Sunday, March 05, 2006

Time for a Paradigm Shift

If you open any newspaper in the world, chances are you'll read about people, ordinary people, fighting for some cause or another. From the Zapatistas in Mexico, to the feminist movements across the world, people are fighting for something. In a way its good; it represents the determination of people to fight against perceived injustices in society. A society resigned to its fate is a society defeated.

In developed countries we are blessed in that we have laws that guarantee our rights: our right to speak our minds, to take action against what we feel is unfair or unjust (within limits, of course). Many in the Third World are not given this privilege, this right. For some, violent revolution is the only solution they see. The ruling elite is corrupt, leeching from the poorest. Often even the ruling elite are slaves to some more powerful force, with little or no power at all over the fate of their people. Their sovereignty violated, they have no power over the people they are responsible for.

Theres a million issues causes for which one does indeed need to fight. Poverty and inequality is rampant around the world, even in countries we consider developed. Environmentally genocidal business practices, for the pursuit of ever-greater profits, ensure that our future generations will not enjoy this world as we do. Systematic slaughter of minority populations continues under the deafening silence of the major powers.

The problem here is two-pronged: firstly, there is a huge lack of awareness by people about anything outside their immediate communities. If you were to ask your neighbour how many people in the world are forced to live under two dollars a day, its almost certain they wouldnt be able to provide the correct answer: around 3 billion people. Nor would your neighbour know that less than one percent of what the world spends every year on the military would be needed to put every child in every country in school (of course, that hasn't happened). Your neighbour simply wouldnt know: neither would your local shopkeeper, hairdresser or baker.

Secondly, people don't really care. What doesn't affect us directly generally doesn't bother us. When you hear these figures thrown at you, it no doubt makes you pause for a second and ponder the unfairness of it all. You might even start to think about why this is the case. However, you're discomfort quickly passes, as that familiar Desperate Housewives theme starts to play from your television set.

I don't want to suggest that humans are generally apathetic. On the contrary: we're loaded with emotions. We care about lots of things. For instance, we really, really care about whether Joe Bloggs will ask Jane Doe to marry him this episode. We care about Jerry Springer's transsexual midgets. Without delving too deep into the 'anti-establishment' argument, we care about whatever we're fed. When it comes to the 'real world', most of us don't really have particularly strong feelings about much at all. Not to say we don't care about real things, that would be wrong, simply that the things we care about perhaps aren't the most important, most urgent issues there are.

If people really knew about the extent of poverty and inequality, they would care. If each and every person knew, and was directly confronted with the real tragedies of the third world, or even the tragedies of our societies, I believe a great majority would stand up and demand justice. Unfortunately, most of us with the power to orchestrate change, the middle and working classes, are comfortably insulated from the problems of the world. We don't have real contact with those truly suffering, nor are we informed of their plight by the major media outlets. Rather, we believe in the causes we're told to believe in. Homosexual rights, for example, need to be addressed, but are hardly more important than the 30,000 children that die daily due to poverty. And yet the media today gives us the impression this is the most important issue we face today. From gay marriages to Brokeback Mountain, the rights of homosexuals to express themselves is currently the 'in' thing of causes to support.

We need to break out of this manipulated bubble we live in. There are so many ways that even the ordinary person can do to help. Even educating ourselves can be a great help to those people who need us. And there are so many things really worth fighting for. There is inequality in every country in the world; it doesn't have to be the far-off third world country. Up until last week I was ignorant to the fact there is a large number of refugees in the city I live in, here in the UK! Environmental destruction and the depletion of our natural resources means that, with our approval, the rape of the Earth can go ahead. All we need to do is wake ourselves up to whats around us. Once that happens, we'll have real power to do what needs to be done, in whatever cause we choose to fight for.

facts, figures taken from here.

Posted by illogicist at 11:38 AM


  1. Blogger Per Your Request posted at 3/07/2006 07:25:00 AM  
    I admire your efforts and the research provided in your post. I also agree with you that there is an inequality of income, education and basic rights around the world. Yet, although your post points out what’s wrong it doesn’t state or touch on how we can fix it. I am curious as to what stand you take on alleviating poverty and inequalities. Is it really as simple as educating ourselves? Is there a policy we can introduce that would assist in balancing income across countries? Do we forgive countries of their outstanding debt?
  2. Blogger Dance 2 My Rhythm posted at 3/07/2006 06:29:00 PM  
    I also 100% agree with everything you have mentioned. I have thought about the same subject many a time and I find my problem to be a lack of time and resources. Being a part of that middle class that you mentioned, I find it a constant struggle to even maintain the little I do have. And when you are a part of the corporate rat race in an effort to be able to take care of yourself, your kids, and the rest of your family that has less than you, then well yes, it is difficult to be concerned about a world wide plight that does not directly affect you. How can I help someone I don't know, when I am struggling to support my Father who is unable to work? How can I help someone I don't know, when my Brother needs help buying a house for his wife and three kids? How can I help someone I don't know, when my child needs medical insurance? Please don't misunderstand, I am not making excuses... and I still agree with what you have posted, but don't be too hard on us "Desperate Housewives", most of us do offer support to others; but when you have a little to give you usually don't have to go too far to find someone in need.
  3. Blogger Lym posted at 3/08/2006 06:54:00 AM  
    This whole thing underlines pretty much one sentence: Don't undermine the power of education.

    I belive most if not all, can be cured by eradicating ignorace and promoting awareness in an effective manner.
  4. Blogger illogicist posted at 3/09/2006 03:23:00 AM  
    Thanks for your replies guys. PYR, unfortunately I dont find myself in a position to offer concrete solutions. Its easy enough for me to say, well if this and that didnt happen we wouldnt have been in this position to start with. Its much harder to say how to get out of the position we're in now. Its especially hard for a single individual to make a difference, which is why I think that, as individuals, what we can do is to try to educate ourselves so that we can educate others. Then maybe, as a larger group, we can go about doing things that can really make a difference.

    With regards to alleviating poverty and inequality, I think the policies of the World Bank and IMF have only added to existing poverty and inequality. By taking a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to a variety of very different countries (this approach essentially trying to emulate the Western model, regardless of whether it would work or not), they've only made matters worse in their countries. While the real motives of the IMF and World Bank can and should be questioned, I wont go into that right now. Suffice to say that bad policies (and massive interest payments on debt) are crippling the very ability of 3rd world countries to attempt to help themselves.

    Dance, I know what you mean. In my university, the recruitment drive is pretty strong. Theres always big corporations trying to come in and get the smart ones early. And we're encouraged to compete against each other in order to be chosen. And then, we work for the system. We're fed a lot of rhetoric about the companies and their size and success and blah, so that we feel part of a whole. The goal is success, when in fact success should be the means to another goal, if you know what I mean. Its all part of the global capitalist system we live in, where theres no such thing as enough.
    Theres a disconnect between what the firms we work for do and what we do for the firm. Michael Moore in one of his documentaries (dont remember which) talks about his hometown, where everyone works assembling cars for a particular company. What they dont see is that these cars are directly affecting them in that they are polluting the environment and such (not to mention feeding the corporate machine :p). But I think thats entirely understandable - its hard for the average person to be really aware of whats going on - that takes a concious effort. And even then, what are you supposed to do? Quit your job? Get a job at another company which probably does the same thing? As I said above, its easier to say if the system wasnt in place we'd be better off than to actually offer solutions. (i.e. I dont know :P)

    LYM, thanks for summarising my whole post into one sentence :p I feel a bit silly now, lol

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