The rich lounge upon the masses

The dog days of summer can test one’s endurance. High temperatures coupled with equally high humidity demand slow movement.

The dog days of summer can test one’s endurance.

High temperatures coupled with equally high humidity demand slow movement.

Don’t do anything in a heat-generating rush if you don’t have to. The primary directive for everyone is keep cool.

While this certainly doesn’t seem like an imperative this summer in the Yukon, across Canada and further south it is in spades.

It was memorably so in July of 1966 when I held down my last high school summer job as a cook at the pool café of the Kansas City Country Club.

The deep fry and the grill next to it pushed the thermometer up those few extra degrees needed to nullify any advantage that being inside, out of the direct sun, might have gained.

What added an extra piquancy to our slow, daily basting came every time we turned around.

Over the counter we gazed out onto the pool; a cool, refreshing dip always so near, but so incredibly far away.

In those days this country club which counted the Halls of Hallmark Cards and the Stovers of Russell Stover Chocolates as members, only accepted membership applications from established wealth.

No nouveau riche need apply.

Needless to say, the club had other standards as well. There were no Black, Jewish or Catholic members.

The pool café staff who fed and watered the members, the lifeguards watched over their safety and the people who fluffed their towels in the locker rooms were, of course, mainly Jews, Catholics and African-Americans.

Our reality mirrored, in a small way, the global system that has been being built up since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution a little over two centuries ago.

The few depend on the many to maintain their lifestyle.

In addition to generating previously undreamed of material wealth, this system has, as well, created the greatest inequality ever seen in human history.

The current form of globalization offers the tantalizing possibility of prosperity to billions, but presents structural blocks that rob most of this illusion. Is change possible?

“The globalization of capital tends to empty democracy of its true content and has caused the economic disaster of the gross inequality today,” argues François Houtart, a Belgian priest, sociologist, and one of the founders of the World Social Forum.

Try democratically to challenge this economic status quo and see what happens, Houtart adds.

“While the stakeholders in the market economy say they are in favour of defending human rights, they do not hesitate to destroy the social relations of entire societies (e.g., oil companies), form alliances with dictators, strengthen institutions intended to ensure the United State’s hegemony (e.g., NATO), and conduct preventative wars (against Afghanistan and Iraq).”

Houtart, writing for the 2007 Latin American Agenda, sees hope in true democratic renewal but: “This will only be possible if the state endeavours to resolve justice and equality issues and creates a culture of political participation.”

Maybe everyone then will have a real chance at a dip in the pool.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.