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Infrastructure of Inequality Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Phillip A. Dawid, Canada Mar 20, 2002
Peace & Conflict , Human Rights , Culture , Citizen Journalism   Opinions
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Question: How are inequalities within and between societies being maintained, and how are they being challenged? Do you think these challenges can reduce structural inequalities? Why and/or Why not?

Societies have always had intrinsic flaws and inequalities, but as we progress into a modern and increasingly internationalized democratic capitalist system, which shouts equality and freedom, the need to consider our actual freedoms and equality as members of this society comes into play. The need to systematically weed out and challenge the forms of inequality which exist is fundamental in upholding the philosophical and moral implications of our ideology. Modern Western society has become a society engulfed in multimedia, images of the third world, images of peacekeeping, as well as images of popular culture and opinion. These are what cloud and consume our behavior and actions in society today, and contribute to structural inequality.

In addressing the problem of how structural inequalities are being maintained in society, as Gene Sharp, author of The Politics of Non-Violence, had pointed out “governments are dependent on the society they rule” and the executive power system is “dependent on the people’s good will”. This is relevant in considering the importance of maintaining “the people’s good will” for a government. For us in the West, above all we need to examine the social roots of political power and how it influences us and creates structural inequalities among us. North America has become a monoculture of consumerism, and that is what maintains our capitalist society. However, in order to maintain this consumer monoculture the elites of society have harnessed the power of multi-mass media as their modern apparatus of coercing us into the system. You might ask: how does this system lead to structural inequality? The answer, in creating this consumer society, the media puts us into a placid state of acceptance, and instead of society becoming involved in political issues as a majority. We have become too preoccupied with our own self-interest and the acquisition of new products which are continuously being pumped into our subconscious by commercials, television, and magazines. The modern infrastructure of inequality is a complex system, which balances consumerism with the admiration of the elites, with the idea that if we give the public some shiny products which allow them to emulate the elites, we can take away just that much of their freedom in decision making. They will gladly accept the bureaucracy without questioning its long-term priorities or current policies. The sources of political power, as Gene Sharp put it, are not “intrinsic to the power-holder”, and come from society’s voluntary acceptance, or in today’s case the habitual conditioned acceptance. Entertain us, and take away our worries of the world, blind us.

Structural inequalities are being challenged by local initiatives that strike back at political and corporate bureaucracies using their own method of coercion against them, through the media. With the advent of the internet, individual and communal voices are being heard, nowadays anyone can make a digital video and post it on the net. Activists are challenging the structural inequalities of Western society using Gene Sharp’s prescription of the power of non-violence. The power lies in the majority, and when local communities’ concerns become a topic in the national arena through resistance by non-violent in-cooperation, the bureaucracies are sometimes forced to change their policies before too many people open their eyes and start asking more questions. Non-violent action, in many cases, is confronted by authority of the government with violence. That is why, as Gandhi said, activists of peace and equality using non-violence must be as willing to die for their cause as any soldier, and that in creating examples you directly open more people to challenge a system of power. This case is particular to societies faced with regimes and corporations which incorporate a monolithic view of themselves, as holding all the power over the majority, and in those instances many sometimes have to suffer and even die before that system will collapse. As Noam Chompsky put it in a lecture on the democratic fears of Capitalism; even the pioneers of capitalism such as Adam Smith protested the idea of joined-stock businesses “corporations” and believed they could hold great power to influence and coerce that would create and influence systemic inequalities.

I believe that in challenging structural inequalities through non-violent action and through studying the media as a coercive apparatus, and then through challenging it with local initiatives and using media to convey these initiatives, we can in fact reduce structural inequalities. But as long as we remain under the influence of the Western consumer monoculture, we

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Cheryl Heinrichs | May 5th, 2002
As a citizen of Canada, one has grown up in a 'middle class' family and community I share your observation on how this self-indulgent behaviour of individuals within our society is what is letting international corporations create Canadas infrastucture. To me this is disturbing. I beleive that alot of people have a shallow perpective of life and that the society we live in is detrimental to our species creativity. Have any of you really wondered why there have been protests in Quebec, Seattle, and all over the world? If you don't know why then please educate yourself on these matters since they are not to be contemplated with levity. Unethical Corporations are creating a global market where rights of the public don't matter, regulations of the environment are ignored, communities are shattered and the list goes on. For example why was the Bill that demanded that gentically enginnered food must be labeled passed? Why must Canada citizens go to the grocery stores not be informed that what they are buying is an G.E. product? WHY? Because the government really doesn't care about us anymore, they care about profit instead of a democratic society. I'm sorry if any of you who are reading this believe that we as Canadians live in a democratic society because WE DON'T. Our government is slowing losing more and more control to THE WTO(World Trade Organization). I belong to The Council of Canadians and we are trying to raise awareness amoung our fellow Canadians about what is really going on regarding politics. We all live in our own reality but we all belong within a system that mosy of us aren't aware of. I'm a born optimist though so I believe that there will be a day when the children of this world won't suffer anymore, and that trade laws will be fair and just. ~*~*~*~* Curiousity will pave your way~*~~~~~~~~~ I gotta go. You know searching for absolute truth makes life really interesting.

People walk Blind con't.......
Cheryl Heinrichs | May 5th, 2002
I just finished reading my post and I made a mistake about the Genetically Enginnered Bill. The Government of Canada DID NOT pass this Bill on Nov.17.2001. If you have an interest in learning about what a true democratic society is, go to The Council Of Canadians web site and see what we are fighting for.

john garnett | Aug 30th, 2003
if we accept geneticaly altered foods god knows what mind bending additives could be added whith out our knowledge a lot of people do not relize this.

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