Samir Amin died last Sunday. A Marxist intellectual of the highest order he was the intellectual’s intellectual.
There may be more appealing left-wing thinkers such as Indian author Arundhati Roy or Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani but in my opinion, none were as original and clear thinking as Amin.
Amin’s description of the world and how it (unfairly) operated was precise and compelling. A straight arrow, he was unapologetic in his call for revolutionary change but also understood the complexity of the tasks at hand. I was introduced to Amin’s work in 2014 whilst reading for a post-graduate degree in International Relations. I was captivated by his work.
Amin described an alliance that dominated the world as ‘the triad’. The triad essentially consists of the United States, Western Europe and Japan. For Amin, the triad represented a collective imperialism dominating the world. On its own, this description is not really riveting.
What is exciting, however, is that the triad was not neat with just three members. It was messy with some interesting hanger-on countries. Amin included Australia and Canada as a part of this collective imperialism.
Because of my love for cricket and rugby, I could easily believe Australia being part of a global imperialist network, but Canada?
Canada in my view is supposed to be the good guys. They seem so nice. We never hear of the Canadian government threatening any country.
But Amin, this doyen of left intellectualism pegged Canada as 'not that good a guy.'
I recall years ago my friend telling me that to be handsome, one must just have ugly friends, and that’s why I am one of his closest buddies.
Canada may have mastered that strategy, and seems to get away without much scrutiny because they are not the U.S.
Many Canadians may sound like Americans, music artists such as Drake, Justin Bieber or Alanis Morisette but Canada does not lose the title of being non-threatening.
Yves Engler’s groundbreaking book, published in 2015, Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation, attempted to lift the lid on Canada’s duplicitous role throughout the ages, exposing how Canada benefited from the transatlantic slave trade and from the scramble for African resources. However, not many took notice of it.
We should be more cognizant of countries such as Canada that have economic strategies involving the exploitation of Africa’s resources.
In June 2016 in the American political magazine Counterpunch, Engler highlighted that Canada is home to 0.5% of the world's population but interestingly pointed out that half of all the internationally listed mining companies operating in Africa are Canadian.
The article further highlighted the most reprehensible corporate practices in some of the poorest areas in the world. For instance, in April 2016 a Tanzanian tribunal found Canadian company Barrick Gold guilty of a “sophisticated scheme of tax evasion”.
Canadians pride themselves that they are not like their big brother neighbour, the US. Canada is still home to a number of South Africans, who had initially settled there when in exile from the apartheid state. And many political refugees find asylum in Canada.
There are many progressive NGOs and international welfare organisations based in Canada, who advocate and support a number of global human rights solidarity campaigns. Indeed, Canada is regarded as a place where human rights and freedom is central to their citizen culture.
But it seems though that the corporate practices of Canadian mining companies are as guilty as other mining companies of conniving with local corrupt elites to displace communities, exploitative labour practices, evading tax and so forth.
Canadian citizens enjoy a high standard of living and genuinely support that the world should be a better place.
They believe that Canada’s greatness is because of how productive and honest they are. Making it doubly difficult, if not impossible, for the average Canadian to acknowledge that Canadian mining companies in Africa are not only polluting the environment but participate in part of the corruption in Africa.
In reality, the rapacious profit-taking probably bears greater responsibility for the high standard of living than the productivity and honesty of Canadians.
Canada represents the complexities of changing the reality of global inequality and injustice. But alas, it is not just Canada.
There is a legion of countries in the political North who do not conjure up an image of the classic chauvinistic macho American politics of Trump but in essence are what keeps the machine chugging away.
Take Sweden for instance, famously always a neutral country never participating in the war, yet, a large part of their economy is actually based on the manufacturing of arms.
Maybe we should heed the warning about Canada by Cartman and his buddies in the American cartoon series, South Park and expose the hypocrisy of countries like Canada and others on all multilateral forums so that a genuine dialogue takes place rather than just perennially blaming the U.S.
* Donovan E Williams is a regular social commentator and activist.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.