*Lack and deprivation can ignite motivation. I’ve seen it in my own life. When I want something, need something or need to get something fixed or done it makes me work harder. It births uncanny creativity and unleashes ingenuity that was apparently lying dormant in the recesses of my DNA. I’d be remiss it I didn’t add that being in this spot (stuck between a rock and a hard space) is inclined to make me take risks or a least consider them. Oh it’s an amazing and sometimes harrowing journey once I am in this zone.
Lack and deprivation can also make you sick and cause a “melancholy of the soul.” Well at least that’s the premise of British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in their book, “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger.” It’s not a big surprise, but the surprise is the research and data that backs up their firm assertion.
They found that inequality diminishes life and causes shorter, unhealthier and unhappier lives. And that was particularly the case in America where they found that among all the developed nations, America has the lowest longevity of them all.
They assert that disproportionate inequality tears away at the human psyche. And they maintain it directly attributes to higher rates of mental illness, anxiety, heart disease, substance abuse, suicide, catastrophic diseases like cancer, obesity, teenage pregnancy, crime and violence.
That’s not hard to believe. In fact it sounds like the America I live in. As the divide between the haves and have not’s continues to widen, these social outcomes have become synonymous with American life. Just turn on your television or visit your favorite “go to” news internet site and you will see evidence of this story after story.
The authors further stated that the strong correlation between a country’s level of economic inequality and its social outcomes “are too strong to be attributable to chance.”
I have to agree with that.
In fact the researchers noted the United States’ institutionalized economic and social inequality.” I just wanted to yell, “No s**t Sherlock,” when I read this. In the case of African Americans inequality is endemic. Its tentacles are rooted in the history slavery. We see the toll institutionalized inequality has wrought all around us.
The crux of their argument is that inequality in societies creates dysfunctional societies. The mere stress of lack and deprivation can touch off all kinds of biological changes that affect humans on a cellular level and it often fuels self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse.
“If you fail to avoid high inequality, you will need more prisons and more police,” the researchers stated. Sounds like the remedy American has employed to deal with pervasive inequality. Just provide more prison housing instead of affordable housing.
I believe that we all have a basic need to achieve equality; without it we find other means to equality along with dignity and respect. Perhaps this is what has spurred the uptick in gang affiliations.
The authors of the study state that the best way to make sick societies healthier is to remove the very thing that has made them sick – economic and education inequity. This is why workers in Wisconsin protested to defend their collective bargaining rights. It’s also why last year nearly 50,000 students in London protested against higher university tuition fees. It’s also at the center of the recent social unrest in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen and other parts of the globe.
In the United States, the economic crisis has been a boom for some. So many folks have lined their portfolios at the expense of the working class that’s it beyond criminal. It’s not been by chance. But for the majority of Americans, it has been a bust. When people loose their pay, jobs, health insurance, homes and alike it just creates a sicker society. That’s not by chance either.
Inequality is divisive. Greater equality makes societies stronger, as noted in the subtitle of Wilkinson and Pickett’s book. The road to this nation’s health and recovery can’t overlook this fact if it really wants to get well.
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