Artisanal miners in Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Lynsey Addario—Getty Images Reportage for TIME)
A mass attack of derision occurred when the facts about the Titan submersible were revealed. Laughter at the expense of an incompetent rich man is understandable but skirts the issue. The rich get many people killed and they do it by design.
"The days of government funding are gone. It really needs to be a private enterprise, just as exploration was at the turn of the last century where people with means make the exploration possible."
Stockton Rush, OceanGate CEO
The saga of the OceanGate Titan submersible was the sort of story that rivets millions of people. Not only was it revealed that passengers paid $250,000 to see the wreck of the Titanic, but the vessel was poorly built, and its creator ignored warnings about its defects and continued to use it.
When the incompetence and arrogance of its creator was revealed, the jokes began in earnest, as the internet is the perfect place to make light of serious issues. The readiness to make fun of the feckless and arrogant is understandable. In fact, there is a positive side in the willingness to engage in schadenfreude over the deadly debacle. After all, no one should argue against hostility to rule by the wealthy.
Yet there is a missing side of this story about the wealthy and how they create suffering and death. The concentration of wealth grows more and more extreme and depends entirely upon exploiting millions of people and putting their lives at risk.
In March of this year, a video showed the stark reality for one group whose exploitation is the foundation of great wealth for others. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has most of the world’s reserves of coltan, a mineral needed for electronic devices. DRC also has large reserves of cobalt, copper, diamonds, and gold. Nine men were trapped in a gold mine collapse at Mitondo Hill in Nyange, South Kivu province. A video taken by an onlooker showed the men being pulled out one by one, after having been trapped for 18 hours. Their rescuers used their bare hands and a shovel, and like other workers, had no mechanical equipment or protective gear. Death is a common occurrence in DRC mines and huge profits are created for other people in Europe, Canada, the U.S., and China.
These artisanal miners may be the most exploited people on earth, enduring dire working conditions for pennies per day, but providing everyone else with the ability to run electric cars, cell phones, computers, and every electronic instrument needed to perform the most mundane activities. The men, women, and children whose labor makes convenience possible for the rest of the planet work in terrible conditions in a country that is regularly invaded by U.S. proxies Uganda and Rwanda. Those two countries are bankrolled by the U.S. and ensure that there is no one in Congo who will benefit that country and its people.
There are endless examples of individuals and corporations who kill, not through foolish behavior, but very deliberately. More than 1,100 garment workers died in a building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013. Ten years later most U.S. clothing brands have still not signed on to an accord which would guarantee safety for those workers. Capitalism is quite deadly and isn’t very funny.
Stockton Rush was among those killed on the Titan, after having publicly sung the praises of private enterprise. It is easy to snicker at his demise, but rich people clamoring against regulations that would diminish their wealth making capability aren’t really amusing. Most people who die because of ruling class actions do so while trying to earn a living, not by joy riding to the Titanic wreck.
In 2017 an Oxfam report revealed that the eight wealthiest people in the world had as much wealth as the poorest half of the human population. This same group of people doubled their wealth during the covid pandemic, from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion from March 2020 to November 2021, while 99% of the people in the world lost income. If this same group of people lost 99% of their wealth, they would still have more money than 99% of humanity.
The rich get richer because of their bag men and women in elected office, people like Joe Biden and all of his predecessors. Biden was known as the “Senator from Mastercard” before taking office as Vice President and then President of the United States. He promised the oligarchs that, “Nothing would fundamentally change,” and all the members of the House and Senate are on the same page. They pledge to help the rich get richer as they accelerate the race to the bottom, no pun intended, for everyone else. Biden and the rest of the errand boys and girls are doing just as they are ordered. Poverty itself is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.
It is enraging but not shocking that the minimum wage hasn’t increased, that Build Back Better never happened, and that the possibility of having a public health care system is off the politicians’ table and won’t be discussed. Life expectancy in the U.S. continues to decline because the oligarchy insists that nothing will fundamentally change. They can’t continue to accelerate inequality and their personal wealth unless austerity continues. No one should expect the system that they control to raise salaries, provide health care, or do anything else that benefits the masses of people.
Private enterprise kills lots of people and ironically killed Stockton Rush, who was one of its champions. Laughing at the follies of narcissistic wealthy people is fine, but it is just the first step in understanding why 99% of people in the world are suffering and sometimes dying. The capitalists create havoc everywhere and bring death to millions of people.
Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work on Patreon and also find it on the Twitter and Telegram platforms. She can be reached via email at margaret.kimberley(at)blackagendareport.com.