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Angry Up and Down

We attended an excellent talk by educator Kevin Lamoureaux (not the MP) last night, as part of the 4 Seasons of Indigneous Learning program. I'm still reeling from the power of his talk and the ideas he presented. There's a lot of thoughts pinging around in my head.

One idea he discussed was the correlation between income inequality in a nation (aka the 'wealth gap') and the amount of health and social problems. The larger the gap between rich and poor, the greater the health and social problems.[1]

I wasn't surprised by the trend; the rich keep on getting richer, and times get harder for everyone else. The profits made by the ultra rich during the pandemic are merely an example of these gaps accelerating. What surprised me was Mr. Lamoureaux's observation that these gaps go beyond being angry at those 'above' us. We get angry at the people 'below' us too, no matter where we are on the wealth axis.

Think about the increase in homelessness, with tent cities expanding in every city in Canada. We get mad at these people; we start making up stories. Oh, they are coming here from 'away', they like living outdoors, they have it too good in the shelters, and on and on. We direct our anger down, at the folks who need help, rather than up, to the people who refuse to fund the help.

Or the case of communities throughout Canada, primarily Indigenous communities, who have not had access to safe drinking water for decades. It makes folks angry - the problem won't go away, no matter how much we ignore it. How dare they want this, in this economy! Never mind that the response would be the same whether it were boom times or bust times. The only consistent thing is the anger and avoidance.

If as a society we're angry all the time, angry at those richer than us and poorer than us, then how can we say that the system works? Why do we defend a worldview that accepts all this anger as normal?

  1. Source: The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. The slide Mr. Lamoureaux used is on page 8 of this document ↩︎