Addressing elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair in 2020

Image: Adapted Camel pic (skitterphoto) with Felicity-the Pirate (Vanessa Randel, 2020)

We are subsumed by challenge and change, at micro, meso and macro level. The implications and the importance amplified by our tumultuous political, economic, and social landscape. There are transitions in world leadership, and newly mobilised and channelled energies. Voices of the disenfranchised and disaffected grow louder. Enforced covid-related adjustments to daily and seasonal routines and rituals feed disillusionment.

Yet this is nothing new. Since times immemorial, humans have dealt with ‘change’ and ‘challenge’. The 500 BC Greek Philosopher, Heraclitus, is attributed with the claim, ‘change is the only constant in life’. And whilst we accept life is a series of challenges and should embrace change as opportunity or growth, it is entirely something else when the lack of change or inability to effect change allows the masking of injustice and impropriety.  

When change is inflicted, negative or thwarted, avoidance or passive acceptance can be thoroughly alluring. Yet, at some point, something snaps. Some form of mobilising spark or tipping point – possibly “the straw that broke the camel’s back“. There have been many trigger moments in 2020. One last act of violence, one last breaking of commitment, one last lie, which gives way to absolute clarity and/or motivation to address the underlying conditions.

How we deal with change and challenge, and what triggers a person or a collective to action is fascinating. A wide spectrum of response. Some stand conservatively on the matter. Change or challenge should be introduced incrementally, slow and steadily, even behind closed doors. Claiming the best interests of society as a whole, a portion may express that the exercise itself should be guided or driven by the prevailing elite or the state. A form of ‘measured change from above’. 

The more radical perspective, associated with Marxism, directs attention to the fact, that in capitalist societies, the state or prevailing elite merely represents the concerns of the ‘prevailing comfortable’ classes. They will make all attempt to diffuse negative attention and thwart all efforts that will disrupt their position of power or abuse. The scenario plays out within organisations as well as at government or societal level. In the latter context, ‘revolution from below’ can be the only means to challenge the increasing exploitation of the masses.

To my mind, we have limited choices when dealing with change or challenge. Accept, resist, shape your response, or challenge the system itself. I am respectful many feel they are not in any position to do anything other than accept a situation, especially if at risk of further loss, income, reputation or relationship. There is no judgement on the latter, but they are possibly the most common reasons people turn away from the more discomforting paths or actions.

When stressed, tired or challenge weary, it can be a test to fight the urge to leave issues sort themselves out. Turn away, count one’s blessings. Kind advice received ‘to pick battles wisely’. However, sometimes you don’t pick a battle; it picks you. Possibly the language is unhelpful. It’s not a battle but taking a stand. And it’s nothing personal. The root cause of the issues rooted in parties selfish acts, sometimes, naively or encouraged on by fellow benefactors. Appropriate address is swerved. All that is left is to move forward into the heat. Pursue ethics, respect, and accountability.

I fell upon this sentence.

“Prejudice grows like mould, based on elitist myths in times of exclusion when some people preach that inequalities are simply reflections of individual differences in ability” (Dorling, 2015).

This, in turn, led me to the five social evils – elitism, exclusion, prejudice, greed and despair. We live in an increasingly hierarchical society and we talk about some people being way ‘above’ and others way ‘below’ other people. And yet we are not that different from each other. This sham hierarchy has been created by elitism, exclusion, prejudice, and greed” (Dorling, 2015). 

“One manifestation of prejudice is that when great numbers are seen as less deserving, whether as slaves, paupers, or just ‘average’, a minority can describe their own behaviour not as greed, but as receiving higher rewards because there are simply different kinds of human beings, and they themselves truly deserve to be put on a pedestal above those whom they view with prejudice and look down on” – Dorling, 2015

Interesting points for reflection. More relevant to some challenges or contexts than others.

Dorling further positively encourages:

Everything it takes to defeat injustice lies in the mind. 

First, we need to see things as they are, not as a few…would have the rest of us believe. 

Then what matters most is how we think, and how we think is metamorphosing because – everywhere – there are signs of hope.

Yes, I agree, there are signs of hope, even in the darkness of 2020. Possibly in some connected zeitgeist type of significance as a response to the current economic, political, cultural and ecological crises. There is a growing spirit to” bend curves in directions that are good for people and the planet, navigating the threats through a new moral practice, and changing the course for the future” (Dash, 2019).

The point being, one can find strength in the cause itself. And that, ordinary folk have the capability to move forward, to create pathways for positive change.

All it takes is a few good [wo]men…


References

Dash. A. (2019) ‘Good Anthropocene’: The Zeitgeist of the 21st Century in Transition Strategies for Sustainable Community Systems: Design and Systems Perspectives’, Springer International Publishing.

Dorling, D. (2015) ‘Injustice: Why Social Inequality Still Persists’ Revised Edition, Bristol: Policy Press.


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