Could a shift in perception heal the divide between the haves and the have nots in western society? What say you, Disinfonauts?
via The Week
What happened to America’s sense of egalitarianism?
“It is said that heaven does not create one man above or below another man.”
— Yukichi Fukuzawa
I’ve always been a communist revolutionary at heart. Inequalities between human beings have always annoyed me, and I have the strong desire to see them eliminated. In American society, we generally discuss three kinds of “equality”: 1) “equality of outcome”, usually meaning equality of wealth or income, 2) “equality of opportunity”, and 3) “equal rights” under the law. The first is typically supported by true communists and socialists, and some liberals; the second by centrist liberals; and the third by libertarians and conservatives. The arguments between proponents of the three types of equality are voluminous and endless. And I think all three are important.
But I find that there is something missing from this list. I’ve come to realize that there is another important dimension of equality that I care about. Maybe more than any of the others. It’s equality of respect.
I had this realization (as with so many others) while living in Japan. I first noticed it when I was sitting in a “kaiten-zushi” restaurant, watching some cooks chop fish. It was robotic, repetitive work, about as difficult — and about as well-paid — as flipping burgers. But my Japanese friend referred to one of those cooks as “sushi-ya-san”, meaning “Mr. Sushi Chef”. She used the honorific reflexively, not patronizingly or sarcastically. The respect for this low-paid, low-skilled worker was reflexive, automatic. I suddenly wondered if we could get Americans to start calling burger-flippers “sir”. The thought made me laugh.
There are other ways in which the customs of Japanese society work to encourage equal respect. Japan is not a particularly “equal” country in terms of income; its Gini coefficient is higher than that of most European countries’. But conspicuous displays of wealth are rare. Rich people live in secluded apartments and houses concealed by high stone walls, instead of in the palatial mansions preferred by wealthy Americans. No one discusses how much money anyone makes. Flashy cars exist, but are rare, and are more likely to be sported by yakuza gangsters than corporate lawyers or young investment bankers. People insist (wrongly, but tellingly) that “there is no poverty in Japan.” Displays of wealth are a major taboo, as are displays of poverty; begging is extremely rare.
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