Kairos n°28

The reports of the NGO Oxfam on inequality(1) acquire the natural character of the seasons and, like them, follow one another year after year. Just as we are reminded every time, with winter and cold weather coming back, of the fact that people are sleeping in the street in our so-called evolved societies, that the poor still exist. The deaths of hypothermia will thus come, once again, to make the headlines, as well as the preparations for the beginning of the school year or the first snowfalls…

From this comparison, one may not see any connection. However, in this recurrence, there is a constant: it is not among the most affluent, the rich exploiters, that the cause is to be found, but rather among the poor: to these bums who have not been able to fit into our class society where — in Belgium — « 10% of the richest people own half of the wealth of all Belgians  » where  » 8 people in the world own more than half « … Inserting yourself . .. » Even to the brink of death and hypothermia, we’ll still make them sweat with hope, with our hope, the poor. It’s not to prevent them from dying that we help them, no, it’s because, half dead, frozen, transient, as they are, there is still perhaps a microchip of small chance to make them honest and productive citizens « .(2) Always the poor, who would not manage to integrate into our democratic societies, those of Luxleaks and Panama papers, of Publifin and Kazakhgate, of notional interests and tax havens, of humanitarian wars and hunts for the unemployed… these poor who, once « included », will perhaps climb the ladder to become… rich, and play the game of exclusion!

Always them. And the « honest » ones, Albert Frère or Davignon, Lagardère or Arnault, Gates or Zuckerberg, those who have « succeeded » « by the strength of their wrists », would have nothing to worry about. While they hoard a huge part of the wealth produced, increasing their fortune every year and widening inequalities a little more, the regularity of the NGO reports tells us that the techniques of bypassing the redistribution mechanisms are always more efficient. But also, that the States do not act at all to eradicate the great fortunes and, initially, to appease the misery to make it disappear in the medium term. Belgium, for example, which taxes neither wealth nor stock market capital gains, has not really taken any decision to ensure a fair distribution (commentators always add a « plus » in front of fair or egalitarian — « fairer », « more egalitarian » — as if they were admitting that true equality was impossible, but above all unwanted), since the 2008 crisis.

And the unions, who are claiming victory because they have obtained a draft interprofessional agreement which they hope will « improve the purchasing power of workers and social welfare recipients, which is good for our economy »(3). Have they not yet understood that purchasing power was perhaps the problem, and that by overvaluing work and its relief through consumption — purchasing power — they were serving a devastating capitalism, serving the « eight »? The real winners, the multinationals, the big bosses and the wealthiest, know this: « It’s done! We have just concluded an interprofessional agreement with the trade unions, a wage agreement for 2017–2018, » exults the managing director of the Federation of Enterprises in Belgium (FEB), in his note « Room for enterprise…and consumption, » where he adds: « Wages will increase less quickly than in neighboring countries, which means that the competitiveness of our companies will improve: more jobs, more purchasing power », etc., etc., « And all this will lead to social peace.(4) Competitiveness is solidarity, indecency is decency.

The scandal, however, is that they still make us believe that competitiveness creates jobs, that they still talk to us about « purchasing power », while they evade the question of tax detour that deprive the collective of its means of subsistence. They urge us to consume, cars, airplanes, junk food, superfluous objects made by slaves in Africa and Asia who, through their exploitation, ensure our cheap purchasing power… Scandals are not epiphenomena of capitalism, they are not accidents that will disappear with a little more « controls », « reforms », interprofessional agreements where the winner is always the same, where all the false safeguards have only the function of making us forget the current scandal, while the next one is already being prepared.

The scandal is there, inscribed in the heart of the system. Permanent.

Alexandre Penasse

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