The Wolf and The Lamb
Fascist states have always used the rule of law to institutionalize their corruption. Using the legislature as a vehicle to legitimize essentially immoral behaviour and further suppress the voice of the people. As a word of warning in South Africa, we were presented with the Protection of State Information Bill commonly referred to as the Secrecy Bill. You see, a frog never jumps out of the pot if you slowly turn up the heat, until; eventually it is cooking in it’s own bubbling carcass. Recently we were given another warning of the slow heat being turned up on the people. It came in the form of a body count numbered 34 with many more injured, after police attempts to break up an illegal strike at Marikana mine ended with exchanges of live ammunition. Regardless of the circumstances, in peacetime South Africa, a resolution of an illegal strike should never cough out 34 human corpses, especially not at the hands of a police service created to protect them, even from themselves. Yes, responsibility is shared and the blame game has been played over and over in the weeks that have followed in an attempt by all parties involved to do damage control. Yet, when we waft through all the smoke screens there is an immutable fact.
34 dead human beings, fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and wives left to pick up the pieces, how did this happen? Should we be surprised?
The Writing Was on the Wall
Since 1994, the disenfranchised poor have been promised every unicorn and four leaf clover in sight. Riding a wave of euphoria we waited with a steadfast and optimistic resolve. Five years later, optimism began to shatter with smoke surrounding an arms deal that was clouded in scandal from the very beginning. Several scandals subsequently broke out in the years following and corruption is widely perceived to have taken root in all forms of government simultaneously causing a slowly escalating scream for social justice whilst eroding the optimism that surrounded the “Rainbow Nation”. This is further enhanced by the clear inequalities that exist in the country and while South Africa generates a GDP of R67,000 per capita it is estimated that the average person in South Africa lives off R25 a day. It is clear that whilst South Africa has vast mineral resources the wealth distribution of said mineral resources is severely limited to an ever shrinking elite. Lonmin, the company operating Marikana mine, made a profit of around 321 million US $ in 2011. Surely the workers request which is on par with international standards was reasonable in the context of these massive profits. Compare the meagre US$ 500 earned by miners at Marikana to that of the average Australian miner who earns US$ 3,841 or the average miner in Taiwan who earns US$ 915. Now such comparisons are perhaps unfair given it does not consider cost of living or other external factors but it does illustrate that there is definitely a cause for these miners to be upset. Regardless, their violent actions are condemnable yet must be put in the context of the bigger picture.
The Big Picture
Wage Slavery and Corporatocracy
This is happening in every industry in every country all around the world. People are being exploited and paid a sort of moral chance card by the elite. Go past begin and collect R200. All the while, the rest sit in jail rolling the dice, trying to get out and surviving month to month on salaries that barely cover debts. It is common knowledge that the wealth distribution of the world is entirely imbalanced. The richest 20 percent of the world own 82,7 percent of the worlds wealth. What is not common knowledge is that this has been happening in a way that is neither legal nor moral nor ethical. The irony of course is that those people that now control the world’s wealth are the ones who placed the strict laws of commerce and ownership after they had hoarded the bulk of wealth just so that they can keep their party all to themselves. Now I understand that this could easily sound like paranoia, but the truth remains that their is no justice in such inequality. We have traded slavery for its disguised and more effective younger brother, incognito, the chains are the debts we collectively incur on the road to white picket fences and keeping up with the Jones’. The master is the rampant nature of our consumption and its master is the debt collector, feasting on the misfortune of an economy designed to fail, an economy created within the confines of scarcity. It is hard to believe in scarcity when food gets incinerated to limit supply and keep prices high, we put unmanned craft on mars and have witnessed space tourism become a reality.
Hard to believe then, that there is not enough for all of us to at least be healthy and educated. This new form of slavery is run by the corporations, the drivers of mass profits at all cost, eaters of competition and destroyers of free enterprise. It is becoming harder for the man on the street to compete with these giants who produce on a mass scale and thereby cut costs and eventually buy out all competition, the recent acquisition of Massmart by Wallmart is a prime example of this in South Africa, where one large local and regional business was bought up by a global giant, many promises have been made but inevitably once the structures of Massmart integrates with Wallmart we will see large down-scaling on local operations and the eventual inequitable flow of resources will only further feed the giant. It is obvious when mapping out this pattern across the globe that we will eventually see few private enterprises as entrepreneurship slowly bleeds to death from the slow knife of globalization and monopolistic cannibalism. There are fewer banks than there were 50 years ago and the same can be said for many industries. The evidence is all around us. Right down to the food we eat (read Monsanto).
Maintaining the Status Quo
This is where the police come in. These laws that govern commerce and the environment we live in exonerate the people behind this inequality. They hide behind the juristic entity, the corporate veil. Allowing them to behave in inhumane ways, committing legal acts, with no human considerations, no moral or ethical concern, polluting the environment, exploiting workers and in the case of Lonmin, demanding miners to return to work or face unemployment just days after colleagues were gunned down. The sheer arrogance and lack of compassion extremely evident, the kind of expectation one would have of a machine. The police’s function in the state is to uphold this status quo. They function as the overseer in the plantation, the purveyors of crucifixes of old who used the crucifixion as a warning to those who may wonder, is this inequality really fair? The police exist only as a construct of a society that promotes inequality. It is indisputable that, if every man had what they needed and opportunities to achieve their dreams, the world would be a far more peaceful place. The policing function in society only exists as a result of the inequity of the economic system. Existing to protect those who have, from those who do not. This is the true function of the police, specifically in countries with huge inequalities like South Africa. And while crime flourishes increasing spending on policing only serves to further the spread of the epidemic, it is resources that could be better allocated fighting the disease rather than the symptoms.
The relative wealth of the middle class is under threat, a shrinking economy, increasing oil prices, corporate down scaling and criminal elements of the poor all serve to spur us on in the pursuit of security, security that is as real as, say, the tooth-fairy. This fear drives the need for protection and further alienates the middle class from being part of the solution. This fear is perpetuated by a media that feeds on our addiction and need for a problematic environment. We are doing well because others are not. This mentality is the root of all the evil, we step on each other to get to the top in a vicious competitive environment where everything we desire is scarce. Instead of working together we have been pitted against each other. Relegating the poor, as lazy and ungrateful, unwilling to take their limited opportunities, unwilling to sacrifice, unwilling to do it for themselves. With every step we make up the corporate ladder we are selling our humanity, if we fail to give back. The more you earn and spend in the pursuit of what you don’t need, the more you take something away from the man that is truly starved of opportunity. We demote their place in society to the dark corridor, where morality and survival is in conflict. All for our luxury that becomes necessity on the back of a Cosmopolitan cover or an Oprah must-have. The dark place, where a man could easily perceive that he must steal to survive. He has no voice and as this collective silent scream for acknowledgement grows into a crashing wave of dissent, we are quick to label these people as savage and barbarians, but what would you do in pursuit of self preservation? Our morality only serves us when all things remain equal, when our comfort is met and we are safe in the knowledge that no harm will come to us. This fear keeps us from being part of the solution, this scarcity mentality that drives us to believe that if we give back, we will have nothing for ourselves. We are part of the problem and fear is the gremlin, chewing our humanity, piece by piece, luxury by luxury the type that mutates into necessity, just like the meth addict on the Cape Flats who truly believes he needs his hit to breathe another day. The truth is by giving back in a considered and constructive we will create more and that means more for everyone.
Truth and Reconciliation
As a planet we are in dire need of some truth serum, a confession booth, a space for every one to look within honestly and realize where they are contributing to the problems. Then take baby steps to make a difference. This could be cutting down on unnecessary spending, getting involved with your local civil rights activist movements and NGOs, mentoring kids from underprivileged communities and spreading awareness of the inequality of our world and the lie that it has to be this way. It does not. Abundance does exist. Large actions by a few is always great news but ultimately small mass action is what will shift the tides and see us move towards a more equitable society. We are all responsible. The measure of a society is how it treats it’s weakest members. If we continue to marginalize the weak by rationalizing injustice and inequality we shall see the world burn and Marikana will just be the beginning. A warning shot fired. By us, to us. One that we would have ignored at great cost to the next generation, who will suffer the sins of their fathers. After all, when silence and inaction follows such violence and avoidable death, it is blood on all of our hands when it happens again.
Peace and unity