Economic Discrimination

The Refugee Crisis: A Wake Up Call to the Devaluation of Life

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by Joana Jesus

Je-suis-un-réfugié_No-one-is-free-until-we-are-all-free

A few years ago, I took the decision to voluntarily leave my family and study for a year in France. Later on, I chose again to move and work in the United Kingdom. Within the European Union, such mobility is promoted and there is no need to justify your decision or to have a visa to do so – as an European citizen and within the EU it is my right to establish wherever assists me to develop to my utmost potential, to keep growing, to know a different culture, to speak new languages, and to be financially stable. This makes absolute sense to my generation, however 30 years ago (before the Schengen Agreement) this process would have been much harder to achieve and probably older generations couldn’t imagine such openness. When looking at the refugee situation, the resistance to embrace the newcomers is the resistance to a new reality that needs to be as flexible as the one granted to Europeans. The difference is that this is not a voluntary migration but rather imposed unto people for not having a choice: they either flee or they risk their lives by staying in a war-zone (or becoming the fighters themselves). What would you choose?

Since reaching its media attention this year, I see that the refugee crisis comes down to a crisis of priorities that began long time ago in our world and is affecting our sense of humanity. The shocking images that flooded the big screen in the past months, along with xenophobic comments from the far-right are symptoms of a bigger problem, that is: The Devaluation of Life.

The belief that one’s life has more value based on where one was born reminds me some medieval-like-wars in a Game-of-Thrones-land, almost unthinkable in World Wide Web times. However, this year’s events showed a darker side of Europe where countries started closing doors to those in desperate need, in a clear reflection of barbaric attitude against the “others”. The main difference is that before speed-of-light communications we would not understand how wars happening in the other side could be interlinked with the people on this side of the world.

refugees-are-human-beings-1In today’s reality, in developing nations we have the support of real-time analysis, people’s reports, factual testimonials, whistle-blowers, bloggers and documentaries raising awareness to the needs of the few being paid at the expense of the many. Further down I briefly clarify how the war in Syria and in other countries in the Middle East are directly related to the lifestyle European/Western citizens enjoy. For the moment, let’s look at the mental barriers that hinder us to know the “other side”. Any attempt to blame the “other” for not being able to take care of its own people is a sign that we haven’t yet grasped the interdependency that all countries coexist in, or how world politics and economics really work. The idea that borders separate us from other humans is another illusion but is simply showing the success of economic and political interests in diminishing our inherent value as equal beings sharing this planet.

Similarly to the manifestation of solidarity with the French events, first with the Charlie Hebdo attacks and then with the 13/11 terrorist acts in Paris, it is time to stand equal and one with refugees, reminding ourselves that many of our ancestors have also escaped from war-zones and that we must not accept further wars to break the lives of future generations. Only by standing in solidarity with refugees will be able to demand political action to prevent such atrocities again. That is why I state: I am a refugee / Je suis un réfugié – whatever is happening in this moment in time I am part of it and, as Martin Luther King said “No one is free until we are all free”.

The destructive wars that people in the Middle East are fleeing from are not only killing them from the inside, but also limiting any chances of survival. I have been asking myself: what would I do if I was caught in such a hostile environment? I would most likely do what they are doing to find a peaceful place to live and begin the healing process.

I am originally from Portugal, a country within the European Union that has been under a tough financial crisis and where there has been a devaluation of Life too. I have been seeing the slow-death of joy in many people’s hearts struggling to survive. Economically speaking, the education, people’s work and the resources in the country aren’t enough to cope the hardships that the economic war imposes unto them, so many decided to emigrate to find a better environment to grow-up, to learn from and to create a better life for themselves.

In a recent interview I run independently in the centre of Lisbon, I asked the Portuguese people how the country could help the current migrants and refugees. There is a common tendency to think that we first need to help “our people” before we can help others. Another perspective was that migrants and refugees wouldn’t be happy in Portugal either because of the poor life standards that the majority of the people have now. Nevertheless, many agree that we must be able to stand as an example and offer as much help as possible, since our problems are far less than the ones that the people from war-zones are experiencing.

By looking at the statement that we can only help “others” after we help the nationals of a given country, we see that the migration crisis is a mirror of what is happening already within one’s borders, where poverty and homeless people have been difficult social problems to tackle. This is an opportunity to finally address the social and economic issues that are preventing EVERYONE from creating their own destinies, and the refugee crisis is simply enhancing the existing non-sustainable social structures where poverty and inequality are still a reality for many Europeans.

If the European countries were all stable and all their citizens lived well, would people embrace refugees, or would there be cultural clashes, fears and other mental limitations used to justify the lack of funding, infrastructure or social support? Systematic changes take time to be understood and accepted by people, especially when people have been educated (brainwashed) to define themselves as the national symbols, and feel threatened by multiculturalism and diversity. But as with the principle of mobility within the EU, global mobility from the East to the West, from the South to the North are a reality that must be welcomed and taken into consideration, not suppressed or punished.

In relation to the interdependence we all live in, we can easily look at our western lifestyles and wonder where prime resources come from to keep us warm, to enable transportation, industries and to essentially make society run. As with any other war, the root of the problem is related to the control and dominion of land and natural resources in specific areas of the world. According to Oil & Gas Journal, Syria was estimated to possess proved reserves of oil at 2.5 billion barrels as of January 1, 2015 and shale oil resources, with estimates of reserves in 2010 ranging as high as 50 billion tons  (see http://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=SYR).This is what is the ultimate justification for the destruction that is causing people to flee from war zones. Therefore, in the name of our own comfort but also in the name of the comfort of all the other human beings, it is our responsibility to find solutions that consider what is best for all. We don’t need to wait for further revenge or terrorist demands that will perpetuate the perceptions of separation. We all know that the only solution is to mature international relations toward a new level of cooperation, responding to everyone’s needs and fostering peaceful living.

In my perspective, the biggest lesson to learn from the migration crisis is the consequences of our Devaluation of Life. Despite all technological advancements, we haven’t yet been able to come with plans and actions to manage world resources fairly and equally, and to apply political will to consider all peoples of the world. It is also a red flag about the false perceptions we have of “other people” based on specific religious or cultural differences that are deliberately shown by the media as the problem, instead of educating that differences are sources of diversity and expansion.

Additionally, I suggest that this becomes an opportunity to challenge that narrow-minded belief that we can either help “our people” or “the others”, and instead we adopt the possibility of “having both” – this can be possible by creating the funds to address the social-economic priorities of nationals through solutions such as the Living Income Guaranteed, while at the same time fund the immediate needs of refugees through the profits we are making in exploiting local resources, and finally to establish a common ground for the West and the Middle Eastern societies to benefit from shared resources in a sustainable way through fair diplomatic negotiations based on the principle of valuing Life.

Why do we continue to play musical chairs with people’s lives, knowing that this world and our species has plenty of solutions to offer?

I also recommend watching the open discussion on the Refugee crisis organised by the Living Income Guaranteed, where you will hear first-hand experiences about the integration process of refugees in Sweden, Denmark and in Germany. As Anna Brix Thomsen demystifies, we fear that which we don’t know and that is also why many people have resistance to accept refugees in Europe – but once the mental barrier is transcended, a whole new world of opportunities, of personal growth and understanding is available toward a better future for our humanity.

 

 

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Life Isn’t Supposed to be this Hard

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By Cerise Poolman

Labor force South Africa Living Income Minimum WageI have had many conversations with people, mostly people who are in low-paying jobs without much prospects for advancement, conversations about life. The thing that everyone agrees on is that life shouldn’t be this hard. Sometimes someone might say something like “I don’t know what we can do, maybe just pray harder.” To this I will respond with something like I think that what will be more effective than prayer to make a difference is action. If we all take action together, united in the goal of making life better, then we will see great changes – and everyone agrees to this logic. I have not met one person who says “NO, action won’t change anything!” The worst thing within all of this is that this life is difficult because we make it so. The worst part is that we could change the world if we took action, but we don’t.

One of the most popular excuses I hear is that it’s “other peoples’ faults”. The world is horrible and I have a crap life because of all the a-holes in the world. There are too many people who won’t change. The world will never change when there are so many bad people. This excuse is used to justify our own inaction – because apparently any effort we make would have no results and so it’s not even worth the effort. It’s as if we’re waiting for guaranteed paths of action, unwilling to move until we are absolutely sure that what we do will actually work. In a way this is the easy way out, because standing for change means going out into the unknown, no certainty as to what lies ahead.

Here in South Africa a very large part of the workforce survives on minimum wage, well below the poverty line. A large number of people live in illegal or government housing (which doesn’t appear to be very different when you put the two next to each other). These are the people who are hurt the most by this world, who are the most vulnerable. At this stage the only ways that they can try to bring about change is through protests, sometimes violent and sometimes not. At this stage there is a diminished level of understanding as to how change can be brought about – not only by impoverished people, but by most people.

There is a serious hole in the understanding of the average citizen Joe of how the system works, and more importantly, the power that each person has. Back to South Africa, what can the impoverished and vulnerable do to change their lives? They have minimal support from public (government) and community structures – dealing with the government is like pulling teeth, but pulling the wrong one each time. These people do not know how to ask the right questions, most of the time they do not even know what their rights are and what support structures are available to them. What then can they do? They often have only limited skills in reading and writing and, if any, very limited access to public sources of knowledge such as the internet. To add to this, the leaders they are most likely to choose are the ones who stir passion in their hearts, whether the message they are giving makes sense or not. Then there is the question of those who are more privileged – how far does their responsibility extend to the underprivileged?

I would say that where one has the ability and understanding to support another then they also have the responsibility to do so. What defines ‘ability’? Resources, skills, knowledge – but to what degree? Well, let me put it this way: If you know that you can help, then it becomes your responsibility to do so. Waiting for someone else to come along and help so that you don’t have to is an abdication of your responsibility to your community – and I don’t mean ‘community’ in the smallest sense of the word, I mean it in the largest sense, the global sense.

Life isn’t supposed to be this hard. We can change it. We can help each other. We can give opportunities to each other. We can support each other to be the best we can be. It’s doesn’t start with some other guys over there – it starts with YOU and ME. WE are the change, TOGETHER we are better, stronger. We have the responsibility to support solutions that will bring heaven to Earth. We may not see the full fruits of our labours in our lifetime, but maybe our children will.

 

Promotion of and Education on a Living Income Guaranteed for South Africa.

 

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Ownership: The Lie That Kills

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by Sandy Mac Jones


Greed - Living Income GuaranteedI was stunned to find out that a major reason there is so many millions dying of starvation in African countries each year is that, of the 10 countries that the Nile River runs through, only 2 of these countries have the ‘right’ to use the water from the river for irrigation/farming/transportation or any other purpose! This is because Egypt and Sudan apparently ‘own’ the water ‘rights’ of the Nile River.

But does anyone really ‘own’ any part of mother earth? Was the river here before the arrival of the human?  Yes, it was!  Ownership is merely a concept, an idea someone came up with to enforce safety measures against those that intrude and steal or more often, take/conquer and keep all for oneself or ones ‘country’. Why can we not keep the safety measures but forgo the unfair idea of ownership? The answer to that is, we can.

If you think of two children fighting over a toy, the one child crying ‘it’s mine’ , he only ever gets to ‘keep’ it  if he is bigger/stronger, or someone else (the adult) intervenes and says what the ‘rule’ is. But if human beings are the children, where and who is the adult (god?) to intervene?  No one and nothing is intervening, we must be our own solution – there is no other way.

It seems back in 1925 there was a treaty signed between Britain, Italy and Egypt (this was updated in 1959 to include Sudan). Britain held Dominion over much of the African continent=came with weapons and murdered people to steal the wealth of the African countries and take it back ‘home’ to Britain.  Back then, Egypt and Sudan were Britain’s source of cotton and Britain knew that their rate of production was only possible through the Nile and the use of massive irrigation systems. So in this treaty Britain and Egypt decided that the Nile belonged to Egypt AND that no-one is allowed to do anything with the water that, as a consequence, will lessen the amount of water that ends up in Egypt, thereby insuring Britain’s cotton crop production.

JP Morgan Monopoly - Living Income GuaranteedThat’s right, they just decided = they made it up ’cause they were bigger and stronger,’ just bullies in the schoolyard!  No complicated economic theory needed here, they did this just because they could, because their stick was bigger than the other countries sticks. Just like the two little children fighting over the toy, they were bigger and stronger so got their way. It’s all about power and control and greed.

 

But supposedly they based this decision on the fact that Egypt has a 7000 year history with the Nile, way back starting with the Pharaohs so historically and traditionally belongs to them. Well, we have to stop referring to history and the past to make decisions based on today. Instead, we must use common sense and compassion to decide upon an approach that is best for all life, which in this case would be all countries through which the Nile flows are able to use this natural resource to better their economy and support the population!  That would include:   Ethiopia, Uganda, Zaire, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi and yes, Egypt and Sudan.

Other reasons for this decision were that it had been determined that Egypt was the country which had made most efficient use of the Nile, in economic terms. So what? Are we not all life? Does a newborn baby today deserve to suffer starvation and die in agony because 85 years ago their birth country did not make as efficient use of the Nile as Egypt? We are talking here about an invisible dividing line (again made up by human beings) separating the land and people into ‘countries’. It is not in fact ‘real’; we make it real by our agreement to participate. Also, let not the fact escape us that ‘efficient use’ of the Nile meant that Egypt produced cotton for Britain which they could profit from and provide clothing for their people, total self-interested motives. The invisible lines have to come down as we wake up to the fact that, this approach is not what is best for all, as life on earth. And the practice of hoarding commodities, such as cotton, so you can control supply and demand, thereby controlling prices at the expense of millions of others, should be strictly monitored and made illegal/penalized.

Can you honestly look in the mirror or in your child’s eyes and say your child does not deserve to have a comfortable, enjoyable, dignified life but the child across the invisible line=boarder, does? There is a difference is the quality of life because there is a different starting point of the two children, this is inequality. I am not suggesting we eliminate boarders as they provide logistical reference points so we can communicate and move about on our planet. I am suggesting we understand that boarders are nothing more than that–lines we have made up for practical purposes. We do not need to kill each other over imaginary lines!  Our one planet needs one focus; to implement an economic system based upon the principal of what is best for all life, that system is A Living Income Guaranteed.

Innovation Relocation - Living Income Guaranteed

Read the Proposal here:   Living Income Guaranteed Proposal

 

 

 

Sadly, Ethiopia, which was the only African country that was never colonized, simply had ‘no legal representation’ and thus no say in the matter when this treaty was being written and signed, while over 80% of the water that ends up in Egypt originates from Ethiopia!  Many of the countries, when the treaty was being signed, were also too busy focusing on just surviving, so they didn’t really pay attention to the treaty or start thinking of some magnificent irrigation system as they simply did not have that luxury.

After independence from Britain, a few African countries declared the treaty as void but the treaty was never really challenged and nothing was ever really done about it because the other countries were scared of Egypt’s military force, also knowing that Egypt still has strong ties with Britain’s, a powerful nation indeed.

Of course, many countries in order to develop, need these type of natural resources to support themselves, just as Egypt did with the Nile, which brings a lot of advantage in terms of agriculture (to irrigate the land in the case of the Nile) and transportation.

So every year Ethiopia and other countries get millions of dollars into the country as ‘food aid’. Also, realize that when this investment as food is eaten, it is gone. The problem remains, charity is not effective as a solution to starvation.  Crazy, when there is the Nile flowing right through their land!  A sickening consequence of the Nile River ‘ownership’ issue:  wasted food and food aid.

To add to the insanity no one is allowed to assist these devastated African countries in the investment of dams and irrigation system and hydro power  which will actually help them get somewhere to improve the standard of living and create their own food source! And then the few farmers who do work their farms to produce food – can’t get their food sold because its cheaper to get free food aid. So they end up not being able to sell anything and end up joining the food aid line. Ironic.

There exist warehouses in Ethiopia FULL of food, grown right there in Ethiopia. And a warehouse next door FULL with bags of food with the American flag on it, food aid food. So all the food these poor farmers worked so hard for just rots away and then you end up with a whole nation of people being dependent on food aid. Insanity plain and simple, theft of 8 African countries ability to stand on their own feet, live with dignity, provide sustenance and jobs for their population.

The LIG proposal can be adopted, in part or whole, by any political party.

 

Living Income Guaranteed - LogoInvestigate the Equal Life Foundation and the proposal for a Living Income Guaranteed where all are sufficiently supported and honored with their basic human rights – where they have the ability to provide themselves with food, water, shelter, education, health care – all things one would like for themselves and would be living a standard less than what is best for them without such things.

Please investigate the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal and Join us for discussion.

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Fundamental Human Rights by Equal Life Foundation

 

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Pollution Inequality and Living Income Guaranteed

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by Maite Zamora Moreno

Air Quality China Pollution Control Living Income Proposal

 

One of the reasons pollution has been able to become such a huge problem is that those creating the pollution are usually not the ones suffering its consequences. Let’s take the classical fictional example of a paper factory using a nearby river in which to dump its waste-material. The river-current drags these materials away from the paper factory and to a nearby town that uses the river water for drinking purposes. The paper factory might use the same river for drinking water for its employees or production processes, but it will use the water a bit higher up the river, at a point where the water is still clean. So – even though the factory is producing the waste material, dumping it in the river and so contaminating the quality of the water – it is not the factory itself/those working at the factory who feel and experience the consequences of polluting the river to get rid of its waste. Since the factory doesn’t feel the harm in what it’s doing, it won’t change what it’s doing, unless there are complaints from the villagers who DO experience the consequences of the river pollution and take action so that solutions can be implemented.


Now – a study was done by James K. Boyce, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, where he investigated the ‘distribution’ of air pollution. Most people have heard about distribution of income and wealth and how unequal it is. But what about air pollution – is everyone suffering to the same extent or are certain groups/categories of people more exposed – and why?

In an interview with the professor the following was discussed:

LP: Do patterns of inequality differ across the country? How can a person of color or a poor person avoid air pollution?
JKB: Avoiding industrial air pollution is difficult, particularly if you’re poor or a member of a racial or ethnic minority. That’s partly because of housing prices. It’s partly because of discrimination in housing and mortgage markets — the phenomenon of red-lining. And it’s also partly because of the tendency for firms to site polluting facilities in relatively low-income and relatively high-minority communities because they expect less political pushback.

Hmmm, that last statement is quite interesting, isn’t it? In the example of our paper factory we were giving the factory ‘the benefit of the doubt’ in saying that – they probably didn’t realize what they were doing within polluting the water of the river, because they weren’t experiencing the consequences of the polluted water. But this statement clearly shows that – polluting firms are not only aware that they are polluting, they are aware that it has negative consequences for others – and yet, so long as they think they can ‘get away with it’, they’ll still do it. And when can they get away with it? When those experiencing the negative outflows are unlikely to speak up or take action to hold the firm accountable.

Or maybe it doesn’t mean that at all. Perhaps – let us entertain this notion for a moment – perhaps people of color or poor people are less likely to initiate political push back because they just don’t mind the air pollution. Maybe they are the enlightened ones who realize that air pollution is really not a big deal and therefore simply don’t want to make a fuss when it isn’t necessary.

But then you get to the following part of the interview:

 

LP: What are some of the most concerning economic effects of industrial air pollution on communities?

JKB: Air pollution has adverse effects on people’s health, and that means that they have to spend more on healthcare and they miss more days of work, either because they themselves are too ill to go to work or because their kids are sick and they have to stay home and take care of them. It also has adverse effects on property values, which vary with the levels of air pollution in the community.

On top of those outcome effects, it also impacts equality of opportunity, particularly for children. Because communities that are heavily burdened with air pollution tend to have higher incidence and greater severity of childhood asthma, the kids miss more days of school, and partly because they’re missing school and perhaps partly because of the neurological impacts of air pollution on their young and developing cognitive function, there is an adverse effect on school performance.
If you believe, as I think most Americans believe, that every kid deserves an equal chance, that equality of opportunity for children is dear to our society for reasons of both equity and efficiency, then the impacts of disproportionate pollution burdens on the children in some communities – the fact that the playing field is tilted against them through no fault of their own – is a troubling feature of our environmental landscape.

That settles it then – air pollution is definitely a problem that impacts the lives of those who are most exposed to it in a harmful way. So, it’s highly unlikely that they don’t mind – it must be that there is a problem in their ability to voice themselves and push for solutions that would improve their standard of living. And that makes total sense. As we have argued before – political participation is currently a luxury that can only be afforded by those who have the money and the time to firstly educate themselves on what procedures are available to them to organize themselves, formulate complaints and propose solutions – and secondly, walk these procedures and taking action.


With the implementation of a Living Income Guaranteed, companies would no longer have the ability to get away with excessive air pollution in low-income or minority community areas. No matter how much one currently struggles to get by income-wise and no matter if one belongs to a ‘minority community’ – each one’s economic situation would be secured and therefore, each one’s political influence is guaranteed as well. Herein, we could make an end to the cycle of impairing opportunities of those who already have a harder time to make the best of the opportunities they do have. Because once one is caught up in the struggle to survive, one has no bargaining power – one becomes the equivalent of a ‘slave’ within a system where one’s long term benefits are sacrificed for the short term goals of having enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills. And this is known by firms who release excessive amounts of pollutants into the environment for which they do not want to take responsibility – and so they will callously ensure that the consequences they create are carried mostly by those who don’t have the luxury to put a stop to it.

So, is a Living Income Guaranteed ‘bad news’ for firms? No – not at all. The philosophy of the free market is based on the premise that off-setting individual interests can create the best outcome for everyone. Of course, interests that are not voiced have no power to off-set anything at all – which is precisely what we’re witnessing in the world today. A Living Income Guaranteed would ensure that all interests are considered and play a role within the creation of an optimal outcome. Air pollution is a great example herein, because, what is air pollution? It is a way in which the natural equilibrium is disturbed, which, as we are all too aware of, is having consequences on the larger natural systems that the air forms a part of. In essence, it is a form of poisoning the planet, the planet we all share.

We can try for a while to keep the effects of pollution isolated so that most, or at least the more affluent, in society don’t have to worry about it. But the planet is an interconnected system and eventually – as we’re noticing with global warming – the effects will reach everyone. So – implementing a Living Income Guaranteed is not only a matter of empowering those without means or voice to make a decent living for themselves in this world – it is a vital step to ensure that we create optimal outcomes for everyone, that cannot be achieved if not everyone is part of the discussion.

corporate-social-responsibility - LIG

 

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