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The Sacred Right of the Privileged

Supposed 'scientific facts' have sometimes been used to support discriminatory practices.

The desperate struggle by the privileged to resist equality on all possible fronts, has for a long time struck me as symptomatic of mal-intent. If one looks at the history of this issue it becomes almost crystal clear to anyone willing to open his or her eyes to the truth.

It's not so long ago, in an historical sense, that it was seemingly "ok" to practice racial discrimination, because it benefited the privileged and the privileged could get away with it without disturbing the opinion of the general public, who were educated by a thousand innuendoes and even pseudo scientific "facts" to consider certain foreigners, and non Europeans as inferior.

Despite human rights laws designed to prevent racial discrimination, the black community still had to march and shout in protest while at the same time facing vicious and aggressive resistance. And much the same story is repeated in varying degrees with woman's struggle and the struggles of other minorities.

The sacred right of the privileged to discriminate and subdivide workers into competitive groups in order to drive down their wages to impoverished levels is surrendered only with the greatest possible resistance, and then the strategy is to give up this supposed right only in the smallest steps possible. This is why all the historic reasons for discrimination have been fought on one front at a time. The privileged, who hold the political and financial power and ultimately the power to hire and fire, are the primary agents in the setting of the wage scales of workers and therefore are primarily responsible for wage discrimination. This and other methods have kept the general population divided and unorganized, so that the victims of discrimination find themselves fighting injustice essentially on their own with very little help from their working class peers. The result is that the victims naturally focus on the problem immediately at hand, which is of course, the particular form of discrimination that the particular victims are suffering. Thus blacks, by and large, struggle against discrimination against blacks, women struggle against discrimination against women and so on. This is a form of class myopia brought on by the lack of recognition and understanding that "everyone without any discrimination is entitled to equal pay for equal work" (UDHR 23(2)). It is not so much, myopia on the part of the particular victims at hand, as it is myopia on the part of the entire working class, whose eyes fail to focus on the fact that discrimination is an attack on everyone, and that its successful implementation against any subgroup of the working class means that any and all subgroups of the working class are potential victims. In the long haul we are all vulnerable and there is no security in the position of "I'm alright Jack".

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It's patently obvious that those who do equal work deserve equal pay as is made clear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 23(2)). But the privileged do not wish to recognize this fact, because they know that unequal pay is one of the best weapons in their arsenal to breed disunity in the workforce and to utilize the forces of competition in driving down the wages of all who are employed by them. It is also plainly obvious (if one gives it a moment's thought) that any reason for denying equal pay for equal work has to be a scurrilous one. However it is not in the interests of the dominant class to recognize this fact, so they walk around with their noses in the air, remaining studiously ignorant. They remained willingly ignorant that skin colour was a scurrilous reason until the oppressed and their few allies shouted it out and made it clear that it was unacceptable. And they remained willingly ignorant that gender was a scurrilous reason until the oppressed again shouted it out and said "we're not going to take it". But what is the most scurrilous, phoney and outrageous reason of them all? The most scurrilous reason of all is in fact no reason at all. It's because the employing class think that they can get away with it and its also because all too many of the working class are content to shrug their shoulders and say, "gee, I'm glad It doesn't affect me". It's because its fashionable, trendy and profitable and it's called two-tierism.

The employing class are totally aware that once a union committee capitulates to their program of divisiveness and is co-opted into recommending to their fellow workers acceptance of a contract clause that, like two-tier wage language, violates the human rights of its union members, then that committee is immediately placed into the position of defending the indefensible and thus trains itself to side with the perpetrators of human rights violations. Much the same can be said of those workers who vote to ratify such agreements. Since we all desire to think of ourselves as good persons, and that our actions are justly motivated, it is natural for those who ratify such agreements to develop prejudices favourable to that particular form of discrimination voted for. Is it any wonder then, that in the history of equality and liberation movements, so much bigotry and resistance to change, not to mention apathy and disinterest, is found amongst the general public who either through the ballot or absence of protest have effectively supported the discriminatory policies of those who wield power.

But make no mistake about it, when wages are driven down anywhere on this planet, whether it's the wages of the man or woman next to you doing exactly the same work, or the wages of some kid in Thailand, it's going to affect your paycheck just a little ways down the road, and may even cost you your job. But the situation with the most impact is that guy working on the machine next to you, who makes inferior wages to yours, just because you betrayed him when you ratified the last contract.

Isn't there a saying that goes something like "An Injury to one is an Injury to all?"

In Solidarity,
John Barker

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Sept 2006