Monday, October 11, 2010

The gini is out of the bottle

Since 1998, the Gini index for the United States has risen to 0.47, the worst among industrialized nations (Ohmer & DeMasi, 2009, p. 36).

The Gini coefficient is essentially a number between 0 (perfect income equality) and 1 (one person has all the income). How is this related to nonviolence?
No justice, no peace.
Civil society is not happy when Poortowns are the norm with gated enclaves of Richistan.
Is the Gini coefficient the sole index of civil society activity toward upheaval? Of course not. Impoverished people who believe they have no chance of success will suffer much more silently.
Income gaps are not nearly as important if the lower income strata still have relatively comfortable lives.
The Gini coefficient does not measure the social safety net, which can at least protect the lowest income stratum from complete catastrophe.
Nevertheless, the index is important and connected to everything else. So the news of the home foreclosure epidemic only fueled unhappiness in civil society in the US as it built, and now that some of the beneficiaries of the massive bailout largess have declared a moratorium on further foreclosures for a time, one might think the Obama administration might be relieved and even try to claim some credit (Finally, it seems they are listening to me!).
But no, even as his own party is increasingly calling for a government-ordered moratorium on home foreclosures, and as the Republicans are rising to defend foreclosures, and as the Ds are about to take a severe spanking and slip into minority-party status and out of congressional leadership for at least two years, the Obama spokespeople are taking a murky, nuanced, cheesy and slippery approach, guaranteed, once again, to provide comfort to corporations and their Republican lawbots while sending victims of the war system-induced recession into worse hopelessness and despair. Smooth!
At what point, we wonder, will civil society really engage in this? The Tea Party is answering that from their side and their factions are more or less ready to rise up, more or less violently. The point is not to freak out about that, it is to realize that, if we believe that civil society is ready to rise up in substantial numbers, our work as nonviolent activists is to harness that toward nonviolence. As it is, the hatemongers and gun-toters are making great strides, leading us toward a demagoguery from the far right or a fascist suppression from the government. Nice choice!
Those who hope the uprising will use nonviolence are those who hope for safety for their families and friends. Those who jump in and help still have a chance to steer the justifiable rage toward a positive process. We may not achieve a Gini of 0--perfect equality--and we may not stop all the violence, but it is really time to reach out and help civil society realize that nonviolence is how we can most successfully change the game.


Ohmer, Mary L. & DeMasi, Karen (2009). Consensus organizing: A community development workbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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