My recent thoughts about how certain religious leaders revere the behavior of Donald Trump leads me to more questions. The protests that have gripped the nation and some other countries suggests there is more going on here than first meets the eye.
That so many people are sufficiently motivated to protest, and continue to protest, says that many millions of us are not happy with the status quo. I suspect that for every person actively protesting, there are dozens of us who are staying home for one reason or another. Me, I’m in my late 70’s and I cannot walk several hundred yards without my back seizing up.
An article written last January by Jason Wilson gives me insights into how we got to where we are today. Maybe it’s because most of us want to make sure we’re not infected by the virus. Maybe it’s because the pandemic and the work-from-home ethic plus 40 million unemployed, has made it easier to protest. Or maybe it’s because for many, we’ve experienced a psychic switch from accepting the status quo to questioning the processes and social pressures that led us to this point.
My expertise, such as it is, is economics and finance. My perspective leads me toward a conclusion involving pressure that promote segregation by economic means as opposed to semantics involving skin color and cultural origins. Those can be conveniently set aside as “bad” if there is an otherwise subtle but hardly noticed pressure to effect the same outcome.
It’s known as income inequality.
There’s no simple reason why income inequality is now so pervasive in this country. The so called middle class is rapidly disappearing. One manifestation of this outcome is the money spent by governments on the latest tools to equip our military, and by extension, our law enforcement efforts.
I see the growing protests as an expression of dissatisfaction with the treatment of citizens by law enforcement. How did we get here, what are a root causes, and how do we as a society effect a remedy? Few of us have a clue how soon changes will happen, just that changes must happen.
There’s discussion today about the overt militarization of our police forces. Some of this results from our stockpiles of military gear that become obsolete as the military receives a constant flow of the latest and greatest to fight perceived and real threats across the globe. How else would any small American town be able to afford armored Humvees, able to survive land mines, and with machine gun ports in every direction? Never mind why they’re seen as necessary.
As the military gets the latest and greatest, what happens to the last iteration of the equipment, whether its a Humvee or battle armor for the men and women we hire to maintain law and order? It’s now available to small town America for a reasonable price.
Meanwhile, at no fault of their own, law enforcement agencies are effectively re-directing scarce resources away from child care, health care and education into ways to satisfy their needs. All in the name of safety and security, something hard to argue against, never mind the minimal threat levels posed by everyday citizens in small town America.
The pressures caused by scarce financial resources means generations of young people are slowly being categorized as privileged and under-privileged over the years. Educational disparities become endemic, economic opportunities become unbalanced, and young black men are disproportionately attacked by the forces whose ostensible purpose is to promote safety and prosperity.
When I first wrote about income inequality years ago, I predicted there would be rioting in the streets across this country, perhaps not during my lifetime, but without doubt in my children’s lifetime.
I’ve also suggested we’re about to experience a societal upheaval, similar to what this country experiences every 70-90 years. It’s a point in time when we’re forced, for whatever reason, to re-evaluate our goals as a society, to examine our expressed values, and ultimately forge a new normal around what we determine are new priorities.
Whatever comes of this current re-evaluation, it will hopefully push some forces into the dustbin of history, and allow the next generations to move forward to the benefit of all of us. At least for the next 70-90 years, when it’s likely there’ll be another upheaval.
Tony Kendzior, Gainesville, FL \ JUN 08, 2020