CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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Birthright to freedom

The Inclusive Prosperity Commission Report of 2015 published in the United States of America begins by describing the growing inequality in the world as a threat to “the political system and for the idea of democracy itself.”

In fact, the International Monetary Fund has warned that states ignore the economic distributional aspects of globalisation and inequality at their own peril, yet the cries of their people are continually shouted down by the worn out orthodoxy that prosperity in industry overflows to the general population.

Despite its proven fallacy, working people in Hong Kong are bombarded with the mantra that even small rises in salaries will destroy the economy and regulated working hours could spell the death of the financial system of the whole territory.

Work a little harder for a little less pay has become the capitalist orthodoxy, but the winners in this equation do not see even the short term impact this has on those struggling to make ends meet and continue to publicly scratch their heads in wonder at the malcontent emanating from the people over the current political and economic system.

A campaign slogan of the populist president of The Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, was an all out attack on labour contracting. He promised to address the ever decreasing employment security that is increasingly becoming the lot of the people.

While industry bided its time, it has come out of the woodwork with a campaign to replace the principle of just employment with its own freedom to contract throwaway labour.

What is at stake both in Hong Kong and The Philippines, as well as most parts of the world, is the power of the will of the people, whose primary concern is job security and bringing home enough at the end of each month to survive, and maybe even prosper a little.

But their enemy is formidable, wealthy and clever. The administration in Hong Kong continues to confuse calls for a greater popular voice with independence and is using all mechanisms at its disposal to silence any challenge to the tycoons to whom it is beholden.

While lip service may be paid to consensus or the needs of the people, those who sit in the Legislative Council are systematically being decorated with the same stripes.

While on one level, inequality in society is more openly analysed and discussed, short term profit is rigorously pursued at the cost of creating even greater inequality, and gags on media, politicians and academics stymie any challenge to the free competition orthodoxy.

But this has not achieved the greatest good for the greatest number. In a bygone era, the bogeyman may have been Britain, but the euphoria of being loosed from colonial chains has morphed into a focus on a new bogeyman in the person of the chief executive and all he represents.

Historically, reaction to colonialism has spawned nationalist aspirations. Its negative aspect is rejection of the accepted values of the day. But its positive lies in the assertion of the validity of values that assure the greatest good for the greatest number.

The people know it is easy to laugh off their birthright to freedom, but difficult to weep it back. Holding onto it requires every man and woman to rally with a clear head and loving heart. JiM