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How can we tackle global inequality? How can we tackle global inequality?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2012-09-30 09:17:31
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"On 16-17 October, the European Commission will be hosting EU Development Days, a two-day forum on international affairs and development cooperation that will see Heads of State, Nobel Prize laureates, business leaders and development professionals meet to discuss some of the global issue that are at risk of slipping down the international agenda in the wake of the economic crisis."

The above was posted today on the Debating Europe website ( http://www.debatingeurope.eu/2012/09/25/inclusive-growth/#comment-19803 ). The issue they are asking us to debate about is the issue of the "inclusive growth," (i.e. economic growth that is broad-based and benefits the majority of the population). "The last decade has seen the steady rise of developing countries across the world, led by the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). However, rapid economic growth has often been accompanied by rising inequality," we continue reading.

Well how can you expect to have equality in this world, when the very culture of our civilization and our economies is capitalist, meaning that we are all constantly striving to accumulate riches for ever more. And by any cost. The free markets allow companies to charge us whatever they want and for whatever reason. Terms and conditions apply everywhere. The only thing our economies and companies must strive to achieve is growth.

More money, more power. That greedy attitude is the root of all evil that they are speaking of. Once a group of people get rich or powerful enough, then all they are trying to do is accumulate more and more wealth and also they are trying to prevent others of getting access to it. Simply because when too many people get access to so much wealth, that means less wealth for the already wealthy.

So how can we promote equality in the world? In my opinion it is just a utopia, and it will never be achieved totally. But we can try to make our societies a bit more equal and less painful for those in the lower classes of our society. Because if we want to try to achieve absolute equality, then we have to proceed with wealth redistribution among the different levels of societies, and among states and regions. Now who would actually want that? Well apart from the poor.

So in my utopia vision, which I know I have no chance of ever seeing it coming to reality, the following should be done to achieve equality.

a) Ban all tax haven states. They only promote tax evasion. How on earth can we tackle tax evasion when we have countries on our planet that they are fostering it, and of course make profit out of it.

b) Limit the power of the banks and the markets, or at least regulate them. Create rating agencies in Europe and Asia or other regions so that we will have more competition in this industry too. Now we are rated according to American interests, way of doing business and mentality. Not necessarily the right one.

c) Scrap the Security Council in the UN, or at least reform it. The countries in it are still representing the post WW2 status quo of global power. The permanent members are the world's so called "super-powers," (USA, China, Russia, France and Britain). The non permanent members are selected for a two year membership, that can be from any region of the world. Now how can a small African country that is elected for just two years can make any real difference representing its region's interests, when having to deal with giants like the USA and Russia. And as we have seen from the Syrian situation, it is always China and Russia that are in disagreement with the interests of the "western" states. Not to mention that Europe is still divided in "Eastern Europe" and "Western Europe" in its regions. Why do we need permanent members in the UNSC? Are we still living in the cold war? Why shouldn't all countries rotate and rid of us of all stalemates in important decisions to take action, like that of Syria?

d) Allow all countries to be able to exploit their natural resources without the intervention of third parties, blocks, corporations or countries. The main problem is that while some countries are free to exploit their natural resources freely for the benefit of their people (Norway) in other regions the global players and powers are corrupting the national elites of a certain country with money, so they will sell out their national resources for scraps, benefiting only the political elites and those corporations/groups/countries involved.

This have happened in Africa, it is happening in Greece right now and has happened even in Ireland in the past. Why Norway is exploiting all gas and oil resources in the North Atlantic while the Irish have sold theirs and do not benefit at all? It is actually the Norwegians that exploit the Irish gas reserves. Who decided this and how this agreement was made? Why shouldn’t we allow states like Greece or Ireland to exploit their natural resources for themselves, for the benefit of their people first and then share them with their European partners? Never mind what is going on in Africa and their oil, gas, metal and precious stones reserves. How can we talk about “equality” when there are forces who promote inequality by corrupting the political elites of certain states?

e) Promote transnational organizations and formations like the EU, to promote integration and break the traditional “national” politics. In some countries like Greece, (and Ireland or Spain) politics are still decided under the influence and legacy of the divisive post civil war politics. All these countries suffered bloody and destructive civil wars that left a mark in the political life of the state, until today. There are usually two main parties that represent the two sides of the civil war and traditionally families vote according to their family’s allegiance to each side. How can we ever move on and progress with this mentality? We need a new blood of thinker politicians, politicians with a vision not an ideology.

f) Reform the capitalist system. stop the accumulation of money and power in some corporations or states or organizations at any cost. Stop the growth oriented GDP economy and focus in creating a fair society that works, not a society that knows only to consume. Control the influence of the markets and the rating agencies, pushing for growth evermore. If this “growth” means that we as a society have to go backwards, scraping all worker’s rights and quality of life of our citizens, in the name of "growth" and "competitiveness," then the heck with it. Why turn them into manic consumers that work all day with no quality of life and time for themselves and their families? Also, health and education should be free for all, and not be privatized. I agree with privatizations in other trades like the telecommunications, but as far as health and education is concerned, I believe they are a human right, not a commodity.

g) Stop the "commodification" of everything: from fish to land, plants, animals, natural resources and soon even water or the air we breath! And in a way, people themselves. When we are talking about work force and the so called "labor market" that must be flexible, non-permanent with as less social rights as possible, then we are turning humans into another asset. Any country with strong social policies is avoided by the "investors" and is considered as "less competitive!" It is heaven for them after all, to have workers that work a lot with as little money as possible. Well I think we should have some morals too when reforming our societies. How can we expect young people to create families, to start up a career or a new life, when we create unfavorable conditions for them to get a job, unless they get exploited. Just because the labor market dictates so.

Can we achieve all the above? Personally I believe that if we manage to achieve only two of those points, our societies will move to a better direction. Now where are all the politicians with a vision to push for their implementation? I am still looking to find one.

*************************************************************************

Christos Mouzeviris is the writer of the blog: The Eblana European Democratic Movement 

 


    
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Emanuel Paparella2012-09-30 13:25:25
This utopian vision comes as a breath of fresh air at a time when the very concept of “redistribution of wealth” is considered anathema in the Western political climate, largely under the influence of a capitalistic economic system banded about as the best and most efficient in the world producing the best economic results.

Believe it or not, but as we speak the Republican candidate for president is accusing the incumbent president, whom he calls the welfare president, of the social crime of redistribution of wealth interpreted, or better misinterpreted, as nothing else as taking from those of who have (some one per cent of the population) and giving it to those who don’t have, the 99% who are too lazy and irresponsible in his opinion to work hard and accumulate their own wealth.

But he is not alone. In Italy we have Berlusconi who has the same mind-set, and surely one can find that kind of politician in every country of Europe. That kind of cynicism is the other side of the coin of utopia. Perhaps Marx had a more realistic idea of what redistribution of wealth really means when he said that “each according to his talents and to each according to his needs.” I suspect that even that will be found too utopian by our cynical greedy politicians, especially when it comes from Marx.

But there is another consideration and I believe it is important. Many of these same politicians consider themselves good Christians and good Catholics (such as the vice-presidential Republican candidate in the US Paul Ryan or Berlusconi). It is there, in that cavalier assertion, that they are most vulnerable. For, to be a good Catholic is to have read at least one or two of the dozen or so Papal encyclicals of the last one hundred years on social justice. Those encyclicals don’t speak of equal redistribution of wealth, for to distribute the wealth of the Vatican among the poor of the world would mean that each poor gets an hamburger which will relieve his/her hunger for a couple of hours and then we are back to square one. Rather, what those encyclicals speak of is “distributive justice.” The operative word there is justice. That is how one confronts the hypocrisy of our good Catholic politicians. Some of them, no doubt, will call the Popes who wrote those encyclicals “communists,” but perhaps there will be others who will ponder their failure to read those encyclicals and consider their amnesia of the genuine Christian values of a EU whose founding fathers had a utopian vision of Europe which was by and large a utopian Christian vision, a vision which even Marx, who understood the cultural heritage of Europe acknowledged.

In those founding fathers’ vision a Christian Europe did not mean a Europe only for Christians but a Europe which acknowledged and respected its Christian values and traditions and in that sense was willing and ready to be multicultural and respect other faiths and traditions. So, we need not reinvent the wheel. We simply have to overcome our amnesia of our own cultural Western heritage.


Christos Mouzeviris2012-09-30 20:06:54
I agree with your position Mr Paparella. Even though myself I am inclined to be an agnostic, with pagan tendencies I admit that Christianity has shaped Europe and it is a third of its core, it heart. Greek, Roman heritage and the Christian faith have shaped Europe as we know it. Even though they are all interconnected. Remember Socrates and Aristotle? They were before Christ and they indeed placed the first foundations for Christianity. Or even Alexander the Great, a student of Aristotle, who was the first one to dream of an equal supra-racial/ethnic state, that everyone would be equal independently of his color of skin and ethnic background. Those ancient Greek and proto-Christian values I aspire to, and is where I get my inspiration for the future of Europe. Because simply our "western" capitalist and modern Christian societies are too corrupt and dominated by greed. Even the Church has not escaped this and today's Christian religion has nothing to do with the original teachings of Christ. It is just a corrupt and powerful institution that has done lots of damage already. Remember, even Christ has turned against the Pharisees in the past and I am sure he would do the same if he walked this earth again today. So while I have to admit that Christianity is one of the three cornerstones of European civilization, today's Christian Churches though have little to do with it!! They are as corrupt and useless as anything else in our end of the world!


Leah Sellers2012-10-01 06:41:14
Hurrah, Gentlemen,
Much Food for Thought and Soul here.
Utopian Visions may exist on very dangerously serpentine yellow brick roads, but they are always worth the adventure, exploration and the experience.
Humanity is both Thirsty and Hungry for such Utopian Visionaries and EnVisionings to be made Real, Functionally Energized and Supported, and Socially and Systemically Activated and Balanced.


Emanuel Paparella2012-10-01 11:29:48
Thanks for your thoughtful insights Mr. Mouzeviris and Ms. Sellers. Indeed you are right Mr. Mouzeviris on the fact that Christianity is part of Europe's identity for better or for worse and that courruption in the Church exists just as it exists in human nature, but she is not the institution residing in the Vatican, nor is she the Church triumphant of the end of times, but the universal flawed Pilgrim Church on journey on earth and, as Paul taught us, the Body of Christ. Its leaders are often flawed men (remember St. Peter and Paul, its foundations as laid by its founder?) and and as an institution she suffers from the flaws of human nature too, but on the other hand it is the same Church which has given us the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas and a cohorts of saints, that has saved Western Civilization via the preservation of the manuscripts, that has given us lately the social encyclicals of the Popes which precious few Christians have read.

If you have never read any, I dare say that you may be surprised when you read them and perhaps understand better the mind of the politicians who founded the EU, and even perhaps become a bit regretful of having focused on attacking the messenger when it is the message that needs to be pondered carefully independent of the messanger, and judged in its own right.

For 5 years or so I have been trying to put those very simple ideas across but it would appear to no avail; there is a mind set at work which proclaims Machiavellically that it is the economic and the political that unites the EU and the spiritual is mere frosting on the cake. I have been slanderously called an advisor to the Pope for it, as if I were doing Christian apologetics in the pages of Ovi, which I am not. That is quite a misunderstanding. Quite often I disagree with the Pope since I will have to save myself with my own conscience and not that of the Popes'.

But I don't give up for what seems important to me is to make sure that in a Europe true to its heritage the voice of Christianity is not suppressed from the public agora but is included with all the other secular and sacred voices. Until that is grasped, I am afraid that we will misguidedly try all the other penultimate solutions (the economy and political power) and neglect the ultimate one which has to do with the spirti and the salvation of one's soul. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? That was uttered not by a European philosopher or wise man but by a middle Eastern wise man and has surely shaped Europe's cultural identity even if one remains an atheist or an agnostic. We just have to remember that fact since we, and especially our politicians have forgotten it. To their credit it was not forgotten by the politicians who laid the foundations of the EU. I am thinking of the likes of Schumann and Monet and Eidenauer and De Gasperi. Together with the above mentioned encyclicals it is time to return to origins and retrieve what they thought and what they counselled. In other words it is time for the West to regain its moral compass. Christopher Dawson made that point too in his books on Europe. It is time to retrieve those books too for when a Westerner get corrupted it is the worst kind of corruption. The Roman said it in three words: corruptio optima pessima. Cordially.


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