Tuesday 25 May 2021

George Floyd one year on

 A year ago we started to hear reports from the USA concerning a man dying during an incident with the Police. It wasn't the first time we'd heard of such tragic incidents, but as the story emerged, this time there was solid video evidence and it was pretty clear that there was no way it could be swept under the carpet. 

I don't really want to rake the coals of those awful events of 2020, but I think it is well worth looking at what has happened since then. Have we genuinely seen real change? The answer is clearly yes. The Police Officer who murdered George Floyd is now a convicted murderer, something that had never previously happened when a serving police officer killed a black man in the USA. The football season has seen players 'taking the knee' before games. Statues were pulled down and some street names are being changed.

Whilst all of these thing show that there is progress and people are thinking about the issues around racism, it feels to me that this is only a very small first step on the journey. In the UK we really only ever concern ourselves with such stories in the UK and the USA. That is around 350 million out of 7.9 billion people. If you think about it logically, probably about 1.5 billion people have a relatively decent standard of living. The other 6.4 billion are living in poverty. The vast majority of those on the breadline are not white. Whilst rich western nations bin around 25% of the food they buy, uneaten and unused, because it has 'passed its sell by date', billions do not even have regular or nutritious meals. They are just about getting by. The UK has recently cut its Foreign Aid budget. We heard all manner of stories of the UK funding aid programmes in China and India as a justification for cutting the budgets, as opposed to looking at all of those dying unneccesarily from starvation, lack of medicines, lack of clean water supplies. 

It seems to me that we wouldn't tolerate such privations of white people. For some reason, here in the UK, we see the sufferings of impoverished people who have darker skins to be somehow less important. When we see videos of disasters, famines, war, drought, disease, if it's people who we don't know who happen to live in what we like to call 'The West' we have a completely different reaction to a similar disaster in Africa or Asia. There is no recognition in the UK that we ran many African and Asian countries for long periods and our exploitation of the resources of these lands contributed to the wealth which has immunised us from these stresses. We handed back the keys to the native populations and are happy to say 'not my problem guv'nor'. 

Of course we shouldn't tolerate institutional racism in the Police, as witnessed by George Floyd, but we will never fix this whilst we tolerate the attitude that the problems of human beings living in poverty in Africa and Asia are not our problems. I have no idea whether it is true or not, but I was told that the budget for players wages for the top five football leagues in Europe would be enough to create a clean drinking water supply for every person on earth who currently does not have clean water. It demonstrates just how skewed our priorities really are. I personally don't have a problem with the ridiculously high salaries top footballers get paid. It is a global sport and I think that we need such releases. Watching football on TV has kept many of us going over the last year, when times seemed grim. In African countries, their players are heroes and give poor children living in slums hope. 

Where I would look to find the cash would be with the internet giants. These are global monstrosities. As such they should show some global responsibility. As human beings, there is no excuse for such companies not to show social responsibility and put something back, helping the poorest people to live safer lives. A sane and rational economist knows that lifting people out of poverty creates new markets, so there should be a degree of self interest. The challenge of politicians is to make such growth sustainable,  we can't deny billions of people a basic, decent lifestyle. 

So a year on from George Floyd, we need to move the argument on. All decent people should be striving for universal justice, fairness, access to clean water, food and medicines. My father once told me that "if you say nothing about injustice, you are complicit in it and must share the blame". I personally don't want that on my conscience. That's why I write a blog, Do you.

Here is a song I wrote last year, inspired by the murder of George Floyd. I think the video is excellent, in that it marks a moment in time.

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