Pluma Migrant Writers Guild. "Write to be heard."
Yesterday Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the UK Labour Party. He gave this rousing speech which ended with a mention of the EU migrant crisis. Just as importantly, he covered the problem of general anguish and oppression which is the plight of so many throughout the world, and what could be done about it:
In addition to becoming leader of the labour party for one small country, it was as though for as much of the world that would listen and which he could manage to do something for, he had become a leader for them as well. Great stuff and I hope he achieves a lot. Here he is being endorsed by Julian Assange too.
It’s nice to have such a positive note about the future to start this three part series. The reason is because it’s about a past where borders and dictators ‘outside the wall’ were created by those ‘inside the wall’. To oppress, to control, to soften, to open up, to weaken, to disorganise, disrupt and terrorise these countries and people for the benefit of the fortunate few. What am I going on about though with this ‘wall’?
A couple of posts ago I wrote about Elysium and the EU migrant crisis. This made a point about migration using the movie Elysium and a couple of maps. One map showed that some are in a walled world hording 74% of the wealth, occupy the top 50 most livable cities, yet only comprise 14% of the world’s people. No wonder there are migrants trying to get in. We shouldn’t be surprised. In my post, ‘Elysium’ is cast as the ‘walled world’ on the map. In the movie, Elysium is an orbiting habitat/heaven for the elite. A point of the post is that there is no need for fiction though, it exists right now on Earth as a collection of privileged, well guarded countries. Maybe it’s hard to see or admit for those living inside the wall shown on the map. I’ve spent since 2011 living outside it in Cambodia and Kuwait. Through that I’m able to articulate the positive and negative reasons the walled world came into existence and persists. The positive ones are:
The negative ones are:
Let’s now talk a bit about these borders mentioned in point 1.3 above.
To illustrate item 1.3, above is a classic map in the history of screwing with ethnic groups by using arbitrary borders, the Sykes-Picot line across the bottom of Syria. Literally scrawled on by a pair of French and British statesmen, to change the lives of some hapless millions forever. For a proper, engaging treatment of this see Wait but Why. This is just one line, and one people though. How about a whole continent?
Another great map of Africa before colonists is highlighted by Rachel Strohm: Alkebu-lan by Nikolaj Cyon, similar to one about indigenous Australia before colonisation. The overall point about the three maps above of Africa is that the current map more closely matches the one during colonial times than the one before colonists came. Whilst it is a wonderful thing that these nations have been freed from their colonial oligarch overlords (map showing dates), the borders that they have been given by departing colonists unfortunately cause conflict, such as in the war leading to the creation of South Sudan. For further detail, see the below map animation and these remarks about the Murdock map of ethnic boundaries.
Thanks to How Africa.
The preceding remarks were about item 1.3 above in the list of negative reasons why the region ‘inside the wall’ has come to dominate the world – borders established by colonists. I’ll repeat the list again for convenience:
A major reason to engage in colonialism was resources:
Every country in the world by its largest valued export – Global Post.
An example combining item 1.1 and the last two items from this list is the Spanish colonists in Bolivia. Once they had established this border and given it this name, they used their position to extract a mountain of silver with local and African slave labour:
…while it’s almost completely unknown in Europe and the U.S., an estimated 8 million indigenous Bolivians and enslaved Africans died mining silver for Spain from the Bolivian mountain Cerro Rico — or as it’s known in Bolivia, “The Mountain That Eats Men.” Potosí, the city that grew up around Cerro Rico, is now extraordinarily polluted, and the mountain is still being mined, often by children. On the conquerors’ side of the ledger, Potosí was the source of tens of thousands of tons of silver, leading to the Spanish phrase vale un potosi — i.e., worth a fortune.
The extraction of resources using cheap labour by colonial powers has not, however, stopped in modern times. A example is Germany, which once had Nazi colonies in Guatemala where they farmed coffee. A recent documentary about this was Kinderschinder – Der Preis für eine Tasse Kaffee (German). It shows how German coffee companies and consumers continue benefiting from cheap, child labour in this poor country:
A point of the documentary was that if children were able to get an education in the nearby school then the next generation would be lifted out of poverty. Instead, there is a perpetual cycle of destitute parents and children working for next to nothing. The rich, privileged white people shopping in clean, modern, hygienic Nescafe stores in Germany would be horrified to think that colonialism effectively continues.
If only marketing was regulated better such that this documentary were shown in the stores instead of their advertisements with George Clooney – so much for his wife with a career in human rights law. Drinking a cup of coffee whilst basking in the image of the world’s sexiest man is a totally different, and appallingly inaccurate, estimation of what one should be thinking given the truly desperate situation from which your precious but cheap coffee came. I have used Youtube Doubler to do battle with Nescafe marketing using this documentary, click the image below.
I think the effect is appropriately sickening.
Is it only borders, though, which have created and perpetuated this problem in Guatemala? The horrific state of affairs at the Cerro Rico mine in Bolivia? Do the colonists’ borders adequately account for all of the strife in the Middle East and the continent of Africa? Certainly it’s hard to govern, strengthen and progress a country and economy when its people are difficult to unite within a border that doesn’t suit them. Without society within these borders progressing, labour and natural resources will remain cheap in these places. Something is missing from this story though. Let’s now turn to another part of this ugly tale, the men paid by those inside the wall to assist with the subjugation that we started by creating your borders.