The Money is There
It was A.D. 250, in Central America. The Mayan cities were ruled by kings, and the average people had virtually no political power. Royalty would be worshipped as gods even though they treated the people like slaves. Anyone who challenged the hierarchy would be slaughtered. This power structure was maintained throughout the Mayan civilization by keeping the people powerless.
It is hundreds of years later and not much has changed. The distribution of wealth is corrupted to benefit the rich, we make laws to keep the working class down, and we have the threat of police and prison to silence dissent. I painted a post-modern piece depicting what I imagine the Mayan power structure would look like in 2013 Canada, to illustrate the unfortunate similarities between our two cultures.
In politics one of the most important questions is the distribution of wealth, the question of who gets what. Who in society receives the burdens and who receives the benefits. In ancient Maya the majority of the population would receive the burdens of working, building, and slaving, while the king and royalty would collect all the benefits with none of the work.
The model is very similar today. The majority of the world is impoverished, and a very small percent of the human population own the majority of societies’ benefits: money. This is a global power structure of the few ruling the rest, the 1% ruling the 99. Other examples of this can be found in almost any corporation. Average workers are treated as cheap and expendable labour, and their fates are decided by the CEO of the company. This is a power dynamic that keeps the richest making the decisions. In the past few years of this recession corporations have implemented massive lay-offs across North America, bank fees have gone up, and wages have gone down. Yet curiously CEOs of these same corporations have received record profits. As long as we allow a structure where the rich make the decisions for us, we will continue to be victim to this economic slave system.
Throughout history people have been oppressed; when there is hierarchy it is usually accompanied by oppression. This is not because the average person likes being oppressed. People, if given the chance, would choose freedom over submission. A powerful deterrent for social rebellion however, is the threat of force. The form that that force takes changes from society to society, whether it be the strongest warriors in the tribe, the royal guards, the military, or police. For Canadians, it is the police. The Mayan royals were very open about defending their power structure, if you challenged them you were killed or imprisoned. Even though now governments are sometimes just as obvious in their efforts to eliminate rebellion, as we saw with Fred Hampton’s assassination for example, they try to be subtler nowadays. Today whenever there is a rebellious group or any sign of challenging the power structure, our government passes a law to make whatever act that group is doing illegal, and uses the media to paint the group as either criminals, terrorists, or to discredit them in any way. This allows them to send in police forces to incarcerate or beat any rebellious thinking out of society. This is a systematic effort by our government and big corporations that control this country to eliminate dissent. There is no example more apparent of this fact than G20.
The ancient Mayans had laws to keep the average person working for royalty, and so do we. Today our leaders aren’t called royalty. They are the heads of big banks and corporations that own our media, our police, our prison system, and our government. They, just like the Mayans, have created a system using legislation like Bill 115 to keep workers in their place. Canadian history is filled with class struggle, and the successful formation of unions and collective bargaining was a victory in the constant fight between workers and establishment. Unions and collective bargaining gives workers power against those who would exploit them, like the heads of big corporations for example. Very recently our Liberal government decided to take away workers’ right to collective bargaining and to take away teachers’ right to strike through Bill 115. This is an obvious attack on workers’ rights and a means to keep workers oppressed and subservient. The fewer rights we have as workers, the easier it is to exploit and take advantage of us. It is time we stopped taking this abuse and stop serving the royalty that controls our political system, a system that is meant to be run by the people to foster and protect our rights.
It is easy for us now to look back at the flaws in Mayan society. We scorn them for their seemingly barbaric killing rituals and scorn them for not having a just, democratic society like ours. We feel superior because we claim to be more civilized than the ancient Mayans. And maybe that is true, we have evolved in many ways. We are able to slaughter thousands of people with a single push of a button. We are able to enslave and manipulate the masses without them even knowing it. We are able to use propaganda in such subtle and complex ways, the Mayans would have never thought possible. We have mastered the art of oppression.
But in many more important ways, we have not evolved at all. We still have not learned the simple truth that power does not belong to a small group of people in society; it belongs to everyone. An important lesson that we can learn from any society, current or ancient, is that those in power will never give power to the people. Oppressors will never willingly stop oppressing. It is up to the people to take what is rightfully theirs. It’s about time we take our power back.
January 23, 2013