Sunday, March 22, 2009

One Single Impression -- Equals

Some random thoughts late at night, prompted by One Single Impression March 22 prompt "Equals."

All men are equals
they say with sincerity
--except for the lazy.

Who are the lazy?
That's easy, they say, just look,
they're poorer than us.

Sunday March 22, 2009

A central concept in sociology is inequality and social stratification. It's an important topic in every sociology course I teach, and I even teach an entire course entitled "Inequality." Teaching it right now as a matter of fact. My students are hugely ambivalent on the topic of inequality and equality. They insist adamantly, that everyone is equal, that no one is better than anyone else. Or at least, they insist, that is how it ought to be. But....when it comes to income, then inequality is right and good. It would be terrible they think if everyone made the same amount of money. Got to have inequality they say, it's necessary to motivate people.

Of course, they believe that despite the poverty of their youth, and the financial obstacles they currently face, that they will be among the winners. Any one can make it they tell me, any one can get a college education, there's no excuse they say for not getting a college education, anyone can if they really want it. Then later of course, when the contradiction escapes them, they will give me all kinds of excuses (my car broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it, my computer broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it, my Mam-maw was in the hospital and someone had to stay with her, I don't have any one to take care of my children, my employer changed my work hours, the creek rose and we got flooded out, they cut off my electricity, I had go to court...) for why they can't turn their paper in on time, why they need an extension, why they have to drop out. Like the Red Queen (speaking to Alice), my students believe six impossible things before breakfast every day.

I am mystified as to why American seem so dead set against equality of outcomes. We talk a good game about equal opportunity, but start talking about "sharing the wealth" and watch the hackles go up. But how can opportunities really be equal if outcomes are unequal. Unequal outcomes just sets up unequal opportunities for the next generation.

Did you know that the current per capital personal income in the United States is $35,328. That means that if you take all the income made in the entire United States, including all wages and salaries, all social security benefits, all retirement benefits, all disability payments, unemployment payments, all rental income, all business income, all royalties, then subtract all the taxes owed, and then divide that total by every living person in the U.S. all 300+ million of us, every infant, child, teen, adult and elderly person would get $35,328. That's a lot of money. Now think about the fact that 13 percent of Americans today live below the poverty line, which for a family of 4 is $22,050 (not $22,050 a piece but $22,050 for all four people). If personal income was distributed equally, a family of four would have $141,312. Obviously some one is getting way more than their equal share -- and some of them work for AIG.


Tumblewords: said...

You are so right - I'm always surprised at the number of people who think equality exists. Excellent post...

anthonynorth said...

I like both the poem and essay. I don't think equality can ever be achieved, for there's only room for so many at the top. This being said, I'm convinced that everyone is good at something. Sadly, too many never get the chance to find out what it is.

SandyCarlson said...

I enjoyed both. I know many people who would eat their money before they'd give it away. What's that about? They seem to feel they worked hard and they're not about to make it easy for anyone-even their kids. That resentment is very strange to me. It presumes a laziness rather than a radically changed world.

Qaro said...


(I've always struggled with why do some people work so hard and others try to cheat...)

Neverending Story said...

Thanks for your passionate opinion. I agree but don't know how to get there. Here's hoping the AIG exec's get taxed to high heaven. I also hope once the cake's divided amongst all American's, there's still some left for development projects in other parts of the world, which is how we make a living.

Quiet Paths said...

Sue, this was a great post. I love how you mix food for thought with verses. It is also amazing to me how affluence is equated with religion. So many "religious" people feel they are doing well not because of greed but by their faith. (Prosperity gospel?) All I can say is - you don't take it with you. Thanks for writing this.

zoya gautam said...

..this is a wonderful post..thank u ..

Amias said...

Sue you hit the nail on the head, and drove it home!

The poem and the dialogue is amazingly true ... and most will say, "well what can I do" ... I used to say vote, now I say ... "I don't know" .. I worked hard all my life, from the cotton fields to the office ... sometimes twenty-four seven.

But in spite of it all my will to survive is what sustains me, and makes me angry at the same time!

Woman, I sit here, hearing your voice in this piece, and you blow my mine with the true and inspire me at the same time!

bethb119 said...

You're so right. I fear there will never be anything near equality while this huge gap widens daily between those with so very little and those who keep on taking and taking!

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I had this conversation over the weekend. Office politics, greed, laziness-so many other things determine a person's positon in the work place. It boils down to doing what we believe is right, and letting the rest go.

Jessica G said...

I miss your sociology classes and was keeping my fingers crossed you were doing one that I haven't taken yet...over the summer or fall. :(

It is ironic that I decided tonight to catch up on my blog stalking. My mum, right now, is at a "tea party" protesting the "pork". She keeps warning me of the socialists that are out there to "get us" and that she's "glad yo momma didn't vote for Obama" etc.

Ask her what is wrong with "sharing the wealth" and she replies "why do I have to share what I worked so hard to get?" I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying that she wouldn't have anything at the moment if my dad didn't die when he did...because today he would be one of the millions of Americans looking for work because Value City (where he worked for 30 years) closed.

I really miss your classes!