Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Food For Thought

India’s ‘economic miracle’ has meant some improvement in the living standards of some sectors of the population. However, there are still 475 million living on less than $1.25 a day, or one in three people in the world living without basic necessities are Indian. Initiative at Oxford University puts the Indian poverty rate at 55% or 645 million. (Toronto Star 2/Oct/2010)

Not to worry, there is a game plan – soccer tournaments to keep the youth’s minds off rebellion. Apparently, Maoist guerrilla activity is prevalent with bombings and sabotaged roads. “When young men are idle, they get destructive thoughts in their minds. When you are loving a sport, you don’t have time to think about bad things.” Said a district officer in charge of education. (Toronto Star, 2/10/2010) Presumably bad things like living on $1.25 a day!).

Can a T-shirt save a country? Asks the Toronto Star (17/10/2010). The Haitian garment industry needs rebuilding but suffers from poverty-level wages (funny, I thought it was the worker that suffered from low wages!), an unreliable electric supply, and cut-throat competition. Remuneration for slaving for a day is now 150 gourdes (up from 125), or about $3.15 which will get you 3 cups of beans OR 5 cups of rice OR 6 tins of charcoal OR 3 bottles of Prestige beer OR 20 cell phone minutes OR ¾ of a gallon of gasoline OR 12 mangoes!

Behind the euphoria of the rescue of 33 Chilean miners lurk some disturbing details – across the globe, some 13 million of the world’s poorest people, including one million children, work in mining. “IN addition to the explosions, falling rock and entrapments that have killed thousands of people in recent years, miners experience among the highest rates of work-related illness and premature death of any industry.” (Toronto Star, 17/10/2010).The above is no mirage, it’s capitalist reality and the only reason is the profit motive to put more money in the pockets of people who cannot spend what they already have!

On the environmental front, the New York Times reports (24/10/2010) That the cradle of civilization, the fertile crescent is experiencing a drought (no pun intended) of biblical proportions. Climate scientists report that a four-year drought has turned much of it into barren land, ancient irrigation systems have collapsed, underground water sources have run dry and hundreds of villages have been abandoned. In Syria and Iraq, millions have been driven into poverty.

On the positive side, Syncrude has been fined $3 million (probably about two hours’ profit) for allowing those 1,600 birds to land and die in their tailing pond in 2008. The bad news is it just happened again. One radio wag reported that a syncrude spokesman said ” Not to worry, the ponds are not damaged!”Just to set your mind at rest, environmentally speaking, Matthew E. Khan in his book, “How Our Cities Will Thrive in the Hotter Future” assures us that, “It was the capitalist machine that created the greenhouse gas epidemic and it will be capitalism that solves the problems; it’s the nature of the system. Whether it’s twitter(? My reaction) or solar panels, or the Tesla electric vehicle, the innovative capitalist culture will allow us to make a Houdini-style escape from climate change’s most devastating impacts.” (Toronto Star, 10/10/2010). Wow, that feels better already!

The Futility of Reform – French workers protested in Paris and around the country with the main focus being to stop government reform of pensions, increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62. French unions see retirement at 60 ‘as a firmly entrenched right in a country attached to generous state benefits’. (Toronto Star 3/10/10). France, like many countries is having to enforce cut backs to pay for its expenditures and avoid going deeper into debt. Guess who is going to win? Reforms take years to acquire and a second to take away.

The Toronto Star revealed (2/10/10) that the United States, with the full knowledge of the Guatemalan government, deliberately infected citizens of that country with syphilis by getting prison inmates to sleep with prostitutes who had been infected between 1946 and 1948. In addition, mentally ill patients were inoculated with the bacteria. None of those in the experiments gave consent. This was revealed by medical historian, Susan Reverby, who had earlier blown the whistle on similar experiments in Alabama on poor African-American men. Forty such studies were identified. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what your country can do TO you!

Apparently, Pope benedict has been on the attack against atheists, possibly to cover up the widening abuse scandals that continue to pop up everywhere the priests have been. (Gwyn Dyer in EMC newspaper 30/09/10). Benedict juxtaposes god, religion and virtue on the one side and nazis, communists and atheists on the other. Only the fear of god makes people act morally. But is that so? Researcher Gregory Paul says, “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator coordinate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, venereal disease, teen pregnancy, and abortion. According to Benedict’s logic, the United States should be a crime free paradise and Sweden a vortex of crime and violence. Obviously, the opposite is true. Dwyer asks if people are more religious in low socio economic countries where crime is more prevalent, so the correlation might better be expressed as religion and poverty and ignorance, where religion has its strongest grip. Raise that bottom level and religious belief will gradually decline. Sounds like our argument.

The penny drops? In the midst of swirling anger with politicians in the US, the New York Times (17/110/10) reports the words of a retired soldier, “I don’t see us coming out of this recession any time soon, not for those of us who are middle class and below. I don’t even think there is a middle class anymore. It’s a two class system, and the gap between the classes is getting wider.” Let’s hope a few more pennies drop!

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