- Politics and Social Issues
Egalitarianism and Social Justice Will Stop Civil Unrests in Our World
Inequality and social injustice cause civil unrests
Egalitarianism starts with two assumptions:
(1) Humans are equal in some respects. For example, a male human being has feet, body, arms, head, eyes, mouth and the like. So does a female human being. A female and a male at the lawful age has one vote each.
(2) Humans are not equal in other respects. For example, a female is not equal to a male in terms of sex organs, function of giving birth, and differences in physiology. The male is usually stronger than the female. They also differ in intellect.
A dictionary says of egalitarian:
"believing in equality: maintaining, relating to, or based on a belief that all people are, in principle, equal and should enjoy equal social, political, and economic rights and opportunities" (Microsoft Encarta 2009)
In the dictionary meaning that "all people are, in principle, equal" is prescriptive not empirical.in "should enjoy equal social, political, and economic economic rights and opportunities," "should" is a moral imperative so is "equal."We know for a fact that social, political, and economic rights and opportunities are not equal.
In egalitarianism we come up with prescriptive principle or moral imperative. We try hard to put into practice this moral imperative.
For example, in land ownership. In the homestead practice, a citizen is given 24 hectares of forest land to develop that s/he will eventually own as a reward for his/her development efforts. The area is equal for each. However, there are differences, One area is more fertile than the other that will give a better harvest even if they were planted to same crops grown in the manner.
However, the landowner of the less fertile farm can amend his soil. The point of interest relevant to egalitarianism is equality where equality is applicable.
Suppose one citizen were given 20 hectares and the others were given 17 hectares. Suppose this disparity in area were widely practiced. There is inequality. This inequality is a seed for civil unrest.
One remedy is expropriation of vast tracks of lands and redistribution in equal portions. This was done on some land ownership acquired during the colonial times in America. After the American revolution some landed states were redistributed.
We may presume severe cases if disparities in land ownership in feudal China, where landlords owned vast tracks of land. The solution was a revolution in 1940s that has resulted in the state of China owning all land in China. Now a citizen can lease a portion for cultivation but the area for lease has a limit.
The general guide for such a limit appears to be (1) the area is not a source of envy by another citizen (2) it is not a source of power that will be used to degrade and cause physical harm to another citizen (3) the area does not deprive other citizens of land to cultivate.
Private ownership of land appears to have originated from ancient Rome. It is propagated by most Western countries. There was no land ownership among the nomads. Since, there were only a few people, they were free to partake of the plants they found edible and animals they could catch.
In large countries, land ownership is sacrosanct.
In egalitarianism, it is not the size of the cake that matters. It is how the cake is divided that matters. Suppose you have 8 children. You bake a cake. You cut up the cake such that two of your kids will have bigger slices than that of the other six. These will complain or grumble.
The division of the cake is a source of civil unrest.
The tests of egalitarianism are: (1) equality where it is applicable, like land area, (2) happiness as a result of equality and approximation of moral prescriptions.
Happiness will not bring about civil unrest.
The West has come up with liberalism, individualism and capitalism. It has also invented the corporation. These have resulted in the accumulation of wealth on the part of the few by means of power. These wealth have been used to deprive other people of resources and access to resources. Corporations have consolidated power such that they can subjugate governments, including that of the United States. Marx predicted the decline of imperialism but failed to mention that the private corporation will supplant it.
Ordinary citizens do not have any control over the private corporation. it is a harbinger of civil unrest.
The people's corporation is something else. The people have control over it. However, we must distinguish it from the "unitary corporative Republic" of Portugal which was a dictatorship ruled by Salazar.
To some religions, a human being is created in the image of god. Humans are equal in the eyes of god.
In our discussion we will start with the same two assumptions as we have in egalitarianism. To repeat: (1) humans are equal in some respects (2) humans are not equal in other respects.
The key word is "justice." "Social justice" emanates or applies to a lot a people.
Let's proceed with the theory of justice. It consist of concepts and relationships among concepts. To the religious the theory of justice might be:
"God created humans equal with rights and privileges."
The concepts are "god," "humans," "rights" and privileges.".
The relationships are "created," and "equal."
To clarify the obvious. God is above humans, he is not equal to humans. In a hierarchy, humans are below god. Humans are equal among themselves.
"...Justice, in Catholic terms, is the proper ordering of relations among persons; the principles of justice indicate what relations should prevail. The principles, in other words, prescribe the rights and duties of persons...." (Shields, C. V. Democracy and Catholicism in America. 1958:175).
We will bear in mind that, in the religious point of view, justice emanates from god and applies on a few peoples, at least two peoples, Social justice emanates from god and applies on a lot of peoples.
"A ruler, then, must exercise divinely ordained authority. Its exercise is governed by natural law. By definition, a ruler who exercises authority bears a special relation to God that those subject to authority do not...." Same source as above: 175-176).
We find that there is a hierarchy in (religious) justice. God, saint, priest, laity. In terms of administration, god is the supreme authority, saint is next, priest is next authority. Laity is subject to authority. Each step in this ladder has rights and duties. Rights correlate with duties. It is important to take note of hierarchy and rights and duties in each step. There is no equality from the saint to laity. Laity may be equal among themselves. It follows also that the most important rights and duties lodge with god, saint,. priest and laity in that order. Peoples in the laity are happy with their lot because it is there where they belong. It is like a bee colony. The soldiers are happy being soldiers. However, by religious definition there is justice.
Conflicts arise as to who is god, is there one or many, what are his/her teachings, who gives the correct interpretation of the word of god(s); what are the correct or right or bad or wrong thoughts or behavior according to the point of view of interpreters. That is why we have plenty of religions, and sects. These conflicts are settled in terms of power. There arose wars between the Catholics and Protestants in England. The pope launched crusades against Islam for five centuries resulting in mass slaughter of both Christians and Muslims. The psyche of the crusades still linger today. There are religions that do not recognize the state or government of a country. There are those who claim that morality comes only from religion. There is a religion that claims all humanity as its subject by definition: it includes all believers and non-believers. .
The Christian doctrine of justice conflicts with democracy. To begin with, no one can question the authority of god. The first edict is "Thou shalt not recognize any god other than me." No election is allowed. No one should question the authority of the priest because it is derived from god. Catholics supported the dictatorship of Generalissimo Franco of Spain. Salazar, the former dictator of Portugal applied the papal encyclicals in his governance.
Justice does not always have to do with the law or statute. It belongs in morals, the universal set of human thoughts and behavior. The next subset is power. Subsets within power are ethics and law in equal footing. Justice has two doctrines: Commutative and distributive. Commutative has to do with relationships of two persons; it deals with equal treatment. We are more concerned with distributive justice.
Secular social justice
Let's consider the American people who have operationalized a variation of democracy in modern times. Take a look into the preamble of its constitution, thus:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"...The people are to be provided (a) justice, (b) civil peace, (c) common defense, (d) those things of a general welfare that they could not provide themselves, and (e) freedom...." (Microsoft Encarta 2009).
Given the presence of secular morality. it is separate and independent from religious morality. The separation is necessary as the religious had the tendency to override the secular. The pope condemned Galileo to life imprisonment owing to the latter's discovery that the earth revolved around the sun. The Halley's comet changed a lot of people who came to see it as a scientific event rather than as a messenger of doom. The crusades, instigated by popes, implemented by kings and princes waned owing to protestantism and the reform movement. King Henry VIII bolted Rome and established his own church with himself as supreme bishop. The French revolutionaries of 1799 abolished the privileges of the nobles and the Catholic church and installed a constitution that governed the church.
A case of social justice or injustice can be seen in the ownership of land. "Justice" and "injustice" are faces of the same coin.Either side is favored by the fellow owing to his sense of morality and power.
When the Philippines was a colony of Spain (1527 to 1889) the king awarded vast tracks of land, called encomienda later on hacienda, to his minions who served him well. In Latin America the equivalent of hacienda is the latifunda. It was originally rights over land that was extended into rights over the people, natives, who tilled the land. After the Spaniards were driven away by means of a revolution the haciendas were seen as vestiges of colonization and harbingers of strife. Philippine legislature moved to expropriate them but not completely. There were haciendas planted to rice, to coconut, to sugar, and to fruit trees. Only the rice haciendas have been expropriated by land reform, redistributed to tillers. The former owners were the least powerful of the lot . So the coconut, sugar and fruit haciendas with a lot of tenants in them have remained. Social injustice has been committed against them in particular and the Filipino nation in general. The unexpropriated haciendas have made the Philippines still feudal. A lot of capital are locked in these haciendas that also serve as the foundation of power of the elite. The elite are the virtual rulers of the Philippines today.
The United States, the imperial power over the Philippines (1900-1946) and neocolonial power of today, has made it a policy not to break up the haciendas. The reason is that it is the base of the comprador class that has been the conduit of power of the United States. In contrast, the US broke up the landed states in Japan to dismantle the feudal lords of Japan, who designed and implemented the Asia Co-prosperity sphere, responsible for the aggression of Japan in WWII.
The problem of hacienda will be resolved by means of power.
Social injustice or social justice does not apply only on land ownership. It applies on private corporations. it also applies among countries.
Countries of Europe carted away the gold and diamonds of African nations. Spain carted away gold of the Philippines. There was a time inflation in Europe took place because of gold from the Philippines.
This time, black gold or oil is being carted away from the Middle East and Africa. This was the reason why Qaddafi organized the OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). Western countries were exploiting their oil as if they owned it.
Enter globalization. It is a way to break country boundaries and tariff barriers. Multinationals are paying labor in developing countries only one-tenth of what they pay in their home countries. In agricultural production, subsidies are prohibited yet the United States give subsidies to soya and corn production, for example. Subsidies for sugar cane production is prohibited in the Philippines but European countries are giving subsidies to beet sugar production. These prohibitions are provided in the World Trade Organization being pushed by developed countries. They are committing social injustice.
Social justice applies on the economic system as well. We have a world currency that favors the powerful and wealthy and discriminates against the poor and helpless. The Philippine peso versus the American dollar, for example. The exchange rate is 40 pesos to the US dollar or 64 pesos to the British pound.
How could the developing countries attain parity with developed countries? If you are a member of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, you cannot create money when you needed it. You must get the approval of IMF/WB. If you are not a member of IMF/WB, this organization will blacklist you. Eventually no country in its orbit will trade with you.
So far no poor country that became independent and had emerged nearly at par with developed countries. Algeria is struggling to protect its oil. Even Russia has not emerged at par. It has not produced an industrial product that could compete with western countries. It applied for a US$10 billion from the US to develop its natural gas but the US did not give it because no exportable gas could be obtained in 10 years, Kissinger told Mao Tse-Tung, Chairman of China, in 1975. Germany is an exception because it has the human capital and machinery.
The strategy of developed countries is to make the developing countries their market. The same is being done in the US itself. Subsidies will be given to poor families so that they could buy the products of industry. That was a lesson learned from the great depression of 1929: there was not enough money to buy the products of industry. Subsidies will benefit the private corporations.
How to bring about egalitarianism and social justice?
Inequality in wealth has been brought about by power. The Spaniards carted gold from the Philippines because the natives could not stop them. The Spaniards used one tribe to subdue another tribe; Christianity having played a large part. At that time the power tandem was the sword and the cross.
The Americans were able to subdue the Filipinos in the Philippine-American war in early 1900s because of the superiority in arms and training on the part of the Americans. But they suffered more casualties here than they incurred in the Spanish-American war in Cuba.
Social injustice was also brought about by power. In ancient China warriors turned into landlords whose powers were derived from the conqueror whom they had supported to establish his dynasty.
In the United States some of the wealthy acquired vast tracks of land with iron ore by forced purchase at low prices. These ores were turned into train wheels and railroad tracks at great profits. Some got oil from the Middle East at very low prices. The invention of the corporation has made the wealthy richer. The corporation is not a person; however it has a legal personality. An individual as a member of the board of directors is not liable to lawsuits. The corporation is liable. You cannot imprison a corporation.
Power also brings about egalitarianism and social justice. To recall, the concepts of egalitarianism and social justice belong in morality.
(I have a Hub on how comes it that morality has a wider scope than legality. Morality is the universal set; power is a subset within morality;ethics and law are subsets within power. Power subdivides into naked power, executive power, persuasive power, economic power and priestly power)
Morality is like a coin that has a good side and a bad side. Equality/inequality is also like a coin; social justice/social injustice is also like a coin. What makes a side good? Or bad? Let's say what I like is the good side. You may not agree. That is alright. The crucial matter is that there might be a lot more people who also like what I like. That translates into power.
Let's take an example in history: the civil war in China in the 1940s between the forces lead by Mao Tse-tung and those lead by Chiang Kai-sek. Mao and his forces wanted to abolish landlordism. Chiang and his forces wanted to maintain landlordism with support from the US (consisting of 153,000 military personnel, military advisers like Gen. Stilwell, Gen. Wedemeyer. Gen. George C. Marshall, guns, warplanes, Phantom 4 bombers) Mao and his forces defeated Chiang and his forces in a shooting war. Eventually Chiang and his loyalists, including American forces, fled to Taiwan. Mao abolished landlorsdism and made China, the state, the sole owner of land.
We will attempt to resolve now the question, "What makes a side good? Or bad?
Let's review contemporary history. There was a time when religious morality prevailed. The religious could compel kings to wage wars on pain of excommunication. Kings obeyed for fear of going to purgatory after death. You can see the power of the unverifiable concept of purgatory, conversely, of heaven. But a prince disobeyed; he married a Muslim princess. Excesses in the pope's ideas boomeranged. Like the belief that virgins will not be harmed because they have not committed sin. So youngsters were sent to take back Jerusalem.They were slaughtered by the defenders of the temple. The reformation and King Henry VIII's establishment of the Church of England, separate from Rome helped stopped the crusades that pervaded for five centuries, nine crusades in all. It is one of the follies of humans.
We notice that during the crusades, an outside force to stop this carnage was absent. It also becomes obvious that religious morality cannot be relied upon. Ideas in the reform movement and protestantism eventually stopped the crusades. Even if crusades involved only the West, westerners have spread all over the world that a large part of humanity had been dragged. Today the psyche of the crusades still reverberates in Mindanao, Philippines where the Muslims had settled long before the Christians, Spaniards, colonized the Philippines.
The aggressors in WWII were stopped by the Allied forces,. Therefore, the Allied forces were good.
The Cold War was stopped by the alliance between the United States and China. Therefore the alliance between these two countries is good.
[In the rapprochement treaty between the US and China in 1972, the US gave up on Taiwan, abandoned Chiang Kai-shek and Taiwan became a domestic issue of China.]
Private corporations are making people in the West unhappy. Therefore, private corporations are bad.
You see that power is involved. That is why power is an important concept today.
Still the question: is there something that is intrinsically good? Or that is intrinsically bad? Is there a gold standard, as it were?
What about science? We said purgatory and heaven are unverifiable. Now science relies on the verifiable. Science, of course, has saved us from a lot of follies of the church. Could science be used to settle what is good and what is bad? Take Einstein's formula, E = mc2. This is the basis of nuclear power plants that provide electricity. In that sense the formula is good. It is also the basis of two atomic bombs that killed thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians; one killing at least 60,000. In that sense the formula is bad.
The formula itself is not good or bad. It is how humans use it that is good or bad. Culture breeds the idea of good or bad. Power brings it about.
Anybody hazards how things will play out? It will be a rivalry between the private corporation and the peoples' corporation. No shooting war in the offing. The more enduring culture wiil win.