Like so many others, I, too, was deeply touched and saddened to see this picture, showing this little boy working. As I read through many of the comments on Facebook – there were about 2,400 of them – I was touched once again; this time, by the overwhelming sympathy for the child and outrage at the kind of world we’ve allowed to be built around us and at the magnitude of the injustices and cruelty that’s going on in our world. The expressions of empathy for the child and anger and disgust at a system that forces people to make their children work at such young age gives me hope about my fellow humans and makes me feel not alone. One woman even gave her phone number and asked anyone who knows the boy to contact her so she could send him money.
This reminded me of the time when I posted the picture of a little boy in Gaza crying because he had lost his mother to Israeli bombing of their apartment building, which Obama repeatedly defended, as his job required, by saying “Israel has the right to defend itself”. A woman wrote in her comment: “I wish I could bathe him, feed him and hold him in my arms making him feel loved until he falls asleep in my arms”. That, too, brought tears to my eyes. It didn’t take much, of course, after seeing pictures of the devastation and dead children with survivors crying.
But, as I read through dozens of the comments about this little boy who has to work at such young age, I noticed that so many people were asking God to help him, to have mercy on him or to bless him. Some took a slightly different approach and said that “God will help him”. This is when I realized, once again, as I have many times before, about the power of religion as a pacifier. When you believe that some omnipotent and omniscient being with an infinite wisdom and best judgement will right the wrongs and take care of the needy and remedy injustices, and that if there is something wrong with the world, there is a reason for it that we mortals can’t understand and that we should leave things to His infinitely wise and sound judgement, then, there is no need for our action. It makes us feel better that it’s not our job to make things right or to fight against injustices. And when we feel better after we were just outraged and touched, we don’t have the urge to act anymore.
I’m not naive. I don’t expect the billionaires and multimillionaires who are benefiting from the economic system that leads to such atrocities to try to change the system. In fact, I expect them to try to prevent change at all cost, which they promptly and smartly do by employing demagogues like Obama to pacify minorities while he goes to war in several countries for the rich who put him in office, so they can get even richer than they already are. Religion has no vital role to play with them. Money is their religion and money is what they use to buy Heaven and Earth, promising to the poor a good blessed life in the “other world” because this one has already been spoken for and it’s officially and legally theirs. Fair is fair: this world is theirs and the next belongs to the poor. And here is where the real power of religion exhibits itself: that the poor buy it!
Asking other countries to do more to help stem the spread of Ebola, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, mentioned Cuba on Monday as an example of what others could do and praised the small island nation for sending hundreds of doctors to provide badly needed care to people of West Africa. New York Times, in an editorial dated October 19 and titled: “Cuba’s impressive role on Ebola”, wrote: “Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus”. But feeling like it just committed an unspeakable crime praising Cuba, it quickly added: “Cuba’s contribution is undoubtedly meant, at least in part, to bolster its beleaguered international standing.”
Washington Post, in an article titled: “In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above in weight”, wrote on October 4: “While the international community has been accused of dragging its feet on the Ebola crisis, Cuba, a country of just 11 million people that still enjoys a fraught relationship with the United States, has emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola. On Thursday, 165 health professionals from the country arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join the fight against Ebola – the largest medical team of any single foreign nation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And after being trained to deal with Ebola, a further 296 Cuban doctors and nurses will go to Liberia and Guinea, the other two countries worst hit by the crisis.”
“Cuba’s universal health-care system enables such an export. The country nationalized its health care shortly after its revolution, ending private health care and guaranteeing free health care in its constitution. The results have been widely praised. In 2008, evaluating 30 years of Cuba’s ‘primary health care revolution,’ the Bulletin of the World Health Organization pointed to impressive strides that the country had made in certain health indicators. ‘These indicators – which are close or equal to those in developed countries – speak for themselves,’ Gail Reed noted, pointing to a huge reduction in number of deaths for children under five years old and Cuba’s high life expectancy of 77 years. “… by 2008, it was training 20,000 foreigners a year to be doctors, nurses and dentists, largely free of charge.”
“Ebola isn’t the first time that Cuban health workers have been sent to deal with a global disaster. Even back in 1960, immediately after the revolution, Cuba sent doctors to Chile to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and the practice has continued for decades since. In 2005, Cuba even offered to send medical workers to the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (they were apparently rebuffed).
“Reuters reports that Cuba currently has around 50,000 health workers working in 66 countries. Israel, a wealthier country with a similar population, caused controversy this week when its Defense Minister rejected requests to send medical workers to Ebola-struck countries”. After publishing this article, the Post added an update online saying: “though the Foreign Ministry has since announced it would in fact send medical crews.”
Yes, Israel is wealthier than Cuba because it receives about $4 billion from the US each and every year which given its small population amounts to tens of thousands of dollars for each Israeli each year, and the only thing Israel exports is war. In stark contrast, Cuba remains blockaded by the US. As I wrote in a recent piece, while Israel was giving weapons and arms to the apartheid regime of South Africa, Cuba sent 25,000 troops to defend Angola against South African aggression, after Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. US and Israel continued to have close relations with South Africa till the very end.
After writing these facts about Cuba, on October 20, the Post, too, must have felt like a traitor talking about Cuba in such good terms. So, it tried to make amends. In an editorial titled: “Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people”, it tried hard to find reasons to attack and discredit Cuba. So, what did they come up with? A car accident in which two opponents of the government were killed, which according to Post, must have been planned and orchestrated by the government, even though those individuals had been left free to voice their opposition to the government for years – Mr. Payá, one of the two killed in that accident, in fact, had been active since 2002, to Post’s own admission. If the government wanted to eliminate them, they could have done it long time ago. The Post says the Cuban government has not done a thorough investigation and demands “a credible investigation” into the accident. It goes on to say that “When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.” Nothing, they emphatically repeat!
I’m really out of words to describe their hypocrisy! I don’t think that word does justice. When was the last time Washington Post condemned Israel for not responding to queries made by the UN Human Rights Commission, or by any human rights organization, not about a car accident which causes the death of two people, but massive war crimes and massacres of over a thousand defenseless Palestinians at a time, including women and children? Where is their protest about Israel breaking down doors and taking away “dissidents” and jailing and torturing them, including children as young as 13? Where is the demand for “a thorough and credible investigation”? A few days ago, an Israeli settler ran over a 5 year old Palestinian girl, killing her. He continued to drive and went home and “Nothing”, as the Post put it. Nothing! And that wasn’t even the first time. Israeli settlers routinely do that. They also burn olive trees Palestinians depend on for survival? What about atrocities committed by the “friendly” government of Saudi Arabia, where the government beheads its opponents every day?
So, what is it about Cuba that bothers these organs of the Empire so much that even when they report on Cuban doctors helping Africans, which they have been doing even long before the outbreak of Ebola, they mix in some unwarranted and ridiculous attack to reduce from the unwanted positive impact? They’re quick to point out that its GDP is not high or that it’s a poor country, but compared to what nations, the US, Germany, Britain or France? If Cuba were to loot dozens of nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it too would have been much richer now, not to mention the fact that it’s been under US economic embargo ever since they kicked Empire’s multinational corporations out of their country. And therein lies their real dismay with Cuba. That’s what really bothers them about Cuba: because it won’t let these giant corporations exploit their workers like they do in other countries where they pay poverty wages and fire them when they’re not profitable to them; that is if they survive at the job.
And what about “democracy” and “human rights” that these papers complain about in regards to Cuba? What makes Cuba deserving of criticism when Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and so many others who enjoy good relations with the US are off the hook and not subject to bashing by Empire’s papers? Simple: Cuba doesn’t allow the CIA to recruit and bribe people to organize a revolt and overthrow the government, as they do and have done in so many countries, the latest being in Ukraine. Cuba doesn’t allow provocateurs to create the grounds for a CIA coup as they did in Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Congo in 1960, in Chile in 1973, to mention just a few, not to mention regime change through war.
When speaking of democracy and human rights, there are three things that hardly ever get mentioned:
1. A small nation “in the backyard” of the Empire which has been a target for regime change for 55 years with its leaders targeted for assassination and its opponents constantly contacted and incited by the CIA to commit sabotage, does not have the luxury to be complicit or cavalier about the activities, associations or plans of such individuals. The same is obviously not true the other way around: Cuba is not and never has been trying to do regime change in the US, so the latter does not have the same political pressures, as Cubans do. Moreover, the Cuban government does not have the same powerful propaganda, deception and mind control machinery as the US.
2. The US does have its own dissidents and is not softer on them at all – not by a long shot. Cuba can try to be tough on its dissidents, but can never, ever, top the US, which sentences a young whistle blower (Chelsea, formerly Bradley Manning) to 35 years to prison and out of fear of facing a similar faith, another young whistle blower (Edward Snowden) is forced to leave the country and live in exile. Another dissident (Mumia Abu Jamal) was framed for murder and has been in jail for 32 years. Another political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in jail for 32 years, too. His crime? Fighting to free his homeland of Puerto Rico from US occupation which annexed it in 1898. Rivera never committed any violent act against anyone. Originally, he was sentenced to 55 years for “seditious conspiracy”; later another 15 were added for a total of 70 years, due to an alleged escape attempt. Leonard Peltier, a Native American who fought for his people’s rights is also languishing in a US jail for life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was on the FBI list of individuals to be eliminated, was followed, pursued and spied on by the Bureau which ultimately played a role in his assassination which was mentioned in the civil lawsuit brought by his widow.
3. The US has the most massive and broadest spy program in the world spying on its own people, reading their emails, listening in on their phone conversations, viewing their posts and photos sent to friends. It also inserts agents into anti-war, environmental and other social justice organizations to spy on their members. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, police attacked, beat, arrested and brutalized peaceful demonstrators and the CIA was collecting information on the activists. And this is a nation that has absolutely no need to worry about a superpower next door trying to recruit its people to overthrow the government.
Speaking of prisoners, the US stands alone among all nations of the world for having the largest prison population: 2.2 million, most of them from poor working class and minority backgrounds and many incarcerated for years for nothing but possession of drugs. The disparity between treatment of African Americans compared to whites within the American “criminal justice system” is so egregious that deserves to be heard by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The issue of keeping innocent men in Guantanamo Bay and force feeding them through their noses is the icing on the US human rights cake.
Besides “human rights” which the Empire and its papers have no right to even mention, let alone boast about, but astonishingly do regularly, another issue that they like to use to condemn “unfriendly” nations with is “support for terrorism”. One of the two governments of US and Cuba sponsors, supports and engages in acts of terrorism against other nations, regularly. Guess which one! Not a hard guess, at all. One of these governments has been holding 5 nationals of the other in prison for life for nothing, but notifying local authorities about terrorists (Google “The Cuban 5”, referring to 5 Cubans imprisoned in the US). And, one of them has given refuge to terrorists who have engaged in acts of terrorism against the other, including blowing up a passenger airplane which led to the death of all its passengers. Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles was recruited by the CIA and helped with the Bay of Pigs Invasion of US marines into Cuba. He received training at Fort Benning, and from 1964 to 1968 was involved with a series of bombings and other anti-Castro covert activities. After migrating to Venezuela in 1968, Posada became involved in various terrorist activities in the region, He was convicted in absentia in Panama of involvement in various terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 78 people. Yet, he was allowed to move to the US without facing justice. So much for being against terrorism!
Is Cuba perfect? Of course not! But, one must ask the question: why the double standards about Cuba? As with so many other things and so often, it’s about economics. As they say: follow the money. Cuba does not open its doors to imperialism to come in and exploit its workers, as they do elsewhere wherever it reigns free and uninhibited, ruining the local environment, working their workers in unsafe conditions, assisting brutal dictators to stay in power and to keep wages low and paying little or no taxes, while they make a killing and take their resources cheaply, making themselves richer and keeping the subject people poor. But, we don’t have to examine their neoliberal and imperialist policies overseas to understand the nature and objectives of these corporations. Just look at what they do within the US itself. They’ve busted just about all labor unions in the last 50 years. They control all politicians and the political process, they literally buy elections and have done away with just about any governmental regulation and oversight and most of them pay little or no taxes and keep pushing for wars that are profitable for them. The results speak for themselves: wealth and income inequality is at an all-time high and so is the poverty, and to pacify people, police brutality and violence, especially against minorities, reigns supreme. Empire’s papers that attack Cuba while staying silent about friends like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan and others don’t like the fact that US corporations can’t get their hands on Cuba. They don’t like the fact that Cuba is not a capitalist society with foreign banks and corporations like Exxon-Mobile, Monsanto, Bank of America and others getting rich off their people. So, their concern isn’t about the Cuban people. Before one criticizes Cuba for its socialist economy, one must first ask: how is US capitalism working out for millions of Americans?
Cuban socialism has made tremendous strides in meeting its people’s needs, has provided free healthcare and education to the entire population, has close to zero unemployment, and provides secure retirement for life and guaranteed housing to all. Its infant mortality rate is in line with rich and developed industrial nations of Europe and its people’s life expectancy is one of the highest. And when there is a natural disaster like hurricane, which happens often in this island, they actually move people in the thousands to shelters until the danger has passed, unlike in the US where they leave the poor to die and let them become homeless.
Yes, Cuba is not perfect, but it’s much better than many others, including those in the same continent and others throughout Asia and Africa. But, whether it’s human rights or care for the poor, both domestic and in other nations, or in providing healthcare or financial security or dealing with disasters, the US has absolutely nothing over Cuba and indeed can learn much from it. The Empire’s papers like Washington Post can and will continue to try to demonize Cuba to keep the truth from the American people and keep them deceived, but the truth won’t stay hidden forever.
Writing for Los Angeles Times, Doyle McManus describes a thesis put forth in a new book titled “Average Is Over,” by an “economist”, named Tyler Cowen, who teaches “economics” at Virginia’s George Mason University. In it, Mr. Cowen “predicts” that Americans’ real wages will continue to go down, jobs lost during the last big recession, also known as the Great Recession, won’t be coming back, inequality between rich and poor will increase, the middle class will disappear and a new underclass will be created. I, for one, am a believer in Mr. Cowen’s ability to predict. He’s the type of person who predicts rain when it’s already pouring cats and dogs! Fortunately, Mr. Doyle is alert enough to point out that that’s how things are now. Good catch!
But, Mr. Cowen doesn’t just predict the obvious. He goes on to say that inequality isn’t a bad thing. I agree: inequality only looks bad from one side of the equation! He reminds me of an abusive spouse who insists there is nothing wrong with his marriage! Inequality will increase and that’s OK, he says: “I don’t think we know the causal relationship between inequality and happiness,” he tells Mr. Doyle during an interview. Those at the bottom “might even be happier in a middle-classless future”. And, once again, Mr. Doyle “corrects” him by saying: “The American dream isn’t only of success for a few high achievers; it’s about an economy that supports a healthy middle class and opportunity for the striving poor”.
I find it rather amusing to hear someone still talk about “the American dream”! Makes you wonder if he’s a fool or he thinks we are. He correctly points out that Mr. Cowen’s prediction is already a reality and then laments that it’s not “the American Dream”! It’s like listening to a fully grown man complain that Santa Claus didn’t bring him a nice gift, this year!
He ends his piece for LA Times with: “New ideas, anyone?” Well, for starters, how about pointing out the source and cause of the growing inequality and the creation of a poor underclass? Or is that off limits to our economics professors and LA Times writers? Is the situation which keeps getting worse for working people not related to the fact that the class of wealthy capitalists has usurped all the political power out of the hands of the wage earners, has busted the vast majority of labor unions and pretty much owns the politicians and in fact the entire government, which it uses to its advantage to make itself even richer at the expense of workers? So, I ask again: Are they really dumb or do they think we are?
It’s become a standard operating procedure for major US newspapers to defend and justify government action, no matter how egregious, when it matters the most, which is at the time it’s being committed, and then take it back and admit “error in judgement”, decades later, when it’s all but forgotten and matters the least. Often, their role as the state’s mouthpiece is to simply say what they’re told by authorities, without presenting any alternative viewpoint, without questioning the veracity of their statements, or pointing out contradictions or holes in their story. Pentagon officials said North Vietnamese attacked US ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. White House says Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction. According to State Department, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, unprovoked. CIA has evidence that Syrian military fired chemical weapons against its own people and the National Security Agency assures us that it was the “separatist rebels” in East Ukraine, supported by Russia, who shot down the airliner. No independent investigation, no actual history or historical context, no other relevant information and no opposing views. Often, that’s enough to guide public’s thinking along the desired path and keep their consent to US policies, which in recent decades have never been defensive and been always offensive.
But, that’s not all they do. Sometimes, their cooperation with authorities amounts to a criminal partnership and conspiracy to lie and deceive both the Congress and the public. When, in 1996, Gary Webb investigated and exposed in San Jose Mercury News, the role of the CIA in the 1984 trafficking of cocaine from Nicaragua and its distribution among African Americans in South Central Los Angeles, in order to raise money for the Contras to help them overthrow the Nicaraguan leftist government, New York Times, Los Angeles times and Chicago Tribune all conspired with the CIA to discredit him and his findings, which led to Mercury News backtracking from the story and Webb losing his career, which resulted in his death with two bullet wounds in his head, which was pronounced suicide. Years later, without fanfare, they took back their position and confirmed Webb’s story. When the Bush and Cheney Administration were preparing to attack Iraq in 2003, they likewise did their part to help sell the war. There are many other examples of this, in decades past.
Now, they’re at it again, especially at New York Times, and this time, the conspiracy is against Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old African American man who was shot and wounded at least twice and when he had his hands up and facing the officer in surrender, was shot at least six more times, including at his head and eye and his dead body was left on the street for four hours. His sadistic killer, officer Darren Wilson, is on paid leave, a long paid vacation, that is.
Now, why the conspiracy with the help of the faithful reporters of New York Times? Because, this time, people of Ferguson will not stop protesting and demanding justice and they must somehow be pacified. The method is obvious and could have been predicted: while the grand jury is trying to decide if the officer should be indicted and stand trial, the prosecution, strangely enough, has leaked the officer’s side of the story to the media, which the Times has taken and run with it, in a totally one sided way, printing officer Wilson’s story as the undisputed truth, even before the Grand Jury comes to a decision!
Maybe it’s understandable. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them. It’s not their fault that Michael Brown isn’t alive to tell the Times reporters, who are trying him instead of the officer, his side of the story. But, any reasonable or should I say non-racist person would say he doesn’t have to be alive to tell his side. Several witnesses have already done that, with remarkable consistency, all saying exactly the same thing: that he had his hands up and was already wounded from gun shots and the officer continued to shoot and kept shooting until he was dead.
Did I say witnesses? Ah, but, I didn’t say that most of them were African Americans. Did I? Now, that changes everything. doesn’t it? So, I’m back to where I started. Maybe I can’t blame New York Times reporters. Can I? Nope! Who do you expect the Times to believe, several African American witnesses or a white officer? Look: a white police officer has an altercation with a “dangerous”, albeit unarmed black teenager and is understandably(!!) scared for his life, even though he’s the one with a gun (sounds familiar?), and continues to be scared even after shooting him at least twice; so, he proceeds to shoot him several more times, targeting his face and head and you expect New York Times reporters to not sympathize with the officer? Should I repeat myself? The one who was shot dead was a black teen who’s always dangerous even without a gun, which armed white men get scared of and shoot to death and plead “fear” which is the same as “innocent” and you expect a white supremacist paper to side with the one who got shot and killed with his hands up? On what planet or in what country have you been living?
New York Times reported in its September 30, 2014 issue (written by Frances Robles) that according to documents declassified by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the request of the National Security Archive, Henry Kissinger, who was the US Secretary of State under both President Nixon and Gerald Ford, pressed and convinced President Ford and his National Security team in 1975 to attack Cuba. The plan called for strikes on Cuban ports and military installations, using scores of aircraft, and to send Marine battalions to the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay to “clobber” and “smash” the Cubans, as Kissinger put it, according to the records. The plan also proposed a military blockade of Cuba’s seashores. “If we decide on a blockade, it must be ruthless and rapid and efficient”, said Kissinger at the time. The plan was to be put into action after the presidential elections of 1976. However, with the election of Jimmy Carter and possibly due to other military and geopolitical considerations by the Empire, such as an expected reaction by the Soviet Union to such aggression, the plan was shelved. What irked and infuriated Kissinger was that Cuba, a nation of about 8 million at the time, singlehandedly ruined his plans for Africa. To see how, we need to go back a few years in history.
Angola, as with other African countries, had been colonized and literally looted by European capitalist states for hundreds of years. Portugal, for instance, had set up mass forced labor camps for Angola’s population. In 1951, Angola became a “province of Portugal”, called the Província Ultramarina de Angola (Overseas Province of Angola)! Yet, the colonizers didn’t do anything for the country they were robbing – no building of infrastructure, hospitals or a single university, after hundreds of years of brutal exploitation.
In the 1950s, Angolans began to make demands for human and civil rights and independence. When worldwide diplomatic efforts at gaining independence led to nowhere, revolutionary guerrillas began an armed struggle in 1961, in what appropriately came to be known as the Colonial War. After years of conflict, the nation gained its independence on 11 November 1975, under the leadership of the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola). Then, with the support of the US, which by now had become the leader of the colonial powers, and arms sent to them by the U.S. and Israel, the apartheid government of South Africa invaded Angola to defeat the victorious MPLA.
Enter Cuba, a small revolutionary island nation in “the backyard” of the Empire, which sent thousands of troops to push back South Africa! By the end of 1975, the Cuban military had more than 25,000 troops – all volunteers – in Angola, battling the racist state of South Africa to keep Angola independent. Following the retreat of South Africa, Cuban forces remained in Angola to support the MPLA government against UNITA, which was supported by the US and South Africa.
In 1988, Cuba intervened once again to drive back UNITA forces, which with the help of South Africa, launched an attack against MPLA led government, leading to the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which led to peace talks known as the New York Accords, which stipulated that both Cuban and South African forces withdraw from Angola and gave independence to the South West Africa from South Africa, which was a clear and definitive victory by revolutionary Cuba and both of those African nations. The U.S. and its allies continued to support UNITA and hence the civil war in Angola continued, but Cuba had already made its mark. The last of all Cuban troops left Angola in 1991, when the apartheid regime of South Africa fell and a jubilant Nelson Mandela, who couldn’t thank his Cuban brothers and sisters enough, was elected president.
But Cuba never abandoned Africa. Throughout the decades, Cuban doctors have had a permanent presence in Africa, providing care to the population who never got it from their colonizers. Today, while the U.S. sends troops to make sure the people of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia stay put and don’t spread Ebola out of their borders, Cuban doctors, alongside the heroic Doctors Without Borders, risk their lives to provide badly needed care, at this crucial time when Ebola has already infected 10,000 people in those poverty stricken countries, and when the attitude of the imperialist states of the U.S. and its allies in Europe is basically: let them die, as long as they don’t infect us!
Kissinger was pushing for war on Cuba shortly after his war crimes in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and after planning and executing the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende in Chile. Who knows, maybe his plans for war on Cuba would have materialized, too, had it not been for the Soviet Union. And maybe a million Iraqis and 200,000 Syrians would not have died had the Soviet Union not fallen apart. But, as Cuban leaders like Fidel Castro have made their mark on world history and humanity, so has, in stark contrast, Henry Kissinger and other US leaders, from President Reagan to Obama to Hillary Clinton, who recently called Kissinger her “idol” and whom she says she consults with on policy matters. The contrast could not have been starker.
It’s quite ironic for TV networks to continue to say that the chance of contracting Ebola is next to nil and still spend so much time talking about it, filling the air with useless talk and fear mongering, without discussing why so many in West Africa should waste away, while those who were infected and treated in the US in a timely fashion were all cured (Thomas Duncan was not diagnosed and treated in time to save him).
While most people acknowledge the direct correlation between the spread of such infectious diseases in poor nations, on the one hand, and poverty, absence of adequate care and lack of resources, including clean water, which hundreds of millions of people in poor countries lack, on the other hand, they fail to make the necessary connection to the dominant economic system in the world, responsible for it all. It’s not so much that capitalism and its consequent outgrowth into colonialism and imperialism is not capable of providing care to those who need it the most, but rather that it’s not even willing to, even if it could. It’s not set up or meant to. Profit making and accumulation of wealth and capital by any means necessary has nothing to do with meeting people’s needs or curing their illnesses.
The kind of world capitalism and its advanced form, imperialism, creates is a group of rich nations (or rather the ruling classes of those nations) exploiting and looting the underdeveloped countries, with the gap continuing to increase with time, making the poor poorer and the rich richer, with all its unfortunate and sad consequences, some of which we witness when there is an epidemic or a natural disaster in those countries. In such a system, humanity and human empathy gives way to mindless and narrow minded nationalism and even racism, dividing humanity along racial and national lines in order to facilitate and perpetuate colonialism and imperialism. The income and wealth inequality and the resulting intensification of class struggle within the imperialist nations, which comes with brutal police crackdowns and massive spying programs on the entire population, gets repeated on the larger scale between the rich and poor nations, with the former ready and prepared at moments notice to unleash its immense military might to crush any resistance by the latter, while they exploit and loot and leave them to die when an epidemic strikes. This is the kind of world they’ve created for us! This is their brave new world!
In a speech yesterday, US Federal Reserve chairperson, Janet Yellen, voiced concern about the unprecedented level of wealth and income inequality and its harmful effect on the U.S. Economy. While economists occasionally give such warnings about the adverse effects of such widening inequality on the economy, for political reasons, the social and political ramifications and consequences of it are generally ignored and avoided. I’m not talking about the direct and well known correlation between poverty, on the one hand, and crime and incarceration, on the other. That, too, gets acknowledged, if not by government officials, but by social scientists, who occasionally are quoted in the media. What usually gets left out from discussion is the effect such accumulation of wealth has on civil liberties and democracy.
Basically, a class society has an inherent contradiction with true democracy. As wealth gets accumulated in fewer and fewer hands, so does power, which naturally limits participation in decision making and leaves the task of setting policy and priorities to fewer and fewer powerful individuals – or rather corporations – who through their bought out politicians, end up making all policy decisions and charting course for the entire nation, which given their global reach, power and influence, affects much of the world. This narrowing of political clout and influence, in turn, creates the grounds for even more wealth accumulation and income inequality, which consolidates the power of those at the top even further, making it virtually impossible to effect any meaningful change in overall policy. Within such socioeconomic conditions, politicians cannot be independent of the ruling class or represent the will of the majority. If a political party, which relies on the help and support of the powerful ruling minority to get elected, tries to undermine their power or not act in accordance with their interests or agenda, it will quickly lose that support and become irrelevant. To remain relevant, it must fall in line.
Concurrently and in parallel, as more and more segments of the population join the ranks of the poor and struggle to survive and as the middle stratum empties and polarization intensifies, the ruling minority of multibillionaires gets nervous about revolts and takes steps to preempt and prevent any challenge to their rule and power. As this trend continues and the vast majority are stripped of rights to political participation, they are also gradually stripped of their civil rights. The reason is rather obvious. Civil rights only have meaning in relation to political influence and participation. One needs such rights only for effecting political change and if that’s forbidden and prevented, there are no civil rights or democracy to speak of. If you try to organize and agitate for change in policy or priorities – such as against war or against the so called “free trade”, etc. – that will affect their bottom line, or if you challenge their power or rule, you will be stopped.
In order to effectively predict and prevent any serious attempt at causing change and to always stay one step ahead, they will naturally gather intelligence on the public and monitor their activities, especially anyone who might lead such effort. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was routinely pursued and spied on by the FBI and was even on their list of individuals to be eliminated. The court hearing the civil lawsuit brought by his widow and family for his death, mentioned the collusion by some “unnamed government agency” in bringing about his assassination. After him and Malcolm X, who were obvious targets (not to mention the Black Panthers whose members were openly assassinated by the FBI), the leaders, organizers and activists of every social movement in recent history have been pursued and spied on and sometimes jailed on fake charges. The FBI or the local police has even inserted spies within anti-war and social justice organizations and movements, including the movement to end the war in Vietnam in late 1960’s and early 70’s, the movement for nuclear disarmament in the 80’s, the “antiglobalization” movement (which throughout the 1990’s, had gripped the US and its European allies for their neoliberal policies of imposing devastating austerity on the poor of the developing nations through “free trade” agreements), the movement against the war on Iraq and the latest Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011. Even environmental and animal rights organizations have not been spared. During the demonstrations against Iraq war in 2003, Los Angeles Times reported that LAPD had inserted one of their own into an anti war organization. New York Times reported in 2011 on the role of the CIA in monitoring the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. And these were in addition to the NSA’s massive spying program, which had gone on for many years and were made public by Edward Snowden.
Social media has been a double sided sword. While it has given the public freer and more unfiltered access to information and analysis, which it used to get exclusively from corporate and Pentagon friendly mainstream media, it has also given the government of the billionaires the means to closely monitor the discussions among and even thoughts of the citizenry. The Occupy movement, in particular, which for the first time, raised awareness of the class divisions between the “1% and 99%” and connected the income and wealth inequality to capitalism, served as a warning shot to the government, which after going on offensive to crack down on the movement, it quickly passed the NDAA, which gave the President the right to order the military to detain anyone, indefinitely and without charges or due process. In addition, the police whose numbers have steadily grown, have also been given more latitude and freedom to conduct searches and make arrests. High number of incarceration is yet another aspect or form of increasing level of social control, which stems from widening gap between the rich and the poor and consolidation of power at the top.
While capitalism emphasizes the individual and individuality, breaks down sense of community and cooperation and advocates the rights of the individual in the abstract and in theory, in practice, it continues to chip away at democracy and democratic and civil and privacy rights of the people and frets at and tries to prevent unity among the population. Capitalism, despite its empty claims, it’s inherently and naturally irreconcilable and in conflict with true democracy. Democracy is only meaningful in as far as it allows and encourages the participation of the majority to exert influence on policy for the interest of the largest majority and to raise the living standards and level of comfort and security of that wide majority, rather than make them subject to the rule of a tiny minority of super wealthy and powerful individuals who hold all levers of power and control, which allows them to suppress and control the majority for their own selfish interests.
The discussion on income and wealth inequality must also include and be viewed in the context of perpetual wars, which are conducted for expansion of the corporate Empire and consolidation of power globally over as many people of the world, as possible, who like the working people of the US and its allies, are viewed as nothing but subjects to be controlled, suppressed and exploited by transnational corporations, who rule through installed dictators. The dichotomy between imposing ruthless and heavy handed dictatorships in client countries by the Empire, on the one hand, and a seeming though fake and deceitful democracy at home, is not to and cannot last for long, even in its fraudulent and hollow form. The tendency and move towards stripping away the rights of working people at home, as their economic situation continues to worsen and nears those overseas, is unmistakable and unstoppable within the current system.