Give me Liberty. Give me Death.

The insatiable desire and divine quest to be at the forefront of economic supremacy leaves many bodies in its wake. Some, in the extreme cases, quite literally.

Imagine a world that’s driven by money. Every decision, every choice, every option, every opportunity, for good or for ill, has a dollar sign fixed to it. Imagine a world where, in it, you’re a farmer trying to do your best to provide for your family but everything you grow doesn’t even belong to you; it belongs to someone in a fine suit and a freshly pressed tie who lives thousands of miles away. Imagine a world where what little money you do make isn’t even worth much in your own country. Imagine a world where your own government isn’t on your side and seeks only to advance it’s own agenda. Or is it an agenda imposed on it by a greater political or economic power? I can never keep track of these things… Imagine a world where you’re being forced out of your own home, against your will and now, perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to make a resounding proclamation, imagine that rather than eviction, you elect a more drastic response: Suicide.

This sounds like fiction, does it not? It’s mind boggling and, quite frankly, incomprehensible that this could be going on in our world right here, right now. Maybe for some of you, it’s not that surprising. Either way, this is the reality that farmers are facing in China right now. Since 2008, approximately 39 farmers have committed suicide as a form of protest against the Chinese government who has gone about their systematic removal on the edges of big Chinese cities to make room for urbanization and new sources of economic growth.

Now, as I read Ian Johnson’s for the New York Times, “Picking Death Over Eviction”, I think to myself, “Is this what it’s really come to? Is this the world we live in today? A world where a person would rather die than to leave the place where the live and make a living?” In a neoliberal world, we’re at the point where life and death is quite literally in the power of the buck. The coin, friends, is more powerful than the atomic bomb. Let that one sink in for a bit…

Neoliberalism, for those of you who don’t know, is a world economy that is based on and led by the market, specifically the price of the market. This was something new for me to learn one who, for many years now, was trained and educated as an architect. There was no talk of “neoliberalism” or “globalization” in our classes. There was no need to. Now, as a student in urban planning, I can see that it affects everyone, whether you realize it or not.

“There is no one helping us. There’s is no justice in the world. There is no law.”  — sister of Hu Tengping

Although one of the facets of neoliberalism is the reduction of government involvement in economic affairs, it’s the big boys who are making the rules and pushing the smaller guys around. If the world is market driven and market based and all the world’s wealth is owned by an elite few, who’s to oppose them? Wealth isn’t the biggest problem we face today; it’s the distribution of it. So, to be at the table, to have a bigger piece of the pie, we find ourselves at a place where someone would rather kill themselves than be evicted all in the name of “economic growth and development”. Countries are parceling off pieces of their own land to make room for developers. Displaced citizens are being forced to move “elsewhere”, undoubtedly being packed into already dense cities like sardines. Entire ways of life, traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation are being ripped to shreds all in the name of growth.

What’s left behind? Mutilated Bodies. Fractured Lives. Broken Promises. Shattered Dreams. Oh, I’m sure that our governments are thinking about us when they’re pushing for the development of this and the revitalization of that.

Colonialism isn’t dead; it wears the same face. It just sings a different tune.

The vision for growth should not undermine the viability and vitality of life.


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