Inequality in the gut

This statement about inequality made me sit up and take notice, Robert Jensen quoted in Beyond White Guilt by Sarah Maddison;

“Somewhere down in our guts we understand that in an oppressive system….. the unearned privileges with which we live are based on the suffering of others. We know that we have things because others don’t. We may not want to give voice to that feeling, but it is impossible to ignore completely. And it doesn’t feel good, in part, because to be fully human is to seek communion with others, not separation from them, and one cannot find that connection under conditions in which unjust power brings unearned privilege. To be fully human is to reject a system that conditions your pleasure on someone else’s pain.”

Maddison uses this quote in the context of the oppression of Indigenous Australians, I don’t know if it was specifically intended to pertain to this however is clearly relevant when thinking about any social system where oppression or advantage and disadvantage, exist.

It’s true, a person knows they have it so good because others don’t, I include myself in that. It’s an uncomfortable notion. It’s also a notion that expounds the inner conflict between wanting to behave in a socially responsible manner and ensuring the comfort of oneself and one’s family. We only have plenty because of luck of birth and because we haven’t shared more with those who need it. So where is the balance? If we reject the system that creates this situation, what system do we embrace?

I pose these questions not because I have the answer, but because they are enquiries that we should all consider closely.

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One Response to Inequality in the gut

  1. Phil says:

    A beautiful quote and one with which I agree whole-heartedly. I am sick of the notion that human beings are solely selfish beings – it is the psychological projection of those who dominate. It is only 35 years old – 35 years too long – and it is time it is overturned.

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