Today, we often react in horror to the accounts of ancient societies that carried out human sacrifice, as if the modern world has moved far past these brutal practices. But today there are more contemporary forms of human sacrifice that many of us have become accustomed to. Recently, a chief executive of the Qatar World Cup committee said the quiet part out loud by acknowledging this reality.
Following the death of a Filipino migrant construction worker who slipped off a ramp and fell headfirst onto concrete, Qatar was rightfully criticized by human rights groups. But this was just one death among many, as an estimated 6,500 migrant workers have died in preparation for the World Cup from everything from exhaustion, heat stress, and construction accidents to suicide. In response to the media scrutiny, Nasser al-Khater, chief executive of the Qatar World Cup said explicitly, ” … death is a natural part of life – whether it’s at work, whether it’s in your sleep.”
Death may be a natural part of life, but not death due to the miserable conditions of work. That is a form of killing — killing innocent people by imposing dangerous conditions of work in order to cut costs and make a buck. Deaths of this sort, which could easily be prevented, especially when caused by powerful corporations like FIFA and governments like Qatar, are nothing but negligent homicide.
Deaths of this sort certainly didn’t begin with World Cup in Qatar. They have always been a part of this profit system.
It can be seen in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, when 146 garment workers burned to death because they were locked inside their factory in New York City. It can be seen in the Bhopal gas explosion in 1984, when over 3,000 people were killed and over 500,000 were seriously injured when exposed to harmful chemicals due to corporate negligence. It can be seen in the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in 2013 that crushed and killed thousands of garment workers after management ignored the safety concerns. It can be seen in the “Cancer Alley” region of Louisiana between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the rate of cancer is almost 50% higher than the national average because it is one of the worst polluted areas in the world. It can be seen in the epidemic of suicides by electronics manufacturing workers at the Foxconn plant in China, pushing the company to install nets on the building to minimize its public relations nightmare. It can be seen in the nearly three million deaths per year of workers who die from work-related causes around the world.
As horrific as it may seem to sacrifice people to appease so-called gods, this system sacrifices people far more often and in much greater numbers to appease those who think they are the gods of this society, the capitalists, who are willing to amass their wealth at any cost. Working class and poor people around the world are the fuel that is burned up to keep the engine running in this system.
When we or our loved ones suffer premature deaths in today’s world, it certainly is not a natural part of life, but it is a natural part of this system.