Today, I was told of a study that has shown that Norway, followed by Australia, are the most socially democratic countries in the world. America came in twentieth place.
The explanation for this appears to be that Norway and Australia have a deep and long standing belief across their societies of equal opportunity and that everyone deserves a fair go. In Australia, this is no doubt due to the enduring myth of mateship and that we view ourselves, rightly or wrongly, as a classless society.
I was not surprised that America rated so far down the scale, as it is obvious that there is no core belief in that everyone deserves a fair go, as the concept of equity does not appear to be a significant part of any public debate and that there are no real institutional arrangements to promote equity and equality, as is a part of Australia’s social democracy.
A search for a definition of ‘equity’ online, accessible to every free society, brought forth a line of economic definitions. It was a difficult task to find a social or cultural definition of the word ‘equity’ and that seems a sad indictment in our modern societies.
Additionally, this was interesting in the light of the recent public debates I have seen taking place in America attacking unions. I have to confess that I am a union member, and have been more than thankful to them working on my behalf, in the past. Unions safeguard rights. Unions mean that workers are no longer locked inside factories, to burn alive when fires start. Unions mean that we get annual leave. Unions mean that we have safe working environments. Unions safeguard our rights when we suffer work injuries. And yes, unions ensure we receive a fair days pay for a fair days work.
Once again, I have to offer gratitude that I was born into Australian society. It is not a utopia by any means, but compared to many other societies, it is. I can understand why people risk their lives for weeks at sea on leaky boats, to reach Australian shores. I am thankful that my German ancestors did the very same thing in the nineteenth century. I do not know if I would have the same courage, though if war or famine threatened my family, no doubt my lack of choice and desire for survival would shape my decision, if I was given the opportunity, legal or not.
Freedom from discrimination, freedom from the holders of abusive power, equity, social justice, and equal opportunities for all, including those with physical, mental or social disabilities have been hard won, and when a society does not honour and value unity and a sense of compassion for victims of injustice and inequality, but hand them to the owners of the means of production it is a time to stop, and think. Think about what it means to walk in those shoes, the shoes of those denied equity and social justice. It is just a step to the right.
Update from Snowy : Australia pips Norway .