Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Inequality's Repeating Pattern

From The Guardian yesterday:
Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world.
The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called 'global elite' is exposed in a new report from Oxfam.
The world's wealthiest people aren't known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker(bus).
3 comments from the many beneath the article - these I particularly noted:
This is the world devised by neoliberalism. Everything in this Oxfam report is evidence of the devastation that global neoliberalism has been causing for the last 34 years. And unless something is done about it, it will continue towards its final goal, which is to extend markets into every sphere of life, from state institutions to the biological makeup of human beings. Its ultimate aim is the privatization of everything including life itself.
According to neoliberalism, the planet and all life must be owned by private interests and used solely for profit. It recognizes no morality outside of the market: the questions of right and wrong are eliminated in favour of cost-benefit calculations.
Neoliberalism is the antithesis of democracy: it's against political rights, civil rights, social rights, individual rights, human rights (i.e. right to education, right to water, etc.)- according to neoliberalism, they all have to become goods on the market for people who can buy them. (Josh Bern)

Their crimes are overshadowed by our acquiescence of those crimes.
(Ted Reading Reading)


In order for any democracy to be faithful to its concepts it requires an engaged and well educated population that participates in the political process and is part of governmental decision making. It requires an independent media that is apolitical, a fearless seeker of truth that is dedicated to holding all governing powers to account and informing the public so they can in turn make wise decisions. Democracy requires a fully independent judiciary dedicated to the principles of human justice.

The elites hijacked our democracies a long time ago, for nearly a half century now. They buy politicians with trinkets and beads, a seat on the board of some corporation, a book deal or an advisory position in a large company on retirement. Book deals are sometimes give when they are still in power, a nice little earner.

An oligarchy carefully controls our medias peddling all sorts of BS as 'truth'.

Even the subversion of the aforementioned is not enough for these monsters, as this article states, they subvert the law for their own benefit whilst throwing the rest of humanity on a scrap heap. There is no equality under the law.

If it is not a democracy than it is a dictatorship. A media that only serves its masters is a propaganda outlet. Laws that extinguish the liberties of the many to serve the few can not be just.

When liberty, fraternity and equality are put asunder and the law no longer serves justice and morality then the people are no longer under any obligation to obey the government or the law. (LegranderoidelasPrusse)
The pattern is an old, old pattern. It repeats and repeats, cast members change, scenery changes, props change, effects are the same.

From one of the last Sections, Section 104, of the book-length poem by Carl Sandburg, published in 1936: The People, Yes.

When was it long ago the murmurings began
and the joined murmurings
became a moving wall
moving with the authority of a great sea,
whose Yes and No
stood in an awful script
in a new unheard-of handwriting?
"No longer", began the murmurings............................

"What about the munitions and money kings,
the war lords and international bankers?
the transportation and credit kings?
the coal, the oil and the mining kings?
the price-fixing monopoly and control kings?
Why are they so far from us?
why do they hold their counsels
without men from the people given a word?
Shall we keep these kings and let their sons
in time become the same manner of kings?
Are their results equal to their authority?
Why are these interests too sacred for discussion?
What documents now call for holy daylight?
what costs, prices, values, are we forbidden to ask?
Are we slowly coming to understand
the distinction between a demagogue squawking
and the presentation of tragic plainspoken fact?
Shall a robber be named a robber when he is one
even though bespoken and anointed he is?
Shall a shame and a crime be mentioned
when it is so plainly there,
when day by day it draws toil, blood, and hunger,
enough of slow death and personal tragedy to certify
the kings who sit today as entrenched kings
are far too far from their people?"

What does justice say?
or if justice is become an abstraction or a harlot
what does her harder sister, necessity, say?
Their ears are so far from us,
so far from our wants and small belongings
we must trim these kings of our time
into something less than kings.
Of these too it will be written:
these kings shrank.

What is it now
the people are beginning
to say - is it this?
and if so
whither away and
where do we go from here?

If it's a repeating pattern, there has to be some subsiding of the worst, most intense parts of the pattern, in order for them to repeat - otherwise it'd be a constant. It's hard to say exactly where we're at currently in the pattern's formation. At a guess I'd say we, or at least we in the USA and Europe, are approaching, but not yet quite at the crescendo, when things will be at their worst, from the point of view of ordinary people. Other parts of the world have endured a constant "worst point" for decades or even centuries; the pattern must repeat at different rates.


mike said...

It's always best for an oligarch to have dependents that have just enough to survive...less than that and there are no more dependents...more than that and there arises power struggles. A proper balance is required to ensure the dependents remain dependents. In our modern world, dependency is via consumerism, best applied through the guise of capitalism's free markets and competition. The game requires echelons of wealth and power to enforce the upper strata's power-wealth over the lower strata.

In the olden days, the oligarchs gave protection and a meager allowance of essentials to support the peasants. Class equalization has historically been achieved when the peasants realized their masters are actually dependent on the peasants...no peasants equals no sustainable wealth...a peasant rebellion typically eliminated the wealthy by one means or another.

Supplication appears to be the dangerous operative...becoming too docile and dependent on providers. The middle and lower classes of America today have become sold-out in the name of physical and monetary security and they have done this voluntarily to satisfy their self-interests.

We emulate what we desire and most of America wants better than what they currently have, even if what they have is perfectly sufficient...most want more money to satisfy their desires. Money has become a "Gawd" to us consumers here in capitalism-ville.

The American middle and lower classes are still in the VERY high income-percentages compared to the rest of the world. Americans and most industrialized nations ignore the plight of the world's poorest. If we lower classes in America truly felt empathy, we would realize we are in the upper echelons and insist that we equalize OUR wealth to the poorest. It's ironic that here in America we are appalled by the inequality of the wealthiest, but don't recognize the inequality that our level of income generates when compared to the poorest (and the devastation our consumerism causes within their countries).

I read the Guardian article yesterday and it hits hardest on 85 of the absolute wealthiest. BUT, that shouldn't allow us less wealthy to ignore our own role in inequality around the globe. Pot calling the kettle black sorta thing, as I see it.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - I talked with a friend over the holidays and he was elated that his 401k retirement funds were performing exceedingly well. This friend hates big corporations. I asked him how his 401k was invested and he replied that the funds were in stocks and mutual funds. Hhmmm! It's easy to be a hypocrite and not know it.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks for your contribution - good stuff as usual.

Yes, as mentioned at the end of my post, the repeating pattern does seem to move at different rates in different countries. Some countries never have yet moved from a point of desperation and near starvation for all.

I take your point that we in the West (not only the USA but all developed countries) should demand that those nations mired in absolute poverty ought to be assisted sufficiently that a better balance be attainable - globally. That would involve, of course, contributions of the 85 people The Guardian highlighted yesterday, and thousands a tad less wealthy just below them. They'd be contributing vastly more than mortals such as thee and me. Would they though? Would we?

The pattern will continue to repeat. Conditions will get worse, then a little better, worse again, then a little better. Perhaps once "off the ground" the pattern repeats more rapidly and regularly, whereas for the areas of the world where things have not ever "got off the ground" the pattern is ultra-sluggish, barely moving at all.

mike(again) ~ I had no idea what a 401k was until I arrived on these shores.

Twilight said...

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque has a good piece up today:

Cloud-Dwellers: Class War Victors Get Higher on the Hog

Empire Burlesque link at sidebar - or:


mike (again) said...

Floyd's article is a good one, Twilight! High-end hotels aren't anything new, but perhaps more commonplace now.

Much wealth isn't personal wealth...there are many organizations on the globe that have amassed incredible sums. I was delving into the wealth of the Vatican and, of course, have found widely disparate values stated. Here's a quote from a blog that I think probably states it best:

"In a statement published in connection with a bond prospectus, the Boston archdiocese listed its assets at Six Hundred and Thirty-five Million ($635,891,004), which is 9.9 times its liabilities. This leaves a net worth of Five Hundred and Seventy-one million dollars ($571,704,953). It is not difficult to discover the truly astonishing wealth of the church, once we add the riches of the twenty-eight archdioceses and 122 dioceses of the U.S.A., some of which are even wealthier than that of Boston.

"... The Catholic church is the biggest financial power, wealth accumulator and property owner in existence. She is a greater possessor of material riches than any other single institution, corporation, bank, giant trust, government or state of the whole globe. The pope, as the visible ruler of this immense amassment of wealth, is consequently the richest individual of the twentieth century. No one can realistically assess how much he is worth in terms of billions of dollars."


I would think that the Vatican has holdings of value worth well into the trillions of dollars. Not bad for such a CHARITABLE organization...LOL!

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

Hi Annie.

I just wanted to stop by and let you know I do visit every post and read it and the comments. Its always interesting and I enjoy it very much.

I dont comment to often cause what you all are discussing are subjects "way over my head" and thats fine:) I still enjoy visiting here.

see ya soon

LB said...

Twilight ~ As always, thanks for talking about this.:) The question is, now that we're aware what are we willing to do (or do differently) to make a difference?

Let's face it. Most of us want someone else (anyone other than ourselves) to solve the problem of inequality. We're quick to blame others but not nearly as ready to look at the role we play as individuals. Sometimes we don't have a choice, but frequently we do - at least many of us do.

mike mentioned his friend's 401k, and I agree, our retirement investments are a good example. Though I've personally divested my own 403(b) from the insurance and computer industries, tobacco, alcohol, big pharma, etc. - at this point, I've begun to question if "socially responsible investing" is even possible.

Yet even our smaller choices help to shape our world and frequently perpetuate its inequality and abuse.

Most of us take our cues from the people around us -friends, family, church, social or political group- continuing to do the same old things in the same old comfortable ways, never thinking to question or look beneath the surface, figuring if everyone else is doing it then it must be okay. Or if someone brings an injustice or abuse to our attention, we convince ourselves that it really can't be as bad as all that - *or* that our small actions won't make a difference anyway, so what's the point?

What if instead, more of us chose to look more deeply at how our choices affect others, including *how* the items we purchase are produced - and then chose *differently*.

What if more of us did the right thing if for no other reason than because right action has value in and of itself, independent of any grand effect. Everyday, we're offered opportunities to put our values and awareness into practice.

We think big and allow ourselves to become overwhelmed, when we should be focused on the small.

Did you happen to see or read how analyst Ronnie Moas recommended Amazon, Apple and Philip Morris stocks be sold on moral and ethical grounds? He's being shunned or called crazy, presumably by many who aren't on the list of the world's 85 wealthiest people. Here's a link, sorry if it's not the best: http://www.policymic.com/articles/79503/this-analyst-downgraded-apple-for-a-good-reason-but-he-s-being-called-crazy-anyway

From the way we invest, live and vote, to the food we eat, clothes, furniture, decor and other goods we buy, even the flowers and chocolate we love and enjoy, - all of our choices hold the potential to make a difference.

LB said...

Adding, we live in a complicated, interconnected world where, often for practical reasons, most of us find it necessary to make compromises we're not entirely comfortable with.

In spite of this, we needn't allow this awareness of our own shortcomings and moral imperfections to stop us from doing what we can. That means not only speaking up sometimes, but also choosing differently or doing without those things we can reasonably do without that cause or perpetuate injustice and harm.

In leaving comments on other (non-astrological) blogs, I've noticed how people are generally more willing to look at how their choices affect the environment, rather than the effect their choices have on fellow human beings and other living creatures.

The environment, humans, animals, wildlife, our food and ecosystem - it all matters and it's all connected to this inequality.

In the past few weeks, there have been several articles about the devastating environmental effect our consumerism is having on China's air quality. Apparently, pollution there is responsible for 350,000 to 500,000 premature deaths every year, and now these toxins are starting to blow towards the US: http://news.yahoo.com/china-pollution-wafting-across-pacific-blanket-u-study-095940997--finance.html

Again, it's all connected. And the problem isn't confined to goods produced in China. There are invisible, overlooked, underpaid and abused citizens and workers in the US and around the world.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Ugh! That amount of wealth held by the Vatican/RC Church is obscene. Bearing in mind Christ's teachings, I do wonder how they justify it all.

Yes, not all the wealth belongs to individuals, and much that does is stashed away safely in "special secret locations", where it cannot be taxes or questioned.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Hi there!
Thank you for visiting and reading.
I'm very happy to know you're around. :-)

A lot of stuff is over my head too!

Twilight said...

LB ~ You're right - all the points you've made are good ones. We should all be more attentive and thoughtful about the choices we make. That alone is unlikely to bring about the changes we need, but it could gradually help us to get ready for the changes which will be necessary eventually.

Whether the changes to come will emerge from some kind of public demand/uprising/boycott/general strike etc. and morph into something worse, or simply from dire necessity after the climate has gone even further awry, and affects utilities and systems, we can't know.

Each repeat of the pattern of people versus elites and oligarchs all through history has begun and ended a little differently, according to the times and peoples in question.

If we all do our best to live within certain constraints, while not making our own lives "not worth living", we'll have done our best - and that's all we can do, for now.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Life absolutely should be worth living! Though viewed from a larger perspective, giving up something or making certain sacrifices for the greater good, doesn't always mean deprivation in a negative sense. Sometimes we benefit as well.:) Many of us have lost touch with what matters most.

Hexagram 41 of the IChing teaches the wisdom in sacrifice and decrease:

"This hexagram represents a decrease of the lower trigram in favor of the upper, because the third line, originally strong, has moved up to the top, and the top line, originally weak, has replaced it. What is below is decreased to the benefit of what is above. This is out-and-out decrease. If the foundations of a building are decreased in strength and the upper walls are strengthened, the whole structure loses its stability. Likewise, a decrease in the prosperity of the people in favor of the government is out-and-out decrease. And the entire theme of the hexagram is directed to showing how this shift of wealth can take place without causing the sources of wealth in the nation and its lower classes to fail."

This particular interpretation goes on to say:

"Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. if a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings. Indeed, there need be no concern if the outward beauty of the civilization, even the elaboration of religious forms., should have to suffer because of simplicity. One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; then the power of the content makes up for the simplicity of forms."


mike (again) said...

Maybe we need to be careful with redistribution. The entirety of this Wiki page is an interesting read, but here's from the "Dystopias" section (your favorite, Twilight!):


There have also been fully dystopian science fiction societies where all people's physical needs are provided for by machines, but this causes humans to become overly docile, uncreative and incurious. Examples include E. M. Forster's 1909 short story "The Machine Stops", Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, and Arthur C. Clarke's 1956 novel The City and the Stars. Riders of the Purple Wage, Philip José Farmer's dystopian 1967 science fiction novella also explores some ramifications of a future wherein technology allows everyone's desires to be met.

Arthur C. Clarke's 1953 novel "Childhood's End" also describes Earth achieving a post-scarcity society when god-like aliens take indirect control of the planet and eradicate war, disease, poverty and other ailments. A lack of competitiveness causes humanity to become disinterested in science and space exploration.

Jack Vance's The Moon Moth presents a planet where plenitude has led to a culture of intricacy with an elaborate half-musical language and craftsmanship. The lack of incentive for collaboration is one of the problems faced by the "outlander" main character.

In Frederik Pohl's The Midas Plague, resources and luxuries are so common, that the poor must bear the burden of consuming and disposing of the bounty, as well as working at meaningless jobs to produce more meaningless plenty; the rich, conversely, are allowed to live simple but comfortable lifestyles.

In Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad, a central motif is unbounded progress of technology - in the sub-story The Highest Possible Level of Development civilization, the inhabitants have become passive, and the visitors have to shoo away machines trying to comfort them. In H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, the Time Traveller speculates, based on the Eloi, that mankind had been "armed with a perfected science" which reduced all dangers in nature, epitomized by the quote: "Strength is the outcome of need".

In A for Anything, a science fiction novel by Damon Knight, the "Gismo" is a device that can duplicate anything—even humans or another Gismo. Since all material objects have become essentially free, the only commodity of value is human labor, and a feudal society and a slave economy is the result.

The 2008 Pixar film WALL-E depicts what appears to be a somewhat humorous post-scarcity dystopia: humans are obese hedonists whose lives are spent entirely on floating recliners.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Well, I believe balance is the key to most things - including this.
I don't believe we have to deprive ourselves of all pleasure - otherwise, what's the point of our being here at all?

I do believe in simplicity. I doubt most of us can live up to the ideal though. We can try.

If we heed our consciences, keep reasonable balance in what we consume in all areas, do what we can when we can, we'll be on the right track. IMO.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Thanks for those - I've read "Childhood's End" - good novel! Saw "Wall-E", Read and saw "The Time Machine". All good.

If everyone were provided for, and there'd be no want or need at all in the world, yes, we'd become lazy, apathetic, bored and complacent. That'd be the other extreme - also undesirable.

Again, it's balance we ought to aim for.

As it is we aren't aiming for much at all....probably already the apathy has set in, at least in the USA. Governments and colluding media have been cleverly lulling the majority of the populace into a docile, accepting mood for a long time.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Hmmm. Let me try putting it another way.

Many years ago, I gave up the *pleasure* of smoking cigarettes because I realized my dependence on them was harming my body and depriving me of a fuller, healthier, and more spiritually/psychologically independent life. So although I gave up something that gave me a lot of pleasure, from a holistic perspective, I gained something of greater value, something that supported the greater integrity of my body, mind and spirit. Plus, the decision probably saved my life.:0

Same thing applies to my previous love of chocolate M&Ms. Much as I loved an occasional pack before bed (I used to lovingly refer to them as my 'meds'), once I discovered their terrible connection to child slavery and forced labor in West Africa, I *gladly* gave them up - again for the greater good, albeit the greater good of someone/something other than myself.

Thankfully my life is still worth living - most days anyway.:) Not only that, I'm happy about my decision to give up those particular pleasures.

Those are just a couple of examples. I know you get the point, which IMO directly relates to your post about inequality and the haves and have-nots.

Sometimes integrity -whether it be personal, societal, political or structural- demands a measure of sacrifice and denial. I think mike was saying more or less the same thing in his first comment when he talked about our personal responsibility as consumers. And it's also what hexagram 41 is trying to teach.

One of Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins is "Pleasure Without Conscience".

Twilight said...

LB ~ I'm not disagreeing with you at all. The examples you've given are obviously good sense examples, as well as being in line with ideals on which we do, basically, agree.

I've done much the same things myself - gave up smoking long ago, gave up eating many sweets or chocolate many years ago to control weight. I will still eat small amounts of chocolate if given as a gift, o if offered to me in a social environment. I wouldn't ever refuse on idealistic grounds.

My idealism isn't 100% pure. I don't see that this in any way negates what I've posted here or elsewhere.

I will not refuse to use e-bay or Amazon on idealistic grounds as do some people, for reasons I admire, but do not feel obliged to follow myself. I will buy certain items in Walmart occasionally, but most of our food is bought at our town's other supermarket.

With regard to use of our car - and gas - the car remains in our garage most of the time. We have to use it to go shopping, to the doctor, dentist, post office etc. We do not HAVE to take road trips but we have done so during the years I've been in the USA.
I don't intend to stop doing so until my husband is no longer able to drive. I don't drive, never have. My carbon footprint, from the UK, until my early 60s was minuscule compared to anyone's in the USA , so I see this as my version of "balance".

If anyone sees any of this as hypocritical - so be it. I shall have to grin and bear it.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Even if I don't agree with all of your choices, I wouldn't say I consider your actions hypocritical - not that it matters what I think anyway. I do think it's worth considering how much (and what) we're willing to give up to achieve the common goals we seem to share.

It's funny you happened to mention that you wouldn't refuse chocolate (I'm assuming you meant a brand of chocolate associated with child slavery?) if given to you as a gift or offered during a social setting. I have to say, based on how many people I've talked with about this particular issue, you're not alone, though I don't share your feelings.

This past Christmas, our landlord innocently gifted my husband and me with a gift certificate for Sees. Though we accepted the gift (which was slipped under our door) and said thanks, we will not be redeeming the certificate for chocolate or anything else from Sees. I also used it as an opportunity to send off an email to Sees telling them *why* I wouldn't be using the gift certificate or purchasing any of their products until and unless they adapt more ethical practices (including some form of 3rd party certification and oversight) in sourcing their cocoa.

In a social setting, I'd be very comfortable declining an offer of slave-chocolate. Whether or not I said anything about *why* I was declining would depend on who my host was and if I thought there might be some benefit to elaborating. I did a lot of research on the whole chocolate thing and *knowingly* choosing to consume a product that is dependent upon the enslavement of other human beings (especially children), is a line I'm not willing to cross. I guess we all choose our lines.

Adding - I do understand why some people *need* to shop at Walmart. Sometimes it's the only game in town. And of course, some people need to drive. It's the way our world is set up.