[Presentation at the First Global Prout Conference in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy based on Ethics and Ecology”, 7 to 9 July 2011, Parque Central – Sala 1, Caracas]
“Another world is possible!” This invites the question, “What kind of world do we want?” Responses in all countries are invariably the same: A world without wars, without hunger and poverty, with human rights, democracy, environmental protection, in other words, peace and justice on earth!
Prout is the acronym for the Progressive Utilization Theory, a new socio-economic model based on self-reliance of each region, cooperatives, environmental balance and universal spiritual values.
Prout was founded by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921-1990), Indian philosopher, author of over 400 books, composer and spiritual teacher. He was also a political prisoner for seven years due to Prout’s stand against exploitation. I have never met anyone who had so much unconditional love for all. He inspired me to dedicate my life in service to all living beings, which is the meaning of my monk’s orange uniform.
Dr. Noam Chomsky said, “Prout’s cooperative model, based on sharing the planet’s resources for the welfare of everyone, deserves our serious consideration.”
Prout is not a rigid mold to be imposed on any society. It is a holistic approach of dynamic principles, which can be appropriately applied by citizens and leaders to help their region or country to prosper and become self-sufficient in an ecologically sustainable way.
1. Prout’s economy
According to neoliberal economics, as taught in most universities, economic inequality does not matter, because if the national economy is growing, everyone will benefit.
However the reality is very different. The film is “The Economy.” Some are very happy because their experience is wonderful. But the economy does not benefit everyone!
Global capitalism is based on profit, selfishness and greed. The tragic result is that half the population lives, suffers and dies in poverty. A poverty that is completely unnecessary, because there is enough food and wealth on the planet for everyone.
Prout’s solution to economic inequality is based on the obvious truth that the world’s physical resources are limited. If individuals accumulate too much, there will not be enough for everyone. Each country must decide the maximum salaries, wealth and land, and promote the maximum utilization and rational distribution of all natural resources.
The right to life is fundamental. Guarantee the minimum needs of food, clothing, housing, education and medical care.
As the psychologist Abraham Maslow said, people whose physical needs and safety are guaranteed, can more easily develop altruism and the highest potential.
The right to decent work is also a fundamental human right, and the minimum wage should be sufficient to purchase basic needs.
Prout proposes to organize the economy into three levels. The first level is small private enterprises.
The second level is cooperatives: industry, agriculture, consumers, banks and services, which are “the businesses of the future.”
For cooperatives to succeed, they need: honest leaders, a good business plan, strict management, and the wholehearted support of the community. The government should provide: more training and regular inspections.
The third level is large-scale strategic industries that require very high investments and are difficult to decentralize, should operate as public companies, and should never be privatized.
Prout’s economic democracy is a dynamic economy of the people, by the people and for the people. One goal of Prout is to make each region self-reliant. This means food sovereignty
2. The social message of Prout
The most common factor amongst criminals is the tendency to lie. Strangely, this same defect is common among some lawyers, directors of multinational companies, accountants, advertisers and politicians. Throughout history, powerful classes have created moral rules and laws to maintain their power. For example, the idea that men are spiritually superior to women. What nonsense!
Here is a list of cardinal human values that Prout proposes should be taught in all schools and in the whole society: honesty, courage, mercy, humility, self-control, compassion. Protect the weak, to overcome selfishness, expose lies. What do you think? Are these the types of values we want our children to follow?
The world needs leaders with moral strength, spiritual insight and courage to fight against injustice and exploitation. Anyone can become an ideal leader setting a personal example of honesty, discipline, spirit of sacrifice and devotion to the welfare of humanity.
When the founder of Prout, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, visited Venezuela in 1979, he said some words that are a source of inspiration for me.: “Venezuela needs good spiritual political leaders. If Venezuela could produce spiritual political leaders, it would not only be the leader of Latin America, but also the leader of the planet. Venezuela is a blessed country.”
For Prout, community is “a group of people that move together as a family toward a common goal.” In Venezuela the word Cayapa means cooperation and solidarity of the community.
3. The ecological and spiritual message of Prout
Prout has an ecological and spiritual perspective that is lacking in many economic philosophies, but is still present in traditional societies. Indigenous spirituality invariably revolves around nature and the connection to all forms of life. Indigenous peoples did not believe that the land belonged to them, but that they belonged to the land.
I would like to clarify the major differences between dogma and spirituality. Fundamentalism is closed minded, blind obedience and instills fear. Dogmas divide people into believers and nonbelievers, “us” against “them.” In contrast, the mystical quest for the truth is open-minded, asks questions and promotes love. Spirituality sees everyone as a human family, and is universal.
Prout’s spiritual perspective recognizes that all humans have a thirst for peace and happiness. We need to journey inside to find true peace and happiness, to find the connection, meaning and purpose of life, which is self-realization and service to humanity.
Meditation: In the struggle for peace and justice in the world, we must not neglect our own inner peace. Meditation is an ancient spiritual practice. The benefits include: overcoming insomnia, depression and mental complexes, increasing memory, concentration, self-control, willpower, self-esteem and tolerance, to develop peace of mind, wisdom, compassion and unconditional love. Are any of you interested in any of these benefits?
Meditation is one of the most beautiful and inspirational techniques you can learn.
4. Some Prout projects in Venezuela
In 2007 we formed the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, an independent educational foundation, not for profit, with the goal to raise consciousness, support cooperatives and promote a balanced economy. We strive to transform lives and strengthen communities for the welfare of all, through research, education and outreach.
The Prout house is a three-story home and our headquarters in El Marques, Caracas. The Institute uses it without owning it. We have training courses on “Venezuelan Reality and Tools to Change the World.” We offer classes in yoga and meditation for personal development.
An example of Prout in practice is Centro Madre in San Jose of Barlovento, Miranda state. This community project was founded 11 years ago by Didi Ananda Sadhana.
The board of directors encourages self-sufficiency through education, sustainable agriculture, integrated development and ethical leadership.
Centro Madre is located on three and a half hectares of land. Three times they received an evaluation of excellence from the CIARA government institute of agriculture, as a national model for small-scale sustainable agriculture.
The reading program lends books to families in the community to read together, and creates programs in schools.
Neo-Humanist Education is fundamental to Prout. Neohumanism means the practice of love for all creation including plants, animals and inanimate world.
In Las Acacias, Caracas is the Neo-Humanist Preschool, started seven years ago by Didi Ananda Amegha.
5. Prout’s message for Venezuela
Be self-reliant in food and medicines through sustainable agriculture, cooperatives and agricultural industries.
Strengthen cooperatives with more training, accounting and inspections to increase employment.
Oil sales are only a temporary source of income to be used for education, job training and programs to alleviate poverty.
Balance the economy.
Fight aggressively and tirelessly against corruption.
What you can do:
Finally, I would like to share that this international conference was organized entirely by the efforts of 28 volunteers and the participation of 30 speakers who have devoted their time, energy and talent without any monetary compensation because they believe in the importance of the solidarity economy, ethics and ecology. And to all of you I express my deep gratitude for participating in this initiative that inspires us to build a better world. Thank you very much.
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