Voice From The Back
When reporting poverty in the world the international media often assume that it is a condition that exists only in Africa or Asia but here is an example of its very real existence in the so-called developed world. “Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians would have trouble paying the bills if their paycheque was delayed by one week, a new poll suggests. The Canadian Payroll Association survey says not only are the majority of Canadians living paycheque-to-paycheque, but they have little ability to put money away for their retirement. The survey, released Monday, said 59 per cent of Canadians would have trouble making ends meet if they missed a paycheque.” (Canadian Press, 14 September) This paycheque-to-paycheque existence is the norm for most members of the world’s working class irrespective of where they live.
Famine and Feast
Capitalism is a social system that produces all sorts of contradictions. Tremendous technical advances should mean a better society but inside capitalism it leads to better ways to maim, kill and destroy. Improvements in the production of food should lead to a happier world but it produces exactly the opposite. “The number of hungry people will pass 1 billion this year for the first time, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said, adding that it is facing a serious budget shortfall.” (Yahoo News, 16 September) While a million human beings suffer starvation producers of food are destroying it to force up prices. “An emergency meeting over the collapse in the price of milk will be held by Europe’s agriculture ministers. The crisis talks have been convened by Sweden as farmers in mainland Europe continue their ‘milk strike’, dumping hundreds of thousands of litres of milk on farmland…. In an attempt to end the milk lakes and butter mountains, the European Commission is unwinding its dairy support system.” (Times, 24 September) Butter mountains and milk lakes while a billion starve – capitalism has certainly outlived its usefulness.
Up in Smoke
Every day in the newspapers and on the TV we are confronted by earnest politicians who assure us that they are doing everything possible to lessen the prospects of another nuclear horror story like Hiroshima or Nagasaki. A great deal of concern is being shown by these politicians as to whether Iran has a nuclear bomb. This concern seems a trifle ludicrous when the USA has 9,400 nuclear warheads and Russia has 13,000 of them. In fact when they are being frank, as the writer of this newspaper report is, they know that nuclear disarmament is an impossibility inside capitalism. “Later this month United Nations inspectors will visit Iran’s secret nuclear facility near Qom to find out if the Islamic republic is about to become the world’s tenth nuclear power. Whatever they find, the world already has enough nuclear weapons to destroy every single nation on the planet. With approximately 23,000 warheads, there is enough deadly material for 2.3 million blasts the size of Hiroshima. … The world is committed to nuclear disarmament in principle, in practice it will never happen.” (Times, 6 October)
Onward Christian Bankers
Banking, insurance companies and the myriad financial off-shoots that make up the City of London are central to the running of modern capitalism. They produce nothing of course but then neither do the industrial capitalist class. It is probably a bit unfair to say the City produces nothing. It certainly produces nothing useful, but it certainly produces hypocrisy in large doses. “As bankers last month began gearing up for a bumper bonus season, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican church, bemoaned their lack of repentance. “We haven’t heard people saying, ‘Well, actually, no, we got it wrong and the whole fundamental principle on which we worked was unreal, empty’,” Mr Williams told bankers in September. Such rhetoric echoes that of Lord Turner over the summer, when the chairman of the Financial Services Authority spoke in moralistic terms about the need for banking to become ‘socially useful’ again. Hector Sants, his chief executive, has even explained his move to a regulatory job in terms of a sense of Christian ‘duty’ to give something back to society after a 30-year career in money-making.” (Financial Times, 7 October) We expect Archbishops to utter hypocritical nonsense, after all it is their stock in trade, but when financiers rant on about “Christian duty” and banking becoming “socially useful” it is a bit hard to bear. Speed the day when banks and other financial institutes are part of the unlamented history of capitalism along with all its apologists, both religious and secular.