Inequality in the jungle

A friend of mine recently put a thought out there via her facebook;

“the government are talking about “fairness” which they take to mean – everyone getting an equal share. I like the story of the rabbit and the monkey at the bottom of the tree, both told to climb it. Fair? Well they both have an “equal” start…hmmm….not exactly fair that the monkey is gona find it far easier to climb…. so, is it therefore “fair” that councilsnow have a more equal share – ie some well off council budgets have actually gone up, but that its no longer responding to needs of people, i.e. ignoring the extra needs of those who are like the rabbits in the story rather than the monkeys….”

I liked the message but slightly disagree with the principle as I don’t think we’re as different from each other as Rabbits and Monkeys. So my response is this;

This is the tale of two aspirational monkeys
In the middle of the jungle at the bottom of the tree
Both looking upward, wanting to reach the top
This is the story of one success and one not.

 Marvin the monkey stands and takes in
The challenges in front of him
He thinks about his first tentative steps
What should they be in order to progress?
Marvin stands there and contemplates
He approaches the tree when he hears a cry – “Wait!”
Through the undergrowth comes Mum and Dada
To give Marvin a start they’ve brought him a ladder
Marvin is grateful, just what he needs
And he starts to make his way up through the leaves.

Jimmy the monkey pictures his destiny
He sees himself grandly climbing the tree
For him the first task, the base to be found
Get past the roots as he’s buried underground.
He must determinedly fight, dig and claw
To get through the earth with under-developed paws
With guts and brute force he breaks into the light
And there he sees a terrible sight
The Hippo awaits, his intentions are stark
And he stamps Jimmy down, back into the dark.

Marvin’s climbing nicely, he’s doing quite well
The Gibbon lends a paw because Marvin’s face fits the bill
On he goes brimming with confidence
Gorilla blocks his way but Marvin throws a few pence
The beast steps aside, wishing Marvin every chance
And he heads on towards the top branch.

For Jimmy his progress has been quite slow
He had to wait for the departure of Hippo
Now he’s making ground, climbed a few feet
Finally, Jimmy’s on his way to a lofty seat.
But here is Gibbon standing square, face stern
His mind’s made up on this monkey with dirt in his fur
Jimmy is gutted, he’s being denied
The advice he’s given? – “Give another tree a try”
So he turns and starts to go back
When he notices Gibbon’s attention slack
Jimmy acts on instinct and takes his chance
He scurries up the tree, leaping branch to branch.

Marvin reaches the top where the powerful monkeys are
He’s proud and looks back, he’s come so far
The top branch looks quite busy but they move along
After all the Head Monkey knows Marvin’s Dad and his Mum

Jimmy hides, panting, making sure he’s safe
He turns to head on, but finds an ugly face
The gorilla slaps him hard and calls him a cheat
He picks him up and throws him back down through the leaves.

The monkeys on the top branch, half-notice the scuffle
But they pay it no mind, it’s not their kerfuffle
Marvin peers down and sees Jimmy falling
He turns to his elder and asks “shouldn’t we help him?”
The elder sighs and tries to stay calm
“Worry not young Marvin, he can do you no harm,
Best for you to stay here with bananas to eat
For when you drop scraps, dinner he’ll receive
The more you devour, the more will fall
So you’ll have done your bit for that feckless soul.”

Jimmy hit the jungle floor with a thump
He picked himself up all battered and bumped
He stood and looked up at the tree for a while
But then had to move quickly to avoid the Crocodile
He jumped to the side but not quick enough
A bite gone from his leg, he’d have to get tough
Jimmy decided that to gain some pride
He’d have to prove himself strong in the fight
And so he spends his days scrapping with Hippo and Croc
All in the jungle brand him “trouble” and lazier than Sloth
They say that the problem with Jimmy is easy to see
He can’t be bothered to climb up the tree
He lives off leftovers that Marvin drops down
And sees out his days living under a stone.

The moral of this story is plain to see and something that I feel very strongly about. In short, some people have every chance and advantage in the world to progress, some people have little or no chance. The natural ability a person has, often has less bearing on how far they get than what family they were born into. I was fortunate enough to go to University and met a lot of ignorant people from privileged backgrounds. I also work with some of the most disadvantaged young people in society who have extremely high levels of intelligence, but everything else going against them. How is it fair that ignorant privileged generally get better jobs, live in the nicer areas and have the most money? 

It will always be the case that some have more opportunity than others, but our society hideously favors those born into privilege. I didn’t do anything to be born into a family where I could be well supported and encouraged, in an area where crime is low and aspirations are high, just the same as some of the young people I work with didn’t do anything to be born into a place where the odds are stacked against them. Of course some people start from disadvantage and become hugely successful, but they are a minority and the gap in advantage and opportunity needs to be closed.

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3 Responses to Inequality in the jungle

  1. Philippa Chapman says:

    So what does Jimmy need? A ladder like Marvin? More understanding and compassion and support from the Gibbon and Gorilla? The absence of Hippos and Crocs? Interest and commitment from the monkey elders ? And would just one of these things make the difference or do we need all of them? Philippa

  2. Philip Duval says:

    Absolutely right on

    Pick up a copy of this if you can. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak and he was awesome. This really blows apart the psychology behind our unequal society.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Injustice-Why-Social-Inequality-Persists/dp/1847427200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303683241&sr=8-1

    When is your birthday? I’ll get it for you if you like

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