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A "Town Hall" bringing together stakeholders from a variety of disciples, with more than 15 community leaders speaking on a diverse range of topics related to social, environmental, political, justice and economic issues. Plus musical and spoken word performances, and short films.
Hosted by by Occupy Kelowna, the Council of Canadians and the Okanagan Institute.
What It Really Means To Be EqualIN MORE EQUAL SOCIETIES PEOPLE LIVE LONGER & HAVE BETTER LIVES
The world has been watching the Occupy protests become a symbol of the discontent many feel about the way things are going, and the growing disconnect between the few and the many. When we look around us, we see a civilization that is choking on its own trash and toxins, a planet being consumed by casino capitalism, an economic system which creates and thrives on human suffering, mass imprisonment, violence and economic strife. We see a system that cannot be fixed by the same people who brought us to the point of collapse, with the same old methods, ideologies and promises.
Though we who support the Occupy protests may have different focuses, different politics and different goals, we share a common sense that something has gone systemically wrong. We are preparing ourselves for difficult days ahead, because we have been left futureless by a group of people who insist we ask them to solve the problem, so they can refuse us. Those people are the Harperoids, the casino capitalists, the tarbaggers, along with their sycophantic bankers and their political enablers.
Just as the Occupiers don't make one simple demand because what they're doing isn't for the media to turn into sound bites, for politicians to aggrandize or argue against, for bankers to gamble on or for academics to study.
We have to stop asking the powerful for permission, we must instead start to teach ourselves, and support each other, to create a better world without them.
Let's look at what that better world - that more equal and therefore more just world - looks like. Research has shown that:
People in more equal societies live longer, a smaller proportion of children die in infancy, and health in general is better. People in more equal societies are far less likely to experience mental illness. People in more equal societies are less likely to use harmful drugs. Children do better at school in more equal societies. Teenage motherhood is less common in more equal societies. Homicide rates are lower and children experience less violence in more equal societies. More equal societies are less harsh, they imprison a lower proportion of their people. Obesity is less common in more equal societies. There is more social and economic mobility in more equal societies. Communities are more cohesive and people trust each other more in more equal societies.
Inequality fuels status competition, venal individualism and consumerism. It makes it harder to gain public support for policies to reduce global warming. Further economic growth will not improve our health or well-being. For a better quality of life we need greater income and social equality.
There are two fundamentally different paths to greater equality. One depends on redistributing income from rich to poor through taxes and benefits (as happens in Sweden), while the other involves having smaller differences in incomes at source - before taxes and benefits - so there is less need for redistribution (as happens in Japan).
As well as more progressive income and property taxes and more generous benefits, we also need policies to reduce differences in incomes before taxes and benefits. That means higher minimum wages, more generous pensions, running the national economy with low levels of unemployment, better education and retraining policies, increasing the bargaining power of trade unions. Good labour law, protection of union rights and minimum wages are amongst the factors contributing to greater equality of incomes.
It is in the workplace that financial wealth is created, income differences are first established, and where we are most likely to be subjected to hierarchical ranking.
But businesses do not have to be run as predatory profit-making cash-cows where the employees simply serve the interests of rich external shareholders.
There are already vast numbers of organisations that work in a different way. They give back as much as take, they preserve the commons, they serve the greater good, they create opportunities for the least among us, they care for us when we're in danger, week or unwell, they teach us how to live a better life. We need to recognize those organizations, support them, and join them in their righteous work.
A systemic change will only be forthcoming when people recognise how important greater equality is to the real quality of life for the vast majority of the population. We know that greater equality improves health and life expectancy and dramatically reduces the frequency of a wide range of social problems including violence, mental illness, drug addiction and obesity.
People in more equal societies live longer, have better mental health and are more socially mobile. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower, children do better at school and more opportunities are available to them. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence and rates of imprisonment are lower. If we want to build a better society, it is essential we take action to reduce the gap between rich and poor, to build a social movement that can effect change.
The Occupy movement has started the conversation. It's up to all of us to ensure we turn that talk into action. And let's not stop until we're done.