Income Inequality

Poverty – parent of revolution and crime

The title to this piece was written in the 4th Century BC by Greek Philosopher Aristotle. It speaks a lesson still unlearned. Perhaps not entirely unlearned because democracies mimic totalitarian regimes in various ways. Building defenses, leaders act out of fear for themselves and the wealth possessors they serve. Instead of striving to correct root causes of gross inequalities, authorities gather armaments to protect the status quo.

America suspends judicial protections, disdains treaties and conducts torture. The right of habeas corpus applies to all, but only until decreed that it does no more. Canada sub-contracts ill-treatment of political prisoners – or at least condones it – in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Innocent men die at the hands of police but justice stays idle and blind. Canadian authorities aim to use secret testimony of a witness hidden from view, in a political trial where foot soldiers are prosecuted and their masters untouched. Corruption abounds unchecked and the people are taxed to pay for giant distractions.

Community police services are militarized and armed with hi-tech weapon systems with known capacity to harm innocents. Police agents, dressed in civilian disguise with covered faces, infiltrate protest groups and initiate violence to justify oppressive actions.

Privacy shields are eliminated or ignored. Governments guarantee law enforcement agencies access to private telephone calls and e-mails and force ISPs and network operators to monitor their customers. According to Noah Shactman at wired.com:

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

Are we as citizens invited to establish the new rules? Are options discussed at election time? Is consensus sought or does it matter? Who does government serve? Answers to these rhetorical questions seem clear to me. I don’t see repulsive poverty as an accident. Rather, poverty is the outcome of untempered greed. Greed that brings wealth. Wealth that breeds influence and influence that controls power.

Philippe Diaz’s documentary “The End of Poverty?” weaves together a range of experts and an array of ordinary poor people and their advocates. The title challenges the belief that a program of international aid, mixed with incremental reforms in poor countries — can curtail extreme poverty within a few decades.

Diaz argues that dire poverty arose from Renaissance era colonization and continues now under 21st-century globalization. With the third world paying $13 in debt repayment for every dollar received in grants, poverty will continue indefinitely. Our economic system created it and sustains it. Our armies preserve it.

Domestically, a similar game plays out. The concentration of great wealth in fewer hands and the elimination of prospects for prosperity bring danger to the entire community. How do we expect advocates for the homeless to react after the televised story of one family’s $100 million plus mansion under construction in Vancouver’s Point Grey.

As JFK said:

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

Citizens in need may not watch quietly forever as the forces of repression arm themselves at public expense.

Categories: Income Inequality

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