Whether through naivity, stupidity or ignorance, i still get shocked when i read about tragedies that have or are taking place across the world. While talking with Suzy last night, she mentioned the ‘apartheid’ which took place in South Africa in the second half of last century. When i realised that i really didn’t know what she was talking about, but had a general view of what happened, i decided to read up about it on the internet.
It sickens me to think that 20 years ago this was still going on, and to think that it is still going on in parts of the world today. I knew from public perception that Nelson Mandella was thought of as a ‘good man’, but knew nothing of what he actually did, or what he stood for.
Needless to say, it doesn’t surprise me that a paper i read clearly shows that America played a huge hand in supplying the much needed computers to enforce the social, political and racial segregation that caused the suffering, torture and death of thousands of people, and has ultimately left the country with an estimated 7 million people with the HIV virus. I don’t mean to blame the US here, since i’m sure that their government certainly seemed to be doing something about it…whilst doing absolutely nothing, but how much help do you think a country with similar laws against African Americans was likely to give.
It makes me wonder what South Africa would be like to day had this not happened, and how much responsibility it is for the rest of the world to help countries in need. Sadly, at the time, two of the most powerful countries (UK and US) were unlikely to do anything about…but is the situation really different today? America still intervenes in foreign politics, not for the good of the human race, but for the good of their country and more money to line their pockets. When will this change? When you are willing to do something about it.
IBM made millions (if not billions) from the sale of computers to South Africa which left the country in a terrible state, while they sat and counted their money. Is this not wrong? Should IBM not be held accountable? This is part of the area that my dissertation will focus on. People, armies and governments can be held accountable, but often companies cannot. In today’s world, it is not Prime Ministers or Presidents that hold the greatest power in the world, but CEOs! It is private companies that build weapons of mass destruction to sell to the goverments to make profit. They gain from the suffering of others, often without a second thought.
Of course, this is not a simple argument. Can you blame the dealer for being addicted to heroin? Surely if they don’t sell, someone else will. But what is a simple argument in my mind is that if people were to stop living their lives ignoring what is going on and actively do things to make a difference, then the world would surely be a better place for everyone. I don’t expect Fred Smith to jump on a plane and go fighting for Iraqi independence, but i do expect him to actually take time to find out what harm companies like Nike, Gap or McDonalds inflict on the world. It takes me straight back to Gandhi – you must be the change you want to see in the world. What hurts me the most is that most people are that change – they simple don’t care.