Saturday, 1 November 2014

The capitalist malignancy

The ongoing catastrophic Ebola crisis in West Africa perfectly encapsulates the moral and practical pitfalls of our prevailing economic system. In the West, we usually react to human suffering in the alien lands we have plundered and devastated for centuries apathetically. It is probably most often referred in patronizing comparison to that which exists in our own societies, i.e. the implication that the millions living in relative poverty should be grateful for not living in absolute poverty. The asylum seekers fleeing to our shores from the social breakdown, war and environmental degradation of our making can always be condemned to death by drowning or suffocation or injury, or hatefully scapegoated if they otherwise succeed. But in the case of Ebola such selfishness is presumably, at least logically, not an option. Maybe I'm not alright, Jack? Even though our healthcare and outbreak prevention is comparatively robust, we know from much media fanfare that Ebola can effect us, and fatally. One is reminded of Joseph Stalin's remark of one death being a tragedy and a million being a statistic, a sense which is perhaps multiplied if those sparing deaths are Caucasian.

And yet (and yet!), despite all such circumstantial and existential leeway being granted to our racial and socioeconomic solipsism, we are faced with the grotesquely pitiful spectacle of international aid agencies effectively begging for charitable donations from the public to combat the ongoing outbreak and scientifically develop a vaccine to cure the disease, because the resources provided by governments and pharmaceutical conglomerates are inadequate. A fraction of the multi-billions in capital our elites hoard, or of the multi-trillions they have stashed in offshore tax havens, would suffice to meet these ends. Which addresses the central point, in this case represented by the rotting piles of Ebola-infected caresses in the room: that the disease and poverty that causes the unnecessary suffering of our species is, as Nelson Mandela stated, entirely preventable and man-made.

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