Robert Burns poem called Man was made to mourn: A Dirge in 1784.
‘Man’s inhumanity to man’
The response to the murder of George Floyd for most people has been an overwhelming rejection of the racism that ended his life. The casual denial of his humanity, and as police knelt on his neck it brought back all the worst images of slavery and oppression. People in America and throughout the world, have and will continue to protest, not just George Floyd’s death but all the others that have preceded it. There is no doubt that racism was at the heart of this murder, but there is another dynamic played out in these situations, George Floyd was a worker, a black worker, but a worker none the less, the casual disregard for his life is shown on a societal level by capitalism to all workers.
The violence meted out to protesters by police is indiscriminate, black, white, young, or old, we are witnessing the exercise of power, the ability to use violence and control peoples lives. The two most glaring examples of this exercise of power, are Hillsborough where 96 Liverpool supporters were killed in what is termed a ‘Tragedy’ and the Grenfell Tower ‘Tragedy’ in both cases no one decided to let people die. But in both cases the lives of the people involved were not considered, they were problems to be managed ‘football supporters’ to be channeled corralled and controlled.
In Grenfell, a cost equation, in terms of alarms, sprinkler systems, and cladding, a per unit calculation. I am about to do a post called ‘Show me the money.’ It explains how everything including ‘art’ is valued in monetary terms, unfortunately even human life.
People don’t wake up in the morning and think I am going to be responsible for the deaths of X number of people today. Or life is worth X amount. But they do wake up and imbue the attitude that some people, are lazy, and useless, and a burden to society. A view promoted by newspapers and media to justify society treating some people as less than human. How else do you explain not ensuring everyone has enough food to eat, with food poverty affecting millions, or healthcare in the USA where over 30 million people exist without health insurance, or the tens of thousands of homeless on both sides of the Atlantic. How do we justify a society that treats people in this way? By slowly surely, removing their humanity- this is what leads to the Hillsborough, and Grenfell Towers, and yes it is worse for black people because on top of this class oppression you have the whole historic crime of slavery and its justification in racism – to de-humanise.
These are not accidents or tragedies but the result of man’s inhumanity to man – they simply don’t care enough, we are not valuable enough. It is about class and power, if you have worked in a factory, you can feel this- we are useful as long as we keep the line moving. In construction, huge battles were fought in the seventies to win basic safety conditions, to stop workers dying to create their value. Every small advance should be claimed in the US today, banning choke holds, ensuring body cams on all police officers, de-funding, de-militarising the police, but as long as capitalism survives we will all be subject to its value system, and exercise of its power through the military, the police and courts. One inspiring thing about the protests is that they break through the divisions imposed on people, all colours ages and sexes are united in opposing this violence. This inhumanity is not ‘natural’ it is the exercise of power. Which is why Trump demands that the police ‘dominate’ the streets- and people are toppling statues and defying that dominance- more power to them!