Earlier this month, we all celebrated Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day – marked in the UK on March 19 every year as a day when Britain tries to remember and value all mothers.
Paradoxically one of the key recent Budget announcements by the Chancellor was free childcare for one and two year olds to give mothers the chance to be productive after they were reproductive. Yes, you heard right. According to the British government, Mothers ought to be economically productive as soon as possible after giving birth, and children need to be suitably displaced to help parents serve the economy. The family needs to be broken up to deal with our skills shortages, and the government is ready to support this. No wonder one in three marriages in Britain end up in divorce. Welcome to Great British Hypocrisy and Contradictions. It is hard-wired in our ecosystem, but ought to be challenged and resisted.
In a neo-liberal capitalist economy everyone ought to serve the market and mortgage their lives. Love, caring and dare I say it parenting, is also seen as a market activity. Whilst Slavery has been abolished, we have all willingly signed up to become commoditised and marketised. If we are lucky and perhaps clever, we may end up making surplus income and wealth and attribute that to our own competitiveness and ingenuity. The fact that inequality and poverty grow significantly at the same time is other people’s problem. We are liberated and selfishly successful so can pat ourselves on the back. Let the poor be described as lazy and incompetent.
This paradox of individualism and market commodification has become so deep in our psyche that we cannot see why it is destroying our mental health or family and community lives. We Indians want freedom and liberation but somehow also want to keep our kinship and community as and when we need it for ourselves. Given our own Dharmic wisdom and upbringing this dilemma ought to be understood and we need to collectively rise against its huge seduction and corruption of our souls. We must prevent ourselves from becoming intoxicated by our wealth and material prosperity, otherwise we are doomed. As a diaspora, we have been generous and respectful of our cultural institutions, but must ensure that this does not slip. The kinds of determination, risk-taking and vision our forefathers had is slipping away as we become assimilated.
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The practical solution for this dilemma is give time and money to our families and communities and to stop listening to this state garbage about liberated mothers. We must use our influence to transform the syllabus of economics and finance and stop universities from scientific endorsement of neoliberalism and selfishness as the ‘religion’ of truth. Our students should vote with their feet and question their Professors.
Otherwise, we ought to stop doing economics degrees at universities – they are a key contributor to the Anthropocene. Family, trust, relationships, selflessness and community should take central place in our social sciences. Animals and Nature ought to be family too. Otherwise, we don’t deserve to survive as a species. Children ought to be rays of light and hope for a kinder, shared and interdependent future.
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Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.