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Voice From the Back

A Suicidal System

A growing number of global and European health bodies are warning that the introduction and intensification of austerity measures has led to a sharp rise in mental health problems with suicide rates, alcohol abuse and requests for anti-depressants increasing as people struggle with the psychological cost of living through a European-wide recession. “No one should be surprised that factors such as unemployment, debt and relationship breakdowns can cause bouts of mental illness and may push people who are already vulnerable to take their own lives,” Richard Colwill, of the British mental health charity Sane, told CNBC. “There does appear to be a connection between unemployment rates and suicide for example,” he said, referring to a recent study in the British Medical Journal that stated that more than 1,000 people in the U.K. may have killed themselves because of the impacts of the recession." (CNBC, 4 September) Capitalism not only exploits and degrades members of the working class it can often lead them to suicide.

The Profit Motive In Action

It is now two years since  the horrific explosion that led to the deaths of 11 oil rig workers in the Gulf of Mexico and the largest oil spill in US history but it is still being fought over in US courts. "The Department of Justice filed a sharply worded brief with a court in New Orleans yesterday that accused BP of systematic management failures and a "corporate-driven, profit over safety" culture." (Times, 6 September) There is a lot at stake in this legal battle. If the events of the oil spill are judged to be an accident BP could be fined £4.5 billion but if its employees are found guilty of gross negligence BP could be fined £21 billion, followed by almost unlimited punitive damages. Behind the niceties of the legal struggle one thing should be apparent though. Every company inside capitalism has a "corporate-driven, profit over safety" culture.

Double Standards

One of the constant themes pursued by the owning class is that workers should be proud of "their" country and if necessary from time to time take part in wars to protect it. However a recent example of this patriotism not necessarily extending to the owning class was recently revealed. France's richest man Bernard Arnault (reputed to be worth £32 billion) has applied for Belgian citizenship. "He says the switch is for personal reasons. But few doubt that the ‘personal reasons’ amount to a desire to insulate his wealth from the punitive taxes being threatened by Francois Hollande, France's new Socialist president. These taxes include a promised 75 per cent super-levy on annual incomes over 1 million euros." (Times, 11 September) When it comes to protecting their immense wealth the owning class have little time for patriotism.

This Sporting Life

Sport according to most dictionaries is usually defined as "to amuse, recreate, to take one's pleasure", but we live in capitalism and it should probably be more accurately defined as a "business opportunity". When Andy Murray, the tennis player won a tournament in New York the press and TV speculated on how much it was worth. "Scott Barclay, a lecturer in sport business and management at the University of the West of Scotland, predicted that Murray will enter the Forbes rich list next year and that the win moved him “away from the celebrity clutter”.  ... “Without a doubt, next year he’ll appear in the Forbes rich list, among the likes of [Roger] Federer, [Maria] Sharapova, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Lionel] Messi, [Rafael] Nadal." (Daily Telegraph, 12 September) Murray, 25, who already has lucrative contracts with Adidas, Royal Bank of Scotland and Jaguar, may also sign deals with other companies. His five-year contract with Adidas, signed three years ago, was worth as much as $5 million (£3.2 million), pushing his earnings last year both on and off the court to $12 million (£7.4 million), according to Forbes. Capitalism distorts everything and it should come as no surprise that a university has a subject entitled "Sport business and management".  

Upper Class Arrogance

Gina Rineheart, the Australian billionaire said to be worth A$29 bn. is not shy about boasting about her wealth. She is said to make nearly A$600 (£393) a second and blames Australian workers poverty on too much drinking and smoking. "Australian mining magnate Gina Rineheart has criticised her country's economic performance and said Africans willing to work for $2 a day should be an inspiration." (BBC News, 5 September) The news that a useless parasite such as Rineheart has an income of £393 a second should inspire workers throughout the world to get rid of the capitalist system.