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DEEP EQUALITY August 12, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Democracy, Social Environment.

Sometimes some events just seem extraordinary. For example, what caused the riots in England?

The Official view is that they were “criminality, pure and simple”. The Prime Minister then said their was not enough police, but did not mention that they appeared to be set off by a police shooting.

Violence is often a social phenomena. The Norwegian murderer, Michael Nagler observed, “may have acted alone, but he did not act in a vacuum”. In this case it was a social phenomenon and it was contagious. The contagion was largely limited to England, although there was an offshoot in Cardiff. The behavior has meaning for the actors, even as it appears to be nihilistic or anormic to those of us whose life circumstances are both different and distant.

The rioters, who reportedly were young appear to be no empathy or concern for the people whose businesses were trashed. They were mostly anonymous actors. The interesting observation was that the police were equally anonymous.

Mark Bahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo observed:

. . . underlying all this is deep inequality, which is causal insofar as it creates the subcultures where setting the town alight can be perceived as a rational action. The thing is that addressing those causes would require a vision of a different form of society altogether, and a political force which would take people there.

So what would deep equality look like? This might include rights as a mutual claim. An economy that recognized the primacy of common human needs as well as special needs. There may be other components, but an interesting idea is that of bread labor. The idea was realized in the Community of the Ark of Southern France. Mark Shephard writes:

What stood out most about the Ark was that it was a community of workers. The Companions believed strongly in the principle of “bread labor,” expounded by Gandhi and Tolstoy. This principle held that everyone who is able should share the physical work required to produce life’s basic needs, such as food and clothing.

According to the Companions, the practice of bread labor avoided the kind of oppression that develops when some people try to avoid their fair share of this necessary labor. The practice also avoided division into classes of workers and non-workers. And it helped restrain material desires, which often grow unreasonable when someone else works to satisfy them.

For these reasons, the Companions saw bread labor as the key to a “nonviolent economy”—an economy that abuses neither people nor nature.

While practicing bread labor, the Companions also aimed at producing everything they used—though they were still far from that goal. In this way, they were trying to break their links with the modern economy, which they saw as built on injustices toward the poor, the Third World, and the earth.

Also, the Companions prefered to use simple tools, powered by hand or animal, believing that complicated machinery is a product of human greed. Simple tools, they said, benefit the worker, building physical, mental, and spiritual health.

In the Age of Climate Change such community projects cannot be casually dismissed, even as the reality of climate change is often dismissed.

Democracy, which is essentially a nonviolent social technology does presuppose a level of equality,  if not the ideal deep equality. It seems to be the case that representative democracy is not possible without equity which is the presumption for accountability. Television Democracy has to be understood as a different form of  democracy to that developed from the printing press – literacy is the rite of passage. “Fair and balanced” can be a transparent lie which makes no difference to the target audience, who are mobilized by a common sense of grievance and hostility to others. Similarly, PR will fix any perception of income inequality and the holders of power can stand in the background.

It was striking the that some English looters were stealing plasma television screens. The riots are thought to have been organized by the new technologies, in particular blackberries. Simple tools might be the means of deep equality?



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