Fighting Inequality(ies)…

The week of January 14-20, 2017 is being utilized as a week of action to FIGHT INEQUALITY. Initiated by the  Fight Inequality Alliance, its aimed at drawing attention and focus on inequality within the global economic realm and especially highlighting the far reaching effect of poverty and general impoverishment. This is purposely to coincide with the World Economic Forum occurring within the same period in Davos, Switzerland.

fight-inequalityThe reason for this global call to action is expressed below, as per the website – http://www.fightinequality.org:

Inequality has reached extreme and dangerous levels, and has put too much power into the hands of millionaires and powerful corporations. What’s worse, a growing number of hate-filled leaders are gaining power by pretending to stand up for the poorest. But they are not champions for ordinary people and have no intention of ending corporate greed, tax dodging, privatisation of services, and exploitation of workers, women and minorities. In fact, they are stirring division and discrimination that threatens to take us back to the horrors of the past.We know it’s possible to have a society where everyone matters, and nobody is rich or powerful enough to be immune from the rules. But powerful elites and corporations won’t change a system that works for them without pressure.

Evidence to this is given for example by OXFAMAmerica which highlights that just 8 men have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. Source:www.oxfamamerica.org/just8.

 

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Image source: Sustainable Human

Consequently this leads to disparities in income (micro) and the disproportionate economies of scale (macro) which manifest into all types of inequalities and inequalities at all levels, namely social and spatial inequalities. The capitalist mindset stemming from modern day commerce and industry have through the centuries, post -Industrial Revolution era, contributed to the accumulation and amassing of familial wealth. The wealth have been so concentrated within these hands that it is a vain attempt at extricating same except through philanthropy and endowments.

Image result for inequality definition Image result for inequality definition

The promise of wealth accumulation by those outside of these circles have had flickering success through the signing of social entrepreneurial spirits. New inventions and the technological age have opened new frontiers for innovation and thus creating new opportunities for virtual richest.

North-South debate (examining inequality on a geographic scale)

To dial back to an earlier point in the discussion though, the laissez-faire /captalist model is referenced as having contributed to the highly extractive approaches that have left many countries in the developing world reeling with the after-effects. The growth and development of many countries in the ‘North’ at the expense of countries in the ‘South’ is debated in many lecture theatres, college hallways and in social media. The main take home is that the wealth in the hands of the few have been also at the expense of so many  with far-reaching geographic impact.

So in the inequality dialogue one must examine what the global recessions – in quick succession, harsh economic climates and banking crises and such have unearthed- serious and indepth analyses at the individual all the way through household and country levels.  From a theoretical perspective it is not surprising that many of the economic paradigms of the last decades have been reviewed and are now being examined. Many of the problems of this world involving inequality for example cannot be resolved by economic means. This is as many researchers and policy analysts have determined that the economic approach have contributed to and have been the cause of much inequality. As we navigate a paradigm shift social engineers only seek to determine whether or not there are key salvageable and meritorious elements of economic models that can be utilized to assist with a re-engineering of our thinking. Inequality after all is a quantitative measure, in so much as it is able to be, used to explain the qualitative construct of the problem.

 

 

 

‘Evolving Intelligence’

I recently, while channel surfing, came across the movie ‘Simone’ starring Al Pacino. What had seemed like a harmless, frivolous quasi- science fiction movie- when I watched it during its first release- had now become an insidiously reflective modern dramatic representation of the reality of artificial intelligence. Further I was led to also reflect on the covert ways in which false narratives have infiltrated our mass media and by extension our minds’ spaces. A pattern is emerging that we need to be aware of in mass media. This pattern can be framed in a question which is- Is it just me or when there are some real serious and earth life threatening events that something- seemingly innocuous- emerges that operates as a side event and/or deliberate distraction. …I am just saying. For example the numerous and questionable killings of black males in the USA vs. Pokemon, Mannequin, etc challenges.

2016 was a watershed year. A lot of societal and value system changing events took place and may have occurred undetected by the masses. It was a pivotal year for Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Just like the discussion around climate change, i.e. is it real or not? There were so many other crises for which real needed attention and resolutions were being derailed by rhetoric. We are in an age of constant ‘clear and present danger,’ environmentally, socially and politically. This requires global consciousness.

The average man cannot afford to be average anymore. We must be (not become) sober. (There is no time for a learning curve). 2017 is the year! This is the year that will set the tone for ….well everything. Our senses, our knowledge, our intelligence should evolve. We should all, as much as possible, dig deeper. Seek clarification. Be more discernible. Determine one’s core belief system. Be resolute. Evolve.

Youths, crime, International Day of Non-violence and so forth

Sunday, October 2, 2016 was commemorated as International Day of Non-violence; October 2 is also the birth date for the Indian Civil Rights Leader Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). This leader, similar to the American Martin Luther King, chose the non-violent approach while living in tumultuous times in their respective countries.It must not have been easy, due to the harsh and challenging socio-economic climate, for these men to literally take the road less traveled. I am sure there were moments when they must have thought twice, even if they did not falter, that perhaps striking back would serve them better. Fortunately for many, including some of subsequent generations, these examples exist that non-violent solutions are viable options which achieve results as much as (and some may argue) even more than other means or approaches.

In light of this commemoration I cannot help but reflect on some of the current affairs of the world-the war in Syria (causing the deluge of displaced peoples and resultant regugee crisis); the number (and nature) of police killings in the United States of America and the violent murders in my own country, particularly in the second city (gravely concerned as a Sustainable Urban Development Planner). It is worrisome to think about the headlines, soundbites, television images and read the details of gruesome and sometimes senseless deaths. I am often led to wonder could there have not been another way? Another alternative not resulting in war and loss of lives?

Crime, Loss of lives and unattached youths 

In Jamaica it is not a national war that is accounting for loss of lives per se, however a persistent crime problem confoundingly  does. Nationally, there are concerns as current indicators used to gauge the extent of the problem, crime statistics in all major categories, exceed past values in similar categories. The authorities and well meaning stakeholders organize and attempt to draft solutions and with resolute aims implement programmes to eradicate crime. Popularly known as crime fighting strategies, all these efforts may continue to have frustratingly limited impact as the root causes still fester.

Taking the bull by the proverbial horn

Poverty and Inequality

In my years working in the different capacities at the local government level, I have often interacted with unattached youths in local communities. I have sat ‘pon di corna’ with well educated young men who had the best high school education but post graduation have found themselves unemployed and /or unable to advance in study. I often remember a very articulate young man who resided off Maxfield Avenue, an inner city community in the capital city and a young woman who reside in an informal community in Montego Bay who were in such a situation. Their addresses have been postulated as the limiting factor. However I strongly believe that poverty is inextricably the underlying and root cause. Poverty through the generations, more specifically, have trapped entire cohorts of the population into a viscous cycle which have results in criminal and illicit undertaking out of [mis]opportunity and desperation. Bills are due every 28 days, hunger pangs every day, babies teary eyes pleadingly look to adult care-givers and the human desire for a particular standard of life yearns within. This position is not a cop-out or excuse to pardon criminals rather it intended as an honest look at the real cause-effect resultant crime problem.

                                                                                                                            Image credit: Photobucket.

Many studies exist providing arguments regarding the correlation between crime and poverty. Take a quick read of Enhancing Urban Safety and Security: Global Report on Human Settlements 2012 prepared by the United Nations HABITAT. Baker (1997) also gives some good comparative information in, Poverty Reduction and Human Development in the Caribbean: A cross country study. It is an obvious imperative that strategies for crime prevention should include poverty reduction and eradication at its core. However, as those in the thick of crime fighting will tell you -THAT though the rub- is easier said than done. Similarly many external stakeholders, including scholars, will posit that the approaches have been primarily crime management strategies.This would then transmit that there is an egregious gap in resolving the crime challenge. Therefore it is time- in a focused, strategized and determined manner – to address the inequalities wrought by poverty. It is through these inequalities that the sleeper cell-like conditions  foster and eventually unleash the purveyors of criminal and illicit activities.

Inequality indicators- access to education, malnutrition and attainment

The extent to which access to education impacts attainment can be measured against the income inequality index. Poorer parents are most unlikely to send their children to school on a consistent basis. Another indicator involves the rate of malnutrition in school age children (particularly at the basic and primary school levels) which is also linked to poverty and inequality. So the odds are stacked high for the youths and those incubated in poverty. However societies have proven to be highly resilient and many persons who lived their formative years in poor households have managed to persevere and rise above the odds. Fortunately there are numerous success stories across the globe to attest to this. However there are many variances. Thus what often obtains is a disquieting percentage of young people in the prime of their lives and in their most productive years essentially not being …well…productive.

Unattached youths …..and detachment

The classification of unattached youths arose from such meaning those –between the ages of 15-24 who are not in school, unemployed and not participating in any training programme. Dissecting and sifting through I want to focus on those within this category who would have completed a course of study up to the High School level. These are the ones I encounter in my community development work and who gravely concern me as they have encountered road blocks external to their control. Such as an unattached youth (especially if that individual followed the rules and norms of society) would have maintained self discipline in academia and concluded a course of study. Follow me now- he/she  would have been led to believe that he/she has an equal opportunity of acquiring employment based on at least  such attainment. In fact the education system inherently facilitates a leveling of the play field. And I could insert here several quotes on education as a way out, etc.

So with the High School education a young person,who incidentally may have plans for advance study, is often led to firstly enter the world of work. This is (a) to ease any burden from the family  for daily subsistence (b) to assist with the household income and (c) which is an addendum to (a) reduce the strain on the household income to provide for furtherance of this education. Therefore, and if you are following, it would be extremely  frustrating, that after several attempts and with a ticking clock, to find that you are prevented from accessing- at the most- an entry level employment…. because of your address. An address which due to the income level of your family that is where you reside. That was your home and the community you grew up in. An address where despite the odds you had daily traversed and  excelled. An address from which you have navigated many obstacles (physically) during volatile periods of uprising; the (social) malaise of those others who ridiculed and tried to discourage you from trying so hard and the (economic) pressing through the hunger pangs and working harder with less resources.

If you are getting the picture then it is not challenging to make some obvious inferences.

The high sophistication of criminal activities which exist in organic settings must be one.For example there is intelligence and ingenuity in some of the reported crime activities which seems humorous at first but leaves a lingering sense of unease. I remember that young man on the corner, off Maxfield Avenue, and from our conversation back then which showcased his brilliant mind, I prayed he was able to become attached …I envision him as an upstanding member of the society with the requisite means of formal employment after attaining advance studies- he was so smart you see. I envision that by now he is married and in my minds eye I see him carpooling his children and their friends between home (in a community above the Half Way Tree clock perhaps or beyond) and school…I pray…

Otherwise I can affix his face to the faceless criminal capable of scamming people out of their hard earned money. I can affix his face to a hardened murderer who has become so detached that he can killed more than once. I can affix his face to one so vile that the cries of a child in a burning home, in the early hours of the morning does not unsettle his nerves. I can affix his face to an errand boy or lackey for a Don charged with disposing a teenage girl’s body in a suitcase and dumping it into the ocean, or burning it in a garbage skip….I can image any of those things.

But I chose not to … I hope that as I write this that young man is stuck in traffic on his way from work, his only frustration being how quickly he can pick up the kids and get home in time to watch the nightly news. A thing he does as he works to create opportunities for young men and unattached youths in poor communities who need a way out.

 

Out of sorts…it seems like right is wrong and wrong is right but D.I.A.L

‘…so much trouble in the world…’ Bob Marley

Its been a while since I have had the strength yes strength to write a post notwithstanding (a) a lot having transpired over the past months and (b) I have so much on my troubled mind. But let me summarily get to a few of them. The shooting in the head of the young school girl last month shook me to the core. I remember this little girl, who was a Primary classmate and schoolmate of my son, running around in class and the number of occasions I had to interact with her. The fact that here it was an innocent young girl was on her way to school, in the early morning of a normal school day…enough said on that. I, like so many others are so happy and thankful, believing in God to carry her through.

Words from one of the most recent prolific reggae artist Nesbeth’s  latest song entitled DIAL (devil is a liar) is like solace to my soul lately.