An Open Letter to Winnipeg, from Johannesburg.
Indeed there is a frontline. It’s where the forces of capitalism are felt most acutely. You can see with your own eyes, everywhere you look, the detrimental effects of the system we seek to abolish. You can’t see it in Winnipeg; at least not as clearly. In Winnipeg you have to think to see it. In Johannesburg, it is everything.
In Winnipeg you could be forgiven for thinking ‘hey, it’s not all bad’ or ‘ah, they just need to pull up their socks’ or ‘nah, that only happens in Africa’. But it is happening in Winnipeg too. Look around. See the corporations putting momnpops out of business. See the temporary foreign workers doing jobs no self-respecting white settler Canadian will do, because Tim Horton himself just doesn’t want to pay people very much; he has a cottage on the Lake of the Woods, you see. There’s the city chewing on farmland so developers who are (probably literally) sleeping with the mayor to make a quick few million, building crappy houses with crappier materials as quickly as possible. Check the university graduates working unpaid internships to gain experience, when that business or organization has no intention of ever paying anyone to do that job. The list goes on…
But here in South Africa, on the frontlines, people see these things more acutely. They live it. It’s white farm-owners (as opposed to farmers - you have to actually do work to be called a farmer in my books) preferring undocumented Zimbabwean migrants because they’ll work for less than minimum wage, and if they don’t they’ll be deported back to where there are even fewer livelihood options. It’s waitrons working for no wage at all - only tips. It’s eight-foot walls with barbed wire and electric fences along the top. It’s armed response security firms. It’s men and women doing hard manual labour in Canadian-owned mines under conditions that would be scandalous in Canada, for less than I made pumping gas when I was 15. All of this stuff is obvious here. In Winnipeg, it’s not so obvious. You have to look for it.
So, that’s why I say these are the frontlines. Because this is where the battle is being fought. And it’s being fought by people you will never meet. People who will probably never be famous. But they are saving the world. Indeed they are saving Winnipeg.