"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Occupy London at St Pauls and Economic Justice part 2

"The human soul can be very powerful when it is sufficiently aroused; even in the context of changing our flawed economy! Alastair McIntosh tells the tale (1) of how in the last decade of the twentieth century the might of a great corporation was broken by spirituality and theology. Scientific and economic values clashed head on with spirituality. Against what seemed like overwhelming opposition the soul in the end prevailed.
The Community of the Isle of Harris, in the Western Isles of Scotland, was threatened by the development in their midst of a devastating super quarry, a wound and scar of massive proportions. With the assistance of a Native American Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney and what was said to be the first ever theological submission put before a public enquiry the islanders were able to prevent a large corporation (Redland Aggregates Plc) from going ahead with their plans. Overnight the share price of the company on the London Stock exchange fell a massive 8% or £160million pounds! If the project had gone ahead who would have gained from the cruel ravages inflicted on a finely balanced community such as Harris?

The flaws of human nature

Some while ago a series of bank advertisements on the management of wealth appeared in the glossy weekend media. One of these featured a lone and pretty girl cantering away on a lovely white stallion into the beautiful and totally unblemished distance. ‘What...[is wealth]…to you?’ the headline asked. ‘It’s being able to tell the world to get lost.’ Whoaaa!
How can any single one of us afford to turn our back on the world in this way in any sense. How can any of us ride away to an unblemished horizon while so many basic human rights are not available to so many? That surely diminishes us as human beings. But someone, indeed a team of people, wrote that advertisement.
In our materially rich Western society it is too easy to be wooed by the power of marketing and advertising. Psychological insights developed to help us understand the healing needs of our souls are instead cynically used for marketing purposes. The advertisers play on our feelings of guilt or fear and our need for love and comfort, which often reflect in some of the worst aspects of human behavior, our insecurity, envy and discontent. These traits fuel our over-consumption and greed for material possessions.
If we would only understand our behavioral faults and allow them to be healed rather than exploited, there may yet be hope for the plight of our global brothers and sisters who through accident of birth are far less privileged than ourselves. Then we can hope to build an economy that is globally just and contributes to a healing world.
Before looking at ways we can all act to help our world towards some monetary justice, let’s look at our current situation.
The current world situation
The divide between the materially wealthy and the hungry poor is massive and the gap is apparently widening. Statistics from the World Bank tell us that in 2005 26% of the developing world was living below US$1.25 a day, representing 1.4 billion people. If we look at the number living on less than $2 a day, that represented 48% of the world population, or around 2.5 billion men, women and children, a massive testament to human suffering. (2) At the same time we have the ‘super rich’, to be found among the celebrities of sport, television and movie, the top bankers, investment fund managers, lawyers and doctors. It is true that many on the ‘rich-list’ are extremely generous in giving their time, talent and wealth for the global good. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is particularly keen to stamp out the world’s worst diseases that afflict and kill millions each year, most often the young and the poor. He has pledged $25 million to buy 100 million oral polio vaccines for Nigeria, and announced in 2009 that he was giving £115 million towards developing a vaccine for Malaria, which kills up to 2.7 million people a year, 75% of them African children. Bono, the Irish lead singer of U2, best known perhaps for his key involvement with the Make Poverty History campaign, uses his celebrity status to fight for social justice worldwide.
There are others whose lavish life-styles breed an envy and greed, particularly it would seem among the young who are being taught by example that material wealth and celebrity status are the measure of ‘success’. And in the developing world others are attracted to our consumer life style and aspire to similar ‘wealth’. Meanwhile the poor of the world continue to struggle for survival.
The truth is that we have forgotten how to live simply and sustainably with totally unselfish regard for those around us. We have lost the ability to generously share, to ensure that everyone in the same household has had their fill before going ourselves for second helpings.
Consider also that we have an obesity epidemic in the developed western world. Indeed obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the USA. An estimated 65% of U.S. adults, aged 20 years and older, and 15% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Around 34% of adults are obese. That amounts to c. 59 million people! The figures elsewhere are not much better. In 2006 24% of the adult English population were obese, and in children up to 15 years of age the figure was 16%. And both figures are increasing. (3)
We need to find ways to adapt to sustainable living in a world where we can be sure that our good fortune is shared, where everyone has their basic human needs met, where both extremes of wealth and poverty do indeed become history.
We need to build our economy on principles of sustainability and justice for all. Only then can we hope to heal the world.
We must never lose sight of our part as individual players in the world economy. Whether we like it or not, we are all involved as consumers and as investors. Even if we believe we are doing all we can to help, by maximizing our recycling, curbing our expenditure, avoiding waste, and investing ethically, we are still unknowingly or blindly fuelling a wounded economy that is perpetuating the world’s injustices. The responsibility is ours…

And that is why I support the essence of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London Stock Exchange protests.

to be continued

1. Alastair McIntosh Soil and Soul Chapter 14 et. seq.
2. World Bank poverty statistics available for 2005 as at March 2009.
3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, statistics at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/index.html and Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, January 2008

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011 Excerpts from Healing this Wounded Earth

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