If there is one statistic that influences most the policies of a government and by extension the collective policy of the world at large, then it is the "growth' of the nation; by usage this implies the GDP growth of the nation. "Growth' has become synonymous with the health of the nation's economy. A poor growth rate seems to imply poor prognosis for the "health of the nation' itself.
The present Indian government led by the "economist' PM bets on "sustained high growth rate' as the panacea for all the problems afflicting the nation. When the growth rate is falling the credit rating given by international agencies goes down and the government goes all out to improve the growth rate by spurring economic activity through various means. "Growth rate' has become the key determinant for the pace of life in general.
The effect of such a "growth' on the environment is secondary and considered as inevitable if we want to have a sound economy. The lop-sided growth, where the cities grow at the cost of villages and the ever-increasing rich-poor divide is glossed over. Most seriously, the change in the general mind set of the people from being "value-centred' to becoming "wealth-centred' has serious social consequences.
Corruption is taken lightly and has become in-grained in the minds of the people as inevitable. Narrow-mindedness has taken root and sectarian interests are gaining ground. Democracy requires the fine values of equality, tolerance and forth-rightness for it to flourish. The transition from "value-centred' life to an aggressively "wealth-centred' life has made people forget the larger interests of the nation and the world.
All these and more are justified in the name of "growth'. A moment's reflection on what truly can be the meaning of growth would be illuminating. An individual can reflect back and say that he has truly grown when he becomes wiser and is able to make the right choices for himself and his family. He would consider the ability to find fulfilment in life as the key factor to say that there has been meaningful growth.
Dancing Lakshmi by Nagarjun
What is it that gives fulfilment? By experience one comes to know that material growth would at best give only transient fulfilment. It is the spiritual growth or "the ability to understand and act in the larger interest under increasingly challenging circumstances' that gives true fulfilment. Such a growth is self-sustaining and includes material growth as well. This is in contrast to mere material growth without a spiritual side, which is divisive and disruptive. This holds true from the level of the individuals in a family, right upto the international level involving relations between various nations.
In fact every successful and sustained material growth story would have a hidden spiritual growth story behind it. The foundation or real growth is the spiritual growth. Material growth is only a shadow cast by the real growth. Sadly, most people including the governments and the world at large mistake the shadow (material) as real and the real (spiritual) growth as the shadow. It is imperative to understand that the world at large is caught in a delusion. Individual wise men understand this. But governments and economic pundits need to understand this.
Wisdom can prevail if more and more people take up the cause of "real growth'. When wisdom prevails, a better system of governance can emerge starting from the local and right upto the national and international levels. The alternative is to remain sunken in delusion chasing the mirage of "apparent growth', endangering the planet and its people.
The cause of real growth would be served by a truly "democratic economy'. The present kind of economy is largely determined by economic theorists. Whether it is "market economy' or "socialist economy' or a mixed economy containing elements of both, the people have very little say. A truly democratic economy would facilitate true growth since people would, by trial and error, go for real growth rather than apparent growth out of their individual life experiences.
A truly democratic economy would be possible when there is a truly democratic system of governance. Despite their best intentions, political parties impair true democracy and it has been in-grained in the minds of people that democracy is not possible without political parties. What is required is a change in the mind-set of people. Partyless governance, the dream of Mahatma Gandhi, would provide a truly democratic system. It is possible provided we apply ourselves to the task: http://musingsonpartylessgovernance.blogspot.in/
There is no use in paying tributes to a great leader periodically without trying to put into practice the message he lived for. A truly democratic economy in a truly democratic system of governance is feasible if enough number of people are convinced about it and can turn the tide. Real growth, as against apparent growth, would be fulfilling for every individual, every community and every nation. It will serve to unify mankind.