---- Social upheavals: the money trail
A few years ago we felt the world was getting much too complex and complicated. Today, add the pandemic, plus all the upheavals across the continent in favour of the Wet'suwet'en struggle against pipelines (and RCMP), Black Lives Matter, Defund the Police, and the struggle against misogyny, homophobia, and domestic violence. There are so many sectors of society today in turmoil and upheaval – women, children, First Nations, black and brown people, immigrants and refugees, university students, LGBTQ folks, and most minorities.
Social scientists and economists would agree that these struggles are not stand-alone issues. When society seems riven with conflict and struggle, isn't it wise to look past immediate injustices and flash-points to the big question of who, or which social sector, profits by keeping these conflicts active? There may be a conspiracy (that word again!) at work here, or not, but it does seem reasonable to comb out who is benefitting, not only from the inequities themselves, but who or what is obscured by the noise and action in our streets.
It seems clear that modern societies have major inequities virtually built in – when 1-to-2% of the population controls well over 50% of the wealth and income increases, or when we have a few families controlling majorities of the properties and assets of the world. This is inherently unstable – as the wealthy classes and oligarchs learned in France, Britain's American colonies, Russia, China, Cuba, and others, prior to major revolutions. We would profit by examining this situation now, before the social cracks widen and the whole superstructure begins to totter. Who has been benefitting?
Take police violence for example. No doubt some police officers and local kingpins personally profit from or self-aggrandize via police excesses. But if we take all of these conflict points together, it seems there are more than the individuals involved who benefit. Police excesses strengthen the control, and protect the advantages of, a quite specific class. The rest of the population is divided against itself and sets upon fighting each other: the vulnerable are attacked, First peoples, women and girls, Blacks and brown people, LGBTQ, immigrants. We are divided amongst ourselves, and as long as we remain focussed on blaming some minority, we ignore the less obvious (and well-protected by social conventions) connections of exploitation to repression.
We do see progress in some of these individual areas – but without ever shaking the whole social edifice and exposing those who are profiting by our disorganization and in-fighting. Curiously, when one issue is resolved, this seems to have no effect on the equitability of the whole social structure. Women and Blacks got the vote, for example -- but the old conflicts continue. So are these inequities structural, not accidents of history? If they are structural, isn't that what needs addressing?
In today's upheavals, are we ignoring the real beneficiaries of social chaos? Hint: the journalists' mantra, "follow the money"?
October 9, 2020