Collective Responsibility

When your big toe is hurting, your whole body doesn’t feel right. Your brain soon gets the message, your eyes eager to take a look. Reasoning together, your brain, heart, and the entire aching body resolves, to help out the big toe.

Your entire being may even make time to go and see the doctor. All of who you are is intent on ensuring that your big toe gets the help and attention it needs. Other items on your list have to wait because getting your big toe better has become your top priority. This is because you know that if you don’t, you’ll end up with an infection which may force you to stay home from work. In that sense, your big toe’s welfare becomes the focus, even though all other parts of you are working fine.

If you now translate the story of your sore big toe to humanity as a whole, you’d have to embrace the same concept of collective responsibility. If the body of humanity is hurting in places, it’s the responsibility of the working parts to join and focus their efforts on improving the plight of the suffering parts.

Thus those living in peace and prosperity need to share the collective responsibility of healing those living in dire poverty or war. This means making the time to promote peace and fight inequality. Failure to do so hurts us all.

 

Bearing the Brunt

Today, the innocent often bear the brunt of the disastrous consequences of ignorant political and social decision making. Here’s a poem about bearing the brunt.

The Innocent

How come it is always the vulnerable and meek who bear the brunt of society’s woes? How come those in power don’t suffer the consequences of their bad decisions? Is it survival of the fittest at the most basic level?

 

In wars, civilians and kids die, loose limbs,

though they did not partake,

In financial crisis, social projects fall off,

though those who need them did not cause the money woes.

 

In oppression, through the abuse of power, the powerless bear the brunt,

though they did not contribute to any abuse.

 

On schoolyards and in work places, victims of bullies crumble,

though they did not look to be mobbed.

 

In homes, the abused struggle to survive,

though they were only seeking happiness.

 

In nature, fragile creatures break and die,

though they seek to live just as much as the robust.

 

In ourselves, we trample on our own fragility.

Seek to choke it out and inflate ourselves.

Flee from it, ignore it, and pretend it’s not ours.

 

Just so that we never bear the brunt or get the raw end.

Honouring Fragility

In a different time and place, we could perhaps begin by honouring our fragility. Starting with our own vulnerability, placing it at the centre, we might then recognize the suffering of others.

Stand up for the defenseless,

the voiceless,

and the powerless.

 

Because we’re all but a tragedy away from disaster.

Here but for the grace of God.

 

I wish I could….My Christmas Wish

As Christmas is approaching and we gear up to lavish each other with gifts and enjoy an abundance of food, my thoughts go to those less fortunate among us. This is my Christmas wish.

And I wish I could

Give shelter to all the homeless

Comfort the sad

Be with the lonely

Share my dinner with the starving

Calm those in mental distress

Hug those no one else does

Heal the sick

Give a drink of water to the kids who, at best, get dirty water

Protect the vulnerable from violence of any kind

I wish I could

get the haves to give to the don’t haves

get the powerful to listen to the unheard

get soldiers to lay down their arms

get the climate to be temperate around the world

I wish I could

stop turning away when I know someone is suffering

make time for someone in need

be kind when I don’t feel like it

keep my temper when I’m cross

I wish I could

get God to make everything alright in mere seconds

So, what am I to do?

I guess I’m just gonna have to keep trying to do what I can

and hope and pray that love will prevail

Yemen – a Developing Humanitarian Disaster the World Seems to Ignore

The UN has called on Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade in Yemen. But despite horrific images of starving children, the international community has shown little interest in this developing tragedy. Yemen, a developing humanitarian disaster the world seems to ignore, doesn’t rank on the list of priorities of the world’s governments

Yemen – The Background

Back in 2015, Saudi Arabia, along with 8 Arab states began an air-strike campaign against the Houthis, thus backing Yemen’s president, Mr. Hadi. Hadi had taken charge after the 2011 uprising, forcing the authoritarian ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh to step aside. However, Mr Hadi failed to take decisive control and struggled in a variety of ways.

Apart from food shortages, corruption, and unemployment, Al Quaeda separatists still loyal to Abdullah Saleh carried out attacks. These attacks culminated in the rebel’s attempt to take control of the entire country in 2015. At that point, Mr Hadi fled abroad. This prompted Saudi Arabia to form a coalition and take action, mainly because the rebels were believed to have enjoyed the support of Iran’s Shia power.

At War Since 2015

Since March 2015, when the airstrikes began, over 10’000 people are believed to have died, many of them civilians. The UK, France, and the US have backed Saudi Arabia’s air-strike campaign in support of Mr Hadi.

Food supplies had been scarce, and this problem was further compounded when the coalition forced the closure of Sanaa Airport in August of last year. Only a few UN flights have since been permitted.

Yemen – A Developing Humanitarian Disaster

When Saudi Arabia also closed sea and land ports in Yemen earlier this month, food supplies began to dry up entirely. As a result, over 70% of the population are estimated to be in dire need of aid. In addition, an investigation by the watchdog SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties, listed over 700 human rights violations against the civilian population, including arbitrary detention, assault, torture, curtailment of press freedom, and extrajudicial killings. Over 500 of these violations are believed to have been perpetrated by the Houthi rebels, while the coalitions is deemed to have been responsible for approximately 100.

UN Pressure Achieves Limited Access

Bowing to UN-pressure, the Saudi-led coalition is now allowing some aid to get through. However, the UN now demands a complete lifting of the blockade, warning that failure to allow sufficient aid in, could lead to one of the worst famines in decades.

According to Al Jazeera, the airport remains closed.

Whatever Happened to Women’s Liberation?

There I was thinking that today’s women had come a long way! But between the allegations against, what now seem to be countless men in all spheres of life, I wonder if we have been fooling ourselves.

From Hollywood to the British Houses of Parliament right through to an Irish Theater company, sexual harassment seems to have been an integral part in all these spheres. And that’s before mentioning all the cultures around the world where women are still treated as second-class citizens. And the Catholic church, don’t forget. And unequal pay across the board.

So, did we just think we were liberated, at least in Western societies? It seems that some men still feel a sense of entitlement and regard women as sexual objects they can take advantage of. But that’s not all, even in the home, gender inequality prevails. Let me tell you Mary’s story.

Mary’s Story

Mary is in her late fifties, has grown up children who’ve flown the nest. She now lives alone with her husband and works in administration, part-time. When I spoke to Mary recently, she told me how she likes her home to be spotless, so much so that she often gets up at 6 am to clean, put on a wash, and do the odd bit of ironing.

That’s what’s she’s been doing all her life, without ever getting any help around the house from her husband. “I don’t mind doing it”, she assured me, “but that day, I got really cross.” She went on to tell me how her husband, who never puts anything away, was once again looking for something and pulling everything out in the process, even though she had just finished tidying.

This time, it was the sellotape and eventually, unable to find it, he rather abruptly made her find and give it to her. “I had told him where I keep the sellotape lots of times”, she explained.

But what got her really annoyed that day was that, after giving him the tape, he demanded, she’d located the start of the tape. (You have to picture a roll of tape without a holder here). She blew her top and refused. A bitter row ensued, with him calling her unreasonable and her welling up with age-old frustration and disbelief at the lack of support. In the end, she walked away.

It’s unlikely that things will ever change. Mary will continue to work hard keeping the house clean, and her husband will go on with a sense of entitlement that tells him it’s OK to let your wife to all the crap jobs around the house.

Educate Boys, Not Girls

I’ve heard countless people demand that girls be educated and brought up to be confident and self-reliant, and true enough, that’s important and valuable. But how about educating boys away from that what seems to be an inherent sense of entitlement, not just sexual but also when it comes to looking after the home and kids? Shouldn’t we teach our boys to shoulder some of the responsibility and truly treat girls as equals?

Does People Power Work?

So, does people power work? Many people feel frustrated and powerless about the state of the world. Wars, hunger, inequality, and dire poverty are just some of the issues facing humanity. In the course of human history, major changes have come about through people power and protests, including successes in women’s liberation, struggles for national independence, and worker’s rights. But does people power work today? Is there any use in organising protests and targeted campaigns?

What is People Power?

People power describes campaigns run from the bottom up. An individual or small group of people highlight social issues and seek to pressure governments or businesses to make changes. This can involve worker strike action or indeed political marches and movements.

On the main, people have marched through cities and towns, holding up placards displaying the message of their discontent. Another popular form of protest is strike action where workers down tools to demand change. Though the sought change does not always materialise in the way protesters intended, businesses and governments tend to take action on some level if the protest continues for a prolonged period.

Let’s look at some of the most successful, high-profile protests of recent times.

Most Successful People Power Drives in Recent History

People power including demonstrations and strikes have brought about significant change. The following demonstrations were crucial in the way they changed the course of entire societies:

June 1908, Women’s Sunday, London
750’000 people are believed to have gathered in Hyde Park that day to demand the women’s right to vote. The demonstration garnered widespread support, and even though it took another 10 years before women were given the right to vote, this march played a significant role in initiating change.

November 1969, March Against Death, Washington and San Fransisco
A quarter of a million people marched in protest against the Vietnam war in San Fransisco, and an estimated three-quarters of a million in Washington. Though the Vietnam war continued for a further four years, Nixon began withdrawing troops, 50’000 in December of the same year.

March 1990, March Against Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax
200’000 people marched in London in protest against the introduction of Magaret Thatcher’s poll tax. Civil disobedience ensued with a third of the population of Wales refusing to pay the tax and some council workers refusing to collect it. Thatcher was toppled and the tax scrapped before the 1992 election.

February 2003 World-Wide Mass Protests Against the Invasion of Iraq
An estimated 30 million people marched against the invasion of Iraq in 800 cities across the world on 13 February 2003. Though the US and UK still went ahead with the invasion, the public anti-war sentiment is now believed to be a major factor influencing government decisions on whether to go to war or not.

2009, UK Postal Strike
Protesting against changes in work practices and the introduction of automated services, thousands of letters were left undelivered in the UK between summer 2009 and spring 2010. Workers feared layoffs and decided upon strike action. Negotiations eventually lead to an agreement, with the postal service guaranteeing to maintain 75% of the workforce and increase pay rates.

These are just some examples of people power, countless more exists emphasising that it is well worth engaging in protest movements and becoming an activist.

Marches, Petitions, Online Campaigns

Marching and striking have been the most popular form of people power, but, in recent years, protests have gathered momentum through online promotion. Social media platforms and websites have given activists a new way to highlight issues and make their voice heard.

Email petitions and social media sharing have become an important instrument for political groups as well as charities and NGOs. A smartly run social media campaign can work wonders in promoting and demanding change.

Twitter #campaigns like #blacklivesmatter, #jesuischarlie, #IStandWithAhmed, and #RefugeesWelcome, were just some of the more recent successful awareness campaigns.

Online activist organisations such as Avaaz, currently boasting more 45 million members, have run numerous very successful online petitions, while renowned activist groups like Greenpeace have been using the internet to raise awareness, educate, fundraise, and protest.

People Power is Effective – Join Your Chosen Cause and Take Part

If you feel passionate about a specific cause, you can pretty much instantly find like-minded people online. Regardless of whether you want to become a local activist or join an international protest movement, a quick online search through the main search engines, on Twitter, or on Facebook will instantly point you in the right direction.

That’s perhaps one of the most positive aspects emerging from the internet. Anyone can campaign for a cause and spread the word across the globe. Even if you end up just an armchair activist, you’d still be making a contribution and doing your bit for a better world.

Organise Your Own People Power Campaign and Event

You can also always start your own campaign. Begin by educating yourself about your cause so that you know the issues inside out. Then, either find like-minded people and organisations and join them or start your own group by distributing leaflets and educating people about your campaign. Publicize your cause on social media and try to get the mainstream media interested. If you are really enthusiastic, organise a protest and try to get as many people involved as possible.

A strong online presence will help you to spread the word and get other people on board. If you remember back to the ice-bucket challenge, you’ll once again realise the power of a strong call to action and people engagement. Before the ice bucket challenge, only a minority of people were aware of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) but thanks to a very imaginative, fun campaign, the organisation raised tons of money for research not to mention educated everyone in the world about their cause.

That’s how simple it is to harness people power and bring about change. There is little point in despairing at the state of the world, instead, it’s best to get up and stand up for your rights or those of others.

The Art of Giving and Taking – Fair Exchange World

balance

Just giving without receiving is just as bad as receiving without giving. In all human relations, a fair and balanced exchange of all things provides balance and harmony. There’s an art in giving and taking.

This applies to the material as much as the emotional, as a natural balance of giving and taking is a prerequisite for good relationships.

Take nature for instance, unless nurtured, cannot provide nourishment and in society, givers have to be takers as much as takers must be givers.

Much the same applies in matters of the heart and love can only flourish if recipricated, between a child and a parent, on friend and another, and between strangers.

Those lacking can only contribute if their underlying unfulfilled need is addressed first. This is particularly true for those subject to poverty of a material or emotional nature.

Givers need to learn how to take and takers must learn the art of giving in the interest of a fairer world.

Be it in the exchange of goods, feelings, deeds or any other type of contribution that can be made, a natural flow, to and fro, must prevail.

fair-exchange

Mass Shootings USA – Las Vegas Was the 273rd Shooting in 275 Days

Another mass shooting in the United States. 58 people were shot dead and approximately 500 injured at a concert in Las Vegas. Though to-date the biggest mass shooting in America, incidents such as this occur frequently. In fact, this was the 273rd shooting in 275 days.

Our condolences go to those who’ve lost loved ones and whose lives have forever been changed. What now for the American citizen’s right to bear arms? Would tighter gun controls actually save lives? Is the gun lobby simply too powerful for the introduction of tighter gun controls?

Mass Shooting Statistics

According to the independent online database of gun violence in the US, Gun Violence Active, a mass shooting is an incident where four or more people are shot. In 2017 alone, there have been 273 such incidents. The same online mass shooting tracker put the number of US mass shootings in 2016 at 383, and at 358 for 2015. Some people believe, the number of mass shootings in the US to be even higher.

More People Die Because of Gun Violence Than Terrorism
In the wake of the Oregon killing, in which 10 people were shot dead, President Obama pointed out that gun violence has a far greater casualty number than terrorism. Statistics support this view. Between 2001 and 2014, 3046 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks, while 153’144 died as a result of gun violence between 2001 and 2013.

More Than 300 Million Firearms in the US
In the US, there is a firearm for every citizen. The number lies way above 300 million, making the gun industry one of the most powerful and successful in America.

Gun Control Debate

After each mass shooting, the gun control debate takes centre stage, at least for a while. Yet, despite the number of victims, the US gun laws remain unchanged. During the 2016 election campaign, Hilary Clinton vowed to introduce more thorough background checks, while Donald Trump’s stance of the issues seems to have shifted over the course of the last two decades.

Donald Trump’s Changing View of Gun Control
Back in 2000, Donald Trump seemed to be in favour of a limited form of gun control. In his book, “The America We Deserve”, he wrote:

“I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun,” he wrote in his 2000 book, The America We Deserve.

In 2012 Trump went as far as to laud Obama’s call for tighter firearm regulations in the wake of a Connecticut school shooting where 20 children lost their lives.

During the race for the White House, Trump’s position shifted. He joined the Republican’s mainstream in preserving the 2nd amendment and viewing any tightening of gun controls as a violation thereof. Sure enough, the NRA (National Rifle Association) went on to support Trump’s bid for the White House, with NRA donations to the Trump campaign believed to be approximately $30 million.

Guns, Money, and Politics

The US gun industry has played a key role in American politics for many years. As a result, both Republicans and Democrats have struggled to counter the might of the gun lobby. While the mainstream of the Republican party openly supports the NRA, the Democrats have failed in their efforts to introduce tighter gun controls.

Since becoming president, Donald Trump signed a law lifting restrictions on the ability to purchase firearms for people receiving treatment for mental illness. The Obama administration failed in its attempt to ban assault rifles, introduce tougher background checks, and to ban high-capacity magazine clip, even in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

The fear of losing votes among pro-gun voters appears to play a significant role in preventing any change, while the gun lobby’s savvy political strategies aimed at preserving the multi-million dollar gun industry seem to be bearing fruit.

In fact, the NRA advocates making guns available to what some call “the good guys.” Instead of introducing tighter gun controls, they want to equip “the good guys” with guns.

Mass Shootings – An American Problem?

As the US must once again come to terms with gun violence, people from across the globe watch in disbelief. Barack Obama was right when he said:

“We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens” and went on to add:

“And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.”

In other countries, strict legislation prevents ordinary citizens from purchasing guns. Firearm sales are severely restricted and people can only purchase guns under specific circumstances. The licensing process is rather arduous, and if the police feel you owning a gun could put public safety at risk, you will not be able to obtain a licence. Furthermore, certain gun types are banned altogether.

The Second Amendment and Gun Controls – What Do Americans Think?

Whether you would welcome tighter gun controls or an outright ban or are in favour of maintaining the right to bear arms, the increase in mass shootings ought to remain a topic of debate. Solutions must be found so that no more innocent lives are lost in such a horrific fashion.

The current system is not working, more guns are hardly a solution. As a European, I have several questions I would like to ask ordinary American citizens, including:

  • Do you really want to have the right to own a gun?
  • Do you feel you need a gun for protection?
  • How would you feel about very strict gun controls?

Apart from what politicians and gun lobbyists are saying, I would like to find out what people think, especially those who do not use a gun for recreational/sports purposes.

Please offer us your opinion so that we can find out what people rather than politicians think about this serious issue.

Please leave a comment below and engage in our discussion. My main question is: Does the majority of Americans really hold the right to bear arms so dear? If so, why?

First World Poverty – The Ever-Widening Wealth Gap

Be it London, Paris or New York, there are plenty of poor people living in our midst. Many of them are homeless, while others just about manage in low-paid employment or on state benefits. But why is the gap between the haves and the have-nots ever widening? Why are the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer? 

This article attempts to explore some of the issues and causes of the ever-growing divide, while also highlighting the plight of countless poor people living in affluent societies.

Wealth Gap Statistics

According to a survey carried out by Credit Suisse last year, 1% of the world population own half of the world’s wealth. If you expand this share, 10% of the wealthiest adults now own 89% of the world’s wealth. This highlights enormous inequality, with Credit Suisse pointing out that the middle classes have been feeling the squeeze. Since the global financial crises, middle-class wealth has grown more slowly, in fact, many have pointed out that low and mid-income earners are now worse off than ever because wages have not kept pace with inflation. In the UK, the divide between the wealthiest members of society and those on the lower end has increased.

Identifying the Reasons for the Widening Wealth Divide

Opinions on what the causes of the ever-widening wealth gap are, differ. While some blame tax incentives for the rich and low corporation tax rates, others point to exceedingly low incomes and a rising cost of living. The housing crisis which sees many middle-income earners priced out of the market also plays a significant role.

There is a consensus, however, that the disparity of income exacerbates the problem. Surging profits do not filter down to workers, hence company wealth increases while worker wealth remains steady. As inflation rises, everyday items get more expensive, said incomes can no longer sustain the increasing expenses and people’s disposable income disappears.

As for the people living on benefits, the poverty trap is all but too real. Life on benefits excludes many from seeking gainful employment or providing a college education for the next generation.

Living in Poverty in an Affluent Society

If you are poor in an affluent society, you rely on government benefits and housing provisions. People with children struggle to make ends meet without spending wastefully because the benefits payments barely suffice for everyday necessities. With no money to spare to even purchase professional-looking clothing for a job interview, lack of access to training, the chances of making the transition from unemployment to employment are slim to none. Lone parents struggle even more because of the additional costs and the time-constraints of rearing children.

Homelessness has been spiralling out of control in many affluent societies because rents have been increasing at a faster rate than wages or benefit payments. Homeless agencies have been calling on governments to tackle the worsening housing crisis to little avail. Once homeless, seeking employment becomes a nigh-impossibility, while personal issues grow beyond what is manageable for the person involved.

Responsibilities of Governments and Corporations

Anti-inequality campaigners are urging governments of developed countries to do more for those on benefits and low incomes. Education must play a major part, in particular, giving access to college education to school-leavers of disadvantaged areas.

On the other side of the equation, many left-wing political groups have been calling for increases in corporation tax, the removal of tax incentives for the wealthy, as well as the introduction of a “rich tax”. Many believe that after bailing out banks following the financial crisis in 2008, it is now time to ease austerity measures and implement tax regimes that favour the low-paid.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Perspective on Inequality

In June 2015, the IMF published its findings on the causes and consequences of income inequality. To summarize the findings, the IMF highlighted that increasing low incomes for a large populous would fuel world economic growth, whereas increasing the income of the top 20% would, in fact, lower the growth rate. This may come as a surprise to many, however, the findings are in some ways self-evident. If all the people who are now on low or medium incomes were to receive a significant boost to their income, consumer confidence and spending would rise, which would obviously lead to global growth. In contrast, awarding pay increases to those who are already on high earnings would make no contribution to world economic growth.

The IMF recommends that each country should introduce policies geared toward raising low and mid incomes through wage increases and relevant changes to the taxation system. Furthermore, the IMF believes in the importance of protecting the middle class from sliding into poverty.

Through training and education, changes in taxation and wage increases, the economy as a whole would benefit and experience significant growth.

The Wealth Gap – Inequality Doesn’t Work, even for the Wealthy

An ever-increasing number of financial experts have been pointing out that maintaining the wealth divide potentially costs more money than a proper distribution of wealth would. Between benefits payments and donations to crippling nations, governments all over the world are pumping resources into helping the poorest of the poor in all the wrong ways. Rather than building a solid base for people on benefits or low incomes by increasing wages and changing taxation systems and thus allowing for more spending, governments are maintaining the wealth divide and opting to award tax breaks to those who do not need it instead.

As a result, economic growth is stifled, and the status quo is exacerbated. When economic growth is slow, everyone’s gain is reduced, even that of the richest of corporations.

It is simple, common sense to recognise that a more equal distribution of wealth would provide those on minimal incomes with the funds they need to spend. If the thousands upon thousands of poor people had more disposable income, spending would increase, as would government tax takes along with company profits. Everyone wins.

Inequality, in contrast, leads to spiralling poverty, needless suffering, starvation, death, and conflict.

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