I wonder what it would take to inspire an incoming government to creatively serve their people? What would the requirements be? What kind of mindset would the elected officials need to adopt in order to do this kind work? Is the bureaucracy so deeply ingrained that this kind of change is not possible? What is stopping society short of demanding systemic changes?
I suppose most people don’t wake in the morning thinking of creative ways to live, let alone change the world with their innovative ideas. Instead we plod along making some progress each day against achievable goals. We play it safe knowing that will be good enough. Best not to make waves and rock the boat.
Thinking differently might make us question if the events of 2020 are encouraging us to completely reimagine our world. Because of the pandemic we have been forced to rethink a myriad of truths we once held to so tightly. All of these cracks in our institutions, in our ways of being in the world are showing us information that are somewhat easy to digest. Of course many jobs can be performed remotely, creating a distributed workforce. Yet there is a danger in taking one action without thinking through the consequences. This overnight shift in society has taken an already privileged layer of people and levelled them up even higher above the masses of the less fortunate.
The far more difficult work ahead is trying to figure out how to create true equality. That is a big concept and should be a massive mandate for all governments and every citizen of the world. The basic necessities of life should be equally distributed to all. Clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. A safe place for rest. These should not be difficult conditions to create and yet for most of the world these are luxuries, out of reach.
People who uphold the status quo will protest that this kind of utopian world is not possible to achieve. They will demand to know who should pay for this? Surely not them. They have worked hard all their lives for what they have achieved and they are not about to give it up for people they don’t know. Yes, lifetime achievements are notable accomplishments and it would be unfair to arbitrarily demand redistribution of wealth. So what would encourage people with ‘more’ to recognize all the advantages they have benefited from and that there is possibly a duty to help those with ‘less’?
All of this is to say that equality is far from where we are now in society. The pandemic has opened pandora’s box and broadcast the message over the internet. If you want to know how people live who are less fortunate, you don’t have to get on an airplane to have a look. Those with power, privilege, status and wealth must start the movement towards equality. It is just not enough to think only of ourselves, our families and our small circles. We have to start thinking beyond that.
If we can’t find the empathy to create equality, are we any better than the ‘robber barons’ of old?
“Robber baron” is a derogatory metaphor of social criticism originally applied to certain late 19th-century American businessmen who were accused of using unscrupulous methods to get rich, or expand their wealth. The term was based on an analogy to the German robber barons, local feudal lords, or bandits in Germany who waylaid travelers through their ostensible territory, claiming some tax or fine was owed.
Make no mistake, even adjusted for inflation, Bloombergs list of billionaires are far more wealthy than the ‘robber barons’. While they may not be breaking the law and some of the top positions are held by people who are active philanthropists, this group could create lasting equality without a large cut to their portfolio. As a double whammy to society, some of the leaders who are so excessively wealthy are leading companies who are not paying their share of tax. (These 91 companies paid no federal taxes in 2018).
A recent report claims that ‘Top 1% Of U.S. Households Hold 15 Times More Wealth Than Bottom 50% Combined‘. The rates of increase for some of these people have actually skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to the article. If this kind of inequality exists in the worlds largest economy, it is hard to comprehend the wealth gap around the world.
Is it a cognitive bias that keeps us supporting government policy, practices and social norms which elevate the worlds most wealthy to even higher levels? Do we hope to climb there one day ourselves? Or are we afraid of being downgraded from our own positions? Would that be so unfair?
I guess this whole train of thinking makes me wonder why the current system, the patriarchy, still exists? If you look at the question logically, there is no reason that a small group of white men should still control so much of society some 7,000 years on. If we have true democracies around the world, the math doesn’t support how we are voting and behaving. Something else must be at play.
Patriarchy, as I see it, is a system that encompasses a worldview, arrangements about how we live as humans with each other on this planet, implicit blueprints for what kinds of institutions we would create, and guidelines for what to do with our young to prepare them for the system itself.
The underlying principle of patriarchy, as I understand it, is separation and control. The separation is from self, other, life, and nature. The fundamental structures we have created over these millennia are based on dominance and submission, and the worldview we have inherited justifies them as necessary to overcome both our basic nature and “Nature,” seen as separate from us. We pride self-control and frown on “emotionality”; we operate, organizationally, in command and control forms; we have been treating nature as a thing to exploit, use, subdue, and, most recently, convert to commodities for sale. –Miki Kashtan, Ph.D, Why Patriarchy Is Not About Men
Understanding how we are is one thing. Developing a better philosophy for the future is quite another. Depending on where one sits in the world today, agreeing that a change is needed does not even register as a fact. This difference of opinion is probably why our democracies are becoming ever more divided. Everything feels righteously correct in their point of view and that they are standing on firm ground, with ‘facts’ as supporting documentation. If we keep going this way, we are done for.
The way I see it, we need to be creatively in service to one another. Solutions need to be our goal. This type of activity requires us to suspend judgement and actively engage in solving problems. It is really as simple as that. There is no such thing as right or wrong, winners or losers. This is not a game, this is life. It really does “take all sorts to make a world”. Where we get into trouble is by dividing up the ‘sorts’ and classifying them into ranks. This is what we have been doing for far too long.
One bold first step that Western democracies could take is establishing a ‘universal-basic-income’, or UBI. Again, we must suspend negative judgement on new ideas. Instead we are called to understand what equality truly means and take steps towards achieving that. Will it be perfect? No. Will it be worth it? Yes.