Mittwoch, 28. Mai 2008

The curious case of Country C

The curious case of Country C

Country C is a real place. With real discrimination and injustice against one group of people, and for the benefit of another.

Grant Brown - May 15, 2008

Injustice is ubiquitous in this world. Heaven knows there is enough of it in Canada that we do not have to look abroad to fill newspapers with alarming stories of discrimination and oppression. Still, we might learn something about how a blind eye is turned to injustice by considering the case of a relatively minor country--call it Country C--which, amazingly, ranks favourably in United Nations reports.

Country C contains two groups, the majority Xs and the minority Ys. In spite of what the UN says, the standard social indicators suggest that the Ys are an oppressed minority. Among other things, oppressed people tend to experience poorer health, more violent victimization and aggression, discrimination in the administration of justice and in employment, and disadvantage in educational attainment. The following is a brief indication how the Ys fare in these respects, relative to the Xs.

The infant-mortality rate among Ys is higher than that among Xs. Ys are also more prone to alcoholism, drug abuse, and a host of psychological problems. Adding insult to injury, a highly disproportionate amount of public health-care money is spent on Xs. About twice as much medical-research money is spent on illnesses experienced almost exclusively by Xs, than on those experienced almost exclusively by Ys. In the final analysis, the life expectancy of Xs is seven years longer than that of Ys.

In Country C, Ys are a particularly brutalized group. Most violence committed by Ys is directed at Ys themselves; whereas most violence committed by Xs is also directed at Ys. Overall, Ys are twice as likely to be victims of violence, and three times as likely to be murdered, compared to Xs. Yet the mainstream media of Country C devote a hugely disproportionate amount of their coverage to the violent victimization of Xs, especially that perpetrated by Ys. Government commissions have been set up to look into the problem of violence against Xs, but not into the much larger problem of violence against Ys.

Ys are about nine times more likely than Xs to spend time in prison. Besides the harsher social conditions that tend to make violence a part of the Y culture, this difference is due in part to the fact that the law in Country C treats violent Xs differently from violent Ys. Ys are more likely than Xs to be investigated, charged, and convicted for similar crimes on similar evidence; Xs are more likely to be believed innocent, given favourable plea bargains, and awarded probation--even when participating together in the same crime with Ys. In violent conflicts between Xs and Ys, it is standard police procedure to haul the Ys off to jail even before establishing who was at fault or who was the aggressor. Perhaps most alarmingly of all, the law of Country C recognizes several excuses for Xs to kill Ys, with no parallels for Ys who kill Xs. In a large number of cases, Xs who kill Ys serve no time at all in prison.

Although a minority of the general population, Ys account for about 85 per cent of the homeless adults in Country C. It has been estimated that as many as half of these street people have been displaced from their homes by angry or violent Xs. Public money is spent on subsidized housing and shelters for needy Xs, much of it to the exclusion of equally needy Ys. (Public housing for Ys takes the form of jail cells.)

The education system, although officially integrated, nevertheless systematically favours the Xs. Especially in the early grades, when life-long attitudes toward scholastic achievement are formed, the distinctive needs and interests of Ys are ignored or trampled on. Few Ys have teacher training at the primary level, leaving young Ys without positive role models. As a result, the grades attained by Xs are, on average, higher than those attained by Ys throughout their school years; and Ys also have higher failure and drop-out rates than Xs at every level from primary school to university. In spite of this, attempts to ameliorate the educational disadvantages of the Ys by running Y-only schools staffed by Y teachers are deemed to be unconstitutional in Country C--though X-only schools and programs are permitted and even encouraged. Many millions of dollars of public money are spent on scholarships and other inducements aimed exclusively at increasing the participation rate of Xs at the country's universities, even though the participation rate of Xs is already significantly higher than that of Ys.

One academic study reported that if current educational trends continue, Ys will be completely eliminated from the job market by the year 2050. Meanwhile, Xs continue to enjoy legislated employment preferences and benefits in Country C, ranging from giving the position or promotion to an X whenever there is an approximate tie, to excluding Ys from even applying for certain important public-sector jobs. Manual labour and high-risk jobs remain the preserve of Ys: over 95 per cent of occupational deaths occur to Ys. (Of course, that is not an occupational opportunity the government of Country C wishes to equalize.) Not surprisingly, then, Ys own a disproportionately small share of the private wealth in Country C.

X-ists, who dominate media discussions of these issues in Country C, account for this array of facts by maintaining that Xs are innately superior to Ys--physically, morally, and intellectually. X-supremacist groups, supported mainly by public funds, claim that Xs are naturally more suited to govern, both in the public and private sectors, and openly yearn for a world ruled by Xs. Ys who dare to complain about the inequities in their society are trotted out as proof of the sniveling, inferior nature of Ys. The hate-mongering laws that exist in Country C do not proscribe hate mongering directed at Ys.

Perhaps you are wondering how such a deeply racist country as this could have fooled the United Nations for so long. A very good question, except that X and Y represent chromosomes, not races.

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Dr. Grant Brown earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Oxford University.

(This piece is reproduced from "In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy", Andrew D. Irvine and John S. Russell, eds., University of Toronto Press, 2006, pp. 261-3.)

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