Thursday, October 16, 2014

Blog Action Day - Inequality

When the topic of inequality usually rears its head around my house, there's no one to lord over me. I am, if you Seinfeld people will allow me the decency of using a formerly harmless expression, the master of my own domain.

But inequality exists in many quarters in many nations and is accepted as a matter of course by many societies. It is a fact of Nature observed by Darwin and noted by other eminent scientists in studies regarding survival, pecking orders and those who occupy various levels of the food chain.

Why is it that there still are "untouchables" in India, the largest democracy in the world? Does the caste system there make sense in a modern world? Can we make sense of Bollywood? In both cases, probably not, yet there they are. Too often inequality is tied to wealth or lack thereof. But wealth is not the only determinant. Were Brad Pitt penniless or Jennifer Laurence homeless, I am certain they would not be lonely.

Inequality exists in social settings due to prejudice and the norms of a polite society. To be homeless, for example, carries with it a stigma that many cannot overcome easily. To be hungry is not a choice any rational person would make. But for many who have a roof over their heads and whose stomachs are full, there is an inbred resentment at those who seek assistance. "Get a job!" they think or mutter under their breaths. One time I wish the subject at hand would answer: "I've got a job and I'm happy. I'm my own boss and set my own hours. You, on the other hand, have to answer to a boss, whom you may not like, and have to punch a clock. So, just how happy are you?"

Many times these people have just fallen on hard times or are fighting the insidious disease of addiction and have yet to reach their bottom or find their higher power. That doesn't make it right that they ask for help, but it doesn't excuse them from asking for it either. I remember reading that one of the richest women in Great Britain, J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was on assistance from the state about 17 years ago. She saw her first million only 12 years ago. She had divorced and lost her mother, but she had the resolve and purpose to pull herself out of the financial mire in which she lived. She came back better than Harry did at Vold...uh...Volde...uh...Voldm...uh...the one whose name dare not be uttered.

Inequality exists because it is part of the structure of society. It is overtly simplistic, but true. Some must be relegated to do the jobs that few want to do. Others make or are given the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of a charmed, affluent life. Most of us fall in between those two extremes. Sometimes we are the engineers and designers of the waste control systems. Other times we are the sewer workers.

Education can be a leveler of inequality, but not always. With today's rising costs of higher education and the staggering cost associated with K-12 private school education, the middle class is finding itself priced out of the best educational opportunities. Student loans at colleges carry with them unforgivable burdens that can take decades to pay back. Students paying back college loans may not be able to afford buying a home for at least a decade. That can't be good for housing starts or loans being taken out. Of course, we shouldn't be too worried about the banks. They're gaining advantage from fewer mortgages being taken out that are being paid back as well as those loans that carry high rates as well. If a student were to take a hint, become a banker.

A student who has a K-12 or college scholarship has an unequal leg up on his more affluent classmates. That can counter some - but not all - of the inequality associated with higher education.

On the other side of the equation, the concept of affirmative action to counter the past wrongs of colleges in admissions and acceptance to graduate and professional schools, may have been appropriate three or four decades ago. Nevertheless, its continued practice today raises a question that some may find hard to swallow.  Does it make sense to maintain a system of giving advantage to a group who no longer requires or should take assistance? Inequality for the sake of equality doesn't make sense when the playing field has been leveled and everyone is on par with another.

Think about it in sports terms. In Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees' big pocketbook allows it to build teams of superstars only wished for by others. That is inequality of teams gone awry. In the National Football League, the draft and salary caps help bring parity to all the teams. I guess that makes the NFL - recently criticized for its handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases - the undisputed champion of equality, even though it's among those rich franchise owners.

#BAD2014, #Inequality and #BlogAction

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