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look on the floor of a Wal-Mart or at the computer programmers in any high tech office to see . . .

the exploitation of the Third World (even parts of Europe) working out inside the United States. Increasingly,

you will find foreign labor being employed in both places. 



A Post-Industrial Vision

The Iranian Futurist Party

By Amin Sharif


The world of the 21st Century is the world of post-industrial society, where information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, and leading- edge developments are making giant strides in the way humans live, work, and enjoy life . . . At the same time, democracy, peace, and social justice can not be achieved without seeking them in the context of the epochal changes of the post-industrial society.-- Iranian Futurist Party (Draft Program Proposal and Request for Discussion), Sam Ghandchi, publisher


The most fascinating thing about the Internet is that it is filled with the hopes, desires and visions of so many people. One such vision found on the Net is the one posted by the Iranian Futurist Party. If you go to their website, you will find a unique document-a Draft Program to makeover the entire Iranian society under a post-industrial vision. 

What is significant about this document is that it may represent the first formalized effort by Third World intellectuals to articulate a non-Western approach to post-industrial society as a whole. Unlike the efforts of other Third World intellectuals who embrace only the hardware of the post-industrial revolution, the Iranian Futurist Party attempts to place both the hardware (the internet, personal computers, etc.) and the ideas that will shape post-industrial society into a viable context. 

The question, at this juncture, is not whether the Draft Program is correct in all of its many aspects. Certainly, there are ideas contained in the draft that may never used in building a post-industrial Iran. Indeed, the entire document may be found to be of little use in shaping the future of the Iranian people. Who’s to say? What is important is how the Draft Program works as grist for a more elaborate discussion concerning the implications of using post-industrial technology within the Third World.

The questions that arise from the Draft Program of the Iranian Futurist Party cut deep to the core as to whether the Third World can embrace post-industrial technology as a tool to build new and different kinds of society or whether the Third World will continue to lag behind the West. At the crux of such questions is the issue of the acceptance or the rejection of a post-industrial modernity. But, what it comes down to is whether the Third World can control the new post-industrial technology for its benefit or determent-whether it will be locked in the past or set free by the future. And, it is at this point that we come back to the concept of what kinds of ideas and programs the Third World countries will use to run the hardware (technical infrastructure) of their post-industrial nations.

This question of how the Third World approaches the post-industrial revolution is not simply theoretical. We have seen the dismal attempts by many Third World countries, especially those in Africa, to build a viable modern industrial society. Embracing, alternatively capitalism, socialism and then capitalism once again, the Third World is a hodge-podge of uneven technological development. The result is that some countries have, more or less, completed their industrial phase of development while others have barely entered into this phase. 

Now, at the point of epochal change, all of the countries of the worldadvanced and otherwisewill have to cope with being swept into the post-industrial era. And, if many of the Third World countries have been unable to master the building of viable industrial states, how then can we expect them to be able to build more technologically advanced post-industrial nations?

For the Iranian’s this is not a problem that they have to ponder. Iran is among the most technologically advanced countries within the Third World. What the Iranian nation is struggling with is the conflict between modernity and Islam. And, until this struggle is won or lost by either side, we can not really speak about a viable post-industrial Iranian society. And, we should not, for a moment, think that if the clerics inside Iran win this struggle that a post-industrial Iran will not emerge. If secular forces lose their battle with the fundamentalist Iranian forces, an Iranian post-industrial society will emerge. 

But this post-industrial society will be shaped by Islamic theology rather than secular views. This unique situation may make the Draft Program of the Iranian Party a parochial rather than a universal document. Still, it does contain many interesting points that may serve as jumping off points for other Third World intellectuals as they consider the impact of post-industrial era on their societies.

As we have said before, the question of how the Third World will deal with the post-industrial revolution is of paramount importance to what role, if any, it will play in shaping its near future. We have already seen how the Third World fared in the Industrial Age. The industrial strategies of colonialism and neo-colonialism have all worked against the development of viable Third World nations. Now, in the post-industrial era, globalization is attempting to arrest Third World development once again. But, it is precisely because of its exploitation by the West that the Third World came so late to developing its own version of industrialization. 

But the truth is that if the West had not exploited the Third World, there is a great likelihood that it would have entered the Industrial Age on its own. And, if all the resources that were taken from the Third World were denied to West, it is quite possible that Europe and America’s industrial development would have emerged under different conditions-with different results. But, the stark fact is that history developed the other way around and the Third World was the victim of industrialization and not the masters of it. Now, the question is will the Third World come early or late to the post-industrial era?

What makes the need for the Third World to proffer some kind of vision of how it will survive in the post-industrial era critical is that the West (i.e. the United States and to a lesser extent the European Union) has already arrived at a strategy for how the post-industrial world will be structured. And, essential to this vision is the continued exploitation of Third World resources. 

One has to only look on the floor of a Wal-Mart or at the computer programmers in any high tech office to see how the new strategy for the exploitation of the Third World (even parts of Europe) is working out inside the United States. Increasingly, you will find foreign labor being employed in both places. 

In the case of Wal-Mart, the laborers are eastern Europeans. On the office floor of the high tech sector, the computer programmers are imported from places like India. The point to be made about these workers is that they all come from developing nations who need their skills and labor power to build their own post-industrial societies. Already, we find that the medical sectors of many developing nations effectively being raided to satisfy the needs of the West.

Literally, thousands of nurses and doctors leave the Third World every year to fill out the staffs of hospitals of cities like New York and London. The question is if these nurses and doctors are serving the West, then who is taking care of the sick in the Third World? In places like Africa where the AIDS epidemic threatens to render an entire generation parentless, such raids may spell the difference between life and death for the African. There are  fundamental questions, such as "Who will retain these skilled workers?  The West or the Third World? Such questions must be answered if the Third World is to successfully enter into the post-industrial era.

One might readily ask if the strategy of raiding the Third World is really a new one. After all, the African was brought to North and South America to develop the West at the dawn of the Industrial Age. In fact, all scholars agree that without slavery the Industrial Revolution would not have taken place. Though, this is undoubtedly true, post-industrial society-unlike industrialization-seeks not only cheap physical labor but also cheap intellectual labor as well. But until now, there has always been an aversion by the West to have Third World people integrated into the “intellectual” infrastructure of their society. 

Even when the Second World War brought hundred of thousands of Blacks up from the South to work in the War industries of the United States, there was always the policy of segregation to keep most from rising above the status of brute labor. In Europe, immigration policies for decades worked to exclude many of their colonial subjects from taking part in intellectual work within the Mother Country. 

Now, under post-industrialization, the West has had to abandon this strategy. The West, unable to find the intellectual resources it needs within its borders, has turned to the Third World. And while, those who come from the Third World to maintain the “intellectual” infrastructure of the West are still confronted with racism, they find the environment of the West immensely more attractive then the conditions at home.

In places like the Unites States this strategy serves a twofold purpose. First, it allows America to rob the Third World of its most critical resource-brain power. Secondly, it allows America to increasingly establish a buffer zone of “imported people of color” between it and its own growing minority (Hispanic, Asian, and Black) which comprise a more expensive workforce. In doing this, America has stood the whole race question on its head by allowing one set of “imported people of color” to advance at the expense of another set of “domestic [and many times less skilled] people of color.” One might protest when a white man has been chosen to advance over a Black or Hispanic. But how does one protest when an East Indian or a Nigerian is chosen for that same position?

We have said that there are many things that may be found useless to the development of an Iranian post-industrial society in the Draft proposal of the Iranian Futurist Party. However, there are many things that the Iranian Futurist Party has gotten right in their Draft Program. One of them is contained in the last sentence of the Draft which I choose to begin this essay quoting: “. . . democracy, peace, and social justice can not be achieved without seeking them in the context of the epochal changes of the post-industrial society.” 

The question of who will keep the human and natural resources of the Third World is but one important aspect of the struggles faced by Third World nations in the new post-industrial era. How will developing post-industrial nations maintain stable, just and democratic societies if their best thinkers are harvested by the West? It is clear that something must be done immediately to stop the stealing of the best intellectuals from the Third World if it is to have a chance at building any kind of democratic, post-industrial society.

We have pointed out that many Third World countries have not yet completed their industrial development. In light of the emerging post-industrial era, one must ask the question if it is practical for these developing nations to continue their quest for an infrastructure based on the industrial model. In the case of China, this question goes to the heart of their development. China’s Communist Revolution occurred in the last waning decades of industrial power. Like the Soviet Union before it, China’s goal was to become an industrial super-power. But, now that the industrial model has all but fallen by the wayside, how does China proceed? Does it slowly shift to a post-industrial model? Or, does China continue to establish its infrastructure based on the industrial model?

All indications are that China is already having trouble stabilizing its economic system due to the introduction of advance industrial techniques that make for higher productivity with fewer workers. But, what does a communist state based upon the ideology that every worker should have a job do with excess labor? Marxist, or in this case Maoist theory, would dictate that these workers must be given other jobs. But, what do these workers do if no jobs are available? This is ideologically problematic for a communist state. 

And, this is not a question for communist regimes alone. All economic systems will have to cope with how post-industrial technological advances will restructure work. In the United States, the Bush administration is, at this time, coping with a jobless or nearly jobless economic recovery-despite higher productivity!  What has made higher productivity in the US possible is advanced technology spawned by the post-industrial revolution. Again, this issue of the restructuring of work is one that must be solves by all economic systems if peace and justice is to be achieved by, any and all, economic and political systems.

Theoretically, it would seem that a country like China would want to embrace the new post-industrial technology. But because China has a highly centralized ruling body seeped in industrial based ideology-Maoism-an inertia has been built up in favor of turning a peasant based economy into an industrial one. That Mao and his followers never saw or anticipated the post-industrial era may bode ill for China’s future. For, as pressure builds throughout the world to put in place a global post-industrial technological and economic system, it is hard to see how a highly autocratic, Maoist state will survive.

But, if China fails to make the transition from industrial to post-industrial society, it will not at all be surprising. We have but to look at the how industrial society affected the system of European monarchy to understand what a transition from one epoch to another may accomplish. Once “the sun never set on the British [royal] empire”; now that empire has all but vanished. Sam Ghandchi, the author of the Iranian Draft Proposal, says that the same process is happening as we move from the industrial to post-industrial era. Ghandchi observes that:

“All human institutions such as family, school, nations, church, professional associations, corporations, media, special interest groups, etc. have been created to respond to serve some particular human need. Some of these institutions will evolve, some will vanish, some will transform and some will block the new upheaval.”

A Futurist Viewpoint

 The upheaval that Ghandchi refers to, of course, is the dawning post-industrial era. To survive this upheaval the entire Third World must throw all it resources into the fight to build new post-industrial nations. To let down its guard for even a minute, may spell complete disaster for its people. In order to illustrate my point, let me cite an example of how dangerous the post-industrial environment has become for Third World people.

As I have said the sentence that I chose to begin this essay with comes from the Draft Program of Iranian Futurist Party. Contained in that sentence is a reference to biotechnology. While most readers may consider this reference as only pertaining to developments taking place within the United States, they would be entirely wrong in assuming that this reference as having nothing to do with the Third World. The fact is that recent events have shown that the biotech industry of the United States may be involved in “for profit” biological warfare against, at least, one sector of the Third World.

Early in this present decade, a paralyzing and deadly famine gripped Africa. Many countries in the West were offering assistance to Africa in the hopes of keep many millions of Africans from dying. Among these countries was the Unites States. America offered to give the starving people of Africa tons of grain as humanitarian aid. Almost immediately, this humanitarian aid was rejected by the governments of these starving millions. Why? This grain so generously donated by America was rejected because it was genetically engineered.

In November of 2002, an extremely informative article was written by Phillip Bereano and appeared in the Seattle Time* on the subject of (GE) genetically manipulated grain and Africa. Bereano’s article early on exposes the fallacy of the claims of safety made by US government agencies and corporations concerning GE grain: “The principal claim they make is that there is no evidence that genetically engineered food poses a health risk.” But as Bereano points out so wisely, “No ‘evidence of risk’ is not the same as evidence of no risk.”

Bereano’s article not only exposes the false safety claims of the exponents of the GE grain but the callous disregard by US government agencies and corporation for the lives and health of millions of Africans. As he points outs:

The industry, its government allies and their spokespeople don’t seem particularly concerned with their dumping unwanted food upon unwilling but starving people. Indeed, there is evidence that they welcome this chaos as building a situation in which opposition to GE food will be rendered futile. As Emmy Simmons, assistant administrator for the U.S. agency for International Development said . . . “In five years GE crops will be planted in South Africa that the pollen will have contaminated the entire.”

Apparently the United States does not care what the consumption of GE grain might do to the thirteen million Africans that was meant to feed. But, thankfully, many of these African nations rejected the United States offer rather than submit their populations to the unknown consequences of genetically modified grain. But, Africa is still far from being out of the woods when it comes to the threat of GE crops. For now, it seems that South Africa has decided to make available “a cotton strain and two maize varieties” of genetically engineered crops available to its farming industry despite the fact that the pollen from these crops might contaminate the entire African continent.

It is incidents such as this one that as Bereano points out has led to: “The repeated insistence that the countries of Africa are being manipulated by white northern activists” and that that this manipulation “reflects a colonialist mentality that can not imagine Third World Nations being able to decide what is actually in their interests.”

But it is precisely who will decide what is in the interests of the Third World in the post-industrial era that is of crucial concern for the billions of people who live within its borders. Already, the United States has proven that it will act against the interest of Third World people in Africa in the post-industrial era-as it did in the industrial period. We can only imagine what it has in store for the rest of the Third World. But documents such as the Draft Program of the Iranian Futurist Party give a lie to the prevailing notion that the Third World has no interest in its post-industrial future. 

But what must happen now is that a new movement of Third World intellectuals must emerge that has as its sole purpose the development and protection of the Third World’s post-industrial future. A Draft Program for the development of entire is perhaps too much to ask for. But the task of developing such Draft Programs for individual Third World countries should and must be accomplished with all due haste. Without such far-reaching programs, the future of each Third World country post-industrial future is in peril.

But, to conceive and direct the construction of such programs, it is necessary that Third World intellectuals abandon the old concepts, left and right, that emerged when their struggle was against the colonial and neo-colonial strategies of the industrial age. A genuine effort must be made to think out of the ideological boxes that have confined the pre-existing notions of national development  within the Third World to Western industrial models or derivations of such models. If the Draft Program of the Iranian Futurist Party is anything--it is original. And it will take such original thinking to take on the task of building and securing a post-industrial future for the entire Third World.

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Phillip Bereano is a University of Washington professor in the field of technology and public policy. He has participated in negotiations of the biosafety protocol and attended the Earth Summits in Rio and Johannesburg on behalf of national and Washington state citizens’ organizations.

Article cited from the Seattle Times is entitled “Engineered-Food Claims Hard to Swallow” by Phiilip Bereano. 

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Ancient African Nations

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