BTW, Speaking about justice…

Universality, Exclusion/Inclusion, Democracy

Posted on: June 22, 2010

Disclaimer: Yes, unfortunately I’m still on a “Social Exclusion”-mode, and will still be in this state of mind at least until mid next week. But hey, if at any point in life you feel excluded, I hope my posts could entertain you 😉

From all the reading, tweeting, talking and daydreaming.. I realise that my problem with social exclusion is that exclusion is often seen as a product, not as a process. As if there are defining lines (i.e. poverty, geography, participation, or even fashion faux pas), we trap ourselves in an “us” and “them” mentality where “them” is considered as only one, whereas the conditions/process of exclusion is many and very contextual.

This is why it is difficult to agree on any definition, and therefore there is no agreement on indicators or how to measure exclusion. What we see are manifestations of perceived needs of a society. For example you and I might see that the people of a remote village in Halmahera are excluded because they don’t have Facebook accounts. They don’t even have internet access or even electricity. We have a need to stay online and connected, whereas they might not. Who is to say that in their eyes, we are the ones excluded from a good life because need to them is a good fishing day and a laid back afternoon on hammocks?

If exclusion is a manifestation perceived need, then the major perception of today’s modern society is the need for universal rights to be fulfilled.

Universalism! This is what we are trying to include people into. Development support agencies (donor/aid/quangos/whatever the new “correct” term is) put so much effort and resources into it, politicians use “social inclusion” as promises, and academia spend hours picking on each others’ brains.

When I see exclusion with universalism in mind, it makes more sense. If people act different, speak different, think different, organize society different, then they are not of one universe with the rest of the world. But of course this is a paradox. By valuing universalism, we are respecting diversity as part of totality of everything that exist but at the same time we also becoming paternalistic in forcing people to be of one identity: universal. (yes, read this paragraph again if you’re confused).

An anti-hegemonic thinker would say that this is a hegemonic effort to mainstream life as we know it. But would life be better if we step into the other direction: no universality?

Do we want universality?

Take democratic decision making for example. The “universal goal” is to empower people to have their own voice, to decide for themselves and their communities. Now think about this.

In poorer societies where social cohesion is higher, it is a social obligation for the better-off to help out the worst-off. Redistribution happens, and in return, the worst-off hands over their decision making powers to the better off.

Mrs. A can lend money for Mr.B’s family funeral = Mrs. A is seen as more successful = Mrs. A has more sense in decision making = it is natural for Mr.B’s family to let Mrs. A decide for both families if they have to come up with a common decision over an issue that concerns both families. Mrs. A is a representative of the two families.

If we work with this logic, multiplying this practice into bigger and bigger societies, then we will come to a conclusion that we should hand over decision making to the most affluent: Fortune 500!

I suppose we all know what would happen if God forbid this ever happens! So, lo and behold! We should change the way decisions are made and bring back the power to the people: Mr. B.

Hello Democracy! Hello electing representatives based on shared vision! Hello wanting to have sufficient social service and protection so that we don’t have to hand over decision making to people who give money in return for power.

So we do want universality. We want to have a voice. We want to have access to opportunity. We want the capability to use the opportunities that are presented to us. We are all Mr. B’s of the world. When one of us do not have that universality, then he/she is excluded!


ps: perhaps the customary practice of “respecting the richer” is what makes Indonesian politics so prone to domination of capitalist politicians?


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Lishia Erza

Searching for answers about life, these are the ones I have found.

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