Thursday, May 10, 2018

Last Call for Charlie Dickens.

The ranks of the permanent underclass are, shall we say, swelling. The ladders of social mobility in the post-war era are being pulled up and not just in the Third World countries either.
According to the [World Bank] report, Fair Progress? Economic Mobility across Generations Around the World, successive generations in the postwar era, far from enjoying a better life than their parents, have been “unable to ascend the economic ladder due to inequality of opportunity”, or they have seen their progress stall in recent years.
The report monitored the education of groups born between 1940 and 1980 and found that 46 of 50 countries with the lowest rates of mobility were part of the developing world. 
...The US was among the bottom 50 countries according to a test of how easy it was for people from low educational backgrounds to reach the top quarter of earners. Of those nations ranked in the bottom 50, 46 were developing world nations and four were from the developed world, including the US. 
“All parents want their children to have better lives than their own, yet the aspirations of too many people – especially poor people – are thwarted by unequal opportunities,” said the bank’s chief executive, Kristalina Georgieva. 
More than 260 million children and young people are not in school, and 400 million have had only primary school education, according to the United Nations. It said the situation was getting worse and by 2030 half the world’s 1.6 billion children and teenagers could be out of school or failing to learn the most basic skills.
This seems to dovetail with a passage I quoted on Monday from James Galbraith's 2008 book, "The Predator State," in which Galbraith discusses America's "Freedom to Shop."
The concept of a freedom to shop has been extended, insidiously, from its origins in the realm of goods. It has reached, for instance, the realm of careers, where it plays even greater havoc with the normal use of words. In a "free" capitalist society, with private schools and universities able to admit whom they please and charge what the market will bear, the freedom to choose one's profession becomes in part the freedom to become what one can afford to become. It is not the calling that does the choosing, in other words, but the person who chooses the calling he or she can pay for. The choice is "free" - because it's mainly a matter of money. It depends only partly on talent, training, discipline or accomplishment of any kind...

Where is Charles Dickens now that we need him again? Someone has to breathe some life into our social conscience.


Danneau said...

Before there can be life breathed into a social conscience, there has to be an awareness that something is wrong. Despite your best efforts (and those of other socially, politically, economically and environmentally conscious people), the herd seems programmed to head over the cliff. Frustrating it surely is, but giving up the business of trying to direct the course of history into more constructive channels is likely the most important activity in which to engage. Too bad there may be no one alive to think wistfully back on all the fine prose scrawled in the cause of some sort of salvation.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure if I'm understanding your comment, Danneau. Are you contending that "giving up the business" of trying to make even the most modest shift in direction is "the most important activity in which to engage." Surely that's not what you meant. If it is, what am I to do if you're right? Shit, oh dear.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Why not use the contents and subject matters of his classic novels as metaphors?
Are there no longer enough of those perceptive enough to get the gist of such?

Danneau said...

Sorry if I was unclear. I come here to catch perspective on our direction, and I cheer all those who continue to work for something better even though the window of opportunity seems to have mostly closed. I don't really believe that there is much chance that this civilization and these life forms will be around for much longer, but I still do what I can to create the conditions for long-term survival.I sense that this is also the general message on this blog, but I defer to the blogger-in-chief.

The Mound of Sound said...

Tal, I don't have much confidence that extensive reference to Dickensian metaphors would work. Dickens is literature you read because it is so captivating. I'm not sure that the iPad generation is into that sort of thing. Reading, complex thoughts, those don't have much purchase in this the age of our Lord Trump.

The Mound of Sound said...

Danneau, I don't have much optimism any longer either. That said we have to fight for whatever small gains we can achieve, however we can ameliorate the plight of the generations that will follow us. It's encouraging to hear you and other readers who share that view. One by one we have to keep reaching out, trying to engage others to this sort of thinking. Who knows, maybe there is a critical mass that, once reached, will become unstoppable. We can't know unless we try. We just have to keep plugging.