September 08th, 2022
“There is a cancer in our democracies, a cancer that is so apparent and yet we walk by it every single day – the cancer of inequality.’’
Stan Grant, International Affairs Analyst, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
I came here today and saw the slogan – for the love of humanity, people place and planet…and then I wondered for all the goodwill in this room, if we live in a world where we really see a love of humanity. Where is the love of humanity in Yemen, which has been called the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet? Where is the love of humanity in Ethiopia, which is locked in a civil war that is descending into a genocide to rival the genocide of Rwanda. Where is the love of humanity in Pakistan where a third of the nation is underwater. Where is the love of humanity in the United States, which is meant to be a beacon of hope, freedom and democracy, where the Statue of Liberty calls to the huddled masses of the world to come and seek haven……. Where is the love of humanity in our country where 200 years plus of invasion and slaughter and people excluded, left out and left behind, …. where is the humanity in that?
There is a cancer in our democracies, a cancer that is so apparent and yet we walk by it every single day – the cancer of inequality. The promise at the end of the Cold War was a flowering of capitalism and democracy that would lift all boats. What have we seen in the 30 years since then? The increasing wealth gaps, what’s been called the curse of wealth – countries become wealthier at rates higher than increases in income. What does that mean? It means that wealth ends up in the hands of the few. Those who have capital wealth, production wealth, financial wealth, see their wealth increase exponentially compared to those whose wealth is derived from labour. The rich get richer, and inequality rises. In the United States, the top 10 per cent control 90 per cent of wealth. We’ve seen capital wealth far outstrip income wealth. Over 30 years between 1983 and 2013, wealth derived from capital, from investment far outstripped income derived from property. …. What else is happening? We’ve seen an increase in rich people marrying each other. People from the same schools, the same postcodes, the same universities marrying each other, joining their wealth together and passing it on to their children…. Wealth is lauded and no one talks about ways of redistributing that wealth.
Inequality is eating our democracy alive. It leads to resentment. Its why people voted for Donald Trump, it’s there in the Brexit vote, it’s why we see an increase in the hard right, it’s why we see extreme politics and we then blame the people themselves for the outcome. Australia is not immune – inequality is growing in Australia…
Soon we’ll vote in a referendum on a Voice to Parliament. It’s meant to happen in this term of Parliament. It’s a laudable, worthy goal that may bring better results, better outcomes for First Nation’s peoples but after 200 years, after having our future stolen, being robbed of the people we may well have become, as we opened up and met the mob from the world that was descending on us. We are left with a Voice? Not sovereignty or treaties but a Voice to Parliament…. but when we talk about justice, when we talk about hope, when we talk about truly dealing with deep inequalities of our world, are these things going to be enough? Is philanthropy going to be enough?
This is an edited extract from a keynote address at the Philanthropy Australia national conference 2022.
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