I remember seeing a statistic in my Junior Cert geography book that hit me so hard I haven’t forgotten it. It’s that 50,000 people die in road accidents in the USA every year – which compares to 58,000 US soldiers killed in the war in Vietnam. It gives a gruesome new meaning to Che Guevara’s slogan of “many Vietnams” – for the US there’s a “Vietnam” a year in terms of lives lost on the roads. The cause isn’t Imperialism, it’s private car ownership, poor public transport, shitty roads and alcohol abuse.
There’s a tendency to overlook the fact that at least a million, maybe two or three million, South-East Asians died in the Vietnam War too. A lot of Americans see the war as a “loss of innocence” and as a great national trauma. All of this is true but the problem is you get wrapped up in viewing the whole thing as an American “experience”. We who watch Hollywood movies forget what the war was objectively: a fight for independence and social revolution in which millions of rebel peasants and civilians were killed by an imperialist war machine that was propping up a bloodthirsty puppet government. Tune in soon for a further development of this point, but while we’re on the subject of wars:
Imagine for a second that instead of spending well over $4 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US Government had invested that money into providing cheap or free public transport throughout the US. Instead of killing hundreds of thousands of people they would have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Instead of a stagnant, then a collapsing economy, they would have had huge numbers of people working at valuable jobs. Instead of destroying Iraq’s society and infrastructure (what was left after the sanctions) and giving a blank cheque to the Karzai mafia, the US could have used its massive resources to do what private enterprise was not doing. That is, to develop a productive as opposed to a speculative economy. If Capitalism was working in its own best interests, that’s what it would have done.
But Capitalism can’t think. It’s a brainless, chaotic, contradictory system. The market, apparently such a brilliant pricing mechanism, can’t match need with potential. Instead what you have is a bought-off political system funded by the rich launching horrific wars for oil. You have a flight of capital to poor countries and dictatorships, the growth of an economy based on speculation, and the totally predictable collapse of that economy, leaving behind debt mountains. In the case of the US and Eurozone, not just debt mountains but whole debt planets. Which the bought-off politicians then insist justifies further attacks on workers and the further dismantling of society.
Never has our species had as much potential as today and never has it apparently been rushing so enthusiastically into mass murder, economic suicide and environmental destruction. If we can break the rule of capital over society and plan the allocation of wealth rationally we will have some job reversing this bloody headlong rush. But once we do, the way will be opened for the rational use of the wealth of society to create a safer and more prosperous life for all.