Inequality and Loss of Empathy

The multinational Unilever, which owns Streets icecream, has announced its intention with the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current enterprise agreement. This will lead to a paycut of up to 46% to some workers, and naturally enough, workers are less than happy with the proposal. We will keep in mind that icecream workers are not exactly known for their excessive incomes and lavish lifestyles. As a result, unions have called for a public boycott.

The NSW Young Liberals, being the fine entitled individuals that they are, are trying to organise a "reverse boycott" and have posted a Facebook photo to that effect. To say the least it has been less than popular. My own comment, on the Facebook post, is as follows:

Here we see the effects on an unequal society on the minds of the privileged.

A complete inability to have empathy towards working people who have suffered a 46% pay cut.

A complete inability to think of how people on low incomes will be able to pay the rent and bills, to care for their children, to pay for the groceries.

Inequality and a loss of empathy go hand-in-hand. Here is the proof.

Remember this moment.

Oustide of this concrete example, as a broader principle, the advocacy of equality is not just because of some perceived moral value of fairness, although that is obviously a component, but for the very practical reason that inequality leads to bad social outcomes. Yes, the sheer quantity of wealth is important - but once levels of absolute poverty are surprassed, the distribution of wealth becomes increasingly important. As far back as Aristotle (Politics, chapter XI) a society riddled by inequality is innately instable. What Aristotle doesn't elaborate is that the instability is due to a loss of empathy on the party of the wealthy - and a seething sense of dispossesion by the poor.

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