Sunday December 05, 2021

Exposing the rich

February 16, 2021

The recent pandemic has exposed the real face of the world’s rich who have trebled their wealth amidst the onslaught of death in various parts of the world.

As the contagion gripped country after country, attacking the poor and the marginalized sections of every society mercilessly in their ghettos, slums and crumbling abodes, the rich rushed to the safest islands of the world to avoid a globe that they have pushed towards the verge of a total collapse. Their utter indifference did not trigger any debate in the corporate media that is always ready to serve such selfish souls.

But for billions, it is clear that space is shrinking for the weak and marginalized. Their hardships no longer feature in the priority list of the global elite, mainstream media, opportunistic academics and the cabal of anti-people policymakers who always come up with disastrous policies for the majority of the people inhabiting this planet. Such anti-people policies continued amidst the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of extending relief and succour to the suffering masses, the ruling elites in various states came up with bailout packages for large businesses and giant corporations. Lucrative financial incentives were lavished upon these parasites that have always exploited the miseries of the people. From the Great Depression to the financial crisis of 1990s and from the 2008 financial crunch to the current catastrophe that befell humanity, this lot has always thrived on our helplessness and suffering.

Former American president Donald Trump announced a huge package for large corporations and big businesses. Some crumbs were also thrown towards the common people but most of the share of this package ended up in the hands of those who always lurk around seeking an opportunity to rob the people under one or another pretext. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also followed in the footsteps of his ideological mentor sitting across the Atlantic. Narendra Modi, the ultra-right leader of India, could not have missed the train. So, he also threw blanket support behind the oligarchs of the largest democracy amidst the catastrophic pandemic. His answer to such terrible plight was utter indifference. All he seemed to be caring about was the business of influential Indian families.

The story was not different in the land of the pure where a paltry Rs200 billion was allocated for the millions of Pakistanis who badly suffered because of the contagion. The large share of around Rs1200 billion went to the rich and influential people who had already enjoyed tax and various other forms of relief with the advent of Naya Pakistan. From the Pakistan Stock Exchange to textile tycoons, everyone was blessed with the bounties showered by the much vaunted pro-people government of the PTI. It has recently extended this generosity to the construction industry as well while rich friends continue to receive the favours of the state on one or another pretext.

Such actions clearly indicate that states are not abstract entities as they are widely believed to be. The creature of national interest does not exist but it is rather class interest in every society that dominates policies and all other aspects of governments and their administrations. For governments in various parts of the world, barring a few exceptions, it was not the 2,400,697 hapless souls that have perished in the pandemic until Saturday but rather the interests of the strong that emerged as the top priority for them.

So, in the US, while the lawmakers kept dithering over extending significant relief and succour to the common Americans, they lost no time in allocating a huge budget for the military industrial complex in the name of the defence budget. Washington also showered a huge investment package on the companies making vaccines. The UK also allocated a big chunk of its budget for this non-productive sector besides throwing public money into vaccines that would immensely benefit big companies. India, Russia and China did not like to be left behind in this mad race.

How do the elites get away with such policies? Why are the people unable to make them come forward with pro-people initiatives? Is there any way that the elites can be forced to revisit their approach? It is difficult to answer these questions in detail but one obvious reason for this situation lies in the shrinking space for the people in various walks of life. The ruling classes in several states have created non-issues, using them to keep their citizens busy while they secretly formulate policies that wreak havoc with the lives of millions. Sports, celebrity culture, political gossip and the lifestyle of the super-rich are some of the topics that dominate debates in various parts of the world. Matters that really affect the lives of millions or rather billions are left to the elite debating clubs called parliaments or committees of law-making chambers.

Unfortunately, such chambers are brimming with the agents of large corporations and big businesses. If people from the middle classes or bottom layers of social stratification make it to these crucial bodies, they either assimilate or become irrelevant. Even if some of them dare to challenge the routine, no one pays any heed. They are not covered by the pro-rich media whose existence is dependent on the crumbs thrown by the oligarchs in the forms of advertisements. So, we find more arguments against extending financial assistance to the poor, with lawmakers fearing it would turn people lazy but such public representatives do not hesitate in throwing lavish packages on corporations. Amidst acute economic crises, big firms manage to make billions of dollars and even then they are not obliged to pay their share of taxes that could be used to mitigate the sufferings of common people.

The ordinary people of the world will have to reclaim the space that they had obtained after waging a valiant struggle for decades. Their job does not end after casting the vote; they should also keep a watchful eye on the policies that affect them. They should not only send their politicians to parliament but must make efforts to hold them accountable too. The media should not be left at the mercy of graduates from elitist educational institutions. Efforts must be made to seek an adequate representation of those belonging to the bottom layer of social stratification in such opinion shaping entities.

The formulation of public policies should no more be a domain of Harvard and prestigious business schools’ graduates. Such crucial places should not be stuffed with the ideologues of neoliberalism. Technocrats from the global financial institutions should not be allowed to occupy places in such institutions with their panacea of deregulation, privatization and austerity. If public spending has to be slashed then it should be reduced for the rich. No more bailout packages from public money for big commercial, financial and industrial concerns. This can all be possible through claiming the space that the people of the world have ceded to the elites across the globe. A mass movement to claim such space is one of the ways to push back the oligarchs. Resistance is the way forward.

The writer is a freelance journalist.