Kalahari Capitalism

November 6, 2010

I read a news story earlier today that really illustrates my problem with this capitalism we let run our lives. In Botswana, in southern Africa, there is a community called the Kalahari Bushmen. They have lived in the area for 20,000 years, longer than any world empire, longer than we like to admit civilization has ever existed. Now, because of the discovery of the world’s richest diamond deposits on their ancestral homelands, these people are being pushed off their land by the government, which, oh, by the by – is in negotiations with Gem Diamonds, a global diamond mining company. (they call them production, but come on now – these things come out of the ground: you didn’t make them – you cut and polished them.)

The Botswana government is actively pushing the Kalahari out of their homes, capping off wells, taking away water distribution trucks, removing storage tanks and water pumps. The Kalahari Basin is mostly desert, and the people there depend largely on underground water to survive. Without access to water, people and livestock die, and so the people there are slowly migrating, abandoning their ancient culture for the benefit of their government and a giant diamond conglomerate – how much of the $3.3 billion dollar payoff will ever reach the disenfranchised Kalahari people? How many of those diamonds will come here, be sold to American young men to give to their loved ones? It staggers that anyone could do the calculus of diamonds against human and animal lives and come out in favor of this destruction. It requires a dishonest and myopic view of the exchange going on, one which does not value life, which does not value humanity, or history, or culture.

Let’s do that math right here – the government of Botswana stands to gain $3,300,000,000 dollars, or roughly 11 million $300 iPhones. The remainder of the diamond deposit, which surely is valued far about $3.3 billion – else why would Gem Diamonds bother to excavate it? – will go to a London-based Diamond group with no interests in Botswana. Aside from mining jobs, the company will not be putting money into Botswana or the hands of the Kalahari Bushmen, rightful owners of the diamonds being poached out from under them. Look at those mining job pictures; don’t you want to do that? It sure worked out well for those Congolese.

Let’s go a bit more into that math – $3.3 billion dollars is still a good bit of change. There are 2,029,307 people in Botswana, as estimated by the CIA. That means the government stands to gain approximately $1629.17 per person in this deal. Is that impressive? Would you stand by and let one of the most ancient living cultures die out for $1629.17? How many thousands of dollars will it cost the government to throw the Kalahari off their land? What will become of these people, these ranchers, once their livelihood is taken from them? Won’t they become beggars, nomads, a burden on the system they now are forced to survive within? In all likelihood, the government of Botswana will spend much of their ill-gotten gains dealing with the problems arising out of the destruction of a people. Already, they have had the most costly court case in their nation’s history – how many more will there be? Then there are the costs of mining – polluted land, destroyed water tables, demolished ecosystems – generations off damage, all outside the calculation. Thus, does it not seem the calculus of government and corporation is flawed here – they give no value to the damage they do, and thus even from an economic perspective, this is no good deal for the people of Botswana, or for the people of Earth. We are all poorer for the loss of people different than us, for the loss of good land, for the destruction of life.

Capitalism is worthless in determining true values – if the calculation does not include suffering, environmental damage, human and animal loss, culture, art, language, or history, then the value being cited is accepted only through ignorance or conscious malice. Are $3.3 billion in imaginary value and a lot of shiny stones fair compensation for valueless true wealth and beauty? Capitalism says yes, but intelligence, emotion, and honestly will say no.

Yet here it is, in naked violence – a people, the ancient caretakers of their land, are forced by the thousands out of their homes under threat of death by thirst, all so that a soulless corporation and a corrupt government can dip their beaks. A culture is destroyed, a way of life forever shattered, so that people in the richest nations in the world can buy price-inflated rocks they’ve been programmed to need through manipulative advertising. The irony? Diamonds, these supposed gifts of love, would be so common if not for the market manipulation by companies like Gem Diamond that there would no impetus to mine to mine them in Botswana at all. There you have it – naked greed, supply manipulation, open robbery, corruption of government, destruction of true value for artificial, all to fill an demand that was created by the diamond companies themselves within the past 80 years – I can think of no better epitaph for the whole corrupt crony Capitalist system.

When the supposed libertarians and capitalist sympathizers of the world talk about freeing business from government, they are romanticizing the encounter. They mistake who is in command. Capitalism is war, fought by different means. It is the pursuit of profit at the expense of every other value humanity has ever held dear. It is the religion of the libertarian that the government which does not interfere with business is the best sort, but in this world the problem is not governments fighting against or blocking corporations from their actions, but instead from massive multi-national corporations so powerful that they can buy governments and surpass them completely. A land of free capitalism is a land where life does not matter, where profit is God, where all value ceases to exist save ability to money. Money has no real value. You cannot purchase love, you cannot have a life-changing conversation in exchange for any amount of it, and once it becomes the standard of value, then all life becomes valueless.

We are not the first people to have discovered the terror of capitalists run wild, but ours is the first generation to have to deal with the deathless global amoebas of the modern corporations. The governments we have today exist because our ancestors created them – the regulations on business exist because unregulated business creates a feudal state, ruled not by divinity-claiming monarchs, but by the profit motive itself – in the end, everyone loses. There will always be a better competitor, a more efficient, less human method of creating that good or providing this service, and as the dollar signs pile up, so do the bodies. The impoverished classes swell – we have never had more poor on this planet than today. We have never had more wealth on this planet either. The tiny ruling classes of each society shrink, as the very highest among them crush the others to rise ever higher. The actions of all humanity have never supported fewer so well. The bonepile grows, and eventually the last Capitalist will succumb, the final victim of the system we created and which grew to consume us all.

I hope mass consciousness will turn against the cancer we have set loose upon ourselves. I hope that we will stop this suicidal run before Earth is rendered unliveable, before all human life becomes slave to profit. Today it is the Bushmen, tomorrow it will be another people who cannot defend themselves, and one day soon it will be your and my time as well. I will leave it here, with a man who knew what we are dealing with all too well. Benito Musselini -“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”

-k

“If you’d like to let Gem Diamonds know how you feel about their business dealings, here is their contact page. Here’s the Botswana US Embassy’s info also, but I’m not sure they want to be involved in this sort of thing.

Junk in My Trunk

August 5, 2010

I was standing on the side of the road just now, changing into my work pants, and I got hung up digging around in the trunk of my car for a quart of oil. The car burns a lot now, 2 quarts or so every oil change, because she’s an old girl and apparently old girls leak a lot – it’s certainly true of the dog anyway.

Still, what caught up to me finally was the realization that I have entirely too much shit in my car. Way too much shit – enough shit to build a house almost. Therefore, I am making a list of all the too much shit I have in my car – here goes:

The interior is clean(ish) because I throw everything into the trunk. Nonetheless, I still manage to carry around a glovebox full of papers and notebooks, old receipts, the near-useless owner’s manual, some melted chapstick, the case to my glasses, a pile of pens, and god only knows what else. I don’t go in here because it’s scary. Under the seats I’ve shoved one of those dusting brushes I never use, a half-dozen copies of my resume, a Thomas Bros guide from 8 or 6 years ago, and some old french fries, which still look brand new but are hard enough to be weaponized. Oh, and there’s a remote for the stereo floating around somewhere, because everyone needs a remote for the things within arms’ reach, right? I used to have a lot of change in here too, but yesterday I went to the bank and turned that into about $16 – at least part of the whole mess paid off.

The trunk is undeniably “where it’s at” in the world of my having too many things – from all of my work clothes, aprons, and dirty laundry to the three towels and the pile of clothes I still haven’t donated to anyone yet, it’s getting rather full these days. There’s also a lot of tools – 2 crates of assorted rags, jumper cables, brake cleaner, a dozen pairs of vice grips and wrenches, a dashboard cover I will never use, carpet spot remover (as a joke apparently) carburetor cleaner for my fuel-injected engine, a volt meter with no screen or batteries, a lot of duct tape, an extendable magnet for the car parts I love to drop into corners of the engine compartment, an oil filter, an air filter, several quarts of various sorts of motor oil, and probably a lot more that I’m done digging for. Next to those boxes is a gigantic funnel I’ve never used that serves the purpose of keeping the 100 piece socket set from sliding around too much – by jamming the funnel between the rock climbing shoes and the running ones, it props the socket box against the back of the rear seat and anchors it from slamming into things while I’m playing speed racer. To the other side is the gigantic towel that never dries and is covered in surf wax, and under that are the shoes I haven’t worn since high school ceramics – they’re really comfortable though! I also have three shopping bags of clothes I will never wear again because they’re terrible, but which I apparently won’t donate either because I haven’t gotten around to it. There’s some dirty socks floating around, 3 work shirts, two pairs of black dress pants, a couple of aprons, a lot of pens, a handful of change, and probably some sort of flesh-eating virus or a gerbil underneath it all. Oh, and let’s not forget the baseball caps (CBG and Census both) which I have not and will not find any need for ever. Not last but also not least, I have the Census office manual that I found in the back, 400 pages of who gives a fuck, which made me laugh and inspired this list.

Here’s the real question – how much better would my mileage be if I didn’t carry an extra person’s weight in crap in the car everywhere I go?

Unfortunately, some of the content of it is. Because certain people within the US government have shown a disproportionate interest in the writings and goings-on of one citizen k, professional asshole and troublemaker, I’ve had to rope off the posts from the general public.

That said, access is easy – all you need to do is shoot me an email at citizenk dot blog at gmail dot com (or tweet me at citizen_k) and ask nicely, and I’ll send you back an email with the details whenever I’m next able to get online. Seeing as I’m currently living in the middle of Honduras, that might be a few days, but I like to think the stories are worth the wait.

Cheers,

-k

EDIT: Fuck it – I’ve taken all the passwords off – nobody will care I think, and if they do, well, hard luck.  This reflects far worse on me then anyone  else, to be honest.  Enjoy!

The Blog’s Not Dead!

February 10, 2009

I just realized that it has been almost 6 weeks since I posted anything at all, which is pretty pathetic, even for me.  I have 2 posts almost complete, telling the last month or so of my life.  Until then, know this – I’ve been working all the time that I haven’t been taking road trips, and my life is rapidly falling apart as I approach the deadline to leaving for the Peace Corps.  

Speaking of that, I have been accepted into the Peace Corps to serve in Honduras, and I leave Feb 23rd at 11:19 am.  I quit my job, I have the airline ticket: this time it’s for real!  All I have left to do is practice Spanish, argue with AT&T about my cell phone service, and say goodbye to everyone I’ve ever known and loved.

In the meanwhile, I’ll try and update a bit more frequently, and like I said, I have 2 killer stories coming.  Who knows – I might even have an audience soon!

I was surfing Digg just now and I found this article about the US army has now designated Twitter a potential terrorist tool.  The whole thing reads like a bad joke, but there’s one part that really threw me, even more than the conclusion that Twitter (and GPS maps and voice modulators) are potential threats to US security.

That would be this part:

“Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” the report said. (emphasis added)

The fact that vegetarians, along with atheists and political enthusiasts, are singled out here is positively alarming.  Are these seriously considered terrorist groups, and if so are they being monitored by the US government?  If they are seriously considered terrorist groups, then the answer is probably yes.  So are they?  We don’t know who exactly is being monitored by the government, but from what we do know, it seems quite likely that anyone is at risk.

Undoubtedly, we saw evidence that activist groups had been spied upon during and before the RNC earlier this year, and when we consider this along with the unfolding scandal of NSA employees listening in on phone calls made by human rights groups and US soldiers abroad, it seems quite likely that people, US citizens, are being monitored if they are associated with any of these labels.  Vegetarians, beware?

The discussion I would like to have is about what we as average citizens can do to encrypt, hide, protect our data and communications.  What steps can one easily (or just cheaply) take to protect him or herself from surveillance?

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