We have equated the worth of people with the money they have. This materialistic, consumeristic society has done a tremendous job at equating the worth of a human being with the amount of money he or she has. Those with money get better public services, those with money are looked at more favourable under eyes of the law, those with money can get away with ecological catastrophes by paying the government or the people. Money opens doors to those that have it, and stands as an oppressive barrier to those that do not have it. For those caught in the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality, and discrimination, capitalism's lack of compassion provides no hope. This isn't the case only on an individual basis in "rich" countries like the US, but it is also the case between the "rich" global north and the "poor" global south. Inequality furthers ecological degradation, particularly because of the vested interests of the powerful, and their unwillingness to deal with the impacts of their choices. The poverty created by industrialisation and globalisation leave only one option to the poor--either industrialise, or be left behind. And this industrialisation takes advantage of industrialising nations' willingness to participate in the game of globalisation, as well as the fear of retaliation from industrialised nations.
In a powerful episode of Speaking of Faith (now called On Being) titled Seeing poverty after Katrina, Krista Tippett talked to Dr. David Hilfiker, co-founder of Joseph's House in Washington, D.C., about urban poverty in the US--its causes and its rootedness in our economic system--in light of Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina brought to the national spotlight the massive discrimination against the people that have borne the brunt of our economic system. The shocking treatment of the poor in New Orleans was followed by an even more shocking statement when then FEMA Director Mike Brown said, "Katrina has shown us people we didn't know existed." How people in national government didn't know the inequalities that the economic system creates is inexcusable. Many such elites are either sheltered, or are unwilling to admit the existence of such inequality, because they are the ones that have benefited most from the rigged system.
How might we deal with such inequality? Dr. Hilfiker provides guiding advice and wisdom on how to deal with the issues of inequality in our daily lives, which is the exact way in which we must understand and deal with ecological degradation. We must confront these issues head on by not denying their existence, and by accepting fully that our privileged lives contribute to their existence. If we confront their existence, we will be better suited to understand the causes behind their existence. Dr. Hilfiker explains this by talking about how he took his young daughter to a homeless shelter to meet and talk to a particular homeless person, after she was saddened by seeing a homeless person on the street. Realising that the homeless are those that have been left behind by the very same forces that offered her privilege made her less fearful of the homeless, first of all, while making her understand the unjust economic system we have founded our society on.
We must get real about inequality.