Have things changed that much?

I wouldn’t want to live in the middle ages. As much as readers of romance novels might think the days of knights and royalty were amazing, I think modern life is better in many ways. I wouldn’t even like to have been born a hundred years ago. Life has changed for the better for many people, maybe even most people, since the end of World War 2. Even so, I wonder how much has really changed in the broad structures of society.

We might have adopted democracy as a ruling system instead of monarchies, but power is still inherited, with those not born into money extremely unlikely to ever rise above their beginnings. Elected leaders also seem to be powerless, toothless. Financial giants now call the shots, certainly in Europe and the USA. Those are the real rulers of the world: a small, powerful elite which most certainly don’t have the greater good in mind. The recent scandal of the Anglo tapes shows that bankers called the shots and laughed at the government, screwing Ireland over and walking away with enough money to keep a small town salaried at the average wage for decades. More, they either kept their jobs with the associated staggering salaries, or were given other, equally or more lucrative positions.

Industry still exploits those who work for them, and not only those in countries we perceive as distant geographically as well as culturally. Supermarkets often use “temporary” staff to avoid giving people the benefits due to them, and to keep employees on a short leash, with zero job security. This has been shown to be the case with WalMart in the USA, land of the free (that is one of the biggest jokes I have ever heard, I can never help but chuckle when people call it that). I know from back when I operated a till at Hypermarket in South Africa in 1990 that it was true then, in that country, and I know some supermarkets in Ireland do the same. That is one example, in one industry: there are many more, in many different areas.

Nations waged war with the fodder generals threw at each other paying the price for diplomatic squabbles often manufactured or important only to people living to all intents on a different planet from those dying for their causes. You need only look at the death toll from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to see this is still true. For those who automatically think of soldiers killed or maimed – tragedies, no doubt – I would also like to point out that Afghani and Iraqui people have paid a far heavier price in lives, sometimes being murdered with impunity.

Strong nations did more or less as they pleased, shrugging off the suffering of innocents as an unavoidable price for… um… that important thing, you know the one. You saw this clearly in the concentration camps of the Boer War. The same thing is evident in the USA’s handling of the Bradley Manning affair, Guantanamo Bay, and the most recent flabbergasting incident with the president of Bolivia.

Heroes were punished, people of conscience persecuted for doing what was right. And you had empires which called the shots, paid lip service to proper conduct but did what they liked in reality, with little if any consequence. Again, the situation with Edward Snowden comes to mind. His revelations reveal just how little the USA and UK walk the talk, the way he is being persecuted puts an underline and exclamation point to them.

So tell me, have things really changed that much? I’m not sure they have.

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