Abolish nuclear weapons to remove an underlying source of anxiety and instability.
  • Establish an International Food Corporation to eliminate food scarcity and to prevent speculation in food which threatens the lives of a billion people.
  • Guarantee employment to thereby eliminate unemployment which is a major source of violence and social unrest.
  • Establish regional currencies along the lines of the Euro as the first step toward development of a single world currency and a world central bank which will eliminate currency speculation and global financial instability.

2. Ed Balls and Jon Cunliffe, Economic Aspects of Peace in the Middle East (London: HM Government, 2007).
3. Ivo Šlaus and Garry Jacobs, “Human Capital and Sustainability,” Sustainability 3, no. 1(2011): 97-154

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