Engaging structural greed today: Christians and Muslims in dialogue. (2024)

Link/Page Citation

"[Want] cannot be wholly dispelled, for it sits there with itsmouth open, making incessant demands, and even if it is gorged withriches, it must still remain there, waiting to be satisfied...naturedemands very little, whereas greed is never satisfied. So, if richescannot dispel want, and if indeed they create their own need, why shouldyou men imagined that they provide sufficiency?"

(Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy) (1)

Prologue

Positive resistance to structural greed is imperative not simplydue to its debilitating effects impacting on our livelihoods on a day today basis, but also because it impinges upon our way of being in thisworld as Muslims and Christians. A recognition that the economy issimply a means to higher ends--such as happiness, belonging andsecurity--should make us realize that merely changing the means, forinstance by substituting one form of livelihood or economic system withanother, does not constitute meaningful change and genuine progress. Thefact that the sheer multiplicity of our means has clouded our visionabout the proper ends signals how our very way of seeing the worldaround us has been co-opted to serve these means at the expense of ends.This is exemplified by the social legitimatization of vices such asgreed and pride (rationalized as growth and development), through theexaltation of individuals and corporations that embody such traits orthrough our witting and unwitting involvement in an economic system thatprofits from and runs on these very traits.

The destruction of true knowledge has robbed us of our ability todiscern between what is good and what is bad, and even if we do, we seemto have no power to act according to our discernment. It is thereforehighly important to begin by recognizing our complicity in the systemand to realize that change needs to be enacted on two distinct yetoverlapping planes: first, with respect to how we perceive the worldaround us and our part and role in it; and second, with respect to howwe identify those aspects of the world that we wish to transform for thebetter. Changing the latter (i.e., pure activism) without theprerequisite change in the former (perceptive reorientation) will onlyspell ruin, because our action will then not be guided by rightknowledge and a clear purpose. A new (or, perhaps, renewed) purposebrings with it new concerns to attend to, new measures by which ourefforts may be charted and evaluated, and a renewal of traditionalwisdom and insight to guide our way. In the wake of the ongoingdestruction and desolation all around us, transformation or renewal mustmean working towards the restoration of the wellbeing of nature andculture that was lost.

Introduction

An interfaith dialogue on the topic of "Engaging StructuralGreed Today" was held from the 25th to 30th September 2011 at theSabah Theological Seminar (STS), Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. It wasjointly organized by STS and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), whichsaw the participation of faith leaders, economists, grass rootsactivists, bankers, businessmen, lecturers, intellectuals and studentsrepresenting both Islam and Christianity. They hailed from variouscountries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Kenya,Peru, Canada, Germany, United States of America, India, Switzerland,Italy and the United Kingdom.

The format of the dialogue consisted mainly of oral presentationsfollowed by intensive discussions between speakers and participants,supplemented by small working groups (namely, the drafting/steeringteam, the listener group and the practitioner group). The presentationswere spread over two days, interspersed with plenary and groupdialogues, and organized under several themes: (2)

Day/Date Session Number and Title PresentersMonday, Session 1 - "Seeking Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,26th Theological Frameworks: (Malaysia)September Muslim-Christian Dr. Ulrich Duchrow, Engaging Structural (Germany) Greed Today." Session 2 - "Common Dr. Intan Syach Ichsan, Good and Maslaha in (Indonesia) Today's Neo-Liberal Dr. Herry Priyono, Greed." (Indonesia)Tuesday, Session 3 - "Key Dr. Esha Myinyihaji,27th Theological Points: (Kenya)September Money and Usury/Riba, Benjamin R. Quinones Daily Bread and Zakat." (Phillipines) Athena Peralta (Phillipines) Session 4 - "Practicing Dr. Adi Setia, (Malaysia) Alternative Life: Dr. Luigino Bruni, (Italy) Islamic Gift Economy and Economy of Communion." Session 5 - "Micro- Zakiul Faruque credit and Communities (Bangladesh) Development." Lauro Milan (Peru), Hulwati Basyir (Indonesia), Peggy Mekel (Indonesia)

The dialogue can be viewed as an effort to seek points of contactsbetween Islam and Christianity in conceptualizing the problem of greedand the attendant issues related to it, such as the nature of man, theaims and purposes of economics, and then to offer guidance on practicaland meaningful responses that may be mobilized to engage and resolve theproblem. In the words of one of the leading conference participants, Dr.Michael Trice, Assistant Dean of Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue,School of Theology and Ministry, Seattle University, who had theunenviable task of recording, organizing and distilling the main pointsof the conversations and discussions throughout the whole seminar--atask which he discharged diligently, tactfully and cheerfully withsingular merit:

 An under-girding theme of this conference is how we leverage the capacity of religion to challenge the wiles of economic systems that harm or destroy human well-being, and corrupt the shared worldviews of Muslims and Christians today. These worldviews share specific features, principles, values and truisms that, taken together, may well comprise rebuttal to corruptive systems, and have the ability to carve out a new, constructive voice about a shared vision from within Islam and Christianity toward a life of flourishing and well being.

In short, he proposed a two-pronged strategy: to identify andsubsequently unmask the corruptive aspects of the current economicsystem, especially as a vehicle for structural greed; and to provide acounter-measure or positive resistance against these corruptive aspects.

On Wednesday, we were taken on a day trip to Kundasang, a two-hourbus trip away into the highlands, where we visited Luanti FishReflexology Centre, Nabalu Handicraft Center, (3) and Sabah TeaPlantation, and concluded our excursion with lunch at the Perkasa Hotel,from where we enjoyed a gorgeous vista--despite the rather cloudyweather--of the slopes and distant peaks of Mount Kinabalu, generallyconsidered to be the highest peak in Southeast Asia at over 13,000 feet(4,000 metres) high. The last two days were mainly focused on preparingthe final common declaration of the conference, respecting its mutuallyagreed outcomes and the steps to be taken to move forward.

What follows comprises our report and reflection on the outcome ofthe conference and dialogue, and it is divided into two parts. Part 1gives an overview of the key points raised the presentations andsubsequent discussions, while Part 2 reflects and comments on variousaspects of the final conference findings. (4)

Report and Reflection: Part 1

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar (Head of Global Studies, Universiti Malaya)opened the seminar with his presentation entitled "God or Greed? AMuslim View," in which he provided a good and succinct overview ofthe key issues associated with greed, some of which includes:

* A descriptive definition of greed: he highlighted the story ofQarun (5) in the Qur'an as an example of greed personified.

* The notion of proper and just limits: he says, "But in thelife of this world, there are limits that one should observe. Theconcept and practice of limits are an oft-repeated advice in theQur'an." (6)

* The concept of justice in a society: he listed five injunctionsand practices in Islam which to his mind underscore the significance ofjustice, namely, the prohibition of injustice, the wealth tax, thedivision of inheritance, the bequeathal of personal wealth for thepublic good, and charity. He concluded that these injunctions arefounded upon "a commitment to the equitable distribution [ofwealth] and the reduction of social disparities."

* The assertion that man cannot serve both God and greed at thesame time, in which case if one "worships" greed and in sodoing neglects God, one has then committed a form of idolatry.

* The open legitimization of the culture of greed andself-servingness in the current financial, economic and politicalsystems, and its unabashed glorification through the propaganda of themass media.

The most striking thing about Dr. Muzaffar Chandra'spresentation was his allusion to Qarun as a character that has beencorrupted by greed, so as to make clear and to make concrete thecharacteristics and harmful consequences of greed.

By examining Qarun's behavior as described in the Qur'an,one can begin to have some idea of the nature of greed, namely that ofcovetousness, (7) a lack of recognition and acknowledgement oflimits--whether qualitatively in the sense of restraining one'sdesires, or quantitatively as in the sense of the amount of things oneneeds or desires to have and obtain. This situation then leads to adisruption in one's relationship

with oneself (since one is ignorant of one's own real needs andunable to discipline one's desires), and with others (since bycoveting something one deprives others of their rightful share, orindeed sacrifices what belongs to others for our own selfishgratification), and ultimately with God (since desiring more than whatone needs reflects a state of insecurity in retaining what one alreadyhas and a distrust in the future bounties to be bestowed by God). Thissense of disruption, or imbalance or disharmony, which originated in theindividual unfolds and ripples out to affect his relationship with thosearound him and his relationship with God, causing injustices andoppression in its wake. Therefore, greed at the personal level willeventually have ramifications at the societal level, where it iseventually exalted as a social virtue, gradually formalized instructures and institutions, and openly promoted, and even systemicallyrationalized and justified in the modern academia and various economicthink-tanks and research institutes, which in turn inform public policydecision making. (8)

The other point that leaves a strong impression was Dr. MuzaffarChandra's forceful presentation and characterization of greed asidolatry, (9) which follows from his assertion that a human being cannotserve two masters at the same time. If one were to characterize greed asa form of idolatry, it implies that greed has the apparent capacity tobewitch man to do its bidding, to sacrifice himself or herself at itsaltar, (10) and to cast man into the wells of misfortune if he fails toobey its urgings. (11) In other words, greed sets itself up as analternative path to salvation, although its supposed "powers"to grant satisfaction and pleasure are only confined to this world, andeven that is very much doubted by those with discernment. (12)

Even so, one should not underestimate its propensity to delude andseduce people to its cause, (13) its ability to pervert public interestlaws and regulations devised to contain it, and to co-opt goodindividuals with good intentions into its agenda, but who lacks a bigpicture of its entire modus operandi that strangles and controls thelevers of political, social and intellectual power. (14) As Dr. AdiSetia (ViA Advisory) reminded the participants at the start of theseminar:

 Since we are talking about structural greed, it is not enough to merely focus on greed at the individual or personal level, especially if the system the person is in is already corrupted. In order to really tackle structural greed, we need structural generosity. (15)

Understanding the true nature of greed and the full scale of itssurreptitious infiltration into our minds and hearts and into our homesand communities will have a significant influence on the form and mannerby which we should decisively tackle it.

The characterization of greed as a form of idolatry was also pickedup later by Dr. Ulrich Duchrow (Evangelical Lutheran Church, Germany) inhis erudite presentation entitled "Muslim-Christian TheologicalFramework in Engaging Structural Greed," where he quoted thedecisions of the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in 2003:

 ... we must engage the false ideology of neoliberal economic globalization by confronting, converting and changing this reality and its effects. This false ideology is grounded on the assumption that the market, built on private property, unrestrained competition and the centrality of contracts, is the absolute law governing human life, society and the natural environment. This is idolatry. (16)

He identified the ideology of neoliberal economics as the primemanifestation of greed in the world today. He also traced the origin andstructure of greed in what he called the "death-bound" Westerncivilization--primarily because the way of life as practiced andpromoted by it is threatening the integrity of the ecological, culturaland social foundations that supports it (17)--and the "spread of acalculating mentality" that began with the introduction of moneyand private property, and that led to the "splitting of societiesand the loss of solidarity," and then to the invention ofdouble-entry bookkeeping that "transformed the calculation ofone's own benefit into a functional mechanism," (18) thusrevolutionizing the whole worldview of Western civilization by markingthe advent of a "means-end rationality" with all its attendantvalues such as (i) the birth of civil codes in order to safeguard therules of this functional mechanism, (ii) the formalization of profitmaximization as the nature of such mechanisms, i.e., accumulation issimply the natural outcome of the system, and no longer a moral choiceof individuals involved in the system, (19) (iii) the quantification ofthe results of this accumulation process in the form of money and thereduction of all goods and services to its quantifiable, market value.(20)

There is a brilliant passage in Dr. Duchrow's paper where heoutlined how "philosophy in Western modernity provided legitimationfor the mechanization of profit-making" that deserves to be quotedin full here:

 Francis Bacon defined the purpose of knowledge as extension of manipulative power. The philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes defined the human being, understood as male, calculating ratio-subject, as "master and owner of nature," thus reducing the whole world to an object to be conquered and owned. Thomas Hobbes followed, defining the competition for more wealth, power and reputation of atomistic individuals as the nature of human beings, leading to a war of all against all. John Locke added the definition that human beings are nothing else but owners of property, to be multiplied by mechanisms of money and protected by the state. Adam Smith topped all of this by introducing the "invisible hand," allegedly transforming all egocentric actions within the market into the benefit for all, called "wealth of nations." Neo-liberalism finally declared this functional mechanism to be without alternative.

In short, once the nature of the human being is conceived solelyand exclusively as that of hom*o economicus, projected and confirmed by acapitalist-tinged anthropology, then it is not difficult to argue thatunfettered competition in the market is the inevitable state orcondition in which modern man finds himself in, to which he must pay hisobeisance and in which morality in such a society is, as mentioned byFriedrich A. Hayek in an interview:

 ... ultimately reduced to the maintenance of life--not the maintenance of all life, as it could be necessary to sacrifice individual life in order to save a greater number of other lives. That is why the only rules of morality are those leading to a 'calculation of life': property and contract. (21)

Therefore, if we affirm that greed is a form of idolatry, what canbe done to smash and bring this false idol down to the ground? In thisregard, two points made by Dr. Duchrow is worth mentioning: that whenone is dealing with an idolatrous system, mere intellection andreasoning or vigorous activism will not be sufficient. Since idolatrysinks its roots deep into the hearts and minds (like any deep-seatedconviction, good or bad), he declared what is ultimately required is a"leap of faith."

Of course there are many ways in which this phrase may beinterpreted. It can simply mean that one needs to believe before one maybegin to understand, for instance to feel and experience the worthinessof the cause which then impels one to seek further justification for it.It can also mean that the proposed change needs to have a soundmetaphysical or philosophical basis from which to lift itself, forinstance, a clear and correct understanding of the nature of man and hisultimate destiny, or else it will flounder in its tracks or veer off itscourse; or it can be interpreted to mean that genuine change at thewider levels (i.e. societal, national or global) cannot occur if it isnot accompanied by transformation at the deeper individual level.

However one chooses to interpret the phrase, I think what is commonto all these different interpretations is that the knowledge that oneacquires--whether it is about the evils of the current economic systemor the various counter-economics models being formulated--will not be ofany use at all if it is not translated into practical action. In short,it is not enough to simply sound the alarm of the incoming waves ofeconomic disasters or to alert the masses to the serious shortcomings ofthe prevalent system, if we ourselves are not able to offer concrete,viable proposals that can deflect the looming calamity and rectify theproblem at core. Therefore, we need to develop the ability to put whatwe know into practice, for knowledge demands action. (22)

The second point made by Dr. Duchrow that is worthy of mention incharting our course through the "dark woods" of the currenteconomic system is that the promulgation of new laws, rules andregulations will not necessarily guarantee success since these laws,rules and regulations can be manipulated and co-opted by vestedinterests to serve vested interests. Therefore, legal instrumentsagainst greed--personal or structural--will not be sufficient,especially since those who will be affected negatively by these laws,rules and regulations are themselves involved in the passing andenforcement of these laws, rules and regulations, hence the culture ofselective enforcement and prosecution.

It is worth taking stock of what has been said so far with regardsto the nature of our response to the challenges brought upon by thecurrent economic system: we affirm that structural greed needs to becombated with structural generosity, (23) rather than relying solely ondisconnected and un-coordinated actions of individual persons, or even(large disparate) institutions; we also affirm that structural greed,being a form of idolatry, cannot be overcome merely through intellectionor reasoning but requires a "leap of faith" at the personallevel; i.e., personal transformation; finally, we affirm that structuralgreed cannot be contained and eradicated through legal instruments asthose can be co-opted and manipulated by the powers that be.

With all these considerations in mind, we can begin to envision theform and manner of our resistance: that it must begin with theindividual, but eventually blossom into a bottom-up, informal yetpurposeful collaboration amongst groups of like-minded individuals; andthat it must ultimately involve doing or action, but based on a clearand correct understanding of key concepts such as the nature of man, themeaning of happiness, the mechanisms of greed and the worldly andeschatological purpose of economics. It is perfect unity (24) of theoryand practice, of the individual and the communal, of private and public,of voluntarism and contractualism, of moralism and legalism. The famedChinese sage and philosopher, Confucius, encapsulates theinterdependence of all these different levels at different scales in afamous passage from The Great Learning:

 The ancients who wished to illustrate the highest virtue throughout the empire first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own selves. Wishing to cultivate their own selves, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things. Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their knowledge became complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their own selves were cultivated. Their own selves being cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regulated, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole empire was made tranquil and happy. (25)

A similar logic in terms of correct order, priority and strategymay also be detected in the sequence of the original aims of theInternational Institute of Islamic Thought & Civilization (ISTAC),as proposed and elaborated by its founding director, Syed MuhammadNaquib al-Attas:

 To conceptualize, clarify, elaborate and define the Islamic key concepts relevant to the cultural, educational, scientific and epistemological problems encountered by Muslims in the present age ... To provide an Islamic response to the intellectual and cultural challenges of the modern world, and various schools of thought, religions and ideologies. (26)

Here, when he spoke of conceptualizing, clarifying and elaboratingon the problems encountered by Muslims, foremost in his mind are the keyterms and key concepts that underpin the different branches ofcontemporary knowledge, and the proper way to engage and deconstructthem in order to lay bare their real nature, meaning and purpose.

For instance, when it comes to the field of economics, we ought tobegin by examining the intricate network of key terms framing itsdiscourse, such as 'wealth', 'work','employment', 'debt', 'property','money', 'profit', 'efficiency','market', 'free market', 'finance','banking', etc., and how well are these terms"translatable" or not "translatable" into theWorldview of Islam understood as the total vision of reality and truthprojected into the mind's eye by the religion of Islam. (27) Thiscan be done in a comparative fashion, i.e., by evaluating whethersimilar key terms and concepts appear in the Islamic conception ofeconomics (mu'amala, iqtisad, kasb, ma'isha, tadbir al-manzil,mal, infaq, naqd, tijara, 'aqd). If they do, then in what preciseway does its conception of those terms and concepts differ from theircounterparts in modern economic thought, and how fundamental are thosedifferences in the context of the distinct, overall conceptual schemesin which they play their conceptual and axiological roles? Naturally,this requires a sound knowledge of modern economics, as well as Islamiceconomics or mucamala as it was properly understood and practiced in theclassical past. It also demands knowledge of comparative social andeconomic history, a firm grasp of the mathematical formulations employedin econometrics in conceptualizing and formalizing economic principles,laws and models; (28) and a thorough knowledge of the legal orcontractual aspects of commercial and banking transactions, (29) not tomention a basic knowledge of the language and the idioms in which theseeconomic principles were first expressed and developed. For instance, inorder to understand Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations properly,one requires a good grasp of the form and style of English written andspoken during Adam Smith's time, its metaphors, its allusions,etc., not to mention the general political economic andsocio-intellectual and religio-cultural backdrop. (30)

It is safe to say that any attempt at challenging or confronting ortransforming a dominant system or paradigm (be it of thought, ofeconomy,

of culture, or of politics) which does not begin with a criticalreflection and clarification of the key terms and concepts underpinningthat dominant system or paradigm may inevitably be doomed to beco-opted, appropriated and "naturalized" by that system orparadigm to serve its agenda and purpose, thus rendering it incapable ofmounting a consistent or sustained critique of that dominant system orparadigm. Such, unfortunately, is the nature of the failure of MawlanaTaqi Usmani's efforts to "Islamize" modern finance andbanking, in spite of his professional expertise in the legal andcontractual aspects of classical mu'amala. (31)

If one takes the trouble to read carefully the last chapter of hisbook, he is actually unhappy at the Islamic Finance industry not helpingsmall traders and the poor in general, and hence, his general tonetherein is in fact implicitly supportive of the Islamic Gift Economy(IGE). The problem is that the financial muftis and professionals whofollow him are failing to read him critically enough, a reading, infact, which he himself invites to. The closer we read MawlanaTaqi's book, An Introduction to Islamic Finance, the closer weshall come to the realisation that it should have been better entitled,An Introduction to Islamic Commerce & Trading, for all those"financial" instruments (musharaka, ijara, mudaraba, saiam(32) etc) he discusses are really instruments for trading in real goodsand services between real traders, and hence more suited for trading andcommercial company structures rather than banking finance andstructures. Banking by definition deals in money as a commodity that canbe sold, exchanged and rented out, and that is expressed through all thevarious institutions developed to support that trade in money, and nowit has reached the stage where this "money economy" or whatRichard Duncan calls "creditism" have been almost totallydisembedded from the real economy of real goods, real services and realpeople, and through which disembeddment, it then free-rides more easilyon the real economy and parasites on it and sucks it dry. If this factis not so clear before, it now stares us in the face. (33)

Qualifying the term ' banking' and ' finance'by the term 'Islamic' have failed so far to change or evenmodify in the slightest this basic original definition of banking, whichhas now become more akin to money laundering (either of legalpetro-dollars (34) or illegal drug-dollars (35)) than any actual tradingin any real stuffs. So, to expect the banking system to accomodate trulymucamala trading instruments and thereby alter its basic ribawi natureis like expecting pubs to go from beer to milk as their core business.As a matter of fact, if we seriously grant Mawlana Taqi's stringentredefinition of banking or finance by the qualifier 'Islamic',it would not be too far fetched to say that almost all so-called"Islamic banks" in business today will immediately cease to beIslamic in any significantly meaningful or even formal sense of thatredefinition. He has lamented the quasi and even the pseudo-Islamicnature of many Islamic banks way back in 1999, when his book waspublished. Now, 15 years later, any IBF honest insiders will readilytell you (at least in private) the situation has become sorrier still.An honest reappraisal of his book should point towards a viable way tomove from banking to trading, and that is something that all concerned('ulama', fuqaha', muftis, academicians, researchers,activists, professionals, et alii) should work together for, insha'Allah.

The next paper was presented by Dr. Herry Priyono (Lecturer andHead of Academic Affairs at The Driyarkara School of Philosophy,Indonesia) entitled "Re-embedding the Economy for the CommonGood" skillfully avoids this trap of cooption by confidently andsuccinctly re-defining (36)--quite correctly in our view--economics as"the organization of human livelihood." He rejects the narrowconception of economics as "the self-regulating market system"based on two grounds. First, in mistaking the market system for theeconomy, we are liable to ignore various other modes of securing alivelihood--of which exchange in the modern context of the market makesup only one of them (37)--that were operative in many primitive,traditional or pre-modern societies in our historical treatment of them,which in turn have led many to erroneously conclude that thesepre-modern societies did not have economies! Second, by mistaking theself-regulating market for the economy, we are lead to believe, as hesays, that "the principle task of economic policy is to focus onthe mechanical arrangement of the market system, as if by perfecting itsself-regulating mechanics, we have contributed great things to ordinarypeople's livelihoods."

To conceive the economy purely as self-regulating markets, (38) andthen to attribute the well-being of the economy upon its'efficiency' in delivering the intended goods and services,one might be led to believe that progress is made whenever one"tinkers" with some parts or components of the system, andthat any kinks or disruptions in the system can ultimately be ironed outsooner or later, once we become cleverer and skillful enough to do so.Any resulting problems can supposedly be traced back to imperfectionswithin the system (but not to system itself), and these can (hopefully)then be contained and rectified, given enough time and brain power, andof course, money power (through the printing press and accountingentries). (39) This attitude is not unlike the arrogant belief amongstsome scientists, engineers, policy-makers and members of the public thattechnology will eventually be able to solve all of humanity's woes,if only we care to throw enough money and time and luck at its furtherdevelopment and refinement, not recognizing that some of the mostfundamental problems facing humanity requires not so much an investmentin more complicated or more powerful machines, but rather, an even moremammoth reorientation in our worldviews and our values and our attitudesin response to, or disregard of, transcendence.

Dr. Priyono then proceeds to explain in his brilliant paper, amongother things how "the market by default has a bias in favor ofthose who can pay, or by way of inversion, a bias against those whocannot pay," and therefore "the economy," definedexclusively as self-regulating markets, "is more concerned with theaccumulation process of the rich and affluent than with the livelihoodsof ordinary people," (40) and how the neo-liberal ideology of todayis more accurately described as "market fundamentalism" (whichhe defined as the "... idea or a programmatic agenda to run asociety and personal life based on the application of the marketprinciple," and "... based on the priority of thefinancial/virtual sector over the real sector of the economy"). Thegrave implications of all these developments are two: first, theintensive and extensive commodification of all spheres of human life,that also causes the restriction or truncation of the full spectrum ofhuman nature and identity, (41) and, one may venture to add, of humanpotentiality as well, because one's rank and mobility within asociety will ultimately be determined and constrained by his or hereconomic status, wealth and (purchasing) power; second, thevirtualization of the economy, in which "the working of the worldeconomy has shifted from the real sector (for instance, manufacturing,mining, agriculture, etc.) to the financial sector, with all itsfinancial bubbles trailing in its blaze [sic; wake]."

To a careful and sensitive reader, Dr. Priyono's paper isfilled with many interesting linguistic shifts and turns in the forms ofwell-crafted phrases and words such as "the whole humanperson," "development as a civilizing process,""corrupted semantics," as well as insightful and colorfulsentences such as: "... to cultivate an economy that is ecological,as well as an ecology that is economical," or "... once in awhile these two notions of the economy cross paths at some felicitousmoments, but otherwise they normally pass each other like ships in thenight, for the two are operating on completely different assumptionsabout the economy." Such graceful and adept use of language lendshis paper clarity of vision and wholesomeness of ideas that cut throughall the self-evolved complexity one often associates with mainstreameconomics, thus reclaiming the position of the ordinary people--whoseknowledge and wisdom have often been dismissed as insignificant indiscussions about economics--as important stakeholders in shaping theoutlook, purpose and direction of economics and economies. By offering anew definition and vision of economics, Dr. Priyono has effectivelyplaced in the hands of ordinary men and women the tools and skills withwhich they can use to engage in a critical and constructive manner withthe many tales (or perhaps, in deference to Dr. Piryono'sIndonesian background, the wayang--shadow play--stories and epics) thatmasquerade as economic theories and facts today.

The same courage was evident in Dr. Adi Setia's effort toreclaim the original definition of economics as "the science andart of earning and provisioning for the common good" and, thus, tolink this with the original definition of economics in classical Greekthought as "household management" (or rather, householdcaretaking) by expanding on the meaning of the key word'household' to include restoring and sustaining overallwell-being at the communal, societal, national and global levels, asmuch as at the familial level. He then went on to infer from this thatan economic system that does not encourage and support subsistence atthe familial and communal levels as its primary responsibility andpriority cannot be properly and legitimately called a healthy economy.For him, an economic system that preys upon the wealth and sweat of thepoorer segments of the population for the benefit of the richer andbetter-off (the actually "sucking-up" rather than theoft-claimed "trickle-down" effect), an economic system inwhich wealth is concentrated on and confined to a privileged few andthus does not circulate to the rest of the society, an economic systemthat is parasitic and impoverishes, rather than provisions and enriches,does not deserve by any stretch of the imagination to be called aneconomy in the original meaning, sense and pragmatic purpose of theword.

It ought to be instructive from this that to begin with anexamination of the correct and proper meaning of the word'economy' needs not necessarily lead us down a philologicallabyrinth; instead, if placed in a capable and expert hand, this kind ofrigorous conceptual analysis can help in anchoring and setting theparameters (42) of the subsequent discussions amongst participants inthe dialogue, quite apart from offering a set of ready criteria of whatcounts or not counts as 'economy' and providing a set ofindications of its health. (43) Therefore, a possible reply to thequestion Dr. Priyono mentioned at the beginning of his paper, "Whyis it when I read economic analysis, popular or academic, I don'tsee any economy there?," is perhaps, "Because those who claimto speak and write about economics are themselves clueless about what isthis thing called economy." Paraphrasing the philosopher andhistorian of civilization, Will Durant, some experts can no doubt haveall sorts of abstruse wisdom to offer to us except straightforwardcommon sense!

With a clear and sound conception of what a true economy really is,what then is the appropriate economics that may arise out of theconception of the economy as "the organization of humanlivelihood" or as "the science and art of earning andprovisioning for the common good"? Dr. Priyono argues that thenotion of development ought to be re-casted (44) by "reviving thevirtue of community development," but at the same time guardingourselves against three potential pitfalls: the plundering of allocatedbudgets for development by businesses, politicians and governmentofficials, i.e., the 'rent-seeking' syndrome; the oppositionbetween the 'advocacy approach' versus 'developmentalistapproach' in which the latter is taken to mean "an act ofconforming to the political agenda of some authoritarian regimes";and finally, the co-option of corporate social responsibility (CSR)program as mere instruments of the business sector's publicrelations campaign, i.e., with the emphasis falling more heavily on thecorporate rather than the social in the term 'corporate socialresponsibility.' This could only mean that communities will have totake their economic destinies in their own hands.

With the noble vision of development as "a civilizingprocess" concerning "the whole human person" for thebetterment of his or her life, Dr. Priyono abhors the sector-basedapproach to development, arguing "the current practices ofsectorally partitioning it [development] into the economic, thecultural, the political, etc., may just be a ploy to take it away fromthe people-centered civilizing process intended by the notion ofdevelopment." But, perhaps the whole notion of'development' is flawed, given its provenance in post-WorldWar II's Americanization of the world system. (45)

Doubtless, religion has a vital role to play in the shaping anddetermining of the course of this vision of development, and it may evendiscard the notion altogether due to its semantic corruption beyond allhope of repair. What is less clear however is the actual nature of thisrole for religion, especially when on the one hand, there are those whowish to have religion confined exclusively to the subjective privatesphere, believing that its entry into public domain will only introduceanother centrifugally sectarian element into the political discourse;(46) while on the other hand, most religious leaders areill-equipped--knowledge-wise and public relations-wise--to engage in anactive and serious fashion the mainstream economic issues of the day. Itis worthwhile to note that the apparent intellectual impotence, socialirrelevance and political powerlessness of religious leaders--most ofwhom are also community leaders--in the face of economic, cultural andecological problems is an issue that keeps recurring throughout thedialogue, and thus the general impression is that this problem of bothintellectual and social relevance is common to both Muslims andChristians. Both sides would do well to learn from each other'sexperience in this matter.

Report and Reflection: Part Two

As the conference and dialogue unfold and various points of viewswere tossed into the discussion cauldron, several points of convergence,and various underlying themes gradually began to emerge and takedistinctive shapes. These underlying themes are:

1. Economy as household stewardship

2. Abundance in relation to scarcity

3. Trusting and entrusting

4. The commons and the community

5. Pockets of resistance and transformative action

Here, we shall proceed to give a brief commentary on each of theseintertwining themes.

(1) Economy as household caretaking and stewardship

That it is imperative to have a working definition of the word'economy' that is correct and generally accepted, and onceestablished, to use that definition as the point of departure of ourdiscussion throughout the conference and dialogue is clear to most, ifnot all of the participants. For how can we begin to talk in ameaningful way about mainstream economics and to discern its pros andcons if our respective conceptions of the term 'economy'itself and the discipline that studies its purpose and operations, i.e.'economics', are incomplete, flawed, confused or toodivergent? Indeed, genuine progress cannot occur in our discussions ifwe are still under the spell of what Dr. Priyono so aptly called"corrupted semantics."

As mentioned earlier, some of the participants proposed a newdefinition of the word 'economy' and subsequently what thefield of 'economics' ought to concern itself with. Indeed, oneof the first things that were discussed between myself (Wan Aimran) andDr. Adi Setia during our smooth two-hour flight across the South ChinaSea Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu was a proper definition of economics,which he defined as "the art and science of earning andprovisioning for the common good," or when translated in Malay,"ilmu dan seni mencari hidup dan memberi nafkah bagi kebaikanbersama," (47) which seemed light-years away from the standarddefinition of economics given in textbooks as "the study of theallocation of scarce resources to fulfill unlimited wants," whichleads to the view that the function of the economy is to "allocatescarce resources amongst unlimited wants." However, we seeeconomics as the study of the earning and provisioning of livelihoods,and hence, we see that the function of the economy is to provide as manyopportunities as possible for the pursuit of making a living and theprovisioning therefrom.

There were some concerns that trying to re-define the word'economy' and therefore alter the orientation of the formaldiscipline of 'economics' seemed to be like a quixoticendeavor, besides possibly inviting ridicule and contempt from hoards oftrained economists themselves for formulating what seemed to be a'simplistic' or 'common-sensical' definition of thevery complex thing they do for a living. But the true test of thesuitability of a given definition lies in its ability to encapsulate theessence of the thing being defined or described, and how clearly can itcan or cannot highlight and connect with other key concepts that relateand pertain to it in an integrative and meaningful way, and of course,how well can it perform in regard to "reality checks andfeedbacks."

For instance, take the definition of the economy as "householdmanagement/stewardship." At first glance, this definition appearsnarrow and parochial since it seemed to refer to the simple accountingof the transaction of goods and services that occurs within a typicalhousehold, i.e., the products that a family buys, the services theyemploy, the bills that they have to pay, etc. (standard stuff, by theway, in academic household management courses), and therefore apparentlyoblivious to numerous other economic transactions being conducted dailyon a larger scale between companies, communities, states, countries andcontinents. In short, this definition, at first look, seemed to reducethe economy to mere calculation of the relatively small number of goodsand services within a single family, but then that's because onehas forgotten to really look into what is meant by'household', 'householder' and 'family'.

Nevertheless, to a discerning and imaginative eye, the definitionof economics as "household management" will conjure thespectacle of a family living in a home (or some form of shelter), wherethe main duties of the head of the family, i.e., the parents orhouseholder, are (i) to provide (48) for the rest of the family membersthrough some kind of employment, work or vocation; and (ii) to balancebetween the various demands, needs and desires of its members, i.e., thefather, mother, the children, or even members in the extended familysuch as the grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins, and this isespecially true of traditional family structures in villages and ruralareas.

Furthermore, this act of balancing is not to be interpreted in aneutral fashion, i.e., it should not be taken to mean that everybodywithin the family deserves an "equal" share of the"family pie." Rather this balancing is purposive in the sensethat it must be conducted in view of justice, empathy and magnanimity,by recognizing that each member of the family have different duties,needs and desires to be fulfilled, as well as distinct roles andfunctions, i.e., that the needs of the wife is different from the needsof the son, and that the financial or material or even emotional supportthey deserve and receive ought to reflect this recognition ofdistinctive rights and duties.

This act of balancing or "equilibriuming," for it to bemeaningful as opposed to meaningless, also requires a soundunderstanding of the distinction between needs and wants, since certainthings are most wanted but are in fact least needed, i.e., the childrenmight crave for a new toy but good parents must be wise and firm enoughto know when to cave in to their demands and when to deny them, besidesimplying a recognition of discipline and order, and the need to temperthat with freedom and mercy and giving some leeway and indulgence forcertain things. To say that this act of balancing must be purposivenaturally implies a clear purpose to the whole business of"household management," i.e., that it is to be conducted withthe aim of fulfilling some higher good--for instance, overall happiness,peace, contentment, belonging or health--for the entire household orfamily, with none marginalized intentionally or unintentionally. Inshort, one may imagine the household like a small kingdom, with the headof the family like an enlightened ruler, supervisor or coordinatormaintaining order and enforcing justice throughout the kingdom--torender to each its due rights, and to demand from each its duecontributions to the common good, i.e., to the integrity of the familystructure.

Therefore, even with this seemingly simplistic definition of'economics' as "household management," or'economy' as "law or order of the household," onehas already traced out its multi-facetted connections with other keyconcepts such as work, justice, limits, needs and happiness, throughwhich our thinking on the economy as a social reality and economics as adiscipline of knowledge may be guided. This analogy of a household or afamily as a small kingdom may be further elaborated to include"household management" at the:

* individual level: for instance, a human being has both physicaland spiritual needs, each deserving its dues respectively, butultimately the physical needs of a person have to be subordinated to andmade to serve his or her higher spiritual needs; the famed Muslimscholar, al-Ghazall used the analogy of a horse and the horseman todescribe the proper relationship between the body and the soul--the bodyis like the horse and the soul is like the horseman. (49)

* communal level: for instance, the leader of the community musttake care to ensure that the basic needs of the community areprioritized and provided for, to coordinate between the different needsand wants of various segments of the community, to anticipate and planfor the future of the community, to protect the community from externalharm, and to maintain the physical (i.e., ecological, defensive andmaterial) infrastructure, as well as the spiritual (i.e. religious,cultural, intellectual) well-being of the community.

* national level: for instance, the leader of a country mustoversee the inflow and outflow of goods, services and peoples in and outof his country, to ensure that there be enough provisions for hispeople, to defend the interests of his country from infractions fromabroad, be it physical, economical, cultural, intellectual, etc.; and tomaintain internal stability and order with objective laws and effectivejustice.

Just as the head of a family who neglects the basic needs of hisfamily and prioritizes the needs of his neighbors or even strangersahead of his own family, or favors one or some family members overothers, is deemed to have failed in carrying out his duties andresponsibilities, so too a country's leader who prioritizes theeconomic interests of other countries to the detriment of his owncountry, and in doing so, causes enormous suffering amongst his ownpeople, is deemed to have failed in protecting his country'sinterest, hence compromises his political legitimacy to rule over thatcountry due to his unjust and short-sighted actions and policies. Such acountry will simmer with disorder, its people overwhelmed with povertyand discontent.

A lesson about economic priority may be obtained from thiscomparison: that a healthy economy is one that prioritizes ensuringsubsistence and right livelihood of its people as opposed to beingfixated with generating growth just so that its surplus can be exportedor expropriated to support further growth, leading towards what theAustralian economist Clive Hamilton calls the "growth fetish."(50) A healthy economy must first be able to provide subsistence anddignified livelihoods for those living under its care before seeking tofuel investment elsewhere. In short, if an economy does not provide forlocal peoples and communities, but instead marginalizes, deprives andimpoverishes them, then the word economy loses its meaning to the localpopulation.

A community or society that chooses to adhere to the basic guidingprinciples of right livelihood for the common good (51) may beenvisioned as the interplay between the interests of the individual andthe interests of the society in which that individual is embedded, asexpressed in the following schematic sketch of a cycle or circle ofvirtuous exchange between the one and the other.

In a virtuous circle of exchange, the success of the individual isperceived against the background of support and encouragement from thecommunity. Conversely, the failure of an individual will be cushioned bythe same network of societal support and encouragement. In short, anindividual does not succeed out of his own individual strivings orefforts alone. Should the individual wishes to run a business in orderto invest or re-invest in his or her society, then that individual may(a) hire locals as his workers, or even invite them in as partners (b)buy and sell local products (i.e., local sourcing) for the purpose ofhis business, and (c) work to improve the economic, educational, orliving standards of his own community. Examples of such businessesinclude slow tourism, rural or urban homestays, community supportedfarming and manufacturing, agroecological retreats, and community-rootedtraining and educational programs such as those organized by people inthe worldwide permaculture network. (52) This scheme of things has twoimmediate implications:

A. Local knowledge inherited from previous generations remainspreserved, nurtured and practiced within the community, thus serving asan antidote against the harmful effects of modern"monoculturalizing" (53) mass education that tends to uprootand sever one's link with the rich cultural content and relevanceof traditional knowledge.

B. Production of, say, susbsistence crops for local needs and wantsare given priority over production of cash crops for non-local needs andwants, e.g., for exports to the rich countries of the West. (54)

It must be emphasized that the description provided above is notsimply a flight of the imagination, (55) but serves to underlie themanifold usefulness of defining the economy as "householdmanagement" because it gives us a solid handle on thinking aboutthe purpose of the economy vis a vis the individual, the community andthe state, besides providing us with a vision of what a healthy economyought to look like, and therefore provides us with a reliable yardstickby which we can measure the true wealth (understood in its originalsense of 'wellbeing') of our own, real, community-rootedeconomy. No doubt this definition can be further elaborated, and itsdetails and implications fleshed out and fine-tuned; one is not claimingthat it is comprehensive or exhaustive in terms of semantic content, butonly that it is the correct and proper conceptual point of departure forhelping all concerned toward capturing the essence of what an economy oreconomics is really all about.

If the discipline of economics wishes to continue to be a truthfuldescriptor of the real economy as understood and practiced by the vastmajority of hardworking people (rather than just a small circle ofrent-seeking elite), the greatest danger that could befall it is for itto become divorced from reality and from sense and sensibility, full ofsound and fury, or perhaps figures, models and formulas, all pies in theskies bewitching and seducing those foolish or diabolical enough toembrace its nihilistic promises; for as the Qur'an so clearly saysto all those who would listen with any degree of intellecto-spiritualdiscernment, "Satan threatens you with poverty and compels you toindecencies, whereas God promises you divine forgiveness andgrace." (56)

Neoliberal economic and financial disciplines are driven frombehind by the gnawing fear of this very threat of poverty, and pulledalong from the front by the irresistable compulsive lust towardindecencies.

(2) Abundance in relation to scarcity

An important point that surfaces again and again throughout theconference and dialogue is the realization and recognition that thevision of the economy that we wish to have must ultimately be groundedupon a sound, proper and correct understanding of human nature (orrather, what Professor al-Attas refers to as the "psychology of thehuman soul" (57)) for it is man--whether as an individual, a group,a community or a state--that engages in the various modes oftransactions and exchanges in the economy. Conversely, a truncated orflawed conception of human nature will lead to the construction of aneconomic system that ignores the basic needs of man, or worse, subvertsand reduces them to their purely material dimension as the onlydimension worth paying attention to, therefore prioritizing his spuriouswants and desires over and above his necessary needs, leading to hiseventual perdition.

If one affirms that man has a dual nature, a physical body and aspiritual soul, then it follows that both have their unique needs thatmust be fulfilled, although not necessarily in the same way or manner,nor in the same order of priority. This implies that there exists ahierarchy of human needs, ranked in the order of priority, importanceand ultimate value, which must be recognized and acknowledged for thefull flourishing of the whole human personhood, the integrated asopposed to the fragmented man. The needs of the physical body, forexample to satiate hunger, though extremely vital for the properfunctioning of the human body (i.e., if one is hungry, one will not havethe strength and energy to complete other tasks, including religiousacts of devotions), must not be pursued to the extent that it infringesupon and neglect the needs of the spiritual soul--i.e., if one eats toomuch, it may lead to discomfort or sleepiness, if not sickness, which inturn impairs one's ability to perform one's tasks andresponsibilities, including spiritual and communal ones. So, the food ofthe body should not be at the expense of the food for the soul, and viceversa. That there are proper and just limits to the physical needs ofthe human body is also captured in the so-called 'Law ofDiminishing Returns', (58) which essentially states that there is aoptimum limit up to which satisfying one's desires is productive,and beyond which the successive gains will become less and lessbeneficial, and even result in counter-productive losses. (59)

Therefore, an economic system that exalts conspicuous and unlimitedconsumption, agitates and excites the bodily appetites, whims anddesires beyond its proper and just limits, and makes virtues out ofvices such as greed, covetousness, pride, gluttony, (60) etc., will havefailed to address the real and permanent needs of a human being; it willhave failed to bestow neither lasting satisfaction nor peace of soul tothe person, but hurries him from one fleeting desire and worry toanother, and leaves him perpetually harassed andenslaved--Sisyphean-like--to his lower, baser and false self. One of ourmain tasks is then to envision--in a critical and creative manner--aneconomic system that recognizes and acknowledges the hierarchy of humanneeds and that can contribute to the cultivation of each of themaccording to their just dues. (61)

Another related point that deserves our immediate attention is toclarify our conception of nature or cosmological vision; specificallywhether nature and its resources are abundant or scarce. This issue wassubjected to considerable debate amongst participants during theconference and dialogue, with some of them maintaining that naturalresources are indeed--in the ontological sense--scarce, whilst othersdeclaring that the perception that a particular natural resource isscarce merely reflects the state of mind of the person, i.e., things inthis world are not scarce in and of themselves, but rather we as humanbeings with limited means to achieve our desired ends, project oursubjective limitations and insecurities onto the objective naturalworld. In other words, is scarcity something with an ontological andcosmological basis independent of human subjectivity, or is it rather afunction of a flawed epistemology? The question, "Do we--as Muslimsand Christians--subscribe to a cosmology of abundance or a cosmology ofscarcity?," is thus one that demands a firm and clear answer.

One way to arrive at a tentatively clear answer was illustrated bya simple exercise some of us did during one of the usual livelypost-dinner discussions. Dr. Martin Sinaga (Lutheran World Federation)casually asked what was the word for scarcity in the Malay language, andamongst the words suggested were tak cukup (not sufficient), sedikit(few or little), terbatas (limited), but none of these words reallycaptured the essence of the word 'scarcity', which, inconventional economic thought, seemed to reflect the nature of realityitself and hence does not refer to temporary states of shortages ofmaterial goods or services, which is what the Malay words listed aboveoften refer to.

The word 'scarcity' as it is bandied around in currentneoliberal discourse, to our minds, strikes us as having an ontologicalring to it, in the sense that it is not a condition that can bepermanently overcome or removed by the ramping up of production orincreasing efficiency; rather it seemed to indicate that the world, asit was, as it is and as it forever will be, is always falling short ofour material needs and desires, that shortages or limitations are notmerely short-lived but everlasting, and that we, as human beings, haveno choice but to inevitably accept this reality of scarcity about theworld and learn to tolerate and accommodate such an existentialcondition. but if that is truly the case, then modern economics is afailed, untenable, absurd and failed discipline from the very outset ofits dogmatic, unexamined adherence to the axiomatics of scarcity chasingafter unlimited wants. We may call this cognitive dead-end the absurdityof scarcity.

As the rest of us around the table groped for an answer, it slowlybegan to dawn upon us that there was a distinct possibility of thereactually being no native word in the Malay language that expresses themeaning of the word 'scarcity'. It is worthwhile to pause andreflect on this point: if a particular society does not have a word inits vocabulary to express and describe the modern economic concept of'scarcity', then it indicates that the reality that such aconcept purports to point to is not even recognized and understood assuch amongst the members of that society, i.e, that the concept has noreal meaning in that society's vision of truth, reality, being andexistence.

This is not necessarily a negative verdict on that particularsociety; but rather, it will suggest that such a society does notconceive of the natural world around them as one of scarcity, butinstead one of great abundance. There may be periods of shortages whenfood or water or sources of energy are in limited supply due to naturalcalamities or disruptive, imprudent use, but these periods are notperceived as a permanent feature of the natural world, such that eachmember of the society have to compete ruthlessly with each other tosecure what they need for themselves, but simply part of the naturalcycles of plenty and rarity to which one has to adapt to. (62) In short,a community living in balance and harmony with natural cycles of theseasons and the environment will see the reality of abundance, while onethat is driven by conquest over nature and its subversion will see theillusion of scarcity. In short, one may argue that scarcity is more afunction of pyschology than cosmology.

There are several lessons that may be derived from this simpleexercise: (i) that it is worthwhile to carefully trace the origin of aparticular word, especially one that describes an absolute and importantconcept such as scarcity, (ii) once the lineage of a particular word isknown, it is instructive to examine how well it compares with otherwords that appear to indicate the same, albeit different'shades' of, meaning, (iii) that if a word is found to havebeen a foreign provenance, it should be evaluated as to whether it iscongenial with respect to the worldview of the society into which it hasinserted itself; should it be found to be alien and undermines theworldview of that society, it ought to be 'neutralized' sothat it may not serve as a conduit through which new ideas of dubiousworth--or in Dr. Priyono's phrase "corruptedsemantics"--may be surreptitiously introduced into the thoughtpatterns of that particular society.

For instance, if a society that does not originally recognize theconcept of scarcity in its traditional relationship with the naturalenvironment is suddenly introduced to it via the teaching of mainstreameconomics in its westernized education system, this will gradually alterits attitude towards the natural environment, potentially breedingconfusion that is productive of the undermining of wisdom and traditioninherited from previous generations, besides leaving it intellectuallyvulnerable in the face of persistent cries for change, progress anddevelopment. (63)

(3) Trusting in relation to entrusting

There was a particular moment during the seminar when we fearedthat we had lost sight of what structural greed actually refers to. Wewere discussing how does one go about identifying greed and someparticipants were throwing one hypothetical situation after another thatto our minds, helped very little in clarifying what greed in general is,and what structural greed is specifically.

Ms Peggy Mekel asked that if she wanted to buy a third car to keepup with the transport needs of her growing family, is she consideredgreedy? Dr. Intan Ichsan wondered whether one can be considered greedyif one covets after good deeds instead of material goods. Wan Aimranwaded into the discussion by offering a simple definition of greed as"wanting after something that you do not need," lest greed betransformed into an epistemological enigma. He pointed out that theQur'anic parable of Qarun provides a good description of greed inits various guises and how greed is ultimately relational in the sensethat it only makes sense if it involves two distinct parties (i.e., onecan hardly be punished for being greedy if one lives alone in some lostcorner of the globe impacting on no one or no thing in particular) suchthat a negative disruption is caused in the relationship between the twodistinct but interacting parties. Since all relationships presuppose andare founded upon the notion of trust, greed can then be conceived as abetrayal, a transgression or ultimately a subversion of that trust. Abroken relationship is one in which the trust has been lost and, in thecase of greed, it is a loss that impacts negatively on one or some ofthe parties to that relationship.

This profound connection between greed and trust was earlierhighlighted by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar in his presentation when he declaredthat "the human being cannot serve both God and greed at the sametime," which implies that a person who embraces greed as a way oflife has turned away from God, or lost his or her relationship with God.Such a person has then subscribed to a "form of idolatry," inthe words of Dr. Duchrow, in the sense that he or she has substitutedthe real God with a false idol, who beguiles and entrances the heedlessinto its trap, (64) so fundamentally unlike the real God who keeps Hispromises (65) to those who are mindful of Him, those who give thanks toHim and submit to His laws. Ultimately, greed rends the relationship oftrust between man and God, which rending is to the detriment of theformer obviously. for as the Qur'an says, "God has not wrongedthem, but rather, they have wrong their own selves." (66)

Dr. Adi Setia brought attention to this intricate connectionbetween greed and trust (or lack thereof) by pointing out ratherinsightfully that greed implies a lack of trust towards (i) God as theProvider, Cherisher and Sustainer, and also towards (ii) other people,as equal partners and helpers in nurturing and cultivating theabundances of this world. The fear of not getting and having enough ofsomething, because of the worry that what one already has will not lastand what one does not yet have will also be wanted by others who arechasing after the same thing, incites a strong urge to hoard, monopolizeand enclose (hence the so-called 'enclosure of the commons'(67)), and feeds an obsessive and excessive individualistic andcompetitive mindset where everyone is in it only for himself, where thestrong will survive and the weak shoved aside (as per the socialDarwinist 'survival of the fittest'), where might makes right,and where virtues such as cooperation, kindliness and generosity areonly seen to be impediments to one's own prosperity andadvancement, even at the cost of the impoverishment and extinction ofothers. But as everyone should know, one reaps what one sows, even inthe midst of compulsive indulgence, and there is always what is called'blow back' in this life and, most surely, in the Afterlife.(68)

If one affirms that 'greed' is linked in a profoundmanner to a lack of trust (or reliance on God = tawakkul), it followsthen that the opposite of greed, 'generosity', not onlysignals the presence of trust but more than that, it also implies thatgenerosity may and can engender trust. As Mr. Benjamin Quinonesbeautifully puts it, "Trust has a currency to it." Therefore,an economic system that fails to cultivate an ecology of trusting andentrusting amongst those who participates in it will attempt to'monetize' (69) (aka, impersonalize) its risks through variousmeans such as the charging of interest for providing loans,profiteering, monopolies and so on, all of which places financial,mental and physical burdens on customers or consumers or stakeholders atlarge, effectively enslaving them to the whims, fancies and dictates ofthe fabricators and manipulators of the economic system founded onmistrust. (70) In constrast, an economic system that makes trust itscapital is one that empowers and liberates its participants, and showsrespect to their unique potentials and encourages true financial, mentaland physical independence and well-being; and moreover, it objectivisestrust in the manner in which it develops its formal contractual forms,such that mutuality and transparency becomes the key ethico-legalelement in all contracts. Therefore, the conceptual linkages in theinterrelationships between greed, generosity, trust and independence (orempowerment) in an economic system are thus established.

(4) The commons in relation to community

If we subscribe to the cosmological view that the world is one inwhich abundance is continually restored by God, the Creator of theworld, and the psychological view that every human being has a hierarchyof needs--from the lower physical and bodily needs, to the higher (andmore importantly, truer) spiritual and cultural needs--it follows thenthat the role of a human being in this world ought to be envisioned asthat of a trustee or steward.

If one were to check the etymology of the word 'steward',one would discover that it is derived from the Old English word stiwardor stigweard that means a "house guardian" (from stig"hall" + weard "guard"). (71) If one were to castone's mind back to the earlier discussion on the original meaningof the word 'economy', one will recall that it also contains areference to the idea of a house and the associated notion of ahousehold (hence "household management"); and therefore it isvery interesting to note that this reference makes its appearance in theroot word for 'steward' as well, as if signaling to discerningminds that the proper title of the person whose duty it is to care forthe entire household is that of a steward. (72)

The proper scope of the duties of a steward may be gleaned from theway this title is used in early England and Scotland, in which itreferred to a class of high officers who "manages affairs of anestate on behalf of his employer," which implies that a stewardmanages something--a property, an activity or a trust--on behalf ofsomebody else who is the owner, i.e., it is not for him to claim tomanage something in his own name or in his own right. This impliesseveral things: (i) that the caretaking is temporary and not perpetual,i.e., in the sense that there is a definite beginning and a definite endto the period of one's duties (analogous perhaps to being in anexamination or a test (73)); and also that the given trust is ultimatelynot ours to own, and therefore not ours to give away in a frivolous andwasteful manner, for nemo dat quod non habit or one cannot grant whatone does not have; (ii) that there is an "objective" standardby which one ought to manage the given trust, i.e., that one cannotsimply manage it according to one's personal whims and desires; and(iii) that one's performance in discharging one's duties willultimately be judged by the true owner or bestower of that trust, i.e.,one will be held accountable for the way one manages the bestowed trust.

Therefore, the cosmological perspective that we choose toadopt--that the world is one of abundance rather than ofscarcity--acquires extra layers of significance here, namely that: (i)that precisely because everything abounds in this world, human beings asstewards are never to hoard anything during their brief sojourn in thisphysical world, but instead they ought to take what is sufficient tofulfill their needs and to satisfy their "tamed" wants, tocultivate they humanity, (74) to preserve the earth for those who willcome after them and to finally return it, preferably in the same or evenbetter condition in which it was first given/entrusted to them, whenthey pass away; (75) and (ii) rather than allowing all the abundancethat surrounds us to excite our desires and inflate our egos, ourefforts to cultivate, nurture and preserve that which has been entrustedto us must be in accordance to the ethico-moral rules that have beenlaid down for us by the One Who has entrusted it all to us, Who hasplaced fixed limits and restraints to demarcate between the broad butstraight path of temperance and the slippery slope of extravagance. Ourattitudes and actions as stewards will therefore be reflective andexpressive of the twin cosmological facts that everything has beencreated in due measure and that everything submits to Him. (76)

Let us now turn to the nature of this trust that has been bestowedon us as stewards. It is not difficult to see how this trust, havingbeen bestowed by its true and ultimate owner, i.e., God, will acquirethe status of something sacred. Its intrinsic value and worth istherefore not something that can be bartered, bargained or compromised.Intrinsic value here would mean a value in the context of the overalldivine plan that is quite independent of and transcends whateversubjective, pragmatic value we input to them. What follows from this isthat there exists several things (77) that are considered non-negotiableas far as its intrinsic values are concerned to the life of humanbeings, which also implies that these things--the commons--must beequally accessible by everyone in a society, or even everything andevery life in nature. For instance, if clean air is valuable to thelives of every single person and living being (or, to put it anotherway, everyone depends on clean air in order to live healthily), itfollows then that everyone deserves to have an equal right and freeaccess to it.

In the context of human economics, one may conceive of the commonsas common human rights, though not in the narrow legal sense, butrather, as something that each and every individual deserves to haveaccess to by the very virtue of simply being a human being. If onewishes to be more specific, one may reflect upon the definition of thecommons formulated by Dr. Adi Setia during the conference and dialogue:

 The 'commons' may be defined as referring to the underlying backdrop of God-given natural and cultural wealth which we all share and depend on for ensuring the sustainability and flourishing of our livelihoods.

There are several important points here that one may extract fromthis definition. First, the commons constitute those essential elementsof the world upon which all human beings depend in order to live andthrive, (78) such as clean water, clean air, food, shelter andlivelihoods. In this sense the commons forms the foundation orunderlying backdrop of resources for subsistence upon which higher typesof needs and wants are build. Second, it does not merely includematerial things but also non-material elements that are vital to thefull flourishing of a person's life such as religion, culture,dignity, intellect, progeny or family, etc.

One can even argue that for the so-called 'free-market'to be really free, the 'market' has to be enivisioned as a'commercial commons' accessible and open to all, rich or poor,who wish to trade in it; just as the mosque can be seen as the'devotional commons', accessible and open to all the faithfulto come there and worship. Thus, the commons is meant to satisfy notonly the physical and bodily needs of a person, but also his cultural,spiritual and emotional needs. Third, the commons, inasmuch as it issomething to be shared by all in the community, is also commonly ownedby all in the community, and therefore something held in public trust orcommon ownership by all as a collective, to be shared with everyone inthat community. For instance, a river that flows through a village isnot exclusively owned by any one person in that village, but providessustenance to all who inhabit that village in terms of drinkable water,fishes, etc., and therefore the river is a commons for that particularvillage, and all villages downstream, leading to the notion of aregional or bioregional commons. (79)

A commons, understood in this manner cannot be'enclosed', usurped and transferred into private ownership tobe treated as a purely commercial commodity to be broken up into piecesand sold into absentee ownership by far-away faceless investors andspeculators. However, an objection may be raised to this point byinvoking the so-called "tragedy of the commons." But aspointed out by Dr. Duchrow and Dr. Priyono during the conference anddialogue, the scenario that unfolds in the tragedy of the commons restson the assumption that if something is held in commons, then nobodyreally owns it and therefore nobody feels obliged to care for it in theprocess of using it. Everybody then proceeds to utilize that commonswithout taking into account each other's use of it, whichultimately leads to it deprivation, desolation and destruction.Moreover, we all know that private ownership in itself is no guaranteeof responsible stewardship, but rather, it has become more of a tool toexploit resources for vested interests at the expense of both nature andculture and the larger society. (80)

Also, it is does not automatically follows that just becausesomething is held in common, nobody owns it. The alternative inferencethat if something is held is common, then everybody sees a duty to carefor it in collaboration with others, is equally logical, while theformer thinking does not occupy a privileged position in the sense ofbeing more "objective" or "neutral" with respect tothe latter way of thinking. Of course, if somebody seeks to justify theexpansion of the scope of private property to include things such asclean air, clean water, forest, etc., then it is clearly advantageousfor him to trumpet how much better such things will be taken care ofunder private control, which, in turn, paves the way for intensive andextensive privatization, i.e., the transformation of public goods andservices into private good and services, and then their monopolizationand monetization through the charging of fees on the public for its use.The enclosure of the commons was and is in fact driven by the obsessivegreed for the systemic accumulation and concentration of capital andwealth in the hands of the few.

A fundamental distinction between modern forms of corporateprivatization with traditional forms of privatization (for instance,through charitable endowments or waqf in the Islamic civilization), liesin the fact that in the latter case private wealth or property isvoluntarily and formally transferred by the personal owner into commonownership in the interest of some aspects of the public good, i.e., forsome well-defined benefit to the wider community. Hence a person ofmeans may, in his private capacity and personal initiative, endow a shopor some farm lands to support a school or mosque or hospital, or toprovide for single mothers or the poor and destitute in general. In thisrespect, waqf in Islam can be seen as a privately initiated, funded andmanaged public welfare system. In contrast, in the former case, publicgoods and properties such as forests, pastures, even water resources are'enclosed' and formally but coercively (whether by direct orindirect coercion) transferred into private, individual or corporateownership, and turned into a monetized commodity to be bought and soldin the commercial marketplace, thereby compelling the community to payfor something that was once open for access to its members for free.Thus, we find access to clean water regulated and billed, (81) entranceinto parks and open spaces for recreation charged a fee, which can beexorbitant for many ordinary people, and highways interspersed with tollplazas which are gradually replacing normal trunk roads.

Modern corporate privatization transforms what used to be held incommons or in the public domain into a privately controlled asset in theinterest of largely private profit, whilst traditional forms ofprivatization transforms what used to be a privately-owned asset into apublic good for the benefit or welfare of the community as a whole. Withthis distinction firmly in mind, one may begin to distinguish betweenproper privatization versus improper privatization, and to unmask thelatter for what it truly is: the unfettered commoditization of thecommons for selfish gain at the expense of the common good. (82)

Indeed, most of the arguments rallied in support of moderncorporate privatization are essentially variations on the same theme ofwhat we might call "the myth of the tragedy of the commons."This myth says that a particular resource will be managed moreefficiently if it is owned by some private person or corporation, as aresult of which the public will enjoy a better quality of service. Onecan see that from the very beginning, this line of argument implicitlymarginalizes the virtues of spontaneous cooperation and generosity,since it is unable to conceive of a scenario wherein members of acommunity may collaborate with one aother to care for and nurture acommon or shared interest upon which is founded their collectivewell-being, as though the cooperative impulse is not part of humannature. The fact is that this myth is systemically rationalized andthereby institutionalized in order to tip the "culturalbalance" towards intensive and extensive competition and unfetteredindividualism, and hence, toward exclusion and alienation. It is theconvenient extrapolation of the Darwinian biological conception of the'survival of the fittest' to the cultural, social and economicdomain of life, clothed, as it were, in a dazzling and dizzyingprofusion of erudite-sounding economic jargons and terminologies tobefuddle the mind with regard to its actual, diabolical agenda. (83)

(5) Pockets of resistance in relation to transformative action

The dissonance between the virtues of cooperation and generosityimplicit in the concept of the commons with the sensibilities ofmainstream economics that accepts unrestrained competition in thelargely rigged 'free market' (84) as its absolute guidingprinciple illustrates a useful lesson for those opting for actualizing anew vision of the economy and evaluating its performance. This vision isnamely one that sees that a new purpose for the economy demands a newset of criteria and measures for what counts as economic success andfailure. If the purpose of the new economics for the common good isfundamentally different from the purpose of the mainstream economics aswidely understood and practiced today, it follows then that the variousindicators and yardsticks that one uses to evaluate and measure thehealth and progress of the economy today must be re-examined in thelight of the new purpose of this new economics; granted, one need not goso far as to re-invent the wheel in as far as some of those indicatorsand yardsticks are concerned. What is required is to widen our gaze andto re-calibrate our thinking so that we may perceive these disparateindicators and narrowly defined yardsticks for what they are in relationto the true purpose of the new economics, for as the Americanphilosopher Will Durant has so pertinently said:

 For a fact is nothing except in relation to desire; it is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom. (85)

This new economics will have to be cognitively elevating andthereby raise us to the high pinnacles of integrative ethical wisdomrather than keeping us bound to the low foothills of fragmentativetechnical facts, in order that we may finally see the values behind thenumbers, the meanings behind the relations, the objectives behind thetheories and the purposes behind the disciplines.

For instance, one of the main objectives of economic developmentset by the government in countries like Malaysia is to become a"high-income nation." Now a moment of careful reflection mightwill make one realize that the notion of 'high' and'low' in general is meaningless if the standards by which thatevaluation is made are not made explicit. Even if those standards aremade known, one will realize that merely passing some arbitrary monetaryor quantitative measures cannot be construed as a purpose in the properunderstanding of that word because (i) it is relative, i.e., a salary ofMYR (86) 10,000 per month may be considered to be high in a big townlike Ipoh, but it may not be considered high in a much larger city likeKuala Lumpur; (ii) it changes, i.e., what qualifies as'high-income' for this year may no longer be true for the nextyear; and (iii) it is temporary, i.e., the criterion'high-income' is not backed by something truly objective orconcrete, and hence it is subject to a whole set of externalcirc*mstances, some of which are even beyond the control of those whoformulated these standards in the first place, and therefore they may beinvalidated, modified or even discarded altogether at some point in thefuture. Something as ambiguous as the airy notion of'high-income' cannot and should not serve as a criterion forsomething as important as the quality of the livelihood of millions ofpeople, much less something for which all of our resources are to bedevoted to. Perhaps a good advice to mainstream economists would be,"Stop quantifying the unquantifiable, please!" For, what ifone can actually have a 'high income' while yet penniless andowning nothing to his name? In other words, income is a function of bothculture and nature, and we all know that culture and nature are not flator monolithic or uniform, but rather, rich and complex, and hence anystandards that aim to flatten what cannot be flattened are diabolicallyself-serving. (87)

No doubt a lot of thought, creativity and courage will have to beexpended in devising a new set of both quantitative and qualitativecriteria by which the health and progress of this new economy can beobjectively determined (88) and soundly evaluated, and in which set, thequantitative are but a function of the qualitative and serves it. Yet,we would do well to remember the insights offered by the well-knownMuslim thinker and philosopher, Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas:

 The concepts of 'change', 'development', and 'progress' presuppose situations in which we find ourselves confused by a commixture of the true and the false, of the real and the illusory, and become captive in the ambit of ambiguity. In such ambivalent situations, our positive action in the exercise of freedom to choose for the better, to accept what is good and relevant to our needs, all the while maintaining our endeavor to return to the straight path and direct our steps in agreement with it--such endeavor, which entails change, is development; and such return, which consists in development, is progress. (89)

In talking about creating so-called pockets of resistance in themidst of the chaos and decay that we find ourselves in today, there areseveral things that have to be recognized and acknowledged. First, thatwe must "confess our entanglement and complicity in the structuresof greed" (90) by the very fact that we are involved in the varioustransactions

that are taking place in the mainstream economy of today.Nonetheless, this is not an anguished cry of despair, but a confidentassertion of the current situation we are in and a clarion call to allothers who are awake and keenly aware of the economic maelstrom comingour way in order that we may pool our wits and resources together inconfronting and overcoming it. As the permaculturist Bill Mollison likesto say, "The problem is the solution," but provided werecognize the problem for what it is, own up to our complicity in itsfostering, and then formulate and take systemic steps to engage andovercome it. In short, we caused the problem, and hence we have to"uncause" it by causing its solution. We have to repent andundergo the arduous rites of atonement for the sins of our excess.

After all, there is a fundamental difference between a citizen who,seeing an invading army approaching the walls of his city, merely runsfrom one house to another in order to alert its inhabitants butotherwise incapable of offering a sound and practical defense strategy,and an experienced general who, on observing the same threat, began torally his troops and the civilians, and call all the townspeople toarms, and to coordinate between all the various parties, so thattogether they may provide an effective resistance against the invadingarmy and engender a powerful counter attack to defeat it, and thus savethe city. (91)

Second, in order to ensure that the positive change we wish to seewill be sustainable in the sense of being able to garner, maintain andregenerate its momentum, it is crucial for us to recognize that genuinechange can only occur if it is underpinned by transformation at thepersonal level, i.e., that the locus and focus of change must ultimatelybe the human being, for we affirm that the grave challenges brought uponby mainstream economics today have its root in a confused and pervertedunderstanding in the human mind of what the economy is, its meaning andits purpose. The knowledge and understanding of economics have beencorrupted in the minds of men, which led to numerous grotesquely immoralacts rationalized and perpetrated in its name abetted by the coldindifference of their hearts in the face of such rationalizations. Onlywhen the knowledge and understanding of economics have been rectifiedand placed in its proper and correct place in relation to all the otherdisciplines of knowledge and with respect to all the other prioritiesand requirements of our daily lives, that such acts will stop and thecold frozen hearts will begin to thaw and beat with the pulse ofhumaneness once again.

One thing that immediately follows from this is the role ofeconomic education, especially the need for a systematic promotion of acounter-economics in institutes of higher academic and vocationallearning. Considering how schools, colleges and universities from allover the world are churning out economic, business and financialgraduates who are trained in the theoretical and practical frameworks ofmainstream economics, i.e. neoliberal economics, the need to promote,develop and disseminate alternative voices and narratives to theneo-liberal conception of economics and the world in a systematicfashion is a most urgent one. This emphasis on a counter-economicseducation was a point that was initially made rather forcefully by Dr.Adi Setia and it was accepted by the participants of the seminar andlater incorporated into the text of the final declaration of theconference and dialogue. It is worthwhile to quote this particularproposal as it appears in the final declaration in order to appreciateit prescient nature:

 Design and develop alternative curricula that include: (i) a critical examination of the key terms and concepts that underpin mainstream economics, for instance 'money', 'wealth', 'property', 'work', 'market', 'growth', etc.; and (ii) a comparative study of promising alternative streams of economic thought, one that includes close reflective readings of key economic texts available in the Islamic, Christian and Eastern intellectual traditions.

This carries over to the next point on education: that of thereligious scholars. One of the recurring themes during the discussionwas the apparent and real disconnect between religious and economiceducation; that the religious scholars, some of whom are importantleaders of their local communities, are incapable of addressing pressingeconomic issues facing their respective communities, and engaging theseproblems in a critical and wholesome manner and thereby offering usefulguidance to the members of their community. In short, there is adifficulty, if not failure, to bring religious insights to bearevaluatively upon the contemporary economic challenges that confrontindividuals and communities as well as the society at large on a dailybasis.

There is a need, therefore, to close the gap between thecompartmentalized branches of religious and economic knowledge andtraining by re-casting key economic concepts and theories in the lightof religious virtues--especially as encapsulated in the kasb genre oftexts (92) in the case of the Islamic intellectual tradition--and byincluding a critical, evaluative overview of basic economic principlesand issues into the proper study of religion, so that religion itselfmay constitute a viable and effective pocket of resistance against theserious challenges brought upon its adherents by mainstream economics.Religious institutions such as mosques and churches themselves have toplay a vital and visible role by re-aligning their practices andre-envisioning their positions within their respective communities tobecome shining exemplars of ethical and responsible societalstewardship.

In addition, they must lead the way by demarcating the fine linebetween earning a living and the greed for more and more in a clear andconcrete manner and to commit to such distinction in their ownpractices, befitting their true roles as beacons of light towards whatis right for their followers in this ever darkening world, as Enyabeckons us in her lovely theme song, May It Be, for the film trilogyLord of the Rings:

 May it be, when darkness comes, your heart will be true; When the night is overcome, you may rise to find the sun.

It is obviously a good thing to equip those occupying the positionsof political power within a society with a sound grasp of basiceconomics so that they may guide their flock to safety, but we believethat such a re-education should not only be confined to the leadingpolitical members or intellectual elite of the community. There is noreason why the proper and correct understanding of economics, especiallyviable alternatives to that currently practiced in the discredited,crisis-laden mainstream economy, should not be made incumbent uponreligious leaders and their students, including community leaders,administrators and professionalism general, since they too hold enormousresponsibilities within their own communities or network ofrelationships, making decisions that influence, directly or indirectly,the well-being and direction of their flocks. As a matter of fact, it ismore the case that the kind of deep-level change and transformationenvisaged here is more suited to decentralized, bottom-up,community-rooted initiatives than to any well-meaning public policiesconcocted at the state level. No big brother is going to help you;you'll will have to help yourself; and to be able to help oneselfmust constitute one of the core elements of true freedom.

In Islam, knowledge is divided into two types, depending on itspriority to a Muslim in relation to his responsibility to himself andhis community: disciplines of knowledge that are individually obligatoryupon each and every single Muslim without exception fall under thecategory of fard al-'ayn (personally obligatory), whereas thedisciplines of knowledge which are not obligatory upon all Muslim butonly on a qualified few fall under the category of fard al-kifayah(communally obligatory). (93) What is important to recognize here isthat the division between these two classes of obligations is not staticbut may change depending on the circ*mstances and needs of a particularMuslim community, i.e., a discipline of knowledge that used to fallunder fard kifayah may be re-classified as fard 'ayn if thesituation in which the society finds itself in necessitates all membersof the community to be introduced to that discipline and subsequentlyacquire a sound understanding of it. Of course, it is not enough tomerely make the study of economics obligatory upon every studentcurrently attending schools, colleges and universities (or engaging inbusiness activities, for that matter), especially if the content is notproperly and systematically designed, evaluated and tested in the lightof the axiological tenets of economic exchange in Islam.

As Dr. Herry Priyono pointed out, we should take heed from what iscurrently going on in the rapid proliferation of entrepreneurshipcourses in institutions of higher learning. These courses begin with theseemingly harmless and noble aim of equipping the students with basicentrepreneurial skills so that they may one day become financiallyself-sufficient, but they fail to anticipate the detrimental effects ofinculcating the conventional entrepreneurial outlook in the minds ofthese students, as though the 'cash-value' of the sum total ofwhat they have learnt throughout their entire education depends on theprice it will fetch in the neoliberal market. If institutions of higherlearning are meant to cultivate a spirit of intellectual depth andsobriety which flowers into deliberate and careful action, therebyresulting in true long-lasting benefits for both personal good and thecommon good, then the undue emphasis on narrowly conceivedentrepreneurial skills, with its absolute adherence to the mechanistic"calculating mentality" is disruptive--if not altogethercontradictory--to the project of producing a wholesome and well-balancedperson. If we would balk at sending our youth to fight a misguided andpointless war, then why should we remain silent when they are beingtrained en masse only to become cannon fodder in the greatest war ofdeception of our time, the war of the political economic elite againstculture and nature?

An objection may here be raised against the indictment on theinsertion of entrepreneurial courses into the higher education system:"Is it not good to prepare our youth for financial self-sufficiencyby equipping them with basic entrepreneurial skills? This way, they havea choice whether to secure employment at some company or corporation,or, if they so wish, to start their own businesses and to learn to earna living through that?" Two replies can be mustered against thisobjection: the first one is that it is unwise to teach studentsknowledge and skills without making them aware of the largersuperstructure (i.e., the mainstream economic system) in which thatparticular form of knowledge and skills are embedded. More importantthan teaching students the know-how to set up a stall or run their ownstreet-corner business, they need to learn whether particular goods andservices should be sold or offered in the marketplace at all in thefirst place. We do not want to become a nation of shopkeepers and pettybusinessmen whose valuations of the goods and services they sell areleft entirely to the whims, desires and fancies of the consumers, who,in turn are brainwashed daily by all kinds of commercial advertisem*ntdirected at them through the mass media. We wish not to produce men andwomen having merely commercial skills but also who are possessing of aholistic, integrated economic vision, and who know how to organicallyembed their particular enterprises into the larger religious, ethicaland cultural fabrics of their respective communities and societies.Training students with entrepreneurial skills without teaching themabout the meaning, purpose and principles of a truly embedded economy islike giving somebody a net without teaching him how to identify theright fish to catch. This, of course, brings us to the question of thecorrect and appropriate conception of 'entrepreneurship',which, in Islam, is intimately connected to the notion of kasb or'earning a livelihood', and which, in Buddhism, to the notionof 'right livelihood.' (94)

The second reply goes deeper by comparing the words employment withthe phrase earning a living. The former is quite prevalent in mainstreameconomics and it seems that we have structured our entire existencearound this word, i.e., even the subjects that university students areto choose are nowadays based less on a sense of real personal interestor community relevance than on whether this or that subject will allowone to secure employment or not in the corporate world. It is nowundeniable that the only value that modern education possesses, and thatis recognized today, is that which is given by potential employers incompanies or industries, which, in turn, are largely complicit inexpressing the neoliberal economic agenda. One may perform a conceptualanalysis on this word in order to see whether there is inherent in theterm a notion of making oneself dependent on something (e.g., a companyor corporation) or somebody, or of abasing oneself at the service ofsomebody else.

On the other hand, the phrase earning a living, has a fundamentallydifferent connotation to it, in that it implies a person doing something(whether producing something or rendering his or her service to somebodyelse) with the intention of supporting one's livelihood; it denotesa meritorious service that deserves and thus earns just and fair paymentor reward in return; it respects and recognizes the unique skills orabilities that a particular person has to offer; it thrives oncreativity and diversity rather than uniformity and rigidity; andimplicit in the word is this sense of knowing where the limit is, i.e.,the limit of how much or how often one should be working, how much oneshould be fairly paid; and knowing the limit of things is often a suresign of wisdom. The difference between these two terms comes out quiteclearly when one looks at the etymologies (95) of these two words:

EARN: From Old English earnian meaning "deserve, earn, merit,win, get a reward for labor."

EMPLOY: From Old French emploiier meaning "make use of, apply;increase; entangle; devote" and from Latin implicare meaning"enfold, involve, be connected with."

It is quite clear from this comparison--apart from the curiousgeographical fact that the former word originated from England whilstthe latter from France, and speculation on what this implies about thedifferences between the English and the French work ethics--how the wordearn carries within it a condition of independence, whereas employsignifies a condition of dependence on, or entanglement to something orsomebody else. (96) So perhaps we should start going about shifting theconceptual parameters of the debate on the connection between educationand economics, i.e., instead of talking about ensuring'employment' opportunities for young graduates, it might bemore enligtening and effective to talk of ensuring the widestopportunity for them to 'earn a livelihood', and especially,'right livelihood.' One may or may not find employment, butone should always (barring ill-health or delibitating old age, and suchlike) be able to earn a decent, dignified, rightful livelihood.

If the subtle distinction inherent in the meanings of these twoterms is not clarified in the minds of those who are responsible forteaching the students, then there is a potential danger here in thatwhat such entrepreneurial courses are effectively doing is toindoctrinate their students into the economic game of dependency onfaceless "big-brothers" called banks, governments,corporations, etc., as it is now being played according to the rules setby those who invented the game in the first place for their own profit.Financial self-sufficiency--even if realizable through playing such agame -should never be conflated or confused with intellectualindependence and moral courage. (97) There is little point in preparinga new batch of 'players', i.e., young entrepreneurs, if theunfair rules of the economic game remains as mighty as ever in place,gaining more credence perhaps by the continuous influx of new andunsuspecting talents. We should do well to remember the remark made bySolon when the King of Lydia, Croesus, showed him his gold, "Sir,if any other come that hath better iron than you, he will be master ofall this gold." So, the question is: who is the real master of allthis gold (now basically wispy e-"wealth") we assume we haveamassed through playing (or rather, through being played like pawns in)the economic game according to abstruse rules we have never really triedto fathom?

Epilogue

Modern mainstream economics, powered by neo-liberal ideology, hasboth perverted and subverted the way we perceive and relate to our ownselves, to other people and the world around us. It has eitherfragmented or severed completely our deep and intimate link with God,which left us wandering aimlessly in the moral and spiritual wastelandinto which barren soil various high-sounding but deceptive ideas andconcepts have sunk deep their roots, thus further reinforcing thedesolation of the wasteland. It is a place where our constant yearning,striving and agitating for pointless things have generated a lot offeverish, endless activities; things, though acquired, that never seemto give us any real sense of personal liberating experience, communalbelonging, or spiritual upliftment and contentment. We always seem to beworking for things, instead of really having things working for us.Things have become the ends for which we have become the means.

 The miser may wax rich with streams of gold, Unsatisfied, though hoarding wealth untold, His neck bent low with pearls from India's shore, His rich fields ploughed by oxen, score on score. Yet gnawing care attends him all his days; At death his fickle wealth without him stays. (98)

For such is the inverted nature of mainstream economics in thesense that it--Midas-like--distorts and perverts everything it touches.In the lust for gold, hunger and death (of others hopefully) cannot betoo high a price to pay in its view (though in the case of Midas, herealized too late that he was paying too high a price). It paints ableak and false vision of a cosmology of scarcity rather than a brightand true cosmology of abundance. It must always see scarcity in themidst of abundance, or invent it. It marginalizes and dismisses thevision of an economy of right livelihood in favor of an economy ofgrowth for growth's sake, even at the expense of livelihood. Itprioritizes the fulfillment of global demands over securing local needs.It treats the virtual economy as real and the real economy as illusoryand unreal, or real only insofar as it can go on parasiting on it. Itdemeans agriculture in the economic priorities of a country and cajolesdeveloping nations to sacrifice the prosperity built on the basis ofa*gricultural diversity and cultural ingenuity in return for themonotonous grey skies of industrial smokestacks and financialskyscrapers, and vast monocultural plantations of alien crops worked bycheap foreign and exploitable workers. It breaks up the family as thebasic unit of the traditional economy and replaces it with thedisembedded individual. It glamorizes the bodily and egoistic aspects ofman whilst suppressing or ignoring his or her deeper cultural andspiritual aspects through all kinds of distractions calledentertainment. (99)

To our minds, there is no clearer indication of the fundamentaldisjunction between the mainstream economics as understood and practicedtoday and the new vision for the economy proposed and discussed in thisessay than the fact that greed--whether at the personal level (greed assuch) or structural level (greed as growth)--in all religions isperceived as a symptom of self-impoverishment or self-deprivation, i.e.,as a pathological inner emptiness, rather than as a positive impetus toreal attainment. If one accumulates and yet the things which oneaccumulates result not in a net gain but instead a net loss (e.g., moreindebtedness, degradation of natural capital, etc.), then it implieseither (i) what one is vigorously accumulating is actually worthless,therefore acquiring more and more of it adds nothing significant toone's wellbeing or happiness, or (ii) that one has exchangedsomething infinitely more valuable and more important with something ofmuch lesser worth, in which case one is like Aladdin's wife whoexchanged her husband's old and rusty magic lamp with a new andshiny lamp. In both cases, it demonstrates a failure in judging andassigning true and correct value to what one has, to what one givesaway, and to what one pines for, a failure which lies at the root ofgreed itself.

The challenges that we will all have to face to initiate andsustain genuine positive transformations in the economy are numerous innumber and enormous in size, but not insurmountable. The constant needto be wary against the surreptitious nature of greed, and to overcome atevery step our current complicity with positive resistance andalternatives, will be very tiring indeed, but it should not deter us inthe long run, for we do look with hope, confidence and competence towardthe long term for a positive outcome. We, as Dante set out in his famouspoem The Divine Comedy, must, as it were, first journey down throughHell and witness all of its horrors and punishments, make our waythrough the Purgatory, and finally, slowly but surely, ascend toParadise.

 One of my wishes is that those dark trees, So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze, Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom, But stretched away unto the edge of doom. I should not be withheld but that some day Into their vastness I should steal away, Fearless of ever finding open land, Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand. I do not see why I should e'er turn back, Or those should not set forth upon my track To overtake me, who should miss me here And long to know if still I held them dear. They would not find me changed from him they knew-- Only more sure of all I thought was true.

(Robert Frost, Into My Own) (100)

All three authors are members of the Vision in Action (ViA) StudyCircle, who attended--on the invitation of the organizers--aChristian-Muslim Interfaith Dialogue on "Engaging Structural GreedToday" organized by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and SabahTheological Seminary (STS) through September 25--30 2011 in KotaKinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. For numerous news articles of this importantevent, please see http://www.peaceforlife.org/resources/statement/partners/138-muslims-and-christians-engaging-structural-greed-today.Email addresses: [emailprotected]; [emailprotected];[emailprotected].

This paper constitutes the authors' report and reflection onthe conference and dialogue in the hope that it be beneficial to readersinterested in cross-religious engagement with modern economics andfinance, especially in view of the current, ongoing economic andfinancial turmoil.

(1.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 46.

(2.) A glimpse at the themes of the various sessions ought to alertone to the theoretical nature of the sessions on Monday, whilst thesessions on Tuesday touched upon more practical aspects in the attemptto engage structural greed.

(3.) This particular stop in our excursion is of immediateeducational value to the discussion we had during the seminar on thevision of an economy 're-embedded' into society, because itprovided both lessons and warnings on how such a process may be done ina way that is sensitive and respectful to the needs of a particularcommunity. This point was empathically made by one of the participants,Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, a native of Sabah who was also the formervice-chairman of Human Rights Commission Malaysia (SUHAKAM).

(4.) The final conference findings are published in an Appendixentitled, "Muslims and Christians Engaging Structural Greed Today:Conference Findings," in Martin L. Sinaga, ed., A Common Word:Buddhists and Christians Engage Structural Greed (Minneapolis: LutheranUniversity Press, 2012), 119-124. This document is also accessibleonline at: http://www.lutheranworld.org/sites/default/files/DTS-Studies-201201-A_Common_Word_sm.pdf.

(5.) The Biblical Korah; al-Qasas, 28: 76-82; Torah, Numbers 16:1-50.

(6.) Referring to the divine injunctions to observe the limits andnot transgress them; e.g., al-Baqarah, 2: 187, 2: 229, and many otherverses.

(7.) On the differences between desire, wish, longing, hankeringand coveting: "Desires ought to be moderated, wishes to be limited,longings, hankerings, and covetings to be suppressed: uncontrolleddesires become the greatest torments; unbounded wishes are the bane ofall happiness; ardent longings are mostly irrational and not entitled toindulgence; coveting is expressly prohibited by the Divine Law."See George Crabb, Crabb's English Synonyms (London: Routledge &Kegan Paul Ltd, 1916), 253.

(8.) See, for instance, the report by David DeGraw, "The Axisof Greed: The Nature and Structure of the Economic Elite," GlobalResearch, February 19 2010, online at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-axis-of-greed-the-nature-and-structure-of-the-economic-elite; andBarry Ritholtz, Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted WallStreet and Shook the World Economy (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2009).

(9.) See Brian S. Rosner, Greed as Idolatry: The Origin and Meaningof a Pauline Metaphor (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W. B. Eerdsmans, 2007).

(10.) One may venture to add that the thing being sacrificed hereare three: (i) a man's sound and proper relationship with himself,(ii) his relationships with his family, neighbors and friends, and (iii)his relationship with the One True God.

(11.) In today's world of cut-throat competition, how oftenare we taunted with the supposed missed opportunities of securing awell-paying job or of occupying a powerful position in a company shouldwe fail to 'sacrifice' our time and effort to achieve it?

(12.) See Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, "The Meaning andExperience of Happiness in Islam," in Prolegomena to theMetaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995), 94-95, and pp. 99-102.

(13.) Primarily through the way mainstream economics are taught inschools, colleges and universities worldwide. See Herb Thompson,"Economics and the Promotion of Ignorance-Squared," in TheVirtues of Ignorance, ed. Bill Vitek, Wes Jackson (The University Pressof Kentucky, 2008), pp. 273-292.

(14.) The nearly effortless, if not willing, co-option of IslamicBanking and Finance into the modern mainstream banking and financialsystems is a good case in point. For an insider indictment of thecurrent state of Islamic Banking and Finance, see the lecture by YusufJha titled "Is Islamic Finance Delivering?," available onlineat: http://www.ethicainstitute.com/Is_Islamic_Finance_Delivering.aspx.

(15.) For an outline of structural generosity in the Islamiccontext, see Adi Setia, "Mu'amala and the Revival of theIslamic Gift Economy, "Islam & Science, Vol. 1 (2010) No. 2;for the Christian context, see, inter alia, Ronald J. Sider, JustGenerosity: a New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (GrandRapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007).

(16.) Ulrich Duchrow and Franz J. Hinkelammerl, Transcending GreedyMoney: Interreligious Solidaity for Just Relations (New York: Plagrave,2012), 254.

(17.) Perhaps a good way to summarize the spectacle that we observe(and complicit in) today is as follows: the desperate pursuits ofconsumption without satisfaction, of pleasure without happiness, offacts without illumination and of relationships without meaning.

(18.) This point requires more factual support, but he,understandably, would not be able to provide it in paper, which, thougherudite and well-documented, is so far-ranging in scope.

(19.) One can also say that greed, previously condemned as a sincommitted by a morally conscious individual, is slowly naturalized andgradually becomes accepted as a feature or the norm of a'moral-free' system. Greed thus becomes attributed to afaceless, impersonal thing called the economic system or the market,rather than to sins committed by individuals, hence becomes difficult topin down since it seemed to simultaneously be everywhere and nowherespecific in the system.

(20.) This observation dovetails with what has been called the"physics envy" of economic theorists. On this see, see thechapter on "The Ironies of Physics Envy," in Phillip Mirowski,More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics asNature's Economics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989),354 ff;

(21.) See Friedrich von Hayek, interview in Mercurio, Santiago deChile, April 19 1981.

(22.) It may be added here that conversely, one may learn throughdoing as well. Therefore, action founded upon right knowledge, andknowledge that leads to genuine transformations in the real world issimply two sides of the same coin.

(23.) The psychological and sociological structures of both greedand generosity have been explored in the Islamic tradition in works suchas al-Jahiz, Kitab al-Bukhala' (Book of Misers); and al-Daraqutni,Kitab al-Askhiya' (Book of Generous People); see, FedwaMalti-Douglas, Structures of Avarice: The Bukhala' in Medievel ArabLiterature (Leiden: Brill), 1985.

(24.) In the sense that both sides complement each other, and thatthe preference for one over the other is one of priority, importance andsuitability depending on the requirements ofjustice and wisdom. It isnot a situation where a person is forever locked in mortal combat forone against the other, or one seeking to cancel or subdue the other.

(25.) Cited in Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon& Schuster, 1942), 668.

(26.) Program of Graduate Studies, 2000-2003 (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC,2000), 12; see also Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud, The Beacon on the Crest of aHill (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1991), 38-39.

(27.) Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysicsof Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 2001), 1-2.

(28.) Especially, their often unstated underpinning assumptions andthe limit of their validity in applying to complex realities on theground.

(29.) For what passes as contractable or contracted in moderncommercial or financial transactions may not be the case in the light ofthe Islamic legal understanding of what counts as a valid contract(caqd).

(30.) We suppose this is one manifestation of what he called theTawhidic method of knowledge, in that in order to understand a branch ofknowledge, one has to employ knowledge gleaned from other disciplines,not only in terms of methods but also, more obviously I think, in termsof content. He made this point clear in the Introduction to his latestbook, Historical Fact and Fiction when he spoke of the prerequisites ofbeing a good and competent historian; I think one can easily propose asimilar set of criterion for scientists (based on his monograph Islamand Philosophy of Science), and also for economists (based on theintroductory chapter to the Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, andhis monographs The Meaning and Experience of Happiness in Islam and TheNature of Man and the Psychology of the Human Soul). Refer to SyedMuhammad Naquib al-Attas, Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (KualaLumpur: ISTAC, 1995), and Historical Fact and Fiction (Johor Bahru: UTMPress, 2011).

(31.) Muhammad Taqi Usmani, An Introduction to Islamic Finance (NewDelhi: Idara Isha'at-e-Diniyat, 1999).

(32.) Respectively, business partnership, renting and hiring,venture capital and buying in advance.

(33.) Richard Duncan, The New Depression: The Breakdown of thePaper Money Economy (Singapore: John Wiley, 2012); see also idem, TheDollar Crisis (Singapore: John Wiley, 2011).

(34.) In which case, it is called "petrodollarrecycling"; see, interalia, Ibrahim Warde, Islamic Finance in theGlobal Economy (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. Press, 2010); and Tadashi Maeda,"Making Sense of theFast-Growing Islamic Finance Market," inAngelo M. Venardos, ed., Current Issues in Islamic Banking and Finance(London: World Scientific, 2010), 115-124.

(35.) Matt Taibbi, "Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail,"Rolling Stones, February 14, 2013, accessed online:http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/gangster-bankers-too-big-to-jail-20130214?print=true; Anat Admati &Martin Hellwig, The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong withBanking and What to do about It (Princeton: Princeton University Press,2013).

(36.) There was a discussion afterwards as to whether what isactually being done here is to propose a new definition of he word'economics' or simply to re-claim and restore the originaldefinition of the word. In any case, both position presupposes that theoriginal meaning of the word 'economics' has been corrupted orhijacked, which led to a false vision of what economy ought to be, itsoutlook and its purpose. It is worth mentioning that one of theparticipants questioned the need for a re-definition of the word'economics'. Dr. Priyono countered that the this re-definitionis not intended first and foremost for the critical gaze of economists,rather it is meant to provide a definition of 'economics' thatincludes and describes real economic activities as understood andpracticed by the people.

(37.) The other modes of securing livelihood are reciprocity anddistribution.

(38.) A good critique of this conception is Duncan K. Foley,Adam's Fallacy: A Guide to Economic Theology (Harvard: Harvard U.Press, 2006).

(39.) This mentality is also behind the belief that we can deploysome new and wonderful invention in the wider society without carefullyconsidering and weighing its benefits and its risks. Should somethingharmful results from its use, it can be dealt with in an ad hoc fashionlater. The rapid progress in which technological innovations make itsway to the public domain has strengthen the deluded belief amongstscientists, businessmen and politicians that we can let free the'demon' of technology first and eventually become clever andwise enough to control it.

(40.) He also made the distinction between what he called"accumulation economy" and "survival economy" wherethe former is concerned with the multiplication of profits andcompletely disregards its consequences on the livelihoods of ordinarypeople, whilst the latter is focused upon securing subsistence in life.

(41.) The human being as an economic creature displaces oroverwhelms all other ways of being that is open to man, such as abiological creature, a political creature, a cultural creature, ahistorical creature or a spiritual creature. Therefore, the existentialcondition of a human being is defined entirely by his or her place, roleand function in the economy, narrowly conceived.

(42.) For instance, when one recognizes that the originaldefinition of the word 'economy' means household management,several key concepts associated with it should appear before themind's eye, such as: subsistence, needs, work, wealth, home,shelter, property, parents and children, neighbors, land, theenvironment, justice, good, beauty, happiness, etc. These key conceptsought to guide one's thinking about the economy, in terms of itspurpose, outlook and methods; in a sense, these key conceptsparameterizes our thinking and discussion about economics.

(43.) If one recognizes an intimate connection between economy andsubsistence, it follows that an economic system that does not make thefulfillment of subsistence and livelihood (in food, in water, in energy,in shelter, etc.) as one of its main targets has not actualized thisrecognition, and in doing so, turned back on its original meaning, whichcast serious doubts upon its worthiness to be even called an'economy'.

(44.) Just like the word economy, the word 're-casting'was subject to a long discussion with regards to its suitableness and asto precisely what it entails; other like words that were proposed by thespeakers and participants include 're-embedding','re-insertion' and 'reconnecting', all of whichindicates a general sense that economics as understood and practicedtoday has been disembodied or divorced from the real needs of thesociety within which it operates. This general feeling is supported byempirical evidence presented by Dr. Priyono's in his paper,especially on the distinction between the real versus virtual economies,and also by Dr. Luigi Bruni in his presentation, especially hisdescription of the so-called "paradox of happiness" (i.e.,that higher GDP does not correlate positively with average happiness)and the qualitative relationship between market and happiness. See alsothe book by Clive Hamilton, Affluenza: When Too Much Is Never Enough(Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2005).

(45.) See Gilbert Rist: History of Development: From WesternOrigins to Global Faith (London: Zed Books, 2008); see also SergeLatouche, The Westernization of the World (London: Polity Press, 1996).

(46.) There is an anecdote worth sharing with regard to this point.During the opening dinner, Dr. Adi Setia remarked to those around thetable how funny it is to find that people are now demanding a'religious response' from religious officials and scholars inthe face of the economic, cultural and ecological problems that they arecurrently facing, when it was they who called for the restriction--ifnot outright expulsion--of the role played by religion in the publicsphere in the first place. As Dr. Adi Setia so nicely puts it,"Initially, they either dismissed, or drifted away from, religion.Now, when these mounting problems that are haunting them do not seemedto go away despite all of their best techno-scientific efforts, they arescrambling for a religious solution as a last resort." I remarked,"Perhaps we should tell them: 'We told you so'," towhich Ms Athena Peralta (World Council of Churches) replied, "Yes,we definitely should."

(47.) This idea of the 'gift economy' is currentlypromoted and popularized in Western discourse by Charles Eisenstein insome of his books, like Sacred Economy: Money, Gift and Society in theAge of Transition (Berkeley: Evolver, 2011).

(48.) It is interesting to note that both words 'provide'and 'provision, are derived from the same Latin word providere,which means "look ahead, prepare, supply" where pro-"ahead" + videre "to see" (related to vision). Fromthe Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com/, accessed24th October 2011.

(49.) Aaron Spevack, trans., Ghazali on the Principles of IslamicSpirituality: Selections from the Forty Foundations of Religion(Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths, 2012), 92.

(50.) Clive Hamilton, Growth Fetish (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen &Unwin, 2003).

(51.) For the Islamic view on right livelihood and the common good,see Adi Setia & Mahdi Lock, trans., Right Livelihood & theCommon Good: Three Classics from the Islamic Tradition (Kuala Lumpur:IBFIM, 2013).

(52.) http://www.permacultureglobal.com/.

(53.) Vandana Shiva, Monocultures of the Mind (London: Zed Books,1993).

(54.) It is interesting to note that there are plenty of Malayproverbs that touch upon this harmful tendency to privilege external orforeign interests over and internal or local interests. Examplesinclude: "Kera di hutan disusukan, anak sendiri kelaparan","Menang sorak, kampung tergadai", and "Yang dikejar takdapat, dikendong keciciran".

(55.) Even if we have but drawn a picture, it may serve as a goaland a model for our movement and behavior.

(56.) al-Baqarah: 2: 268.

(57.) Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, The Nature of Man and thePsychology of the Human Soul: A Brief Outline & Framework for anIslamic Psychology and Epistemology (Kuala Lumpur; ISTAC, 1990).

(58.) Herman Daly and Joshua Farley, Ecological Economics:Principles and Applications (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2004), 19 ff.

(59.) To take a simple example, if one is hungry, the first plateof rice will be nourishing to us; if one is still hungry, a second plateof rice is welcomed and probably will be enough to remove one'shunger. Therefore, if one insists on helping oneself to a third and afourth plate of rice, the satisfaction one derives from these subsequentplates of rice might be dampened by the fact that one is already full.Indeed, going for a fifth plate of rice, out of some uncontrollabledesire, might well bring upon oneself sickness and misery.

(60.) For an introduction to the concept of the seven deadly sinsin Christianity, see the Wikipedia entry "Seven deadly sins,"last modified on October 26, 2011.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins.

(61.) We think a good place to start is to reflect on the truepurpose of work since various aspects of human nature are readilymanifested in the nature of the work a person does. Once the truepurpose of work is clarified, one can use it to discern between"good work" versus "bad work," to promote andencourage the former and to warn people away from the latter. See theincredibly important book by E. F. Schumacher, Good Work (Harpercollins,1980).

(62.) For instance, see how traditional fishermen in Newfoundland,Canada adapted their fishing activities to the natural reproductivecycles of codfish in the seas around them. See Dean Bavington, ManagedAnnihilation: An Unnatural History of the Newfoundland Cod Collapse(University of British Columbia Press, 2010); also an interview with himon the radio series How to Think About Science produced by the CanadianBroadcasting Corporation:http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2009/01/02/how-to-think-about-science-part-1--24-listen/#.

(63.) For an excellent elaboration on how changes and restrictionsto the meanings of key terms and concepts in a worldview may lead to acorruption of that worldview, see Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas,Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC, 1995),30-32.

(64.) One is warned in the Qur'an that "Satan threatensyou with the prospect of poverty and commands you to do foul deeds"[2:268]. All of the translations of the Quran are taken from M.A.S.Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).Dr. Muzaffar Chandra employed the phrase "the greed trap" inhis presentation, implying greed as something that ensnares and dragsone down (to Hell most probably, if one continues to be heedless),rather than empowers and liberates.

(65.) One is strongly reminded of the following verse from theQur'an: "Remember that He promised, "If you are thankful,I will give you more, but if you are thankless, My punishment isterrible indeed" [14: 7].

(66.) Al 'Imran: 117.

(67.) J. M. Neeson, Commoners: Common Right, Enclosure and SocialChange in England, 1700- 1820 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1996); see also, Vandana Shiva, The Enclosure and Recovery of theCommons (New Delhi: Research Foundation for Science, technology andEcology, 1997).

(68.) "Those who are miserly with what God has granted themout of His Grace should not think it is good for them. Whatever theymeanly withhold will be hung around their necks on the Day ofResurrection," (Qur'an, Al'Imran:180).

(69.) One can reflect whether this is simply a logical outcome ofthe "calculating mentality" mentioned earlier, i.e., evennon-tangibles such as trust remain vulnerable to such a commoditizationprocess.

(70.) Say that I am lending a sum of money to a friend. Now if Idistrust my friend's ability to fully repay the loan in a specifiedamount of time, it makes sense for me to lay down strict conditionsregarding the amount, the frequency and duration of its repayment,simply to mitigate the risks associated with it as much as possible. Imight even be tempted to set high interest rates so that I may'recoup' my 'losses' when I lent him that sum ofmoney. Naturally, such strict conditions will incur enormous financial,mental and physical burdens on him, effectively making him dependent onme. The lesser my trust in him, the stricter the conditions will be.Therefore, the imposition of strict conditions upon the customer in aneconomic system (for instance, by charging ridiculously high interestrates) may well reflect the level of trust within that system; thestricter the conditions, the lower the level of trust between theparties involved in the transaction. In short, the level of trust isinversely related to the cost of transaction.

(71.) From the Online Etymology Dictionary,http://www.etymonline.com/, accessed 25th October 2011.

(72.) On the differences between care, charge and management:"Care will include both charge and management; but, in the strictsense, it comprehends personal labor: charge involves responsibility:management includes regulation and order. A gardener has the care of agarden; a nurse has the charge of children; a steward has the managementof a farm: we must always act in order to take care; we must look inorder to take charge; we must always think in order to manage." SeeGeorge Crabb, Crabb's English Synonyms (London: Routledge &Kegan Paul Ltd, 1916), 143.

(73.) Is not our fleeting existence in this physical world thegrandest test or trial of all, set and supervised by our Creator and atthe end of which we shall all be judged and given our respevtive'grades'?

(74.) The apparent resemblance in form between the words'guardian' and 'garden' is not purely coincidentalin this context for it indicates a resemblance in meaning as well.

(75.) This explanation gives an extra depth and significance to thefact that we cannot bring any of our material possessions into theafterlife, i.e., a steward recognizes and acknowledges when it is timeto move on and that it is preferable for him to pack lightly but wiselyfor this final journey. He who travels happily must travel lightly.

(76.) Another way to express this point is to consider thefollowing: we affirm that everything that have been created have theirright and proper places, and their conformity to their respective placessignal their submission to the Creator; we also affirm that human beingsare the best of all of His creations, and if we act in such a mannerthat conforms to our right and proper place in the whole order ofCreation, then our submission will be the most perfect, the most ideal,and the most beautiful compared to the submissions of the rest ofCreation.

(77.) We used this word for a lack of a better term, for we do notintend to limit 'the commons' merely to material objects.

(78.) If one may draw a parallel with the classification of themaslaha (which means benefit, interest, welfare) by the Andalusian legalscholar Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi (d. 1388), this corresponds to the firstand lowest--in the sense of being the most important and not in thesense of being the most poor in quality--class of the maslahah,daruriyyat (which means essentials). The other classes--arranged indecreasing order of priority--are the complementary (hajjiyat) andembellishments (tahsiniyat) respectively.

(79.) See especially the various works by the 2009 Nobel PrizeWinner in Economics, Elinor Ostrom. See Scott London, "Governingthe Commons," review of Governing the Commons, by Elinor Ostrom,1998, http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/ostrom.html. For a thoroughoverview of the commons both as an idea and as movement, see theexcellent website On the Commons at http://onthecommons.org/.

(80.) See Susan Jane Buck Cox, "No Tragedy of theCommons," Environmental Ethics, vol. 7 no. 1 (Spring 1985), 49-61;and see also Ian Angus, "The Myth of the Tragedy of theCommons," Socialist Voice, August 24 2008, online at:http://www.socialistvoice.ca/?p=316;

(81.) Dr. Ulrich Duchrow informed us of the amazing development inUruguay where a recent amendment to its Constitution saw the inclusionof water as a basic human right. For more information and elaboration,please see "Uruguayan people change the constitution for a humanright to water,"http://www.oikoumene.org/activities/ewn-home/dropby-drop/uruguayan-people-change-constitution-for-the-human-right-to-water.html, accessed on25th October 2011. Please see also the useful and informative report on,"The Constitutional Right to Water in Uruguay," online at,http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1414&context=sdlp&sei-redir=1&referer, accessed 25th October2011.

(82.) Garvin Karunaratne, "The Bane of Privatization,"Asian Tribune, March 14 2008.

(83.) For more discussion, see Stephen Lewis, "The Myth of theTragedy of the Commons," The Wild Peak, August 23, 2012,http://thewildpeak.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/the-myth-of-the-tragedy-of-thecommons/.

(84.) Rigged, since the 'free market' as currentlyconceived and actualized is but a function of the prevalent and dominanteconomic ideology, which is neoliberalism and financialism, and, wemight say, bankingism.

(85.) Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (New York: Pocket Books,1961), xxvii.

(86.) Malaysian dollars.

(87.) Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat (Vancouver: Douglas &McIntyre, 2007); for a rebuttal, see, Matt Taibbi, "Flathead: ThePeculiar Genius of Thomas L. Friedman," New York Press, April 262005.

(88.) Objective in the sense of being grounded in the concretereality of the economic conditions of the people participating in thiseconomy, a measure that is a faithful description of the circulation ofwealth and distribution of prosperity in the economy, that gives justpriority to the important factors in the economy and yet does notunderestimate the influence of marginal factors (i.e., that sees bigthings as big and sees small things as small), a measure that reflectsreality rather than cruelly imposing itself arbitrarily upon reality.

(89.) Prolegomena to the Metaphysics of Islam, 1.

(90.) We find this to be one of the most stirring parts of the textof the final declaration of the seminar. It is humbling yet dignified,which is always much more preferable to being proud yet stupid.

(91.) Dr. Adi Setia likes to give the following analogy todemonstrate this important point: Suppose there is a person telling hishapless friend that the roof of his only house is in danger ofcollapsing soon. It is useless for the person to repeatedly notify hisfriend without informing him the steps he can take in order to repairthe roof. At best, his friend will thank him for that piece ofinformation (albeit not a very pleasant one) and continues to live inhis house with the danger hovering over his head (literally), until oneunlucky day, the roof caves in and injures him. That warning alone, evenif given with the best of intentions and concerns, is necessary butinsufficient to remove his friend from harm.

(92.) Kasb in this context can be translated as "earning alivelihood"; see Adi Setia, "al-Ghazali on the Proprieties ofEarning & Living," Islamic Sciences (Summer 2013), and therelevant references therein.

(93.) Adi Setia, "Fard al-Kifaya, Mu'amala and theCommonweal: Reconnecting Economics and the Economy to Communities,"Islamic Sciences (Summer 2013).

(94.) For some insightful explorations in right livelihood in Eastand West, see Claude Whitmyer, ed., In the Company of Others: MakingCommunity in the Modern World (New York: Tarcher, 1993); Whitmyer, ed.,Mindfulness and Meaningful Work: Explorations in Right Livelihood(Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1994).

(95.) From the Online Etymology Dictionary, www.etymonline.com,accessed 24th October 2011.

(96.) The fact that the word 'earning' = 'kasb'was featured as the title of a book by the Muslim jurist Muhammad binal-Hassan al-Shaybani (d. 189/804), Kitab al-Kasb, should serve as asignal to us of the profoundly different way in which the concept ofwork is conceived in the Islamic civilization, and its proper placewithin the economy, along with it a whole host of other things such asguilds, waqf, trade, etc.

(97.) Indeed, if regulatory laws can be co-opted wholesale to serveinstruments of structural greed in the mainstream economy, then why notthe education system itself as well?

(98.) Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, 46.

(99.) Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse inthe Age of Show Business (New York; Penguin, 2005).

(100.) Robert Frost, A Boy's Will (Fairfield, IA: 1st WorldLibrary, 2003), 11.

COPYRIGHT 2014 Center for Islam & Science
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.

Copyright 2014 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.


Engaging structural greed today: Christians and Muslims in dialogue. (2024)

References

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Manual Maggio

Last Updated:

Views: 5853

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Manual Maggio

Birthday: 1998-01-20

Address: 359 Kelvin Stream, Lake Eldonview, MT 33517-1242

Phone: +577037762465

Job: Product Hospitality Supervisor

Hobby: Gardening, Web surfing, Video gaming, Amateur radio, Flag Football, Reading, Table tennis

Introduction: My name is Manual Maggio, I am a thankful, tender, adventurous, delightful, fantastic, proud, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.