The issues that matter most

By Raffique Shah
June 09, 2020

Raffique ShahAmerica was set to implode sometime soon when four police officers, going about a patrol in Minneapolis, did what many of their colleagues routinely do—subdue a black suspect with excessive force and recklessness, and quite possibly oozing rabid racism. Within minutes, George Floyd, who moaned “I can’t breathe” several times as one police officer knelt on his neck, was dead.

A courageous 16-year-old girl video-taped and broadcast the death live on the Internet, and almost instantly, millions of people were alerted to the atrocity. In Minneapolis, demonstrations against police brutality and racism erupted. Soon, protests against the police and other state institutions spread across America. People who had just emerged from two months of home confinement because of the deadly CORVID-19 pandemic, were outraged.

Thus began a revolution against racism that, in my view, quickly evolved into a worldwide war against widespread poverty in a time of plenty. America is in crisis. Capitalism is in crisis.

I posit that income inequality, which has emerged as the real social-distancing issue in today’s world, is now squarely on the post-COVID-19 global agenda. We can ignore it, cast it into the narrow “black lives matter” mould, and hope to contain it by concessions from white-and-other power elites, hollow promises that the police and other law-enforcement agencies in the USA and elsewhere in the world, would respect the dignity of black people, would swear not to brutalise black people.

Any and all such quick-fixes will come to nought—mark my words.

Ironically, the man who has hastened this global showdown between the haves and the have-nots is the antithesis to anything that remotely resembles an egalitarian society or world. Indeed, US President Donald Trump is devoid of intellect, capable only of trading on the widespread ignorance of a mass of humanity of similar cerebral deficiencies.

Unwittingly, he triggered the implosion that might yet make the world a better place. He mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic so disastrously, he exposed the most powerful nation on earth as being a farce.

That Americans were shocked by the explosion of protest demonstrations was, well, shocking. Back in 2016, when the self-proclaimed God-fearing populace put God out of their thoughts and, by a minority of three million in the popular vote that translated into a clear majority in the electoral college, elected Trump President of the USA, the country signed its destruction-warrant.

Here was a quack who swore one of his priority projects would be the construction of a border-wall with Mexico, for which the Mexicans would be made to pay, and tens of millions of Americans believed him. Like Cervantes’ Don Quixote, he was chasing imaginary enemies across the world. He first alienated his nation’s oldest allies, European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), by branding them paupers and insisting they contribute more money to the anti-communist alliance. He irritated Japan, urinated on South-East-Asian countries, defecated on Africa.

He befriended Russia’s Vladimir Putin, then un-friended him, to use a social-media term; fomented a trade war with China; cultivated a love-hate affair with North Korea’s Kim, and so his foreign affairs swung, driven by “vaps”. At home, he hired and fired his close aides and frontline officials seemingly by the phases of the moon. He insulted journalists and ordinary citizens in the vilest manner, lied more often than he prayed, then lied about the lies.

The man was and continues to be an unholy mess who almost single-handedly misled the mighty USA into winning the Covid-19-Stakes by the proverbial mile, registering close to two million confirmed cases out of a global total of 6.7 million, with an alarming 110,000 deaths (up to Friday last), almost 25 percent of the world total. To compound his culpability, his casual approach to the virus when it first struck, he brazenly violated the public health regulations that formed global standards for controlling the spread of the pandemic, and in moments of stupor, he claimed to have discovered cures for the Coronavirus.

In the maze of madness I outlined above, any one misdeed might have provoked the population into open rebellion, into storming the seat of government and delivering the head of the offending head of state to the enraged masses on a rusted enamel plate.

That that did not happen tells a sorry story of the state of America. It took the alertness and courage of a 16 year-old girl, who observed the Minneapolis police arresting, torturing and murdering George Floyd, to videotape the horror and broadcast it to the world. It was that eight-minute-recording that galvanised a near-dormant populace into responding to what was an atrocity, though not uncommon by global standards (it happens routinely in places like Palestine, Myanmar, the Amazon).

When the dam finally burst and the children of the damned flooded the streets of more than 300 cities across America, the world took notice. Almost suddenly, black lives mattered—to people across the race-spectrum, not just to Afro-Americans, which is how it should be. Based on my decades of involvement in fighting for the lives and rights of oppressed people, I have the moral authority to cite the Eagles’ Hotel California (my interpretation), “..We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969…”.

It’s been too long, people. Too many brothers and sisters have fought and died for Blacks in America, for the native Americans, for the indigenous people in the Americas, for Africans across that continent, for the Palestinians in their native land, for oppressed people elsewhere.

It is not coincidental that people of different races have joined in the global upheaval. Black lives must not only matter, they must have meaning. Of what use is respect from white police officers or politicians when the age-old economic order has consigned the vast majority of people of all hues to living in persistent poverty?

These are the issues that matter most. Life without the means to help create and share equitably in the wealth of nations will otherwise have no meaning.

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