Capitalism needs to leave the chat, big time. It breeds a mindset that if you work hard enough, you can be the next millionaire. In reality, eight men have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. Wealth inequality lets billionaires like Jeff Bezos run near monopolies worth 1.7 trillion dollars, enough money to end world hunger… roughly fifty times. American corporations like Amazon exploit people, natural resources and land. This exploitation breeds European exceptionalism, or the idea that certain people deserve to possess wealth. The most exploited people are forced to take a “backseat” to the greatest economic system there has ever claimed to be (insert Trump). This exploitation influences poverty rates, denies access to basic needs, like water and echoes the brutal impacts of the power relations of European colonialism. Let’s talk about how wealth inequality affects marginalized communities and what YOU can do to help.
Capitalism is a system where profits have private owners, meaning it is competitively profit-driven with little government intervention. This has led to significant wealth gaps, where a few individuals can accumulate mass amounts of assets and companies often work for profit over the betterment of communities. It’s a system where the one percent win, and the ninety-nine percent lose.
There are 37.6 million people in Canada and only 270 thousand in the “1 percent.” Wealth disparity disproportionately impacts marginalized communities. Did you know that four out of five people living on Indigenous reserves live under the Canadian poverty line? That is less than $22,333 per person. If capitalism breeds a mindset that individual importance relies on assets, then how should Indigenous people feel? Well, let us look to the egregious price on water, the construction of pipelines on sacred land or the genocide of thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women. A closer look at water advisories might show us just how much capitalism exploits people since water is a human right, right?
Poverty on reserves is met with water boil advisories, causing communities to purchase over-priced water at 2500 dollars a year to get it delivered. Only a for-profit system like capitalism would turn water into a commodity for sale; meanwhile, businesses destroy natural water sources for large profits. Water is causing illness just ninety minutes outside the city of Toronto on the Six Nations reserve. While this community is suffering, Torontonians can walk into their local convenience store and take their pick – Fiji, Smart Water, Nestlé Pure Life or simply turn on the tap. You may be thinking capitalism has nothing to do with water on reserves, but capitalism systematically impacts the lives of marginalized groups. Scholars of the article “Ecocide, genocide, capitalism and colonialism,” explore how the ecological damage to Indigenous reserves, bred through capitalism’s exploitative practices, leads to ecocide or ecologically influenced genocide. In other words, stealing and polluting rightful Indigenous land through resource extraction for economic gain is killing Indigenous people.
Capitalist countries’ colonial histories often define their relationships with marginalized communities. The idea that European dominance has to do with hard work is a lie. The truth is that exploitation and on-going colonial violence allows some to succeed and many to suffer. Dr. Pomeraz, a history scholar, argues that British (European) dominance “[…]is hard to envision without colonies and slavery.” This obviously puts many communities at the bitter end of the claimed benefits of capitalism.
But what can you do now? Well, for starters, let’s push the government to tax the rich. In Canada, we do not have a wealth tax. This tax would only impact those who make over twenty million dollars a year and generate roughly five billion dollars to help low-income families. You can simply support this by signing petitions like Implement Wealth Taxes in Canada. To directly help communities, listen to their voices, read their works and support their endeavours. Consider supporting non-profit organizations that fight for the Indigenous population’s legal rights like Raven Trust or NWAC, by donating or sharing with friends.
It does not take a lot for you to listen, and it means a lot for the voices who need to be heard. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a feminist critic of capitalism, asks, “Can the subaltern speak?” Meaning, can the most exploited people have a voice in this global economy? We should question the conditioned “underclass:” is the exploitation their doing or is it the system? Like the famous band the Verve bitter-sweetly states, “Trying to make ends meet, you’re a slave to the money then you die.”
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