Equality, Politics, Socialism

Two observations on equality inequation

We were just returning from our week long break in Paris. The day was hot, at times in mid-thirties. We anticipated a cooler weather in the UK. When we reached Folkestone, the temperature didn’t plummet. I thought for a brief moment that it was perhaps the wrong week to be on holiday. It would have been better had the weather here been worse.

But that thought made me think further. Why is it that the weather had to be worse here to make a holiday abroad seem more pleasant? Is it because spending all the money and effort for a break away from the usual cold and damp weather now seemed worthless because anybody who stayed here enjoyed the sun just the same? And is it not the same problem with the wealth? No matter how well off one seems to be, they don’t feel exclusive enough if the others had what they have. That we are not happy with what we have got, no matter how much it is — isn’t that the first symptom of inequality of wealth? Sunshine is ubiquitous, just like all resources on earth that we exploit, but we all want a bigger share. So when we look in contempt at other people for being wealthy and not doing enough to help the poor, we should look at ourselves as well. WE, are part of it, and it needs reminding all the time if we even hope to make a difference one day.

The day after, we were eating Father’s Day dinner in a restaurant. It’s not a Michelin star place, but a chain restaurant mainly catered for middle-class clientele. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation at the table next to us. A middle-aged man, his Aussie partner and opposite them sat a young man of early twenties with headphone on the ear and a woman about the same age. It seemed it was the boy’s family and the girl was the girlfriend. They were talking about the Grenfell Tower and the young woman was vociferously explaining the shortcomings of the councils, the legal implications, where Labour was wrong, where Tories were wrong. She sounded compelling and had won the debate at the table.

Yet, her argument, albeit filled with facts and legal jargon, lacked a basic factor. It lacked empathy for the families that were ruined — the human factor in the equation of the accountabilities. She is a Uni student, and with her knowledge, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was doing politics. I thought of the a time if she became a politician. She could present an excellent speech but could still be totally aloof from the people she’s standing up for.

The political elite of this country, irrespective of the party, has this issue of connecting with the common public. If not all, the majority of them, especially the party frontbenchers, hails from a privileged upbringing, and learned politics as theory and analysing the history rather than following the first principles of politics — understanding people. And by not understanding the public or by making the public think that politicians are above their class, it alienated public from most mainstream politicians and paved paths for opportunistic populist parties. The image of one Nigel Farage holding a pint of beer comes to mind.

Brexit results showed the danger of populism and the permanent damage it’ll inflict on the course of UK’s future. It’s about time that the mainstream parties start diversifying their candidate portfolio. A number of barriers have been broken in recent years in terms of politics and inclusion of candidates of various background, but classism is another hurdle to overcome. Social engineering in UK public service is a fact, and unless this prejudices are removed, a politician will never be representative of the public they are meant to represent.

And this realisation brought home the two random thoughts together. We live in a society where we are taught seek more, have more than others. Our actions define our own future, and others’ as well. Until we reach a point where we learn to think differently or our inherent tendency to create inequality is neutralised by a system fair to all, we will not be living in a society we can be proud to be a part of. And to achieve an equal society, the equality should not be devolved or merely representative, but the equality which will be entitled, ubiquitous.

But then, will it ever happen? After all, sitting here, writing about all this rather than doing something about it, I’ve just followed the benevolent socialist bandwagon, who talks about reforming the world but does nothing.
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Equality, Racism

The white man in that photo: Griotmag homage to Peter Norman

It was a historic moment. I had seen the photo in many books on Olympics, a fascination of my teens. Most of the photos only featured Tommie Smith and John Carlos in their epic Black Power salute, fists in black gloves, thrust indignantly in air, and their heads bowed down, feet bare. I did not fully understood the significance on the photo then, but it exuded a sign of defiance, just as did the photo of the lone protester in front of the tank in Tiananmen square. Knowing about the Civil Rights Movement, the enormity of the protest became clearer. It was one of the momentous photo of the twentieth century, a photo that makes time stand still, a photo made me speechless, in anger, in solidarity and in respect.

But media is a weird thing. They go at great lengths obscuring the complete picture, and only represent the distorted version to suit them and their reader base. And thus, the story of Peter Norman, another legend who was as much part of the protest as was the two Americans, remained out of limelight. He remained “The other white man” in that iconic photo. Nearly 50 years later, his record still remains an Australian record for 200m sprint. Yet, Norman was shunned in his own country for donning the badge Smith and Carlos wore during their salute, and never represented Australia in Olympics again. It took Australian Parliament to officially apologise for their discrimination that ruined the career of one of their greatest sporting heroes.

Apart from the record books, Peter Norman was not known to me until today. Yet, his enormous athletic achievement during the final race was eclipsed by what he did on that award ceremony. On that day, he stood up for humanity, he stood up for a cause that he believed in, against injustice, only to go back home in ignominy and shame.

Peter Norman, the Silver medal winner stands in the podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their momentous Black Power Salute, seen wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge
Source : Griotmag

The main article from Griotmag is shared here, featuring Peter Norman, The white man in that photo1

Once the famous poet tagore dedicated this song to the Indian freedom fighter Subhash Bose:

If they answer not to your call walk alone
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open your mind and speak out alone.
If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.
If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart,
and let it burn alone.

On that epic day in Mexico City in 1968, three young sprinters stood up in solidarity for the oppression of the black Americans. They knew what awaits them once they came off that podium. Smith and Carlos later became a champion for their cause as USA embraced diversity following the Civil Rights Movement. Norman remained a pariah even after his death, the retribution of the AOC still denying his due respect. But they were well aware of their fate, and decided to stand for what they believed in. In the words of Tagore, they trod on the blood-lined track alone, for humanity, for a balanced society, for a better world. They are inspirations to millions, who believe in a cause, yet, don’t stand up for it against the whole world. They made us believe that if we stand by our ideas, and beliefs, and if the whole world does not agree, stand firm still in defiance to the world, and it will change, if not in our lifetime, but one day2…So let’s not forget Peter Norman, the unsung hero of the Olympics Black Power salute, so his sacrifice of a lifetime does not disappear into oblivion.

1. The original article by Italian writer Riccardo Gazzaniga L’uomo bianco in quella foto.
2. Australian Parliament issued an apology for their discrimination against Peter Norman. Australian Olympic Committee, however, refused the claims and in fact asked for a retraction and apology from the author and the magazine retraction and apology from the author and the magazine

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