Sikhism regards a co-operative society as the only truly religious society.
How is this Sikh co-operative society distinguished from the modern models of a socialist society, a welfare society, and a communist society?
The basic element which distinguishes a Sikh cooperative society from all these modern social models is grounded in the Sikh view of the worth and status of the individual as the very microcosm of God, and anindividual, therefore, must never be imposed upon, coerced, manipulated or engineered.
“If thou wouldst seek God, demolish and distort not the heart of any individual” 3 “I worship God to be freed from all adversatives hostile to the light of God within myself.” 4
Herein lies that which essentially distinguishes a religious cooperative society as conceived by Sikhism from the modern societies that are grounded in the doctrines of socialism, communism and welfarism.
A welfare state is based, primarily, on four precepts, Firstly, it accepts collective responsibility for providing all individuals with equality of opportunity. This implies, among other things, availabillity of adequate educational facilities, universally, Secondly, a welfare state assumes responsibility for the basic economic security of those, who are unable, to provide such security for themselves. This implies disabled youth and old age pensions, wage legislation and un-employment insurance. Thirdly, it assumes responsibility for reducing permanent disparity in distribution of wealth and bringing about a closer coincidence between the income of an individual and ¬his contribution to society. In a welfare society, the policy of taxation and budgetary trends are primarily determined by this consideration. Fourthly, a welfare society assumes responsibility for promoting full employment of the available manpower and the full utilisation of the national resources, whether in the form of man power, or in the form of the material wealth. It will be seen that all these four objectives on which the concept of a welfare state is based are interdependent and that when one objective is accepted, the others, logically or otherwise follow. It is implicit in a society which is organised as a welfare state that, the extent of obligation of the state to provide the individual with facilities, is also the extent of the power of the state over the freedom and autonomy of the individual as a social unit. Briefly, slavery is the necessary price for security, when security is given by an external authority and is not acquired and maintained, primarily by the individual himself. It is with this implication of the welfare state that Sikhism finds serious fault. Sikhism is not anti¬welfare. In fact, it insists that the welfare of an individual mainly consists in the welfare of his neighbours. What Sikhism opposes basically and uncompromisingly is, the creation of a class of men beset with the sins of bureaucracy and arrogance of meritocracy, who in the name of the state and in the name of the social welfare seize and retain such power which can be and is, more often than not used to coerce and impose upon the individual. Somebody has well quipped : ‘I would never fool with the government. By the time they get around to solving a problem, the guy has either solved it himself or has died.’ This is the bureaucratic sin of procrastination. The other sin of overweening tyranny is capsuled in the Punjabi folk-wisdom : ‘never walk to near the hind legs of a mule or within sight of a bureaucrat’. Again, welfarism is essentially a project for ‘levelling up’ and ‘levelling up’ is a mode of tyranny. Aristotle tells us that Periander of Corinth did not confme himself to lopping off the outstanding and the proud men, he destroyed the twin emotions of pride and confidence among the people, which process, as a side-effect, ostracises the honest and the men of integrity. Aristotle also names the three main aims of tyranny, to keep the subjects humble, to have them distrust each other and to render them powerless for political action. Thus, welfarism has a built-in tendency to bring about depravement and demoralisation of an entire people.
Sikhism, therefore, envisages a social organissation in which the welfare activities of the State are not a result of coercion and imposition from outside but instead result and follow from a transformation, possible through genuine religion only, of the basic attitudes of the individual, which transformation progressively destroys narrow selfishness in him such as is inconsistent with the welfare of the society as a whole. Sikhism does not view tolerantly any arrangement or organisation in which a desire for universal power can raise its head to demand that which is beyond its scope. Sikhism would support Pascal when he says : “These expressions are false and tyrannical, ‘I am fair, therefore, I must be feared’, ‘I am strong, therefore, I must be loved’, ‘I am indispensable, therefore, 1 must be retained’. It is for this reason that Sikhism would not countenance the creation of a welfare state through the coercive apparatus of the state.
- Sirdar Kapur Singh (Social implications of Sikhism)