Posts Tagged ‘injustices

01
Dec
09

The Myth

Perhaps the greatest lie originating (and arguably, perpetuated by) Capitalism is the idea that the wealthy are wealthy because they are intelligent, disciplined, and hardworking and the poor are poor because they are ignorant and lazy. As a result, if a man in a business suit and flawless grammar knocks on your door and asks if he can use your bathroom, chances are you’ll let him. You probably wouldn’t do the same for a man in a ragged bathrobe whose grasp of the English language was sub-average. Indeed, the quality of treatment you offer people is usually determined by what social class they hail from. We make assumptions about people based on whether or not they seem to be poor, middle-class, or wealthy.

Quite simply, we’re bigots.

And not without reason either. If a person is less willing to let a homeless man into his house than a man who is (or at least, seems to be) doing quite well for himself, then the person’s fear is not completely unfounded. A wealthy man has less reason to rob you than a poor man. Crime rates, alcoholism, and drug abuse are highest among the lower classes. Likewise the poorer classes tend to have the lowest levels of education. Statistically speaking, yes, you are more likely to be mugged by a poor person than a rich one, but so what? Bigotry is never tolerable, no matter what. So what if you’re more likely to be mugged if you get a poor guy into your house instead of a rich one? You don’t know either man. Maybe the man in the bathrobe is an honest, honorable person who’s had a run of bad luck. Maybe the man in the suit is a sociopathic murderer or a con artist. Judging people according to how wealthy they are is, no matter how you look at it, wrong!

So why is it that we’re prejudiced to trust the middle-class and wealthy rather than the poor? Is it because the poor are ignorant and criminal while the wealthy are intelligent and decent? Of course not! The poor aren’t poor because they’re criminals; the poor have high crime levels because they are poor. Sure the poor man is more likely to mug you, but is that because of him or the fact that he’s cold and hungry? Obviously there are those who are poor because of their own issues- all humans have a propensity towards greed and indolence. At the same time, it is ridiculous to claim that the poor are only poor because they’re lazy. It’s the poorest of the poor who have the heaviest workload. Across Africa, Asia, Latin America and yes, even Europe, Australia, and North America there are millions of those who for ten hours a day for wages of less than a dollar a day! There’s a reason we call them the Proletariat– the working class! It’s because they’re the ones doing all the actual work. They do the farming, the mining, the sweeping, the building, the cleaning, the producing and manufacturing! Why on earth would we even dare to consider these people to be lazy?

Because we’re lazy.

As I’ve said, humans are lazy. More often than not we don’t take the time and effort to investigate something for ourselves; we simply make assumptions or believe whatever our leaders and the media feed us. Since the poor are poor and unable to afford decent (if any) healthcare, we immediately assume that the poor are simply dirty. Since the poor can’t afford decent (if any) educations, we immediately assume that the poor are ignorant and stupid. Since the poor are poor and can’t always afford food/medicine/etc., many are forced into lives of crime- we immediately assume that the poor are naturally criminal. But laziness isn’t the only reason we don’t ask why the poor live in poverty.

Humans are also naturally arrogant. The idea- no, the myth– that the poor are poor because they are lazy makes us feel better about ourselves. We’re where we are because of our efforts! We’re wealthy because of our intelligence, our skill! We’re where we are because of our work-ethic, our self-discipline, and our decency!

Egotistical lies.

We’re where we are because of our own efforts and the efforts of our parents and their parents before them and because of the state of the world we live in and the class we were born into. Personal effort makes up about ten percent of it- the rest is accident of birth and dumb luck. A person pulling himself to the top from nothing is such a rare event that we make a major Hollywood film out of it. If you’re born poor, chances are you’ll stay poor no matter how hard you work unless you get not one but a whole chain of lucky breaks. If you’re born into a middle-class family, you’re probably going to stay middle-class unless you get a bunch of lucky breaks (though less than if you were poor). If you’re born into wealth and privilege than you haven’t done anything to deserve your life and don’t have to do anything to maintain it. Like I said, it really comes down to accident of birth. If you’re lucky, you’re wealthy, if you’re not, you’re poor and probably will be poor for the rest of your life. The Caste System isn’t exclusive to Hinduism.

So in short, don’t believe in the fairy-tale that the wealthy are the best of society and the poor are the worst, or that the poor are poor only because of their own efforts. We are, for the most part, fixed in our place by statistical chance- individual effort has very little effect on us.

It isn’t fair, is it? Only a sadist or an idiot could honestly state that this is an ethical system. Most of us simply shrug our shoulders and say that “life isn’t fair” or “that’s just the way things are…”. I say that when someone’s been murdered, we can’t stick our hands in our pockets and say “life isn’t fair”. I say that when any injustice has been committed, no matter on what scale, the only ethical course of action is to establish justice. Yes, life isn’t fair- but maybe that’s because no one’s doing anything about it!

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08
Jul
09

Law and Disorder

We live in a world where almost anything can be bought. Paper clips, houses, pets, jets, guns, music, bottled water, sports teams, and so on. The so-called “Free Market” has made anything and everything available for those willing or capable of paying.

Justice included.

In the modern justice system, if a person is charged with a crime, he has the right to a lawyer to defend him. At first glance, this might appear to be a perfect system. Every person is entitled to a speedy trial in which he may face his accusers and employ a lawyer to convince a jury of the defendant’s peers that the defendant is innocent of the charges brought against him.

In reality, justice isn’t quite as blind as that. Equality before the law doesn’t mix well with Capitalist society.

When a person from a lower class is accused of committing a crime (armed burglary, let’s say), the defendant is at an immediate disadvantage whether or not he actually committed the crime. The prosecution may immediately link the defendant with a motive- after all, it’s easier to accuse a hungry man of stealing apples than a man who’s just eaten a meal. The poorer the accused person is, the stronger the case is against him. Equality before the law on exists if there’s equality in the bank accounts.

And the injustices of the legal system don’t end there.

According to the Miranda rights, has “…The right to an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you…”. Now this would appear to solve any issues created by the economic gap between prosecutors and defendant. Everyone gets a lawyer regardless of social standing.

If attorneys were a mere commodity, then yes, this would solve the problem. In actuality, lawyers are human beings (contrary to the ocean of jokes about them being hell-spawned demons and leeches). Some lawyers are, quite simply, better than others. A criminal defense laywer that studied at Harvard will be better educated, more skilled, and infinitely more expensive to hire than a lawyer that graduated from some local law school. If a lower-class citizen is charged with a crime, he will not only have a “motive” due to his lack of money, but also only an average or even sub-average lawyer. On the other hand, a wealthy person can afford an entire team of the best and brightest lawyers available. In short, the same jury that would convict a poor person of one crime might easily find a wealthy person innocent on the same charge. In addition to this, the wealthy person may appeal and, if re-tried, will still be able to afford his army of Ivy League lawyers. Should a poorer person appeal and be re-tried, it’s likely that he won’t be able to afford the same quality of attorney he hired for his original case. In short, if a person is too poor, he could be convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. If a person is wealthy, he could be found not guilty of a crime he did. In the Capitalist world, innocence is a commodity that can be purchased for enough cash. There’s never a guarantee that the innocent will walk free and that the guilty will be punished according to their crimes.

Where’s the justice in that?