November 17, 2011

Humanity Should Be Fair (November 17, 2011)

Life may not be fair . . . but humanity should be.

The well-known saying . . . "life isn't fair" . . . really gets under my skin.  I get it.  Bad things happen in life which are beyond our control, and which we do not deserve.  And, in the realms of the natural world, I may not like it but I can accept it.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts and illness can act like wrecking balls destroying the lives of people in their path.  Bad things can happen to good people.  Sad, but inevitable.  However, that same phrase should not be applied to acts of people, or man-made institutions, or economic systems. I absolutely cannot accept "life isn't fair" as a rationale for some people being given the short straw by others.  In these latter situations, it's not "life" at fault but rather people, and the saying transforms from a statement of fact about the inevitable to an excuse for bad behaviour, bad planning, or some other form of injustice.

Aided by the simplicity I've experienced in this project, the deprivation of some creature comforts I've endured, and having personally glimpsed the vulnerability that comes from need . . . I've been able to see some truths that are there to be seen but often clouded by "stuff".  I've felt what it is like to be a hard working person with little in the way of the "spoils" that many in rich societies like to associate with hard work, and faced the taunts of those who have hurtful and erroneous perspectives with respect to those in poverty.  I've come to appreciate the individuality of every circumstance, and that we must see the person inside the circumstance.  And, most of all, I've come to recognize that man-made unfairness is a huge factor in many people's fall into poverty and in the entrenchment of the poverty cycle.  Yes, poverty is a justice issue.

The following are but three macro level expressions of unfairness that we see in the world around us today.

#1 Implementation of Austerity Measures on the Most Vulnerable.  Country's may go broke, but there is plenty of wealth within those countries.  There is no reason in the world that the physical well being of anyone should be threatened by cutbacks. (See interesting comment on foreign aid in these economic times by UK's Prime Minister Cameron.)  On Star Trek, whenever the USS Enterprise was in crisis, Captain Kirk would always divert all power to life support systems and shields . . . the protection of life was of utmost importance.  However, in austerity measures we often see budget lines being cut equally so that ministers of government have the same burden to bear. Ironically, the impact on people is anything but fair.  Equality without fairness is an empty concept.  Through austerity measures in various countries, social services will be cut, aid will be cut, and whole segments of the population will be in dire need.  What happened to the lesson learned from Captain Kirk (i.e. common sense)?  In times of trouble we should be bolstering life support systems - social services, education, health care, and aid.  Those who are most in need should not be kicked when they are down.   

#2 Disregard for the Occupy Movement.  Without a doubt, the message from Occupy protesters is mixed and often lacking clarity.  However, it would be a huge mistake to disregard the level of discontent that has been expressed worldwide via this movement. (See article in this regard from the National Post.)  During my conflict resolution training, I learned that there were always two things to which one must pay special attention - (i) a need being expressed (since all conflict boils down to an unsatisfied need) and (ii) an expression of strong emotion (as emotion is the best signal that we are getting close to the heart of what is important to a person).  If nothing else, the Occupy Movement has been an emotional expression of frustration over unfulfilled needs in the context of massive inequality within our society.  Unfairness.  

#3 Repeating Mistakes of the Past by Continuing to Do What We Have Been Doing.  Hundreds of years ago, the economy was based very much on land ownership and the wealth that went with it.  When landowners felt the uprising of those within their domain who wanted a better life along with recognition of their rights, they appeased their subjects for a time colonizing more land that would provide more wealth and thereby enrich the lives of those who were rising up. However, this resulted in the oppression of others elsewhere.  Eventually, this system broke down and a market based system emerged.  Now, we are seeing the problems that arise when there is a ruling class in the market system . . . the concentration of wealth, widening gaps of inequality, abuse of the system by some of the wealthy at the expense of the most vulnerable, etc.  All of these evils are caused by the removal of fairness from the system.  However, the push so far has been to address these problems by bailouts on the backs of the poorer majority and expansion to new markets (i.e. market colonization).  This may only appease the problem for a time, and cause others to feel the oppression of being the bottom rung on the ladder.  In the past, the only thing that ultimately settled the problem was fairness; and it will be the only thing that can satisfy the problems and unrest at the moment.  To paraphrase Einstein, it's insane to do the same things over and over and expect different results.

We CAN overcome all of these problems.  And, it's not rocket science.  However, we do need the powers that be to step aside from their own agendas, their own comforts, and to see what is good for the greater whole.  Our economic system is not bad, but it is broken . . . we may need to take a few steps back and make some adjustments, but I believe it can be fixed.  There are important basic needs unsatisfied that need to be met.   It is time to take a look at where we are and ask some important questions.  What are our priorities?  What is in the best interests of the whole?  Are our systems, budgets, and current focus reflecting our priorities and best interests?  Once we have gone through this exercise, the solutions will fall into place.

Let's be fair.  It's the least we can be, especially if life isn't.

Phase II - Struggles of the Working Poor Daily Report
Day 16 (November 16th)

Weight at Beginning of Project:  233 lbs
Weight at End of Phase One:  216 lbs
Weight at Start of Phase Two: 221 lbs
Weight at Start of Today:  216 lbs
Available Funds:   $0.00 (leftover) + $6.50 (Nov 16) = $6.50
Funds Spent Today:  $20.77
Remaining Funds:   $0.00 (see New Loan)

New Loan:  $14.27
Loan Due Today: $22.60
Loan Payment:   $0.00
Outstanding Loan: $36.87 @ 1.5% per day . . .  $37.42 due on Day 17

Items Purchased:   $2 Gas, 3 Apples, 5 lbs Potatoes, 3 Sm. Tomatoes, 1 Head of Lettuce, 3 Bananas, 1 Noodle Soup, Shampoo, 12-Pack of Toilet Paper
Free Stuff:  Nil

Gas Purchased* & Remaining:  $2.00 (i.e. 1.80 litres @ $1.109 per litre . . . 18.0 km @ 10 km/litre) + 0.19 litres (gas remaining) = 1.99 litres (19.9 km)
Driving Today:  14 km (i.e. 1.4 litres)
Gas Remaining:  0.59 litres (i.e. 5.9 km)
*Will not include any fuel or driving related to work that is paid for by work.

SPECIAL NOTE:  As of November 16th, and for the duration of this month of the project, a credit limit of $30 has been imposed on That Poverty Guy.  Accordingly, his "overdraft" of $7.42 must be paid back by November 17th at the latest. The credit limit will be reviewed on December 1st when the next month of Phase II begins.

Hey!! I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

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