There is such disparity between good and bad luck in this world. So many things about our lives are left to chance and are out of our control. Were you born in a hospital in a wealthy country, or born in a ‘slum’ in a developing one? Were you born with a healthy body and mind, or were you born with an incurable illness or deformity? Were you able to grow and develop in a loving and safe home, or did you encounter trauma and abuse before you were even old enough to realize what you were experiencing?
I think all of us would agree that there are thousands of ways our lives are influenced outside of our control. If you were able to step back and view the world’s metaphorical “ladder of success” from afar, you would see people beginning their lives all across the spectrum. For example, if you were born as a healthy white male in the United States in a stable home in the suburbs, where do you think you would begin on the metaphorical ‘ladder of success’? What about if you were a black female, born with diabetes, into a single-parent home in the inner city? I think we can agree on the chasm of disparity between the two. If we can’t agree on that, then I’m not sure what to tell you.
We have serious issues of inequality in our nation that have been around for so long that the arguments from both sides have become stale. We need people to gain new perspectives on these injustices and reimagine their solutions to paint a new picture that fits the ever-changing reality around us. All great social movements start with someone teaching people to see things differently – Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK. These heroes of the past all envisioned futures that did not yet exist, but that NEEDED to exist for humanity to grow and to thrive.
I have immense hope for our nation, I really do. But here’s the thing – I can only see growth and change happening if we can learn how to redistribute the wealth amassed by the few so that it can reach and enrich the lives of the suffering. And before you start yelling “Marxist!” just hold your horses.
It seems that for many people who call America home, freedom has become the highest achievable moral good. Freedom is valued over compassion, or as Jesus would say, love. And the truth of the matter is, freedom in our nation is not all it’s cracked up to be for so many of the people who call America home. What do the voices of our poor, our minorities, or even our younger generations say about this so called “freedom”? In many ways it feels like ‘liberty’ has become code for “freedom for those with wealth and power to be left alone”. It seems that when we say “freedom for all”, what we mean is “freedom for those who can afford it”.
We need to reimagine solutions to many problems that are perpetuated by unjust systems. Our policies need to evolve as we take in more information and our technology and quality of life improve. We don’t do medicine the same way we did fifty years ago, we don’t do education the same way we did fifty years ago, so why are we so afraid to restructure and reimagine our policies from fifty years ago? We live in such a different world, a world with so much money and privilege, that shouldn’t we want to cancel the worst forms of inequality and disparity and raise up the floor for all? This new age of technology should allow us to release the anxiety that comes with a mindset of scarcity, and develop policies that operate in a paradigm of abundance, but so far it has not. I mean… as more millionaires and billionaires exist than ever before, we are starting to run out excuses to answer the cries of the poor. Let’s reimagine together.
p.s. As a soon to be thirty-year-old white male (born to a loving family in the suburbs), I realize that my understanding of freedom and injustice is still evolving. But I also believe that some things don’t require that much analysis to know that they are wrong.
(Sources: artwork at the top is a Banksy, and some of this conversation was inspired by the Sam Harris Podcast interview with Scott Galloway)