(This is a translation of two columns by Munnoo Bhai published in the daily Jang, from Lahore, in January 2000. Jang is the main bourgeois newspaper in Pakistan with a circulation of 750,000)
The other day I visited a big central Punjab city of Gujranwala, along with world-renowned British Orthopedician Professor Jeffery Walker, my dear friend Professor Syed Mohammad Awais and eleven other orthopedic surgeons. The doctors had to give free treatment to poor orthopedic patients in a charity hospital, which treats 200,000 patients free of cost every year. I was left to have a chat with the patron of this institution and ponder over this whole episode of charity-based treatment of poor patients.
Fourty five years ago, like these doctors, I entered the world of Journalism with tearful eyes and a heavy heart, stricken with pain at the plight of the oppressed and downtrodden. In all these years I have wept a lot at the sorrows of these people. I have wailed and shrieked at their pains and miseries. To get them some retribution, solace and help I must have written thousands of columns in my long years of professional journalism. I wrote so many grief-stricken obituaries at the death of people, that some of my friends satirically called me a professional moaner at the funerals. If not hundreds, at least dozens of the impoverished and deprived must have received some respite from their miseries due to those writings. But after all these efforts I have come to the conclusion: I wished it would be, yet it was not to be.
The problems of the impoverished and deprived can not be solved by charity and patronage. There is no solution to their problems other than their emancipation from the poverty and deprivation itself as a whole. For the glorification I have attributed to charity in my writings, I can get all the highest awards in literature and journalism but the poverty of the poor can not be eliminated. It can only get worse.
I have lot of respect for all those who have honest motives and are in struggle for the welfare of the poor. I appreciate their efforts, in which some of them are involved beyond their means, for the improvement of aggrieved humanity. I want them to continue these efforts. Yet the reality is that the sufferings and vows of human mankind are spreading with such a rapid pace and deepening with such ferocious intensity that even if the charity trusts and hospitals multiply hundredfold and work day and night they can still not harness, retrieve or tackle the sufferings and pains of humanity. The rapidity of the spread of this misery far out-strips the devices for their control and salvation within the capitalist system. The sewers of a few houses can be cleaned or perhaps a few canals can be digged but shock floods, hurricanes and ravaging calamities can not be stopped by building dams of sand and putting up speed breakers. Charity is no solution to this calamity of hunger and poverty. I will not call it self-deception but it is definite a futile effort. These methods can not eradicate poverty but only enhance the prestige of those responsible for aggravating and spreading this poverty. According to the humorist Mushtaq Yousafi, there are three categories of lies,(1) a lie (2) a white lie (3) official/state statistics. According to official statistics 35% of Pakistan's population has fallen below the poverty line. But the reality is that 55% of Pakistan's population, without asking for permission or informing the regime of Pakistan and deceiving the childish economic experts, has drowned below the poverty line. According to the Western Imperialists the concept of those who tread below the poverty line is that they earn less than a dollar a day. But our Oriental concept is that those who can only manage crumbs once a day and slip out the next meal are defined as living below poverty line. But the institutions of the regime can not arrest those who are responsible for those 80 million people who are being dissolved in the acid of poverty. (recently an individual, Javed Iqbal Mughal was arrested for killing 100 children by dissolving their bodies in acid)
Neither can the regime display the remnant shoes and rags of these teeming millions because, according to the reigning ideology, the treatment being matted out to these impoverished souls is written in their destinies and no body has the right to interfere in the verdicts of the almighty nature. 25 years ago those living below poverty line were 25% according to state statistics. Now they are 55%.
Even if we put aside the cause of humanity and the oppressed of Pakistan, still according to the ideology and laws of the capitalist system and market economy, the sacrosanct system of the rulers themselves, the purchasing power of those living under the poverty line is nearly non-existent. This spells death for the market economy and the devastation and destruction of capitalist commerce, finance and economics. How many days a bazaar can survive when 80 million potential buyers vanish into oblivion?
The real question is: who is responsible for throwing more than half of the population of the country into the caves of extreme poverty and torment? Who has pushed 80 million Pakistanis into the abyss of helplessness and apathy? There is only one answer to this question. Those guilty of this crime are the policy makers of successive regimes who allwowed more and more capital accumulate into less and less hands. The collective resources of 80 million Pakistanis went into the coffers of the few. Then, they allowed these dacoits, plunderers and murderers to stage these absurd gestures of charity, piousness and kindheartedness. In this way these demons of evil were glorified as apostles of respectability and generosity. Then they were elevated to top echelons of the state and society.
A SIMPLE SOLUTION
We were discussing the role of welfare and reformist institutions. I not am saying that the needs of the deprived should not be fulfilled, the hungry not to be given food, the illiterate be left uneducated and the sick be deprived of treatment.
What I am saying is that to convert workers and toilers into beggars, the poor and destitute into subjects of charity, and to abuse peoples' sufferings in order to gain social, political and financial benefits is an inhuman and evil act. For those kind-hearted people who are deeply concerned by the misery and pain of humanity, the real issue to think and ponder upon is why is there such a massive increase of the number of poor and deprived, from where have these hordes of beggars come. In the past there were not so many beggars on the streets in our society. There were never so many suicides and acts of self-immolation; the number of destitute sick people was never so high. We have reached unheard of levels of of bribery, corruption and dishonesty. Prostitution, child molestating and kidnappings had never reached such alarming proportions. Never were robberies so many, murders taking place with such rapidity. Never were so many women raped and the concept of the gang rape was never so prevalent. What is the cause of this moral cultural and social decline and devastation? Who is responsible for such insult and disgrace of humanity?
The economists and experts of world capitalism recognise that the countries with 10% of world's population virtually dominate and control 90% of world's wealth. Not a single western intellectual and expert has been able to refute comrade Ted Grant's assertion that the10 richest people in the world have so much accumulated wealth. If this wealth was to be used for the benefit of the many, in a socialist way, poverty, ignorance and disease could be eliminated from the face of this planet. This is the miracle or magic of the capitalist system, on its scales 10 people weigh more than 6 billion people of this world. And these are the dictates of this system: that these 6 billion people instead of snatching their rights from these 10 people, are forced to beg for their demands and their needs.
Instead of being ashamed and feeling guilty, the western periodicals and magazines glorify this vulgar richness with arrogant and insolent pride. They portray with treacherous pride that "Microsoft's" Bill Gates has become the first 100 billionaire. This is in dollars. He earns more than 500 dollars a second. When he goes to bed at night, he wakes up 26 million dollars richer the next morning. He owns more wealth than the total amount of the stock of the market of Asia (if we exclude Japan). All the capital in the world steel industry is less than Bill Gates wealth. His wealth makes him the 11th largest economy in the world. That means there are only 10 countries in the world, which can claim to be richer than Bill Gates. This means that one individual has enough wealth to fulfill the needs of more than one and half billion human beings living on earth. Which other system can attribute such heinous insult, tyranny and injustice to the teeming billions and human mankind other than capitalism?
And is it not a fact that Bill Gates started a dollar $18 billion charity?. By creating this trust, has he not used this gesture of charity to give justification and protection to the tyranny, exploitation and injustices he is responsible for? The media and whole world are busy praising him as an apostle of kindness, generosity and piousness. He should have been a target of indignation, condemnation and disgrace by all humanity.
Is it not the case that this 18bn dollars charity is an expression of guilt and crime of an individual who has accumulate so much wealth, becoming the richest man in the world? Is it not an absurd and disgraceful effort of repugnant repentance for this criminal sins? As if to eradicate internal stink and revulsion Eau-de-colonge is sprayed on the body. As if the stench of a rotten corpse can be hidden by sprinkling talcum powder over it. Is it not a capitalist effort in order to convert the hatred and burning vengeance of the poor against the rich into respect and gratitude for those who befall misery upon those who suffer from their atrocities at the most?
Even in Pakistan there are at the most 10 individuals whose wealth would be enough to eliminate poverty ignorance and disease. But not one of these names will be on the lists of defaulters up for accountability. Because the rulings of the state and the capitalist system are devised to protect the interests of these individuals. People like Bill Gates and George Soros are precisely the ones who define the laws of the present system, responsible for drenching more than a third of humanity below the poverty line. Finance capital is the almighty power on earth today. Even the angels would burn their wings in front of the crushing domination and heat of this power of capitalism. Yet the names of these people are mentioned in official documents and media headlines with respect, envy, sycophancy and adoration. There is such a stinking glorification of their generosity that it becomes nauseating to watch or read these news items. Their acts of charity are portrayed with such flagrant obtuseness that it becomes insult upon injury.
The reality is that charity is a curse upon human mankind. For any civilized society, there cannot be a more disgraceful scene or an act than a hand rising from a footpath to beg. The charity of these rich and powerful exploiters is like that of dacoits who rob a home at night and while fleeing the leave some coins on the table for the children to buy some crumbs in the morning. And because of this kind gesture of the robbers, the looted and deprived of the house should fell indebted and gratified from the bottom of their hearts.
At the end of the visit to Gujranwala I was asked by my friends, that I always point out the problems and their causes, but what is the solution? So, my friends! The solution is to stop begging and yearning for our rights and needs from these Apostles of wealth and power. Instead we will have to stand up and fight for our rights. We have no dearth of anything. But these vultures have not left anything to us. We who create and produce all the wealth are the ones deprived of them. In the depths of nature, the mother earth, the skies and the infinite universe, in the advances in Agriculture, Industry and Technique, massive reserves exist which could be developed for the liberation of humankind. Our knowledge, our skills and our grasp of sciences and modern technology, if all that is brought in the democratic control and management of those who toil upon them, the whole humanity can be gifted with welfare and emancipation. There would be such abundance that want would be eliminated once and for all. Those billions struggling for food, shelter, and clothing, and still falling into the abyss of horrific poverty, will surge ahead to explore new horizons and start the journey to conquer the universe. That is socialism. Isn't it a simple solution? You think it is difficult? Start to think and act in unison with the six billion exploited and deprived of this planet. It will become very simple!
Munno Bhai writes regularly for the Marxist fortnightly paper Jeddo Judh (Class Struggle)