I wrote this blog post several years ago when I first started blogging. I am reposting today as a tribute to Steve Jobs.
Swadeshi was the economic model Ghandi taught and demonstrated to get the British colonists out of India. In his words, “I must not serve my distant neighbour at the expense of the nearest.” According to Satish Kumar, “The British believed in centralized, industrialized, and mechanized modes of production. Gandhi turned this principle on its head and envisioned a decentralized, homegrown, hand-crafted mode of production. In his words, “Not mass production, but production by the masses.” Spinning cotton and weaving fabric or “khadi” was at the core of the swadeshi movement. In the 21st century, swadeshi means making stuff and selling it in small artisanal studios – art, craft.
What is Techno Swadeshi? How does technology enhance the possibility of swadeshi? Almost 100 years after Gandhi introduced his highly effective economic reform in India, the web and advances in technology have added multiple layers to our ability to participate in this revolutionary way of being. It could be thought of as a way to make things on a micro level, market them via the internet and change how we acquire goods.
My own studio practice has given me the hands on experience to share this possibility. I am engaged in making fine porcelain dinnerware, not for mass consumption but for a niche market. My motivation is to do what I am passionate about and make a living doing that. I have chosen not to out source my production, but that doesn’t mean I won’t out source as much as possible in order to achieve my basic premise. I buy my clay mixed and ready to go, because I can. I buy my glazes. I buy my boxes, packing material and use Fed Ex to ship my work all over the world. Doing what it takes to make a real living by making is more possible now than ever.
Is this pure Swadeshi? Maybe not, but it has the ear marks of a solution to mass produced junk available on every street corner around the world. Swadeshi, in the purest sense, is a local movement, becoming self-sustaining through the development of a local economy, and local production of goods needed to survive, to thrive and perhaps to evolve. In a free world, a democratic world, being engaged with all kinds of people is truly an act of generosity. If I set my priorities, my personal hierarchy as:
2) local community
A micro-enterprise, one based on creation, innovation and production, has the potential to replace mass production as a means to satisfy the needs of people for food and goods. Using all the tools available to do this adds traction to an enterprise. The tools available today which gives Techno Swadeshi a chance to work include all of the technology at our disposal – computers, software, the internet, and the small tools for production itself.
This includes the need for a producer to market their work and their story. Social justice is built in. Environmental responsibility becomes possible. Believing in the power of positive manifestation of reality can and will create an alternate universe that promotes a peaceful exchange of ideas, resources and value. Art? Yes. All art functions. Techno Swadeshi can re-evolutionize the way the world looks and behaves. Social sculpture. Maybe it’s an idea whose time has come. So, make stuff and sell it! (Just be sure it is good…)