Contemporary Mythology (II)
Written by Alfonso Elizondo
Another very important contemporary myth is that GDP reflects the well-being of a country. The term ‘wealth’ has had many meanings throughout the history of humanity: political power, social importance, possession of objects called treasures and value, whether intrinsic or in terms of the satisfaction it provides through material goods. All of these have focussed on the idea that ‘wealth’ corresponds to the set of goods and services produced by companies and public administrations at the country level, as well as on an abundance of monetary income or the possession of material goods on a personal level.
The development of the economy as an independent sphere has led to the disappearance of the idea of the domestic economy which is considered unproductive today. The idea of social wealth as a result of what is produced and of wealth as a utility led to GDP being considered a central indicator of wealth in the 20th century.
GDP classifies as rich nations that produce and exchange consumer goods and services, while all types of social, welfare and volunteer work are not included in GDP, and when this type of work is included it forms part of the calculation of negative growth. This idea of wealth seen from the human and holistic perspectives is meaningless since it does not take into account human, family, social and natural needs, and what is truly economic is not considered in its original conception.
All countries have human, natural, cultural and social assets. However, they have been classified according to whether or not they have exploited their assets in terms of monetary or market exchanges. Thus, countries where the degradation and destruction of their natural, human, social and cultural resources first began were classified as rich countries by the international rating agencies that evaluate and grade countries according to the market exchanges generated and the level of monetary growth they achieved. The current model of a globalized industrial economy degrades, impoverishes, destroys and exploits cultural, social and human resources in all corners of the planet.
Another myth of the West that has survived is that ‘agriculture would eliminate hunger all over the world.’ At the end of World War II the large European cities were destroyed and the fields were left empty. While Europe was recovering from the disaster, US industries were in full expansion mode, there was plenty of work, because there were no industries or industrialized countries that could compete. The chemical products that were manufactured to annihilate the enemy were also left unused, and the huge industries dedicated to producing weaponry were left with large quantities of arms and toxic products that were turned into agricultural machinery and pesticides. All this was called ‘The Green Revolution’.
This Green Revolution promised to eradicate hunger in the world by turning the peasants who opted for industrial agriculture into heroes, seeking to rebuild their countries. And the Green Revolution enabled great growth in the United States, measured through its GDP. However, it has not been possible to eradicate either hunger or poverty from Planet Earth; on the contrary, industrial agricultural development has impoverished developing countries more, and this was not the only problem it caused. The high GDP of Europe and the US has been achieved thanks to a lifestyle that is disastrous for the health of there population.
Conventional medicines as well as industrial agriculture and food are used outside and within large cities and that is what has been called ‘progress’. So-called ‘modern life’ has been transported to poor nations where there has been an increase in cases of cancer and obesity which used to exist only in developed countries.
Addendum: In another instalment on the current surviving myths of the West we will talk about the remnants of Western culture which now seems to be in its final days.