Best of 2013 | Shit BRICSby Iain Robinson / Images by Iain Robinson / 30.12.2013
Originally published 03 April 2013.
‘I talk a lot of shit coz I can back it up, whut?’ – Method Man
I agree. I don’t like to talk shit unless I know shit. I always want to be ready to take on anyone who wants to catch me out for my views, hit them with some straight knowledge that stops them in their tracks before they try and push it any further. I think we all do. So when my friend and mentor, Professor Patrick Bond of the Center for Civil Society in Durban, hit me up to play a cultural part in pushing a protest agenda during the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, I knew I had to get down on some reading before inciting through writing and reciting (bear with me, it won’t all rhyme, I promise).
Prof Bond told me that the New World Order ‘Sheriffs’ were coming to town to establish a fresh hold on the most resource rich continent on the planet. He was talking about the BRICS bloc, an economic collective of (according to analysts representing Goldman Sachs, those of global recession infamy) the 5 largest emerging economies, rising powers in the global capital game who would in the very near future outpace the old guard of the EU, the UK and the US in terms of import/export style growth and development. Well, initially it was only spelt BRIC, meaning Brazil; Russia; India and China. Our own Department of International Relations and Co-Operation can claim kudos for knocking long enough and hard enough on the door to be allowed into the room with the big guys, so now it’s Brazil; Russia; India; China and South Africa: BRICS. We get to be part of the acronym.
This question begs to be asked: Why has South Africa (whose economy in terms of our GDP is barely a drip from a drop from a crack in the dam wall of, say, China’s) been allowed to have a seat at this most prestigious table? The powers that be would have us believe it is because we are well placed to facilitate the correct implementation of the entire African continent into the BRICS framework of “Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation”. Considering the recent events in the CAR involving our military presence, together with our bumbling evasive explanation for why 13 SA citizens are dead and 27 are wounded in the protection of our ‘assets’ (a term that has yet to be clearly defined and justified), how is it that we can claim any legitimacy when it comes to owning the inclusion of Africa in this exclusive club of the rich and super-rich power players?
You know what? Fuck this attempt at being factually accurate and correct. I roll with some serious academics and economists who have done all the real true analysis for us, so I feel completely justified in letting rip with my proper reactionary thoughts right about now. If, as our Department of International Relations and Co-operation claims, it is UN-PATRIOTIC (according to our minister, deputy minister and BRICS ambassador) not to support BRICS, then why are we outside of the International Convention Center, Durban, while our interests are being discussed inside? If this will ultimately benefit us, speak for us, work for us, then why are we being surrounded by riot police when raising our legitimate concerns? Being fenced in to a sanitized cage outside of the ICC, complete with SAPS video cameras watching our every move? Why are we suddenly a threat when we put forward that this is possibly NOT the best option for our country? And when I say we, understand that I as an intellectual middle class man, am in the minority here, participating with the majority of lowest class poor and voiceless people trying to be recognized in a space that has been sold to us as democratic and inclusive.
These ‘world leaders’ could throw themselves a BRICS party anytime they choose, pick a location, book the hotel rooms, book the venues, co-opt the local security services and get together to talk shop. In comparison, the amount of effort it takes the working to lower class citizens who oppose this charade to collectivize their dissent and formalize an adequate response in the form of pickets and protest, is almost heroic. Yet, once again, we are made to assume that those behind the barricades and buffet lunches have our best interests at heart.
The minister declined an audience with the collective of resistance activists and constituents. The department would send no representative in her place. It was only when a couple hundred of us amassed outside of the ICC in Durban that they deigned it necessary to send the BRICS ambassador to hear the prepared memorandum of proposed alternatives to the BRICS approach to transforming the systems of capital governance to begin to benefit those who sustain them with their sweat.
They would have us believe in the possibility of a ‘trickle down’ effect, an eventual stimulus of services and employment resulting from our allowing the BRICS nations to have their way on (and in) the ground of Africa. Let us please not ignore the gross, almost obscene method of using a water metaphor like ‘trickle down’ to describe the projected benefits to a majority of people who have yet to have access to adequate running water or toilets that work. They don’t need a ‘trickle’. They need a gushing pipe attached to a thick hose that runs directly into their brick and tile homes and washes away thirst and sweat from another day of making sure that the rest of us have the same. Offering them a ‘trickle down’ is why those at the top shouldn’t be surprised when their faces are hit by a ‘spit up’.
There’s a gross slang term for taking a crap: to ‘pinch a loaf’. To ‘pinch’ something also means to steal it, so the phrase takes on new meaning in a country where the poorest of the poor are driven to theft to survive. In SA we talk about extreme fear as ‘shitting bricks’. These fecal metaphors can sometimes make plenty of sense, especially when they work as one. For example: to a nation of people, a majority of whom live below the ‘bread line’ without adequate ablution facilities, it seems a more comforting idea to ‘pinch a loaf’ then it does to ‘shit BRICS’.
‘Getting into bed with gangsters and police states, countries who still place people into labour camps without trial, is a dangerous move. Careful South Africa – you could end up shitting BRICS.’ – Tim Wells from the Tim Wells Blues Band, Durban.
* All images © Iain Robinson