Full Title: *Mobilization of Private Philanthropy in Asia for Aid in Rural Development.*
_Address delivered to the seminar on ‘Effective Partnership for Growth’ held in Manila in December 1971, jointly sponsored by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations._
‘Generally ‘the elite’ have loyalties which are divided between different benefactors from different parts of the world. They have created three worlds. They call them the First World, the Second World and the Third World. The rural masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America are said to be in this Third World. As a matter of inevitable circumstance our ‘elite’ are seen as the representatives of masses of the Third World, for it is they who think for them, speak for them, receive loans and aid for them, implement development projects and welfare programmes for them, report successes and sometimes failures on their behalf, pay back the loans for them and finally assure them of the better times to come’.
I come from a village in Sir Lanka. Most of my time I spend with my brothers and sisters in rural Sri Lanka. My ideas and attitudes as well as my portion of voluntary rural work are thoroughly conditioned by these ‘outsiders’ in spite of the dominant ‘modernizers’ who inhabit our country. At the risk of being called names such as ‘reactionary’ ‘idealist’, or even ‘communist’ I believe that I should speak my people’s language in this paper I am asked to submit. Those people are outsiders in the eyes of the decision-making establishment though minus them there can be no nation. And what they speak is common sense though in very ‘blunt’ language.
Asia lived and lives in the villages. But today she is tutored by the city. For many years to come Asia will remain rural. In the past the city was but a refined version of rural values, prosperity and aspirations. Today it is the reverse. The Asian city, whose values reflect more the remains of a colonial past and which displays the condition of an imported confused industrial mass consumption civilization, dominates the rural communities.
In the past Rural Asia was nurtured by the living examples of saints and respected elders. There was a harmonious integration of objectives and methods pertaining to the organization of man, and matter, the final common goal of which exercise was to ensure the joy of living for all. Even powerful war-lords at that time bowed down to the values set by those standard-bearers of the Asian culture.
The colonizers came and super-imposed their ‘superior’ values, their refined methods and techniques, and their sophisticated institutions on our people. Most of them have removed themselves physically from Asia though carrying with them their spoils. Yet to fill the void thus created they left behind as overlords of their former colonies, a category of people elevated from among the indigenous people and ‘educated’ in their ways. An establishment built up over the centuries by the colonizers was left behind there by creating a sense of authority as well as an illusion of freedom. The authority of the ancient saints and elders was no more.
These modern masters call themselves the ‘elite’. They are found in every walk of life in politics, in business, in diplomacy, in economic planning and implementation, in the professions and in a kind of activity called rural development too. These ‘elite’ bridge the communication gap between two worlds they have identified and labelled ‘the developing’ and ‘the developed’. They work in multi-storied, air-conditioned concrete buildings situated in the busy streets of cities in preference to the quiet solitude of the rural areas. They are undoubtedly a bridge between the ‘developed’ and the ‘undeveloped’ people and their temples of planning should necessarily maintain an overall view of both.
The ‘elite’ though they belong to the same establishment, have specialized in their own disciplines. Sometimes they have their own rifts and quarrels as to who should bear the blame, which group of political ‘elite’ or which bureaucratic clique or which economic enterprise is to be held responsible. These quarrels are short lived and are soon made up. The establishment or the partnership must not perish. Meanwhile the common rural masses kept at a safe distance as they are, live in the hope of a better tomorrow and even brighter future.
These ‘elite’ who constitute a negligible fraction of the masses of Asia, know exactly what those outside the establishment need and aspire to. So they plan for them, and at most times act on their behalf particularly at national and international levels. Rural people in their helplessness or disorganization and confusion, and amidst the busy day to day struggle to eke out an existence at semi-starvation level place trust in those ‘elite’ and their plans, even though they may not understand how these plans were really formed.
They champion the cause of the ‘rural poor’ and even that of their more enterprising and desperate brethren of their kith and kin who have migrated to the city slums. Through a terminology and logic understandable only to such ‘enlightened’ persons they often persuade governments, institutions and persons of the ‘developed world’ to come to the aid of their poor people. The local ‘elite’ have mastered the economic and political jargon which help successful negotiation of these master aid programmes. Out of gratitude they are even ready to make the political and economic concessions to the ‘developed world’. The rule is that the lines of communication between these ‘elite’ of so-called developing countries and their counterparts in the developed nations must be very clear and in good working order whilst no concern is felt for the vast disparities that exist between the ‘elite’ and the rural masses for whom they are supposed to act. Among the ‘elite’ occurs from time to time the odd-man-out, the non-conformist, who in course of time gets excommunicated from the established order if he becomes too much of a nuisance to the order.
The effective partnership between the ‘elite-receiver’ and ‘developed-giver’ very often results in ‘model projects’ and even ‘model nations’ amidst though they be in appalling poverty and chaotic political crisis as in Asia. We are told that these ‘models’ are the ones to pursue and that they are the justifications of the ‘correct’ approach by any joint endeavour of the partnership for and on behalf of the ‘starving millions of Asia’. After all it is the ‘elite’ who sets the values and standards for these models. The common ignorant people have only to notice and admire the new elite-saint and reaffirm their faith in them. Of course some of the more enterprising and capable among the common people are provided with incentives to aspire to be ‘developed’ in the same manner as this elite.
Some of the rural people are ‘stupid’. They question the very goals, the objectives, the plans as well as the techniques of the development exercise advocated by the ‘elite’. They with feet grounded as they are in the traditional past, they refuse to take off the sake of a future in the name of which the ‘elite’ ask for their co-operation to create. They are said to fall far short of the expected norms of hard work, obedience, orderliness and discipline. They have begun to question the managerial competence of those who direct the system. They even doubt the very integrity of most of them and question the knowledge they profess to have of the rural problems.
Its their superstition and ignorance that makes rural people question the ‘elite’ – the managers of political, educational, commercial, military, administrative, technocratic and planning institutions at different levels. After all, the ‘elite’ say it is they who gave purpose and stability to these nations even though they had no magical formula to solve all problems of the ‘developing world, in a matter of months. The ‘elite’ also ask questions: ‘Wouldn’t there be complete chaos and disorder if we the ‘decision-making’ elite are stripped of our power and the masses were allowed to evolve their own common goals, objectives and the means to realize them? On the other hand shouldn’t the masses though not of themselves but at best through their sons, and daughters 1% of whom can be assured of a university education, make a serious attempt to understand the problems of modern economic planning and growth which necessarily are couched in the unintelligible language of the expert’?
The ‘elite’ assert that the ‘developed world’, say for example Western Europe, had to work hard for many centuries before they could get the present day per capita income of US$ 1250. Why can’t the younger generation wait, say in some countries, for another forty-five years at least to reach this level? They have only to work hard and patiently to increase the present annual growth rate of 2.1 to 5 as the ‘elite’ advise them. In the time clock of centuries isn’t 45 years a negligibly short period?
‘But the ‘youth’ are more stupid than their elders. The stupidity of the elders is tolerable but the ‘little educated, inexperienced, turbulent youth, are a threat to our whole elite establishment, nay, to the whole civilized world. They have been made literate at the public expense and we the elite were responsible for making this investment. Yet the youths are in ungrateful revolt. The frustration brought about by mass unemployment and under-employment is another matter which of course was mainly the result of the foreign exchange crisis’. Why can’t the youth wait?
Well, youths say ‘All right, we will wait, You wait too, and your kith and kin as well’. Naturally the ‘elite’ are not prepared to do all this-They don’t believe that any good can come out of disturbing their march of ‘progress‘ by waiting.
These ‘misled immature youths’ sometimes take to violence too. They are trying to harm themselves and others. They have to be checked for their own good and the good of society. Coercive force which protected the colonial rulers from the conquered people has now to be brought in to protect the ‘elite’ from the onslaught of the youth. Of course this has to be done in the name of the good social order. Otherwise the people will identify the ‘elite’ as similar in character to their departed colonial masters. On the other hand how can they bring about the development when there is disorderliness and violence?
At normal times the ‘elite’ too quarrel among themselves. But their language is unintelligible to the people. Reality for people lies in the action and in the integrity of the people who act. Generally ‘the elite have loyalties which are divided between different benefactors from different parts of the world. They have created three world. They call them the First World, the Second World and the Third World. The rural masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America are said to be in this Third World. As a matter of inevitable circumstances our ‘elite’ are seen as the representatives of masses of the Third World, for it is they who think for them, speak for them, receive loans and aid for them, implement development projects and welfare programmes for them, report successes and sometimes failures on their behalf, pay back the loans for them and finally assure them of the better times to come.
Sometimes that group of ‘elite’ called party-politicians take their quarrels to the rural areas. People are asked to pass judgement on the issues over which they quarrel by making a cross in a ballot paper during the elections. This happens once in four or five years. Depending on who wins the day a few people in the village receive their rewards. Others get back to a slow process of repairing the damage caused to the human and developmental relationships in the village by the ‘elections’. That group of ‘elite’ who run the administration perpetually control the system of administration except that some, who lean too far towards the ‘wrong’ faction of political ‘elite’ change places with others more acceptable to the political ‘elite’ who happen to be in power, at the time.
And rural life goes on. Sometimes these ‘elite’ who have proved their ‘efficiency’ in the strategic points in the establishment are promoted to international development institutions. Sometimes they descend upon the rural scene to inspire the still backward village people. And still life goes on, but some people, as I mentioned before, question the very ‘elite’ way of approach to progress and development. They demand a total change in his approach where they too can play a decisive role in a matter which primarily concerns their life and death. They want to participate as equals in the management of their affairs and in development. They may not be totally right but they cannot be totally wrong either. In any case these rural people for whom the establishment is said to be acting are numerically very strong. It may be worth giving them a chance to prove themselves qualitatively as the establishment may not be wholly right either. I don’t like to call these ‘elite’ the privileged and I know how difficult it is for them in any case to give away the ‘decision-making role’ they played on behalf of the poor ignorant masses for such a long time. I also know that most of them are fighting within themselves a big battle as between the demands of the time and their conscience, on the one hand and their traditional pride and hypocrisy on the other hand.
I often ask the rural people direct what happens outside. They appear to know more than the ‘elite’ think they are capable of knowing. They know how man exploits man. They know how man kills man and ruins nature herself. They know how man deceives man and tries to deceive nature too. They know how man intoxicates man for mutual destruction. The rural mother is horrified to see ‘developed’ nations turn brutes, are filled with untruth, violence, and selfishness. She knows the simple truth that it is useless developing the world if there is no development of the human in man.
The development she sees being practised today is a headlong thrust into an abyss of total and general destruction. The philosophy of the rural people cannot be ignored in the name of an impersonal science and technology. On the contrary, in the very unsophisticated simplified thinking of the rural people may lie the very path to the much needed integration of the ‘elite’ with the real life of the people, not as their masters but as an integral part of their culture. A rural mother’s feeling for man loving man, man sharing with man, man ennobling man, man sacrificing for man and man enlightening man is the base from which we have to start. We may have to turn a full circle. But it has to be done. People refuse to be subject to a so called modern elusive establishment over which the human being however much of an ‘elite’ he may be has no control. This self-realization combined with self-determination and self-respect. I believe has to be the foundation on which Asian rural development programmes have to be built. My paper is only a humble attempt to examine this possibility based mainly on my own experience in rural work.
Having stressed my stand-point for a total shift in regard to development, policy-making and programme-implementation from the ‘elite’ to the people, from a city based culture to the rural society, I would like to conclude this chapter with a brief outline of the rest of this paper. The need for a unified approach to development is emphasized in the Second Chapter. The Third Chapter is devoted to a re-definition of the concept of rural development in keeping with this unified approach. In the Fourth Chapter the concept and practice of philanthropy is examined. The Fifth Chapter gives an account of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Ceylon which is implemented on the said basis. Some conclusions follow in the Sixth Chapter.
*A Unified Approach to Development*
The First United Nations Development Decade has just ended. The Second United Nations Development Decade has almost begun. In spite of extensive development efforts made during the first decade and the isolated success stories of projects carried out during this period, we in Asia have to accept the truth that the average developing nation in Asia is in a relatively weaker position today than she was ten years ago vis-a-vis her industrialized counterparts in the ‘First World’ and the ‘Second World’. This is true for the African an Latin American nations also.
The International Development strategy for the Second Development Decade which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 24th October 1970 appears to have taken cognizance of this situation. This document, though it leaves certain things to be disired, in my belief, makes a definitive break-through into a more realistic view of the problems of the third world. I shall draw from this document certain parts which are directly connected with the theme I am developing.
For example, the preamble to the DD2 International Development Strategy states: ‘However, the level of living of countless millions of people in the developing parts of the world is still pitifully low. Those people are often still undernourished, uneducated, unemployed and wanting in many other amenities of life. While a part of the world lives in great comfort and even affluence, much of the larger part suffers from abject poverty and in fact the disparity is continuing to widen. This lamentable situation has contributed to aggravate world tension’.
The current frustrations and disappointments must not be allowed to cloud the vision or stand in the way of the development objectives. Youth everywhere is in ferment, and the 1970’s must mark a step forward in securing the well-being and happiness not only of the present generations but also of the generations to come.
‘The success of International Development will depend in a large measure on improvement of the general international situation, particularly on concrete progress towards general and complete disarmament under effective international control, on the elimination of colonialism, racial discrimination, apartheid and occupation of territories of any state and on the promotion of equal political, economic, social and cultural rights for all members of society. Progress towards general and complete disarmament should release substantial additional resources which could be utilized for the purpose of economic and social development particularly of developing countries. There should, therefore, be a close link between the second United Nations Development Decade and the Disarmament Decade. (5)’
The ultimate objective of development must be to bring about sustained improvement in the well-being of the individual and bestow benefits on all. If undue privileges, extremes of wealth and social injustices persist, then development fails in its essential purpose. (7)
‘International co-operation for development must be on a scale commensurate with that of the problem itself. Partial sporadic and half-hearted gestures, howsoever well-intentioned, will not suffice, (9)’ (The italics are mine).
In the Chapter on Goals and Objectives the DD2 document further states; ‘As the ultimate purpose of development is to provide increasing opportunities to all people for a better life it is essential to bring about a more equitable distribution of income and wealth for promoting both social justice and efficiency of production, to raise substantially the level of employment, to achieve a greater degree of income security, to expand and improve facilities for education, health, nutrition, housing and social welfare, and to safeguard the environment. Thus qualitative and structural change in the society must go hand in hand with rapid economic growth, and existing disparties-regional, sectoral and social-should be substantially reduced. These objectives are both determining factors and end results of development, they should therefore be viewed as integrated parts of the same dynamic process and would require a unified approach:
# Each developing country should formulate its national employment objective so as to absorb an increasing proportion of its working population in modern type activities and reduce significantly unemployment and under-employment;
# Particular attention should be paid to achieving enrolement of all children of primary school age, improvement of the quality of education at all levels, a substantial reduction in illiteracy, the re-orientation of educational programmes to serve development needs, and, as appropriate, the establishment and expansion of scientific and technological institutions;
# Each developing country should formulate a coherent health programme for the prevention and treatment of diseases and for raising general levels of health and sanitation;
# Levels of nutrition should be improved in terms of the average caloric intake and the protein content, with special emphasis being placed on the needs of the vulnerable groups of the population;
# Housing facilities should be expanded and improved especially for the lower income groups and with a view to remedying the ills of unplanned urban growth and lagging rural areas;
# The well-being of the children should be fostered;
# The full participation of the youth in the development process should be ensured.
# The full integration of women in the total development effort should be encouraged.
I purposefully quoted at length from the DD2 document so that as I develop my theme, ‘Mobilization of private Philanthropy in Asia for Aid in Rural Development’, I shall not deviate very much from the ‘collective will’ of the United Nations as expressed by them in the General Assembly. Secondly my experience in rural development work has convinced me beyond reasonable doubt of the importance of a unified approach to rural national and international problems if we are to achieve any measure of real success in our work. And this document contains the UN objectives and goals closest to such a unified approach to problems of development.
In the context of this unified approach to development a redefinition of the concept as well as the objectives and methods of rural development becomes necessary. The motivation for and the practice of philanthropy too have to be re-appraised and integrated into this new total situation.
*A Re-Definition of the Concept of Rural Development*
I know in my opening remarks of this paper I was very hard on the ‘elite’ for blindly following on the foot-steps of the industrialized world in particularly all matters from ideologies to methods, from techniques to organization of our political, economic and social life. To be fair to at least a minority of persons in this class I must say that they are becoming aware of self-interested role that most of the ‘developed’ countries have played in their relationships with the poorer countries. They know that wittingly or unwittingly the so-called developed world have kept us ‘undeveloping’ as stated in the UN document I quoted in the last chapter.
In the same manner and as a result of much worse silent suffering for decades and disillusionment from every political regime and administrative hierarchy, the rural masses in Asian countries are becoming aware of the hollowness of this superficial and discriminatory system. The rural masses have realized that they have been working for an oppressive urban-centered system. They need only a voice from for among them or from a source identified with them to express this realisation in words and in deeds.
What is development? Isn’t it self realization, an awakening of awareness, a sort of an unfolding of the individual and the group to the realities of their relationship with the natural or social environment around them? If the ‘elite’ have become aware of their failures in the past as agents of change in rural Asia as a result of an over-dependence on an unreliable or unsound source, and if the ‘rural people’ have learned from experience that the only hope lies within their own culture, and in their own ideas, organization and self-determind effort, then there now exists a golden opportunity to begin true development.
As evidenced in may countries of the exploited world ‘the rural giant’ is showing signs of awakening from his long and hard slumber. Unbelievers who refuse to accept this reality are certain of inevitable disillusionment – for whatever happens the giant is going to awaken. What the people, concerned should do is not to try to subdue this force but to create the necessary conditions to facilitate it to burst into full and vigorous life so as to completely restructure our concept on democracy, socialism, freedom and the like.
It may sound highly idealistic to take the foregoing argument to its logical conclusion to state that in the poorer countries the concept of rural development should supersede that of national development. In a physical and psychological environment where human personality is kept in servitude, human creativity has difficulty in blossoming. In a village subservient to an urban political or administrative bureaucracy, rural awakening will certainly not take place. Social creativity will be at its lowest in a disintegrated and dependent national situation. We in the still poor rural world, therefore, must start with the concept of the individual who is possessed of an awakening personality, an autonomous village unit, an independent nation-state before we think of adjusting ourselves be it as individuals, villages or nations to the world political and economic system. If the former could be achieved, the adjustment to the world situation is only a matter of time as demonstrated by several poorer nations such as China, in their approach to development.
This reversed order of things will certainly bring dismay to the traditional planner and bureaucrat. bureaucrat. is true that it is hard to imagine how we could give life and blood to a human being who for a very long time has been a mere digit in matters of planning where man hours, growth rates per capita incomes and so on form the basis of all calculations.
But where is the end to all this? What is the final production of this exercise even if the plans succeed? Is it not going to result in creating an alienated and consumer-maniac society where the individual has totally got lost, as has happened in most industrialized societies? Talking their own language, how far does the objective of development, as defined in terms of economic growth and in the stepping up of the rate of growth of gross domestic product, have validity when in practice high growth rates have not reduced unemployment, income inequalities, mass poverty, illiteracy, bad housing or poor nutrition?
In the name of a science and a technology that never reach the vast masses of our people and in the name of modernisation, our traditional societies have been deliberately disturbed and even destroyed by a so called impersonal scientific attitude and practice. Propaganda and advertisement of cheap consumer articles the developed world wants to be rid of, free food to subsidize a developed world nations’s market, sophisticated labour saving machinery, alien habits and customs, all this and much more have duped our people far too long. The tragedy of the whole process is that the subjects or agents of development have never carried out research to find out the comparative real income growth that as managers of our societies, they have achieved during the last few decades or to find out at whose cost this was achieved.
Strangely enough this development has yielded similar results in the rich world and the poor world. In both worlds the youth are in revolution. The general mass of the populations in the richer countries are uncertain of their future. An eternal nuclear cloud is hanging over their heads. New problems of ecological imbalance and environmental pollution are threatening to cause wholesale destruction. A vast complex of computerized establishments has completely overshadowed the tiny creator of all this. The industrialization stage is no more in the rich world. It has the state of a post-industrial mass-consumption culture, while we in rural Asia are still trying to find out our bearings are trying to find which way to go. But the way is not so obscure. Let us begin from where we are, with what we have. We, the exploited, may yet have the clue to save ourselves from our exploiters, if only we are bold enough to start right now.
Rural development can no more be a ‘partial’ sporadic and half-hearted gesture. It has to be a total, all-embracing, continuous and vigorous national activity, ‘commensurate with the magnitude of the problem itself’. Rural development can no more remain as an isolated effort carried out in ‘backward’ rural communities for humanitarian reasons and as a supplementary programme to massive national development efforts. And what are these massive national development programmes and how successful have these been as evaluated by the standards of the planners themselves? In my own country an innumerable number of examples could be cited to show how these projects not merely fell far short of expectations but actually resulted in impoverishment of a whole nation. In the words of the planners themselves who evaluated our first multi-purpose Gal-Oya project a hydro-electric cum irrigation scheme of the fifties in 1969 …. ‘even if capital were available to the economy absolutely free the project would not have been paying …. the benefit cost ratio is 0.5 and the discounted costs exceed the discounted benefits by Rs.277,313,510’. A similar multi-purpose project, the Uda Walave Scheme is said to have cost Rs. 304 millions so far with not dissimilar problems already encountered while not even 6,000 acres have been brought under cultivation. Five sugar factories were planned in the fifties but fortunately only two were completed with an investment of Rs. 87 million and in fact even these run at less than 20% of their capacity. Had these monies been invested in a village centred massive rural development effort with unsophisticated tools and with people’s effort and participation perhaps we wouldn’t have the economic and social difficulties we are facing today.
I personally think that a country in Asia is not going to lose very much were it to totally decentralize its power structure. On the contrary both the power wielders at the centre and the powerless at the bottom are bound to benefit from such a reversal of authority. The village communities at the bottom should be given all the economic and political power within their communities. In other words Village Self Government should be the central thought in rural development. As Mahathma Gandhi proposed for India so each nation should be a ‘Commonwealth of Village Republics’. Some will immediately react with words of wisdom or derision such as ‘viable economic and political units’ going back to the history etc. Let these viable units begin from below. Let this application of science and technology be started from where the people are at a level of their competence and with what they already know. Let them have a bullock cart to begin with while at the same time they planned for a jet transportation. Let them have simple hand operated pumps and kerosene lamps while planning for giant hydro-electric plants, which most probably even now carry electricity over the heads of rural areas to the towns first. Allow the so called ‘viable units’ to grow and evolve from the bottom. Let the power remain with the people and only the residue of power find its way from their level to the divisional, provincial, national and international levels. Let the process evolve its own rationale. This is the full circle that the concept of Rural Development has to turn if social, economic and political justice for the people is our true and supreme goal. An approach based on this concept is the only safeguard against under-development, exploitation, violence, and general de-humanisation.
Philanthropy is love of mankind especially as shown in services to her general welfare. Recognition of man as an equal and not as an exploited miserable being motivates one for this type of service. Individuals and groups taking to philanthropic work are fulfilling a basic psychological human need in the sense of expressing their solidarity with the rest of their human family.
Mutual love between human beings and service to one another are necessary for any healthy society. It is a fundamental requirement of the human being to have this concern for his fellow-men. Some individuals and groups, many commit themselves more to the practice of this kind of service than others. But every one by his very birth-right should be a giver as much as he himself is a receiver.
Love of mankind is different from sectarian feeling for one’s own close group or class. Certainly philanthropy should and has necessarily to begin with one’s own immediate group, the family, the village, the ethnic or racial group, etc., but if it ends up with such sectarian service then it ceases to be philanthropy in my opinion for it can lead to new tension and even conflict between groups. The concept and practice of philanthropy should transcend all barriers that divide man from man and aim at the general welfare of the entire human family.
Philanthropy is not merely a matter of hand-outs. Indiscriminate hand-outs breed beggars. Philanthropy should not be reduced to a virtue which could only be practised by the haves towards the have-nots. Such a paternalistic attitude will necessarily mean the perpetuation of a system where two classes have to exist for man’s love and service towards man to manifest itself. On the other hand philanthropy should be a human quality which every person irrespective of his wealth or education is able to practise. It should be a part and parcel of the human life itself.
When philanthropy is defined as a practice common to all human beings, then it becomes synonymous with the concept and practice of sharing one’s time, thought, energy, skill, wealth, land etc., for the common welfare of all. The degree to which a person can practise sharing may vary from person to person. But every person can certainly practise it in some area of activity. And this co-sharing as I may call it leads to co-operation between human beings. There can never be true co-operation without co-sharing.
The concepts of philanthropy when expressed in this manner, becomes an integrated part of the process of social change which we call development too. It ceases to be an individual, isolated one way, ‘do-gooding’ act, but, becomes a dynamic force for social change. Depending on the culture within which we work we should be able to relate to this concept the traditions, customs, beliefs, religion songs, dances and ceremonies of that culture and also to design concrete programmes of social, political and economic action working towards the common goals we have placed before us. Thus religion, culture and all that which we have inherited from the past become the supplementary force rather than some imagine an obstacle to social progress.
Philanthropy should not be allowed to degenerate into an act of making one group of people dependent on another. It may stifle the growth of the receiving group instead of helping it. When it is an act of sharing it benefits both. Those who can share more should not do harm to themselves and others by acting as paternalistic saviours. Nobody can save another unless that other person is prepared to save himself. Particularly those who possess economic power should act in a spirit of sharing with those who do not have such power and help the latter to liberate themselves from the bondage they are in. In the world context I very often think that what is necessary is not ‘development aid’ or ‘development co-operation’ but Liberation-Co-operation (which I may call in shortened form LIBCO). Because as much as the poorer people have to be liberated from under-development, the rich countries and people have also to be liberated from their consumption-oriented life of greed, hatred, and ignorance. Therefore what is necessary is a spirit of ‘liberation-co-operation’.
If the practice of philanthropy does not lead to greater social, economic and political equality among the rich and the poor, be it people or nations, such action will not help the process of development. Most rural areas are not developing because the necessary psychological and political incentives are denied them through concentration of power in the cities, landlessness, indebtedness, exploitation of labour, lack of fair prices for their agricultural produce, etc. Whether philanthropy is practised by the rural people themselves, or by those from outside such as various ‘philanthropic’ groups, I wouldn’t encourage them to give mere hand-outs unless their action will conform to the broader objectives of social justice and self determination.
There are various national and international groups engaged in humanitarian work which certainly help alleviate the sufferings of various groups of people in certain situations. We commend them. But if they are to be development oriented they must share the objective of fundamental structural changes that are urgently required to build up a more just society. And more particularly, philanthropic groups in either countries should work harder in their own countries to achieve total and general disarmament which would save sufficient monies and resources to help develop the poor nations. They should enlighten the policy makers and the establishments in their countries as to the adverse trade terms we in the ‘developing’ world are subject to in our dealings with the richer countries. This type of aid to us will help us much more than the traditional ‘charitable’ practices.
As mentioned earlier, philanthropy is motivated by love of mankind, it cannot have barriers. But some ‘philanthropic groups’ are motivated by political considerations and interfere with the internal structural changes that are taking place in a community or a country with which they have established aid relationships. I would not call this true philanthropy and would not encourage it. Each community and nation should have its right to self-determination. Very often the paternal relationships that ‘philanthropic groups’ have established with ‘ruling groups’ who do not believe in changing the existing pattern of the social structure become inimical to real development.
Philanthropy can be made to be a very dynamic force of social change in any situation if the particular group in that situation has good leadership which can whip up the necessary ‘political’ will. In the next chapter I will explain briefly how our Movement, the Sarvodaya Shramadana, does it in rural Ceylon. The same could be practised in a sophisticated setting, say, a private company, if truly they have the will to do it. As much as capital is a necessary ingredient for production of a certain commodity or service there are other factors that have to be combined with it. But only those who invested capital claim ownership of the actual establishment and profit. If the owners of capital, consider themselves as trustees of the profits they have made jointly then sharing that profit with those who helped to make the profit become an act of true philanthropy. In a situation of this nature the relationship between the employer and the employees changes into one of harmonious partnership as both are shareholders of a common enterprise. Collectively they become trustee of a social property. This concept of trusteeship has a lot of potentialities which could be harnessed for social progress. If the employers’ federations and labour unions give this thought serious and genuine consideration not only could an increase in productivity of the particular concern with better relationship between the different owners of factors of production be brought about, but they can also jointly help in suitable social programmes. This may open up more efficient ways of reducing income disparities and effecting economic justice without hatred and violence. Of course a progressive State can provide the necessary legislation to enforce the process by heavy penalties, including the changes of the trustees if they violate the basic principles of trusteeship as accepted in a particular social structure.
Land reforms are a very essential prerequisite for changing rural society. Acharya Vinoba Bhave of India through his Bhoodan (Land Gift) and Gramdan (Common Ownership of All Village Land) Movements proved how the concept of philanthropy could be successfully practised in the sector of land reform. Had this movement been followed up with the necessary political and economic measures by the State administration a non-violent change to a socialist form of land ownership could have been achieved in India. He basically showed how the people’s inherent strength could be awakened for total change in the social and economic field. The political administrative authorities should have given this great attempt the necessary legal base by bringing about structural changes which people asked for consequent to their philanthropic gesture.
In Sri Lanka (Ceylon) hundreds and thousands of men, women, young people and children from all strata of society have responded to the call of the Sarvodaya Movement and volunteered their labour and services in rural reconstruction work. Even skilled people such as doctors and nurses, engineers and technicians, teachers and professors have performed physical labour and skilled work in Sarvodaya projects, all of their own free-will without monetary or other rewards or returns. Thus in the field of philanthropy there is an unlimited potentiality in all spheres such as capital, labour, skill and knowledge, for people to share these with one another for common good. It is a practice in which everybody can and should join, with the difference that quality and quantity of that which is shared may vary from person to person group to group.
Then there are giant corporations in the rich countries. They too sometimes practise ‘Philanthropy’. Most people, including myself, in developing countries have serious doubts about their motivations for practising ‘philanthropy’. I appreciate the humanitarian work done for some very worthy causes by some of these giant corporations. Yet I must confess my disappointment and dismay at the extent to which they have followed their profit motives so much so as to enslave our entire economies by using (or abusing) the technological entrepreneurial and organisational lead they have over poorer countries. If only they had the courage to radically change their attitudes and return to the developing economies a substantial part of the profits they have taken away from them I think that will be the highest form of philanthropy. And philanthropy is defined as ‘Love of Mankind especially as shown in services to general welfare’. They must realize that the oppressed of this world have awakened and are awakening and nothing will hold them from winning back their legitimate and moral rights. But in spite of their underdevelopment they are a very charitable people in forgiving and forgetting if the oppressors make a genuine effort to reverse this order of things found in the world today. Together in a genuine brotherhood-achieved as I mentioned earlier by co-operation with co-sharing we can still build a new world.
It is extremely gratifying to note that many wealthy countries have formed themselves into philanthropic bodies to assist the poorer countries. I have come across large numbers of young people in Europe who have organized themselves into action groups to help their poorer brothren. They even volunteered to come and serve these people under conditions which to them would be very trying indeed. But even countries which have reached the zenith of material progress have their own problems. The spiritual deterioration that has taken place in these consumer oriented societies may be the cause of the numerically greater number of the mentally diseased. Perhaps we in the ‘developing world’ can help these countries too.
*Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka.*
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sir Lanka is a non-governmental voluntary organization and was founded in 1958. Today it is the largest non-governmental grass-roots movement in the country. It is trying to help people in 400 villages of Sri Lanka to build for themselves a new way of life based on the ideas expressed in the preceding chapters of this paper. The target for 1975 is 1,000 villages.
The Movement was started with the specific objective of involving the rural masses and the young people jointly in constructive and voluntary effort to achieve the following:
# Develop the personality of youth in keeping with our culture and yet taking cognizance of the rapid changes taking place around us;
# Awaken the rural communities to the realities of social change and help them to become agents of such change in keeping with their own culture and interests;
# Achieve national integration by giving opportunities to all irrespective of caste, race, religion or language to contribute their share in the common effort of nation building based on the principles of the Movement, namely, Truth, Non-violence and Self-denial with the objective of realizing fundamental human rights and social justice; and
# Bring about collaboration between people and communities with identity of ideas and progressive programmes in other countries of the world for world peace, human-brotherhood, and ‘Liberation-Co-operation’ between basic groups.
Sarvodaya signifies a thought and ‘Shramadana’ the implementation of that thought. ‘Sarva’ meaning All and ‘Udaya’ meaning Awakening are two Sanskrit words which are also current in the Sinhala Language. (Shrama, literally means energy of labour and ‘dana means sharing’. Therefore Sarvodaya Shramadana means sharing of one’s time, thought and energy for awakening of all.)
The Sarvodaya concept of ‘the awakening of all’ was Mahathma Gandhi’s answer to the Western political concept of achieving ‘greater good of the greater number’. Acharya Vinoba Bhave with his world famous Bhoodan-Gramdan Movement which he started in 1951 propagated this thought. We in Sri Lanka were inspired by both these men when we started our Movement. The Sri Lanka management has given its own indigenous character to the Sarvodaya thought and Shramadana action.
Sarvodaya ideology, as understood and interpreted by us has both a spiritual and material significance relevant to the individual, the family and the community, be it village or urban, national or world. It was mentioned that ‘Udaya’ means ‘awakening’. It also means ‘Liberation’. The individual should have clear integrated ideas as what he has to liberate from, why he must do this and how he is to liberate himself; he must also have clear ideas about the concepts of community, nation and world. Unless one’s ideological conditioning is non-fragmentary and integrated harmoniously one’s own welfare with the welfare of others, one cannot go very far as an agent to effective social change.
Sarvodaya points to a two-fold liberation objective one should strive for. Firstly, within one’s own mind or thinking process there are certain defilements one has to recognise and must strive to cleanse the mind of these. Secondly, one has to realize that there are unjust and immoral socio-economic chains which keep the vast majority of people enslaved; having recognized these, one has to realize that these chains have to be removed if the human being is to enjoy true freedom and fundamental human rights. Thus the individual’s mental make up, and the social environment in which he lives are both undergoing revolution and this aspect is kept foremost in the mode of thought and behaviour of our members of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement.
Those persons who have as their supreme goal the realization of their personality development to the fullest can in the long run show to others the way or the path to liberation from the many spiritual or moral lapses and socio-economic ills of humanity today. This means for the individual an educational goal far more scientific than the present formal job/career oriented impartation of knowledge. The individual should be a dynamic entity constantly striving to overcome his inner passions of greed, anger and ignorance. This compels us to look upon the individuals personality in its totality consisting as it does of an integrated combination of a dynamic mind, heart and body operating in a total socio-economic complex.
During the period of industrialization in Europe and the subsequent commercial expansion towards the East, production of wealth was a material and mechanical process where spiritual and humanistic considerations were totally absent or ignored. The whole economic philosophy that interested Western capitalism was to look for the most effective combination of the factors of production-namely, land-labour-capital and organization in order to bring about maximum profit. We cannot in our countries, work on this theory. In our society the human being himself is the most important entity although we cannot pretend to be unconcerned with the need to increase our economic productivity so as to give the individual a higher standard of living. The dilemma we are faced with here and now is how we may harmonize modern economic theory with the age-old wealth of spiritual values we have inherited.
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement over the last thirteen years has evolved a three-fold approach to this problem. Firstly an educational re-awakening process is implemented through Shramadana. Secondly, a grass-roots development process is initiated through the ‘Gramodaya’ or the Sarvodaya Village Re-awakening Programme. Thirdly, a non-violent social revolutionary process is generated through people’s participation in the decision making process at all levels. This unified approach of education, development and participation for social change is the foundation on which, we believe, a new social order in rural Sri Lanka should be built. Let me very briefly explain each of these.
Shramadana as I explained above literally means the sharing of one’s labour and services with the community. Shramadana camps are the places where the young and old, the educated and the illiterate, the privileged and the forgotten all meet and serve one another as equals. The Shramadana volunteers encamp in a rural area close to the location of a physical community project (planned well ahead of the camp). They harmonize the traditional culture of the rural community and live and work with the community for a period of time which may vary from a weekend to one week or a month. From the planning stage to implementation, from evaluation to the follow-up of projects it is the village community that is carrying out the task of decision-making. Those who volunteer from outside to work in the Shramadana Camps do not super-impose their will on the people nor adopt a patronizing attitude towards them. They accept the rural culture which is based on four principles of personality development for the individual and four principles of group behaviour for a healthy society.
What are the four principles of personality development that form the foundation of our rural culture? They are Metta, Karuna, Muditha, and Upekkha which respectively mean (1) loving kindness towards all or respect of life, (2) compassionate action or helping people to overcome their suffering, (3) altruistic joy or experiencing happiness when fellow beings are made happy and (4) learning to maintain mental balance or equanimity at times of loss as well as gain, fame or blame. A shramadana camp is a place where both the physical and psychological requirements are fulfilled for every individual to imbibe these qualities in them.
Then there are the four salient principles for healthy group living within the rural culture. They are dana, priya vachana artha-charya, and samanathmatha which respectively mean sharing, pleasant speech, constructive activity and equality. In a Shramadana Camp each according to his capacity shares his labour and skills with others. People address one another in pleasant language generally used among members of the same family. They are all participants in useful constructive activity such as developing a water resource to irrigate the village field, providing access roads to the village, putting up a school building or community hall, carrying our a medical or health programme, and such other activities which help the village community. In the camp all share the same food, the same facilities for lodging, the same conveniences without any considerations of caste, class, race or political commitments. The Shramadana camp with its songs and dance, work and study, truly becomes the ideal human family in microcosm where self-fulfilment and joy of living become a reality.
The Shramadana is not only directed towards the achievement of physical objectives that satisfied a felt need of community. It is also an educational experience for young and old alike in a very broad sense. Among the manifold benefits that are derived from Shramadana Camps three major ones are listed below:
# Provision of a first hand opportunity for rural urban groups to meet in a beneficial manner thus bringing about mutual understanding and trust towards the achievement of common goals;
# After generations of inaction and dependence the rural communities awaken themselves to a new life of self-reliance and self-help to better their conditions; and
# The emergence of a new rural leadership, a new dynamic development-oriented unity in place of the old divisions which were based on caste, religion and political commitments.
A series of shramadana camps in a village leads to the second stage, which we call Village Re-awakening. Under the guidance of trained Sarvodaya youth workers a thorough family socio-economic survey is conducted. A general survey of the structural aspect of the community is also done. Based on this data and findings a short term programme is based on these improvements that can be brought about in the areas of education, health, agriculture and cottage crafts, and community organizations competent with their efforts and resources. In other words development begins from where they are and with what they have. What Sarvodaya, has, as for example voluntary labour, know-how and some capital resources, are also theirs, for now they are a part of the national Movement. In all these areas of operation the advice, technical know-how and sometimes the apportioned funds of the government, local authorities as well as private philanthropy are also solicited. Depending on those who control these resources and their attitudes towards the Movement, their response could be positive or negative. But the projects go on with what the people have and with whatever knowledge and skills they possess.
While an integrated community awakening programme as outlined above is in operation the development and mobilization of the village human resources are also taking place alongside. A Sarvodaya Children’s group (age 6-15), a Sarvodaya Youth Group, (16+), a Sarvodaya Mothers’ Group, a Sarvodaya Farmers’ Group and a Sarvodaya General Elders Group are also progressively organized. The cultural values and relationships pertaining to each group are renewed and reoriented to meet the challenges of the present. Programmes of work and activities relevant to the areas of interest of each group are promoted with the full participation of the members. To co-ordinate the activities of different groups and those of the village as a whole a Village Re-awakening Council consisting of representatives of each of these groups is set up.
A Village Re-awakening Council may have as many subgroups as necessary for the various aspects of development, such as roads, promotion of co-operative, debt redemption and credit facilities, agriculture, village library, small industries, pre-school education, environmental health and sanitation, matters religious and spiritual etc. In other words an opportunity is provided for as many people in the village as possible, young and old, to participate constructively and collectively in their own developmental efforts.
This programme and grass-roots organization certainly needs support from outside in three main ways. First it needs capital for certain aspects of the work such as provision of tools, seeds, cement and other building materials and provision of subsistence for villagers till they get returns from their work. We have tried to satisfy this need from the resources we could channel from governmental as well as private philanthropic sources.
Second, it requires an easy availability of know-how in modern methods and techniques as applicable to the local level of development and needs. In this field a lot of research has to be done and innovations made to bring science and technology to the rural level. While these innovations improve productivity and the quality of the production care has to be taken to prevent aggravating the employment problem by indiscriminate adoption of labour saving machinery. Philanthropic organizations and groups can help our rural communities a great deal in this regard.
Third the political and economic power structures have to be re-organized to give social justice to the rural populations. They must be allowed democratic control of as many areas of government as possible pertaining to their life such as pre-school and elementary education, maternity and child care, health and sanitation, village irrigation, and agriculture and small industries, cooperatives and housing, village access roads, and small bridges. The necessary funds and personnel should be placed under the control of village level democratic bodies. In the economic field, unjust inequitable land holdings and system of land-tenure, absentee landlordism, and such other ills must be removed and land must be placed under the direct control of the village-level government; similarly credit and savings facilities must come to the village. Of course, once the basic structure is changed, smaller villages can combine themselves into bigger units to run economically productive and organizationally efficient larger enterprises. Those which need managerial and other skills for upgrading of the economy can take their place under the control of the people as a whole within this changed system. Here the ‘elite’ can be accommodated as true agents of change and they will be responsible to the people themselves and not to a bureaucratic or a party-based political hierarchy.
While the Educational Re-awakening through Shramadana and the Development Initiation through Gramodaya are taking place and Short Term Development Programmes are successfully operated in the Sarvodaya Villages, we know that we proceed further without changes in the structure as enumerated above. Here lies real obstacle to rural development. Either those who wield political and economic power today have to voluntarily and intelligently give up the unjust stranglehold they have on the rural people or the latter must wrest that power from them by the use of non-violent revolutionary force. We stress non-violent revolution because violent revolution may once again enslave them under a political bureaucracy. If both voluntary surrender and non-violent revolution fail then violence and possible chaos will necessarily follow. The choice is left with those who wield economic and political power now – the ‘elite’. They may well begin by giving the people the opportunity to participate in their areas of interest and thus promote non-violent revolution rather than obstruct it.
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement has initated this threefold programme of social change in nearly four hundred villages of Sri Lanka. Its target is 1,000 villages by 1975. The very fact that not one village community or person in the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement was directly or indirectly involved in the recent violent acts that swept through the country has given fresh courage for the rural people to go ahead with their non-violent revolution. With the meagre financial resources available to us through local as well as foreign groups committed to Sarvodaya we carry out as best as we can our village schemes, conduct training centres, youth farms and maintain a full-time staff.
A village to village link-up programme has been developed over the last two years. Starting with one village in Belgium which was linked with a village in Ceylon, this programme has developed to over 50 village-to-village links. The World Assembly of Youth in Belgium helped the Movement through the UNESCO Gift Coupon Scheme to establish 100 Children’s Libraries. CORSO in New Zealand is helping a Sarvodaya Youth Farm. The 11-11-11 Campaign in Belgium has helped financially to train leaders and to buy material and equipment necessary for community development. Thus the Sarvodaya effort, while it is based on people’s self-help, is assisted by various philanthropic groups all over the world. While this scheme has all the elements of a social welfare or community development programme it must be repeatedly emphasized that it is directed towards a total non-violent revolution in the ideas, techniques and structural organizations or the rural communities keeping in view self-determination and progress. We have our difficulties and drawbacks but fundamentally we are satisfied with the progress the Movement has made in this unified approach.
The authority for planning and development, presently enjoyed by the privileged few must pass on to the people themselves. The best in each community can unfold itself only when this freedom to participate in decision-making becomes a reality to the people. The extent to which the managerial skills, the knowledge and know-how, the scientific and technological resources are required, is a matter that should be decided upon by the people themselves and not by those who hold or wield these resources now.
Youth unrest, violence and indiscipline are the creations of a system which has alienated the people from the decision making establishment. The answer to these problems lies not in the organization of more and greater coercive forces and of centralization of power but in the genuine sharing of authority and responsibility in nation building.
Development should begin from where the people are and with what they have. No development will ever take place unless the underprivileged, the extremes of wealth and poverty or social injustices that prevail in a community are removed. Obstacles to development should be removed before talking about aid to development.
The goals and objectives in development should be an integrated whole in which the well-being of the individual, his family, his village, his nation and his world are always kept in correct perspective. This demands a unified approach to development where due recognition is given to the cultural aspiration of the people, to total disarmament, to the removal of racialism and colonialism, to non-exploitation in trade, to commerce and industry and to the participation of human beings of every age group in building up their own welfare. This demands a more human approach, an approach closer to the people than to the institutions that have enslaved them throughout the past.
Rural development is this liberating force. It is here that a restructuring of man and society should consciously begin. And manpower is the one asset that rural. Asia has. A massive mobilization of this power resource is the only alternative to dependency and tutelage which has brought about political tension and unrest. I firmly believe that this mobilization can be developed into a total all-embracing and dynamic activity for national regeneration and general re-awakening.
Philanthropy should fit into this total picture. It should begin with people themselves, however, ‘underprivileged’ they are, in their attitudes and action to help their fellow-m