FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

American Swadeshi

by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN

Out looking for a bike for my son, we found ourselves at a prominent bicycle store in our town. The young man who waited on us was courteous, patient, and seemed to know everything about every bicycle in the store — except for one aspect — where the bicycles were made!

He was uncharacteristically tentative when I asked him a question I have begun to ask when buying anything, “Is it made in the USA?”. The response is rarely in the affirmative, and this no longer surprises me. But I am still shocked every time by the evident lack of disquiet over the fact. Shop assistants and customer service personnel simply shrug their shoulders as though it had nothing to do with them; worse, when they do venture a view, it frequently reflects a hapless fatalism.

“That’s the way everything is these days”, said our bicycle expert matter-of-factly, sounding more like a wizened old-timer than the lad of 25 he was, as I read out from the phalanx of Schwinn’s and Trek’s, American icons of old, in what sounded to me like a requiem for the US bicycle industry: “Made in China”…”Made in China”…”Made in China”… As he continued to indulge my curiosity in the best traditions of American salesmanship, we discovered shortly that there was not one American-made bicycle in the whole store! (In the spirit of full disclosure, I should add that we did finally buy a Trek from him — made in China.)

“Men go on saving labor”, wrote Mahatma Gandhi long ago, “until millions are out of work”. Change “saving labor” in Gandhi’s statement to “cutting costs”, and you have a fairly good picture of today.

As I watch the pageant of jobs board a remorseless flotilla bound eastward, nothing surprises me more than the good humored sense of inevitability with which this is accepted. Fatalism is usually regarded as a facet of the Orient. The word “Kismet”, of Kipling fame, captures the supposed mindset. In a seeming reversal of roles, it is the east today which disdains notions of predestination (witness the surprise rout of the favored globalists in India’s recent elections) while the unlikely denizens of Main Street, USA appear mired in an uncomprehending funk. If you think that is an exaggeration, consider the following: with all the ongoing discussion of unscrupulous business leaders shipping jobs abroad, the United States Congress just passed a bill giving businesses further incentives for doing more of the same! The passage of the bill made a little splash on that day, mainly on Lou Dobbs’ program, but disappeared quietly into the night thereafter. The phrase ‘taking the people for granted’ could not have found a more fitting explication.

Writing in the Guardian some months ago, columnist George Monbiot predicted that if you live in the Western Hemisphere and if your job depends on a phone or a computer, it will, within the next decade, to have fled abroad. What a shining example of abjectness! Nor is Monbiot alone — every major politician in America tiptoes around the issue of job loss with the mandatory incantation, “of course some jobs will go abroad, that’s inevitable”. No one seems to ask, Why? What is so ‘inevitable’ about the loss of millions of jobs?

In his time, Gandhi did. He looked the biggest engine of economic pilferage the world had seen, the British Empire, in the eye, and raised the call of Swadeshi. Swadeshi, which means “of the nation”, was a campaign to push for the boycott of British cloth and other foreign made artifacts, promoting the use of Indian-made (village made) goods. It served not only to resuscitate India’s cottage industries and reduce unemployment in the villages, but also gave Indians a renewed spirit of nationalism. Hand-woven cloth (khadi), in Nehru’s picturesque language, was the livery of India’s freedom.

The time is now ripe for an American Swadeshi movement.

During Gandhi’s movement in India, huge bonfires were made of British cloth and fineries, and people felt honored to use homespun cloth. Imagine the glory of an American politician who started a movement to “Buy American”. Such a politician would first of all perform a great public service, by establishing the connection between our economic behavior and its consequences — a social lesson whose very loss is one cause of such abject defeatism. This would be people’s power at its finest, wielded in their own interest and for the country as a whole. Let no one doubt, the same profiteers who suddenly discovered the virtues in “helping the third world” by sending American jobs abroad, would switch just as quickly to the slogan of “standing by your country” as soon as they discovered that “Made in America” was the surest way to profit.

A giant mantle awaits the leader who takes up such a campaign. The issue touches every nook and cranny of America, and in the end, involves nothing less than the country’s sovereignty. Cast and led properly, it has the potential to sweep everything before it — Presidency, Congress, Senate — all.

Does Kerry dare?

 

More articles by:

/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporate
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail