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Cape Town Municipal Workers Riot

Street Trash

by Brandon Edmonds / Images by Roger Young / 22.08.2011

So much going on. Where to begin? 2011 will be remembered for trashing streets (though the years to come will be so crisis-ridden and wracked with antagonism, will we look back at this one as the moment it all began?). Rage displays spilling over into branded consumer (what used to be known as public) space. We’ve seen a lot of this lately. Young Londoners, poisoned by the Sex Pistol’s “No Future” coming grimly to pass in the slashing of education grants and social services (to pay the bill for the much greater crime of astronomical bank bailouts with public cash), harassed by arbitrary arrest, and ground down by post-meltdown joblessness, trashed streets and stole stuff. What a surprise. The media ritually roots around for a Reason (it happened after Columbine and Rodney King) when the tendentious refusal to see what capitalism is doing to us IS a reason. There are ongoing street protests in Israel, Greece and Spain. Cost-cutting political elites have unleashed an assault on the basic conditions of survival to pay for the greed of mortgage lenders and financial speculators. Even Egyptians are back on the streets to save their revolution from the Generals. People everywhere are discovering their own collective power after conformist decades of being told we’re good for little more than slaving away and lining up at the till.

Closer to home, municipal workers took to the streets last week. They want an 18% pay hike (R2000) which seems like a lot given that just by having a steady job means they’re already in a very privileged position in this chronically unemployed country. It is standard academic boilerplate by now that “liberation” shortchanged the majority while boosting insiders, incoming players and the already-wealthy. The top 10% makes 94 times more than the bottom 10. And that 18% hike municipal workers want is still less than the 23.3% bump in pay executive directors of the top 40 companies on the JSE enjoyed last year. Who earn R4.8 million a year. On average. If you think executive directors “add value” and are far more important than municipal workers enjoy watching your trash pile up over the next few weeks.

SAMWU members recently trashed streets in downtown Cape Town. It looked ugly. Street vendors’ stock was stolen and their stalls destroyed. Destruction is the key word. Value was destroyed in the crash. Resulting bailouts have destroyed what little legitimacy political institutions had in people’s eyes. It makes globalization, the dominant way we’re led to understand our world, look and feel that much harsher, a lot less rewarding. Nobody believes the system is working. Freed from consensus, the official version of the just and the good, people act out. They destroy shit. Executive pay is a fuck you to all of us. It just sucks that street vendors operate where the action is, in public space, while CEO’s sit in the air-conditioned offices of company HQ’s.

Cape Town Municipal Workers Riot

*Images © Roger Young.

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  1. C'Mon says:

    Can you guys please stop conflating what is happening in the world with capitalism.

    All the things you refer to are linked to the misdemeanours of the BANKING system – a debt based financial system that has turned predatory. These buggers have been enslaving countries for decades via the IMF and World Bank while the commercial banks have been turning us greedy little consumers into debt serfs. All that has happened is it has reached critical mass and is about to collapse under the weight of fiat currency handed to bloated governments to pursue dead-end social welfare programs, corporate bailouts, foreign military escapades and some big fucking yachts.

    This shit-storm is going to bring with it hyper-inflation and economic collapse. There are many, many capitalists who were totally in favour of the ‘too big to collapse’ banks collapsing, and the market re-adjusting naturally. Government pumping tax dollars into private corporations to avoid corporations having to adjust to the realities of the markets they are fucking with *is not free market capitalism* – I think the correct term for it is fascism, at least by Mussolini’s definition: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”.

    So just be clear who your enemies are – it’s not the Somali guy who opened the curry & chip shop down the road, and is prepared to put in the hours to give his kids an education and a better life. We’re talking fat cat Mafioso kleptocrats that would swing any economic system to their advantage. The only way the little guy can win is by fighting against ANY centralisation of power under ANY political or economic system.

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  2. 2c says:

    If I had a nickel for every time Edmonds threatened to leave this site with a affecting proclamation of tired self-worth on the comment threads, then came crawling back, I’d have enough capital to go into business. Edmonds, don’t make the claim again, because it makes you look desperate.

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  3. Roger Young says:

    Edmonds hasn’t come crawling back. He is no longer the features editor. He is, however, a freelance writer and is allowed to submit stories from time to time. It’s how he makes a living, you know, capitalism and all that.

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  4. 2c says:

    Nope, he’s crawling back alright. I don’t remember his gripe being with being the features editor. It appeared to be writing for a site where he was under-appreciated, where people thought his commentary was just an underresearched fashionable anti-capitalism and where he presumably didn’t get paid very much if I know Andy Davis. Yep, he’s back in that saddle, chafing his balls to pay the rent.

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  5. brandon edmonds says:

    right now lets discuss your professional life…asshole.

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  6. 5c says:

    Now, now kids. I think I speak for many Mahala readers when I say I’ll read anything Brandon Edmonds writes about, be it underresearched, fashionable, anti-capitalist, 2 girls 1 cup.

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  7. Andy says:

    “If you think executive directors “add value” and are far more important than municipal workers enjoy watching your trash pile up over the next few weeks.”

    Edmonds is back!

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  8. UrOverlord says:

    Haven’t read much Edmonds stuff but he’s right. Capitalism is some fucked up shit.

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  9. Brett says:

    While you may not agree with all of Edmonds is saying, he appears to be one of the few people writing for Mahala who is taking on the bigger issues in South Africa.
    He’s provocative, but at least he is getting the reader to engage.
    Keep it coming.

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