As the 2016 Olympic euphoria continues, a very different form of competition has been brewing on the streets of Rio De Janeiro. It is a race not for gold, but for survival. A fight not between athletes but between the elite and destitute. For many years the world has been fixated on Brazil’s prodigious growth, yet simultaneously oblivious to the extreme levels of inequality it harbours. Almost 20 million people in the country live on approximately $1 a day, whilst the richest 10% receive roughly 50% of all income as opposed to the poorest 10% who receive around only 1%. Lest we forget, Brazil was once considered ‘Latin America’s gold standard for economic and social development’, yet today we find it to be the complete antithesis. It has shrunk for five consecutive quarters, with economists expecting it to contract further by 4.3% this year. In fact the value of Brazil’s economy has dropped from $2.6 tn to a staggering $1.8 tn, over the course of five years alone. To make matters even worse, unemployment has risen to almost 11 million and the country has accumulated a massive budget deficit (10.4% of GDP) in desperate attempts to resuscitate the economy from its recessionary malaise. Despite the country’s political and economic failings, it still maintains the temerity to host the World Cup and the Olympic games that have, for decades, attracted worldwide attention. However, with such attention has come great criticism against Brazil’s hypocrisy. It was found that roughly 30 million children live in poverty, and were subject to harsh environments involving violence, trafficking, hard labour, prostitution, drugs, begging, slavery and sexual exploitation. Further still, these figures have only deteriorated in preparation for Rio 2016. In fact, both the Olympics and the World Cup have exacerbated the situation, particularly when a considerable number of employees have lost their lives in the process and when a great number of families have been cleansed by forced evictions to make space for the futility of a few games. This is clearly far from a sporting event but rather a political tool for the Brazilian government to flaunt its ostensible wealth so as to conceal its own systemic failure. Upon this pretext, a great deal of capital (approximately $12 bn overall) will be squandered on the Olympics to purport a healthy economy, when most of it could have actually been spent seeking just that. There is clearly a lack of accountability over those in power to spend their budget appropriately for the betterment of society and whilst the people suffer the massive opportunity costs, sponsors will reap the profits from their investments, only to leave when the event concludes – caring not for the Brazilian people but for the size of their wallets. Evidently then, Brazil is a failing country much like many of its emerging counterparts (BRIC) that are often put forward as capitalism’s success stories.
To blame Brazil however, for Brazil’s failure is akin to missing the forest for the trees. Endemic inequality is not a matter of policy nor president or prime minister, it is an ideological issue inherent to capitalism. The incessant fixation on olympic growth (for the rich) as opposed to distribution (for the poor) should not come as a shock, for it is a mentality filtered within most developed/developing nations that sustain the laissez-faire system, and it is certainly a problem familiar to the people. As Joseph Stiglitz once aptly said ‘the rules of the market economy had been written to serve the interests of the one per cent’. It is therefore necessary that we realise the very systemic nature of this problem and how it has clearly manifested in Rio De Janeiro.
The world must look past the Olympic façade and unto the depravity that surrounds them. It is Islam that holds the true solution to capital inequality and global poverty. Unlike capitalism, it is concerned first with the necessity of preserving life before the luxury of entertainment. The Islamic economic system would hasten to meet the needs of the impoverished within the favelas and it would be the first to extinguish corruption and iniquity on the streets of Rio. Further still, it would be a duty upon the neck of the Caliph to pull the poor out of their poverty by redistributing capital from the elite towards the destitute via an effective wealth-based taxation system.
In fact, the one who rules by Islam is held under close inspection; if he spends the people’s wealth on useless matters that do nothing to alleviate their issues (much like the Olympics), he would be accountable for it. This is better understood when Muhammad (saw) once said:
“The one who takes people’s wealth intending to pay it back, Allah will pay it back for him, and the one who takes it intending to waste it, Allah will waste him” and that “each of you is a guardian and each of you is questioned over his subjects, the Imam who is responsible over the people and he is questioned over his responsibility, and the man is responsible over the people of his household and he is questioned over them, and the woman is responsible over her husbands house and his children and she is questioned over them, and the slave is a guardian over the wealth of his master and he is questioned over it, each of you is a guardian and each of you is questioned over their responsibility.” (Muslim/ Bukhari)
Indeed, it is not through the display of gold medals that Islam gains its strength, but it is through the protection of its people and the ability to solve their problems that it becomes respected in the eyes of muslims and non-muslims alike. It is therefore imperative for the world, and in particular the people of Brazil, to realise that Islam is the only ideology that is able to solve their dire economic and political situation and that capitalism has failed (and will continue) to do just that.
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