Tragedies of a Terrorizing System

Anytime our loved ones are killed and taken from us it is a tragedy. And the bombings at the Boston Marathon are no different. Three people died, over 170 were injured and maimed, and hundreds of thousands were traumatized for life. From the FBI, the police, and the National Guard, the city of Boston was put under a state of military siege, told to stay locked in their homes as a sweeping manhunt for two people unfolded outside.

Meanwhile, we’ve been bombarded by government officials and media spokespeople telling us how violent terrorists are out to get us, how we need armed military personnel and surveillance at every large event in the country. We’re expected to live in fear at the threat of foreign terrorists, supposedly hiding in plain sight, ready to kill at any place at any time.

There is some truth in the hysteria that the media is stirring up about terrorism but it isn’t the terrorism of violent individuals living in the U.S. It’s the terrorism of an economic system that puts the making of profits above all else.

Some of this terror is produced by the poverty this system sentences people to. In the poorest cities across the U.S., thousands are murdered each year by this kind of violence. In Oakland, 131 people were murdered last year – that’s a death toll equal to having a Boston bombing every week. But this kind of violence is accepted and even expected in poor cities all over the world.

Two days after the explosions in Boston, there was an even bigger and deadlier explosion that took place in the town of West, Texas at the West Fertilizer Company, killing 15 people, injuring over 200, destroying over 75 homes. The explosion shook houses as far as 50 miles away, registering a 2.1 magnitude earthquake by the U.S. Geological Survey. It leveled buildings and homes within five blocks, destroying a nearby nursing home, apartment complex, and a middle school. The blast left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep.

The facility hadn’t had a safety inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) since 1985 even though it had 270 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate – 1,300 times the amount required to be reported to the Department of Homeland Security. The facility made so many illegal cutbacks it didn’t even have fire sprinklers, shut-off valves, fire alarms or blast walls, all of which could have prevented the destruction from the explosion. This was a tragedy waiting to happen.

None of this is surprising when every year over 4,500 workers die in the U.S. from workplace accidents. The government has continuously cut funding on workplace safety. In 2011, a person was 270 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than from a terrorist attack but the budget for OSHA was $558 million while it was $47 billion for Homeland Security. OSHA is so understaffed, with only 2,200 inspectors for over eight million workplaces – it could only inspect each workplace once every 129 years.

And the situation is even worse for workers around the world. Just last week a garment factory in Savar, Bangledesh – producing garments for Walmart and other U.S. and British companies – collapsed, killing over 400 people. The facility was in such bad shape the local police ordered it evacuated but the management ignored the order, forcing 2,000 workers to keep working.

Every year over 2.3 million workers die from workplace injuries around the world. Corporations cut corners to cut costs, putting our lives at risk in the process. Safety laws can only go so far as no law can change the fact that corporations make even more money under unsafe conditions.

There is a terrorism and a tragedy that we all face on a daily basis but it is not the tragedy that comes from the terror of lone individuals. It is the tragedy from the terror of a system organized to defend the interests of corporations, a system that terrorizes our lives for profits.