An assumption has grown that ‘the government’ carries the responsibility for making our world a better place, and then blaming ‘the government’ when it fails to deliver. This is one of the decadent habits in our society because the public domain is everyone’s responsibility: that is the essence of the polis – a body of citizens. However, the public domain has lost credibility. Even democracy, in the fragmented environment of globalising nations, fails to build social cohesion. As is now often the case, the majority of people are ‘middling’ in terms of resources, but increasingly insecure and without the moral stretch to put the needs of others above their own, and therefore voting ceases to be an integrative force.
Rather, it becomes the very opposite: it becomes a driver that widens the gap between richer and poorer, as the interests of the poor, although numerically significant, cannot match the political clout of the ‘middling majority. This can in turn trigger a further nasty process, because when the gap between the rich and the poor gets wider, everyone experiences a loss of well-being, including the rich.
This is the finding made by Richard Wilkinson, an epidemiologist and specialist in public health. His extensive cross-cultural research highlights the deep cost of the growing gap between rich and poor across the globe. Wilkinson’s research identifies the mutuality and interconnectedness of our interests and well-being, and suggests that when things are grim the inclination is to become protective and defensive rather than attentive and generous in relation to the needs of others.
Bothered and Bewildered, Enacting Hope in Troubled Times
Ann Morisy, Continuum page 13