Saturday, February 01, 2020

Humanity has arisen

We know much better today than before what the needs of mankind are — one of the great developments of modern times is this knowledge of human needs and of how to do something to meet them. The facts are that we are now in a position where the means to meet these needs for every human being are not only to hand now, but have been to hand for at least generations. Nevertheless the hungry and the poor are still here, and very little effectively is being done to feed them. It’s not because the food isn't there or that it couldn’t be brought very easily to those who need it. Satisfying the demand for food is a very small part of what could be done, because if we look into the possibilities of the various types of ways of improving conditions, we see that it is not a question of doubling, it is a question of achieving ten-fold or more the present material requirements within a few years. In fact, the tragedy is that of all the world with its enormously greater possibilities than actualities. What is lacking. as the economists points out, is not that people just need things, but that they lack what is called ‘effective need.’ An effective need is that of a person who has got the money in his pocket to pay for what he wants. Of course in a famine prices go up, and naturally you have got to be pretty rich to afford food then.

On these strictly economic lines, hundreds of millions have starved and most people still go hungry. But the essential thing is that we have got to find a different way of satisfying need than following the lines of nineteenth century economics. We know very well that the world is deeply divided. The distribution of resources and raw materials in various parts of the world would not be a very serious affair were it not for one thing—capitalism. The basic ideas of economics has always been described as the science of scarcity and it was right to do so, because before there was sufficient knowledge, there was real scarcity. Now, all scarcity, all unfulfilled need in the world, is henceforth due to capitalism’s laws. The means are there, the knowledge is there, and what is needed is the will to apply it. The difficulty is a political difficulty and not a material shortage.

New technology is going to transform the world and we must face the complete alteration of our way of life which will be brought about by removing the chief evil of the modern factory system — machine minding. Any job that is dull and repetitive can be better done by robots and automation than by a human being.

More important than this is the knowledge of knowledge itself: the knowledge that if you don’t know the answers, you know how to find them out, and this is shown in the other aspect of human affairs, one that affects all of us as individuals — the questions of health and disease, the questions of life and death. We have seen already the  beginnings of enormous transformation — the curse of diseases like smallpox has ended and diphtheria has almost entirely disappeared. The chance of a child dying between the ages of five and eighteen are practically limited to road accidents, the major cause of death for this age-group.

Disease has disappeared from youth, and is disappearing from middle-age. It has not yet disappeared from old age. We could of course already do a great deal more with our knowledge than we do. We could for instance stop poisoning people simply by ending the toxic fumes we are putting into the air from factories and power stations.

Our duty therefore nowadays includes first the understanding and then the changing of the world we live in to see that there are in the world enormous potentialities for human development, for thought, for science, for poetry, which is stifled at the moment by sheer poverty. The Socialist Party wants to see mankind realise its full potential.

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