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.

 

Related image

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.

 

 

 

Marginalization and its consequences…

fight-inequality

I have been grappling with the thought that sometimes- well meaning efforts can have inadvertently deleterious effects despite being impactful. This often happens when I am immersed in some gender related activity. I think on the ways in which many cultures still do not allow the girl child to achieve her fullest human potential. Some girls are primed only as brides and thus chattels of their male counterparts whether as a parent or later as a spouse. It is therefore important work to empower females who are so socialized or who have escaped these oppressive regimes they had been forceably subjected to.

However, observations made in the field, in other societies including mine, is that young males have, or had at some point previous, become themselves marginalized. In Jamaica girls are out performing their male counterparts in most of the indicators of human development. See below for the educational attainment indicator example in Jamaica.

Although the number of boys and girls in Jamaica is roughly equal, according to some recent statistics, 48,992 boys and 81,111 girls sat CSEC subjects, and the girls outperformed the boys in all arts subjects and all science subjects, except mathematics. More than twice the number of females (67 per cent) are enrolled in the University of the West Indies (UWI) than males (33 per cent), and 59 per cent of those enrolled in post-secondary non-tertiary education are women.

Its long been accepted that boys develop differently than girls. Strong family support is needed to nurture  the children  in such a re-socialization process so as to take these into consideration. Girls have a proclivity to learn at faster rates than most boys. The education system must, even through resource constraints, have specialized approaches to capture and retain boys as well as girls. Concurrently, there must be a demystified definition of the gender roles. Our boys AND girls must be equally socialized to realize their fullest potential  within the context of modern societies. Traditional roles have to be retooled such that there are no restrictions contained in either.

Correlation between inequality and crime

Thus, it is ironic that the men are expected to be primary bread winners and providers in their traditional roles as ‘heads of households,’ within the current system that is failing them. In previous articles I have written about the high rate of male drop outs and the large percentage of unattached youths primarily concentrated by the males in the population. With the increasingly high national crime rate and the spate of murders in St. James, data can be found to provide evidence to the underlying cause and effect, not excluding the educational attainment. It is an imperative that we do not attempt to only mitigate against the attendant results but also strive to bring resolution to the innate nature of the problem.

We watch the news and documentaries and we wonder how can people be so murderous. We also wonder how people can be so callous as to scam the elderly out of their pension and life’s savings. It is time for us to get into the belly of the beast and slay the dragon from within. We need to start to understand, not empathize, but to dissect the mindset of deviants. As stated in a TEDWomen talk delivered by Jacqueline Novagratz in 2010 we should seek to understand how someone, ‘…[can] look at other beings, human beings, as lesser than [them]selves and in the extreme, to do terrible things.’ In an episode of the series Black Market on the Vice network, some young males (including boys as young as 12) who were involved in carjacking activities in Trenton, New Jersey, stated, ” its ‘us or them,’ when we are hungry.” This echoes the sentiments by many males who hang on the corner in many inner cities or impoverished neighborhoods here- as well some hardened criminals- and those relegated to a life of crime and illicit activities.

To help to make the connection and to solidify the call for attention to neutralizing gender gaps at the socio-economic levels, Novagratz makes the following point even as she was reflecting on a female parliamentarian who was imprisoned for war crimes.

And there is no group more vulnerable to those kinds of manipulations [see quotation above] than young men. I’ve heard it said that the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. And so in a gathering where we’re focused on women, while it is so critical that we invest in our girls and we even the playing field and we find ways to honor them, we have to remember that the girls and the women are most isolated and violated and victimized and made invisible in those very societies where our men and our boys feel dis-empowered, unable to provide. And that, when they sit on those street corners and all they can think of in the future is no job, no education, no possibility, well then it’s easy to understand how the greatest source of status can come from a uniform and a gun.

‘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.

Managing expectations…and fears

The results are in. You now know. What next?

I don’t know about you but this is the usual mental checklist post any test related activity. In academia, as a student, this is an innumerable occurrence. This scenario can also be applied to real life situations such as:

  • following a visit to the doctor’s office and also upon the return of  lab results,
  • at the garage when your motor vehicle is placed on the computer diagnostic machine,
  • when you are at the store after binge shopping and the clerk just swiped your credit or debit card and,
  • definitely after you have cast your ballot and you await the final counts.

Some instances are more nerve-wracking than others but nevertheless a commonality is anxiety. Nordqvist (2016) writing for Medicalnewstoday states that ‘anxiety affects a person’s whole being. It affects how we think and how we feel, and it has physical symptoms too. Anxiety resembles fear but when a person experiences fear, they know what we are afraid of. Anxiety is often less specific.’ I can relate. We all can relate. Meaning that we have had anxious moments in our lives.  It would seem that with all the environmental stressors of anxiety that it is quite necessary that we determine ways to mitigate against anxiety. I find that we need to develop ways to manage expectations as a way to accomplishing this.

Expectation (noun) is, according to the Oxford dictionary, a strong belief that something will happen or be the case. In addition to simply having a preference for the Oxford’s definition of English words I realize that this definition is often true of what we do when we have expectations. If we are to really understand, using this definition, what happens when we EXPECT we would realize that inextricably linked to this is a faith based belief system in action… if not then we need to really evaluate what we are doing as we live out our existence. Quite frankly we should not carry-on  zombie-like and comatose lives when we are breathing living beings. Introspecting on just HOW we exist must become a priority ‘spring cleaning’ action.We should take stock of not only WHAT we do but HOW we do and WHY we do the things we do. Go right back to the basics …even with the processing of our thoughts.

In so doing we will consciously be aware of what we desire and the implications, in the event that we do or NOT get what we desire, such that we will be prepared to have a healthy reaction. Back to the definition… if one holds a strong belief then commensurately one should have evidence to the high probability of said belief being fulfilled and /or manifested. The absence of tangible and scientifically proven ways of achieving the thing or outcome (object or subject of one’s desire) may make one seem … well frankly a fool…. yet if one intrinsically trust and value other ways of doing and other means of achieving then that individual frees his/herself from synthetic systems fed to mainstream society, meant to lock society into expecting particular outcomes. It is when people do not see or have the results expected – due to the society led belief systems- that there is anxiety and panic.

Thus expectation cannot be void of faith.

However misplaced faith is a pitfall to avoid at all cost. In selecting a candidate to represent you for example, as it pertains the governance of your community, country and dare I say the free world, an assessment of the person and their position on the core principles you stand for is not an exercise in futility. When you are confident in the candidate’s ability and when you are clear on what they value then you can only exercise your franchise and hope that the majority of the eligible voters do the same. Now this is within the context that the electoral process operates in the manner where it is the majority of the ‘peoples’ vote that counts. If this is the anomaly then you will expect that your candidate who will be a part of government will fight on and eke out meaning victories in the foreseeable future where it will really matter. There is no luxury afforded to wallow in disappointment and victim like sorrow. In fact it is a charge to be more resolute, to work smarter and fight harder.

Each individual must resoundingly amplify the faith that will herald the expected outcome, if not today but in the time allotted. Eventually there will be a collective and holistic realism to existence on earth.

 

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.

Crying for our children and thinking about the future…

One of the item on the nightly news just now was the fatal road death of a 7 year old boy from a corporate area school in Kingston, Jamaica. Coincidentally, I also read the article in the Jamaica Gleaner 24/04/2016 entitled, ‘Secret Gardens’ all cried out-Monument to remember children killed across the island running out of space. The terrible feeling of sadness that engulfed me on both instances was so profound that I felt myself thinking what would I do if I lost my child. It is not an easy task being a parent, the kind that is involved and well-meaning. We are consumed with worry every day from the moment of their conception and gestation, birth and indeed throughout every spectrum of our children’s lives. We do everything humanly and legally possible to take care of them- to provide for them. Some parents have even selflessly participated in dubious life threatening activities to ensure that their children are fed, clothed and sheltered. It is therefore a most hurtful and hard to fathom / incomprehensible pain such parents feel when they lose their child/children in un-natural ways. (Natural ways are just as devastating but its perhaps a little more bearable…and for this I may even debate otherwise…but the point is made). My father, who himself died as a result of a ‘hit and run’ road fatality, always said he wanted long life so that he would be able to see his children ‘pass the worse.’ Then there is the old adage about, a parent should never have to bury a child. You love your child for life, if you are a vested parent.You love to death. To love and have sorrow for the same thing and at the same time is the hardest undertaking.

Photo credit:http://evenifministries.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/memorial-for-unborn-children.jpg

I remember the gut-wrenching pain I felt when I heard that my father had passed. That is incomparable. However I noted how I was a bumbling, snot nosed tearful mess when I had some scary pains in the early part of my pregnancy when I thought I was going to lose my child possibly by a miscarriage. Most poignant was also in June 2015 when my ever stoic child called me to inform me that a JUTC bus ran into the side of another JUTC in the Half Way Tree bus terminal – at the exact vicinity of the window where he was seated. He was asleep and woke to the shattered window and jolt produced by the impact….I was a crumbling mess after the confusing moments and the state of affairs was sorted out including sending prayers of thanksgiving. I bawled…just at the prospects …again….this time that I could have lost my teenager. I recount all these personal moments to indicate, while not over-simplifying, that losing a child is heart breaking and life shattering! It is not surprising that my heart weeps when I hear news of a child’s life being pre-maturely and senselessly taken. When you are a parent you can empathize with other parents. Their child did not get to have a future. We as adults have to protect them when we can and work as a collective to protect them overall. Look out for them on the streets, inquire of them when they look sad or forlorn….it [still] takes a village.

Reflecting on the future….Unfortunately, I was not able to leave the island for a thematic meeting on Habitat III in Toluca, Mexico. I blogged about that meeting in an earlier post…. Please read the article in Citiscope  https://shar.es/1e0rSA that offers an insight on the level of participation. As a point I made was mentioned in the article,this led me to consciously ponder on an ever-present thought- the FUTURE I WANT and the future I want for my child. Presently, some systems seem to be on a collision course… for example there is water scarcity, marine life overkill, ‘homelessness,’ erratic weather due to changing climate and the list goes on. In addition our children may not have a secure world to exist in as monopolistic and capitalistic ideologies continue to create situations  resulting in the displacement, destabilization and disenfranchised of peoples and states.To this end I remain resolute to participate in the development and environment sectors so that we will have a world with the same common pool of resources for them as we partook of when we were children….

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)