In Praise of Shared Outrage

Tuesday 16 March 2010

by: Roy Eidelson, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed


(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: _ambrown, Muffet)

"We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." These were the words of Lord Brian Griffiths,
Goldman Sachs international adviser, when he spoke at London’s St.
Paul’s Cathedral last fall. With inequality at historic levels here in
the United States and around the world, it’s a reassuring message we
all might wish to be true.

Unfortunately, scientific research reveals a sharply
different reality: inequality is a driving force behind many of our
most profound social ills. The Equality Trust
reviewed thousands of studies conducted by the US Census Bureau, the
World Health Organization, the United Nations and the World Bank.
Consistent patterns emerged, both among and within countries.
Inequality is associated with diminished levels of physical and mental
health, child well-being, educational achievement, social mobility,
trust and community life. And it is linked to increased levels of
violence, drug use, imprisonment, obesity and teenage births. In short,
Lord Griffiths’ claim – despite the venue – was a self-serving fiction.

Shared Outrage and Solidarity

Although there are no easy or quick solutions for
reversing today’s extreme inequalities and repairing the daily harm
they cause, the path forward may be clearer than we realize. Change of
this magnitude requires a stubborn, passionate and broadly embraced
commitment to greater equality as a moral necessity. Although regularly
overlooked and misunderstood, the catalyst for such a transformation is
often surprisingly simple: shared outrage. Indeed, when shared by the
disadvantaged and oppressed on the one hand and by those with greater
security and resources on the other, outrage can spur the concerted
action required to overcome the injustice, insensitivity and inhumanity
that foster inequality around the world.

Recent work by social psychologists such as Emma
Thomas, Craig McGarty, Kenneth Mavor and Emina Subasic (among others)
highlights why this is so. Outrage shared among groups that otherwise
differ in many ways creates the solidarity vital to forcefully
challenging a destructive status quo. This shared emotion is so
powerful because it breaks the established boundaries that separate the
"haves" from the "have-nots." Outrage over inequality can unite the
direct victims of discrimination with those who find discrimination
morally repugnant even though they themselves have not experienced it.
Similarly, outrage can bring together in common cause people struggling
to make ends meet and those who, while better off, are convinced that
it’s simply wrong for anyone to go without adequate food, shelter or
health care.                 More……………………

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