1980s >> 1989 >> no-1021-september-1989

Workers dig garbage in Philippines

Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Metro-Manila, is a mountain of garbage. It is the largest of several open dumps that receive the 2,700 tons of trash per day produced by the highly urban province of Metro-Manila. It is also the home of thousands of workers, many of them children, who make a living from what is thrown away by others. Along the nearby Honorio Lopez Boulevard there are hundreds of shops whose line of business is recyclable junk, ranging from bottles to paper, and from hardware to scrap metal.

 

Garbage is first searched by street scavengers, who push carts around residential districts and search garbage cans. Many of them work at night in order to reach the garbage cans before the garbage collectors, who collect during the day. The garbage is first searched by the garbage collectors themselves. Only afterwards does the garbage reach the dumps. The workers who live and work in Smokey Mountain consider themselves lucky, because scavenging is an honest living. There is a local saying: “While there is garbage. there is hope”.

 

Such a life would not exist if everything were free. However, for everything to be free, we first need to own the means of producing and distributing the things we need. The people who own these means (such as factories, farms, ships, etc), the capitalists, will only pay workers to operate them if the products can be sold at a profit. This is not because they are bad people, but because that is the only way they can remain capitalists, and therefore retain their comfortable life-style. If they were to give the products away, they would go bust, and a competitor would take over. There is nothing they can do. Only the workers have the power to change things.

 

So, workers dig garbage in order to find things to sell for money to pay for food while food is stockpiled in warehouses in the pursuit of profit. The price of that most basic food in the Philippines, rice, has soared There is no real shortage of rice. Rice distributing cartels have been hoarding it. The government has been forced to import rice from the USA to increase the supply on the market (and therefore bring the price down) in order to prevent food riots. At the same time there are many unemployed agricultural workers. Most of them move to Metro-Manila to find work, only to end up squatting in places such as Smokey Mountain.

 

In a socialist world everything will be free, because you do not need to pay for something if you already own it. We will be able to choose to produce things with very little waste. We will be able to choose to process our waste in a clean environment. We will be able to make these choices because we will own and control the means for producing and distributing the things we will use. Smokey Mountain will fall, and never rise again.

 

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