Monday, July 28, 2008

The Great Discremenation

Humans don’t take kindly to outsiders especially when they look differently. History is heaped with the corpses of those who were lynched, bayoneted or gassed because of their race, religion or nationality. Throughout the history the one group has imposed its racial superiority on another. Imperialism has imposed various forms of apartheid and racial segregation in all four continents. Today, most westerners and some Afghans think that the days of racism are gone. Racism belongs to history and they now have respect for all people, disregarding their skin colour. Since the international intervention in Afghanistan, Americans and the rest of the international community have presented their military and political presence to support democracy and human rights and frankly they got me believing in it for five years. I hear say that discrimination is today deeply institutionalised than any other time before. Westerners are in control of Afghanistan and they exercise discrimination on a mass scale. I am an educated person and I deal with foreigners who run organisations in Afghanistan. one would think there might be racism when western troops handle ordinary afghans on the street but not in formal level but it does exist. An afghan earn less and will not be employed in key positions in foreign organisation who are to serve Afghans. I am lately looking for a job and I have applied for many with foreign organisations; understandably enough I only apply for jobs I like but they seem to be only reserved for foreigners even I match the criteria. I do not get a response from most of the employers. I have applied lately for a job as a TV Producer with ISAF. I was denied the job without considering my qualification because I am Afghan, it is only reserved for westerners. People earn less because of their race or their sex, I think this is unfair and many people agree with this. No western institution, apparently, should be enforcing discrimination of earning based on race or sex but ISAF do and I wrote to NATO headquarter to say this is indecent and a bad policy but they didn’t care to reply.
Let’s look at sex discrimination first, according to a recent summary by the economists Michael Clemens (link to the publication ) white men earn 27 per cent more in the US than white women. That figure compares the hourly wage of full-time workers with similar qualifications and experience. Again making best efforts to compare like with like, the economists found that white men earn 7 per cent more than black men in the US. Look back to 1939, and the like-with-like wage premium for whites in the US was 60 per cent. In modern Pakistan, meanwhile, men earn three times as much as equally qualified women. I do not have any figures for Afghanistan but I promise you it will not look good. None of these numbers is trivial: most are appalling.
It is even possible to calculate the implicit wage loss suffered by US slaves. Several economists have attempted to do this by comparing the “compensation” – food, clothes, shelter and perhaps some medical care – received by slaves with how much one slave-owner would pay another to rent a slave. Of course, low wages were hardly the chief reason that slavery was an atrocity. Yet had slaves earned for their labour what slave-owners paid each other for it, the wage would have been three or four times higher than the basic subsistence owners saw fit to provide.
There is a huge gap between what slaves would have earned in a free labour market and what in fact they were forced to accept. But the gap is dwarfed by the difference between what my income as an Afghan with a Master degree and five years of managerial experience in Afghanistan and Westerners with a Bachelor degree with no Afghanistan experience could earn in Afghanistan. in the letter, ISAF recruitment refers me to apply for local jobs; local jobs are paid ten to twenty times less than the job I applied for. Recruitment discrimination practiced by ISAF and almost all other foreign organisation in Afghanistan cause a greater loss of wages than racial and sexual discrimination – and even greater even than slavery. This is what I call the great discrimination.
You could say my argument has an agenda and I am playing this but don’t doubt the numbers; have a look for yourself and see the differences between jobs offered for Afghans and those for westerners, I see no reason to doubt the numbers. The high wage to an Afghan benefits Afghanistan directly and indirectly, directly an Afghan would contribute by paying high taxes and indirectly an Afghan will spend the money in Afghanistan.
The face of nationalism has changed in the twenty first century; it is economical today which doesn’t mean it is better than twenty century nationalism. Probably better than it is extreme forms exposed as Nazism. National states impose restriction on employment and labour markets to benefit their national economy; this is at the cost of many people barred from accessing better wages, consequently more opportunities in life. nevertheless what I am talking about is different to economic nationalism. I am talking about not having access to jobs in your own country. in my own country, merely because of my nationality I am precluded from employment in many positions.
This leads me to say that discrimination is today institutionalised. Is this the modern form of racism? Foreign organisations employing Afghans at considerably lower wages privileges westerners over Afghans in their own country and it is no better than arbitrarily privileging whites over blacks or brown. I understand how a liberal westerner working in Kabul could not see things like this. They are in a cyst of their own and they have certain ideas of equality and Afghans. Westerners working in Afghanistan despite their claim of humanity and all the rest of things which goes with liberal westerners seriously lack empathy, they do not understand how these discrimination effect an Afghan who is equally qualified but institutional barred from being economically equal with westerners in his own country and not allowed to travel to the west.
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