[News] Solely Because of the Increasing Disorder

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Thu Sep 9 10:14:45 EDT 2021

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*Solely Because of the Increasing Disorder: The Thirty-Sixth Newsletter 

Tshibumba Kanda-Matulu (DRC), /The Martyrs of the Union Minière du Haut 
Katanga at the Stadium Formerly Called ‘Albert I’, now ‘Mobutu’, Kenia 
Township, Lubumbashi/, 1975.

Dear friends,

Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social 

A few days ago, I spoke to a senior official at the World Health 
Organisation (WHO). I asked her if she knew how many people lived their 
lives on our planet without shoes. The reason I asked her this question 
is because I was wondering about Tungiasis 
an ailment caused by the infection that results from the entry of a 
female sand flea (/Tunga penetrans/) into the skin. This problem has a 
variety of names in many different languages – from jigger or chigoe to 
/niguá/ (Spanish) or /bicho do pé/ (Portuguese) to /funza /(Kiswahili) 
or /tukutuku /(Zande). It is a terrible problem that disfigures the feet 
and makes mobility difficult. Shoes prevent these fleas from burrowing 
into the skin. She was not sure about the number but presumed that at 
least a billion people must live without shoes. Tungiasis is only one 
malady amongst many caused by a lack of access to shoes, with others 
such as Podoconiosis 
afflicting people who walk on red volcanic clay soil that inflames their 
feet in Central America, the African highlands, and India.

A billion people without shoes in the 21st century. Hundreds of millions 
of them children, many unable to get to school for lack of shoes. Yet 
the global footwear industry produces 
24.3 billion pairs of shoes a year, namely three pairs of shoes for 
every person on the planet. There is big money involved in the footwear 
industry: despite the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for shoes was 
at $384.2 billion (2020), which is expected to grow to $440 billion 
(2026). The major consumers of shoes live in the United States, Japan, 
Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy; the major producers of 
shoes live in China, India, Brazil, Italy, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico, 
Thailand, Turkey, and Spain. Many of those who produce shoes in a 
country like India can neither afford to buy the shoes that they produce 
nor even the cheapest flipflops available in the market. There are more 
than enough shoes in the market, but there is not enough money in the 
hands of hundreds of millions of people to buy these shoes. They work 
and produce, but they cannot afford to consume enough for a decent life.

Babak Kazemi (Iran), /The Exit of Shirin and Farhad/, 2012.

In June 2021, the World Bank released its /Global Economic Prospects/, 
which reported 
an increase in poverty ‘for the first time in a generation’. The Bank’s 
analysts wrote that ‘COVID-19 is set to cause lasting damage to the 
living conditions of the most vulnerable population’. In low-income 
countries, 112 million people already face food insecurity. ‘The 
pandemic is also bound to worsen income and gender inequality given its 
outsized negative effect on women, children, and unskilled and informal 
workers, as well as its adverse effects on education, health, and living 
standards’, noted the report.

Before the pandemic, 1.3 billion people lived in multidimensional and 
persistent poverty; their deprivations have been aggravated because of 
the way the pandemic has been handled by governments and by businesses. 
Of the world’s extreme poor 
85% of them live in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; half of the 
world’s extreme poor live in just five countries: India, Nigeria, 
Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh. The World Bank 
that two billion people live below the societal poverty line (meaning 
that the prosperity of economies is taken into account when measuring 
the poverty line).

Ronald Ventura (Philippines), /Cross Roads to Nowhere/, 2014.

Last year, the World Bank’s landmark report 
/Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020: Reversals of Fortune/ pointed out 
that ‘people who are already poor and vulnerable are bearing the brunt 
of the crisis’. The report emphasised the role of the COVID-19 pandemic 
in rising poverty levels but added to this the negative impact of 
climate change and conflict. The poor, according to World Bank data, 
‘remain predominantly rural, young, and undereducated’, with four of 
every five people who live below the international poverty line residing 
in rural areas. Women and girls are overrepresented among the poor and 
the hungry. Based on this analysis, the World Bank urges governments to 
enhance welfare measures to provide relief to the unemployed and to the 
working poor. But the Bank has nothing to say to the agricultural 
workers and small farmers or to the informal workers, whose productive 
labour receives so little recompense. This is why hundreds of millions 
of them – in places such as India, as our dossier no. 41 
shows – are in the midst of a grand revolt.

Dawit Abebe (Ethiopia), /Background 2/, 2014.

None of the World Bank reports indicate any clear path that would enable 
us all to exit this catastrophe. The language in the conclusions to 
these reports is tepid and muted. ‘We must commit to working together 
and to working better’, remarks the World Bank report. No doubt that 
cooperation is essential, but cooperation on what, for whom, and how? 
Looking at some of the packages offered in countries such as Indonesia, 
the Bank offers a range of policy options:

 1. Boosting the health care sector.
 2. Increasing social protection programmes to low-income households in
    the form of cash transfers, electricity subsidies, and food aid, as
    well as expanding unemployment benefits to workers in the informal
 3. Implementing tax deductions.

These are attractive measures, basic demands of social movements around 
the world. Such demands form a part of the Chinese poverty alleviation 
programme of the ‘three guarantees and two assurances’ – guarantees of 
safe housing, health care, and education, and assurances of food and 
clothing. These are documented at length in our study 
on the eradication of absolute poverty in China, which looks at how the 
country lifted 850 million people out of poverty since the Chinese 
Revolution of 1949, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s total 
poverty reduction. The World Bank, unlike the Chinese government, moves 
into incoherent territory when it calls for reduction in corporate 
taxation as part of the framework for poverty alleviation!

What times we live in when we are called upon to be reasonable in a 
world where disorder is the norm, the disorder of war and floods, 
pestilence of one kind or another. Even the World Bank registers the 
fact that, even /before the pandemic,/ the tendency was towards 
disorder, towards dehumanisation. Unleashed on the world are the Four 
Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse: Poverty, War, Social Despair, and 
Climate Change. This system has no answers to the problems it creates.

A billion people without shoes.

Lili Bernard (Cuba), Carlota Leading the People (after Eugene 
Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, 1830), 2011.

One of the great downsides of our current inflation of atrocities is the 
sense that nothing other than this nightmare is possible. Alternatives 
cannot be imagined. Mockery pushes aside thinking about a different 
future. When attempts to create these different futures are made – as 
they always are by resilient human beings – those in power strive to 
snuff them out. The system drifts inexorably to fascism from above (to 
encage ‘disposable’ people in prisons and ghettoes) and to fascism from 
below (to increase dangerous racist, misogynist, and xenophobic social 
forces). It is better for the powerful and the propertied to see to it 
that no model of an alternative is allowed to flourish. It would call 
into question the claim that what governs the world now is eternal, that 
History has ended.

After the Nazis took power in Germany, the playwright Bertolt Brecht 
took refuge in Svendborg (Denmark). There, in 1937/8, Brecht wrote a 
poem to suggest that the time had come to focus on the disorder and to 
break open the door to a different future:

/Solely because of the increasing disorder//
//In our cities of class struggle//
//Some of us have now decided//
//To speak no more of cities by the sea, snow on roofs, women//
//The smell of ripe apples in cellars, the senses of the flesh, all//
//That makes a man round and human//
//But to speak in future only about the disorder//
//And so become one-sided, reduced, enmeshed in the business//
//Of politics and the dry, indecorous vocabulary//
//Of dialectical economics//
//So that this awful cramped coexistence//
//Of snowfalls (they’re not merely cold, we know)//
//Exploitation, the lured flesh, class justice, should not engender /

/Approval of a world so many-sided; delight in//
//The contradictions of so bloodstained a life//
//You understand/.

Our lives are bloodstained. Our imagination is ossified. The need to 
break through the disorder is immense. Feet, with or without shoes, 
march to the smell of ripe fruit and the sight of cities by the sea.



Website <www.eltricontinental.org>




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