Sunday Observer Online
  Ad Space Available Here  


Sunday, 2 September 2012





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

The Rajpal Abeynayake column:

Non-alignment and survival – whereon from Tehran?

Tehran as a venue for the Non-aligned conference may not be suffused with symbolism, but that choice of venue is also definitely a modern day ode to the concept of non-alignment, such as there exists.

The heyday of non-alignment may surely have passed – and people may be asking, so non-aligned to what? Does it mean non-aligned to the declining Empire, the defining power of the uni-polar world?

All that comes to mind is that, surely, time has passed. It used to be in these very pages of the Sunday Observer that the foreign policy pundits of yore wrote lilting odes to non-alignment, as if the idea itself was the sizzling tonic that rejuvenated the poor and the unwashed. Tehran on the other hand, must have been under the jackboot of a very aligned Czar, then.

Non-alignment was religion at that time. How things have (almost) come a full circle, with non-alignment soon passing onto irrelevancy, to be reinvented naturally when everybody’s favourite slogan now is that ‘capitalism has died’…

If in fact capitalism has died, that is when non-alignment probably becomes irrelevant, because without capitalism the Empire would have died, and there would be nothing to be non-aligned to, but global affairs do not connect in that way curiously …

Non-alignment represented above all else, an ideal. Non-alignment in the main, sought to steer clear of the fallout of unbridled capitalism. That’s why when the Nehrus and the Nassers jostled with the Bandaranaikes, there was an electrifying copy written by the likes of Mervyn Silva in these pages, because they saw that there was something more than the baser instincts of mankind that were being celebrated through the agency of the movement.

Now when there is a cry that capitalism is at an end, and those such as George Monibot in the left leaning UK Guardian are calling for something like a quasi-socialist ideal state, those leaders and other leading men who are meeting in Tehran (and women of course) can have the last laugh.

But of course, some of the non-aligned states of today – Indonesia, and of course India – are members of the powerful G 20, and almost by virtue of that, identified with the United States. So the praxis of being non-aligned, (‘not neutral but non-aligned’ as one Indian foreign minister stressed cleverly in the 60s …), is seen to be a little tricky.

Instead, it’s the ideal of non-alignment and a lesson from history that survives mostly, but this is intensely valuable. They say that some of the non-aligned nations themselves have been far from ‘peaceful, or progressive’ – these shibboleths being the original Nehruvian ideals for non-alignment. A good many of the non-aligned nations were wracked by internal conflict, and shopped at the arms marketplaces of the world, which of course enriched the capitalist powers that these nations were ‘not-aligned’ to.

But yet, non-alignment was still a cherished ideal precisely due to the uglier side of superpower capitalism, which thrived on the arms trade among other things.

But suddenly one finds that capitalism is in decline, and even non-aligned observer China is now reneging on the World Bank’s plans for that country, by going against the pundits and encouraging state investment! The Chinese leadership learnt rather surprisingly slowly that there is no point in following the recipe of the declining Empire, when these policies prescribed by the World Bank have created havoc and a depression and untold misery to the under-classes, not to mention the white collar middle-classes of the model nations of the capitalist world.

So in this backdrop the Non-aligned movement today basically represents an ideological vindication —- which means that the founding fathers of the non-aligned club can from their mokshas be gratified that it is their ideal that prevailed, however flawed it may have seemed in the countries that they brought together as the Non-aligned movement.

Many of the 120 or so nations in the Non-aligned movement have been trying to be non-aligned in the meanwhile, outside of the forums and the ambit of the non-aligned club itself, but without much success. How could they not be drawn into the ambit of the sole surviving major power, when the Cold War was comprehensively won by that side?

But events never hugged a linear trajectory, and after the Soviet Union imploded and the Cold War was over, now we see that there are signs that capitalism just might implode in the same way.

But of course, capitalism cannot die and be replaced just like that in the near future. In the first place, there must be something to replace the sick model with, and after the Cold War experience, that something is definitely not going to be socialism.

Capitalism therefore survives by default, and exists, as does running water — being there and flowing on, because it is there. The idealism that saw capitalism as being utterly flawed, is now stronger than ever, and the Non-aligned movement is but one reminder of the fact that idealism prevails and can be decanted from the most physically flawed receptacles’ i.e.; countries that are far from ideal themselves, can now say, ‘look, we told you, that Empire thing wasn’t going to work.’ ….

Whether mankind would evolve to a next level of economic management, or be resigned to a moribund form of capitalism is still to be seen however. Answers to questions such as these will not come quickly, and they will not come from the Non-aligned movement.

But, the Nehruvian ideals need to be — in this context — resurrected, then dissected. There may be some answers there, in the long decried and pooh-poohed ideals propounded by the founders of the movement, that are more relevant than ever today, though forgotten due to the powerful headwinds of Empire that followed after the end of the Cold War.

These profoundly angst-ridden difficult days, are probably also by virtue of these difficulties that face the human family, also the most stirring times.

There is room as never before, for new men, for new and sustainable ideals, and for the obscure to emerge as the defining. We are collectively in search of salvation, and any idea is good enough to be considered at times like these.

No banking denizens either from the World Bank or any of the other prominent commercial financial operations can be judgemental or condescending anymore. Bankers, and economists least of all, can ill-afford to be leery these days. So it is a time though ridden with anxiety, that says, old time-worn movements, and old time-worn ideals, may also have their day — and prevail in the last lap for enduring ideas, when everybody had counted them out …



Casons Rent-A-Car
Millennium City
Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior | Magazine |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2012 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor