Social Justice: Connecting the dots A White Paper by Insaaf

Javed Mohammed February 20, 2012

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” MLK Jr.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” MLK Jr.

Imagine a world where a few corporations with backing from the government could control the food we grow and eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the medicines we take, and the media we consume. Imagine them tracking your every move, your buying habits, the books you read, the movies and TV you watch; and are familiar with every form of online communication you make. Imagine that they control your anxieties and desires, so they can control your health and well- being, your sex life, and your looks. Imagine women and children are bought and sold for labor and sexual exploitation, on a scale that is larger than the Atlantic slave trade. Imagine our food supply is tampered with, the land, water, and air is freely polluted without any repercussion. And yes, imagine corporations in collusion with governments starting wars, to bring death and destruction not only in far off places, but also at home with our loved ones, and profiting from it. This is not a doomsday scenario; it is the world we live in. There are 1.3 billion people living in absolute poverty in the world, 70% are women. They are denied education, the right to own property, fair income, and power to have their voices heard. Whereas there are so many with so little, in the free world, Mega-Corporations such as Monsanto, Cargill, Nestlé and Wal-Mart have come to dominate supply chains for food and agricultural goods, from seed to supermarket shelves. Five companies control 90% of the world grain trade. Six corporations control three-quarters of the global pesticides market. One third of global grocery sales are controlled by 30 food retailing giants. How could there be such a disparity? Why should I care? Because in this global interconnected world, we cannot have peace, happiness or prosperity, at home if there is injustice elsewhere. All the problems listed are in some way, shape or form manifested at home in the U.S. and in the world. Even though the U.S. is the most dominant military, economic, and media power in the world, we still have issues ranging from poverty to human trafficking. Our influences are widespread, so when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. It is in our interest to remedy these ills at home and through any way that we influence what goes on elsewhere. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his letter from Birmingham Jail. It is a statement that we need to pay heed to. With the rising trend of a shift to extremes, fundamentalism and terrorism are on the rise. A vocal minority have hijacked the voice of the silent majority. In the name of “democracy” “free markets”, “patriotism”, and other euphemisms peoples’ civil and human rights are being eroded or violated. Both nationally in the U.S. and globally the disparity between the rich and poor, the haves and have nots is increasing at dramatic speed. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four novel about totalitarian regimes is coming closer to reality through the use fear and coercion. Governments and corporations are collaborating to dominate the citizens of the world, economically, politically, and socially. Natural resources that were common property and for the common good are being harvested and siphoned by corporations or the ultra-wealthy with little to no government oversight. Examples of this abound. In the year 2000, the World Bank pressured Bolivia to privatize state enterprises including its municipal water. The contract to manage this was given to Bechtel, a large multi-

national for 40 years, and the resulting monopoly, high prices and poor service led to the "Cochabamba Water Wars”, where the citizens turned against the government. In the U.S. local municipalities oversee drinking water and its quality. However, large multi-nationals like Nestlè and Coca-Cola are able to go into communities, buy land on which natural springs sit and siphon the water for bottled water sales, with practically no oversight or payback to the local communities. First world or Third world, no one is spared this social injustice. There are many common denominators of social injustice. These include areas like corruption, the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, environmental pollution, crass consumerism, human rights and more. Corruption although more commonly found in developing countries, includes fraud, insider trading, lack of transparency in government allowing behind the scenes lobbying and “quid pro quo” exchanges including favors and other white and dirty-collar crimes. The financial collapse of 2008 in the U.S. and Europe brought to the forefront, executives and others getting bonuses and commissions in the tens and hundreds of millions while those in the middle and bottom tiers, lost their jobs, pensions, homes and more. In the environment, industries continue to not only pollute the environment, but exploit and consume more than natural cycles can rebuild and correct. Deforestation is leading to massive mudslides, and changes in weather patterns, water shortages, and other destabilization in the ecosystem. Chemicals that corporations use and discharge cause many health problems from Asthma to Cancer. Who really pays for the negligence of these profiteers? Crass consumerism, which tries to define people by their material acquisitions as opposed to sacrifice and spirituality for the social good, is morally bankrupting people. With ample credit, consumers are binging, leading to what has been described as Afluenza. The negative aspects of which lead to more stress to keep up with the Jones’s, poorer health, and debt that most people will be enslaved to for the rest of their lives. To make this consumerism work, one of the tools that has consistently been used is sex. Yes, “Sex Sells,” in more ways than most imagine. Viagra, is sold and prescribed to millions of men needlessly, by building anxieties about performance. Body sculpting along with Breast Augmentation and other cosmetic surgery is used to sell beauty to women without any consideration to the pain, repeat requirements, and risks associated with these procedures. Not only is the feminine body used to sell products and services; but those very souls are sold like products. Through promise of jobs, marriage, or a better life they are kidnapped from mainstreet USA, Eastern Europe, South and East Asia covering over 168 countries that either are a source, transit or destination country for human traffickers. Predominantly women and children are bought and sold in slave markets into prostitution for the sexual pleasures of “Johns,” their customers. These John’s come in every shape and form, from politicians to armed forces, religious hypocrites, married men, and anyone who feels it is their right to demean another human being for their pleasures. Human Trafficking along with drugs and arms is a very

profitable business for the Pimps and Traffickers creating a trade, estimated at over 27 Million people, that is larger than the people involved in the Atlantic Slave trade. Although every issue that we discuss is important and significant, the heart of social justice centers on Human Rights. From the “War on Drugs” to the “War on Terror” it is the common citizen and impoverished laborers who pay the largest price. The militias and Trans-National Corporations are the largest beneficiaries, who pay off their way, to use and abuse whoever and whatever is available at their disposal. With little regard to worker rights, they break the unions and use the sweatshops to maximize profits, with no regard to the safety or well-being of their employees. With the passing of NAFTA towns on the US-Mexico border like Juarez, have become magnets for large multinationals like General Electric, Alcoa, and DuPont to build assembly plants (Maquiladora’s). Young women and girls have been attracted to these factories for the low-paying jobs, but many have paid a dear price. Towns like Juarez have attracted all types of criminals, and many of these innocent bystanders have been raped and murdered, making Juarez, "the capital of murdered women." The Maquiladora’s take no ownership in the safety of their employees. In a sophisticated world it is easy to coerce its citizens. After all who wouldn’t want “Free Elections”, or “Free Trade?” Some in the political spectrum believe that government should be small and most of its functions outsourced. That is, take public organizations and privatize them. Today in the U.S., parts of the armed forces, prison system, counting votes or running the treasury is done through a revolving door of people and organizations who would be in normal times, considered to have a clear conflict of interest. Free Trade with the backing of the IMF, World Bank and WTO have created trade agreements like NAFTA, which although theoretically level the playing field, but in the aggregate benefit the first world partners. Free Trade does not equate to Fair Trade, the former doing it at the expense of all the types of social injustice that we have listed. Any aid or loans comes with “strings attached,” which drive the debtor into a deeper abyss, and pass control of public services to private carriers. Regulations which are meant to protect the citizenry and the environment are conveniently bypassed, by the multi-nationals, so what is “Free?” The “Free market” like a Tsunami, came slowly and quietly, unassuming, but left profits for a few and poverty, death and destruction for the rest in its wake. The “Free Market Tsunami” tries to wrest control of air, water, seed for food; all the basic necessities of life. It brings free people into indentured servitude, through working on land, factories, as sex slaves or through excess consumption. Through deregulation, the environment and the economy has been laid bare open to be exploited. The Global financial crisis of 2008 has cost millions of people their savings, jobs, and homes. People have gone into deep debt and those who have jobs are working longer hours to survive. The list of unemployed and underemployed continues to grow. Unprecedented increases in student fees means upon graduation new graduates start their lives in mountains of debt. Political parties on the right and left work in collusion with the very institutions and corporations that brought this self-inflicted calamity. With mottos like “Too big to fail,” the very individuals and

corporations that are against socialism, lean on the people to rescue them using their hard earned money. The military-industrial complex, manipulates the masses, using media by creating anxieties and desires to sell youth, beauty, sex, violence and all forms of material excess. The “war on terror” has made the world less safer, and with millions of lives impacted, it continues unabated. Budgets for death and destruction which have cost trillions continue to be funded, whereas badly needed social programs including healthcare and education nationally are being ignored. Big Media and Corporate control is on the rise, with a corresponding decline in independent media. The net result, is no matter how many channels are available the message is all the same. This is not an Orwellian nightmare, it is the reality of the world that many people live in. Morally bankrupt organizations and people can only be slowed or stopped through the actions of the silent majority. This is where Social Justice can address the needs of the disenfranchised, poor and middle classes. Social Justice is a word that means different things to different people based on their background. The words are effectively a meta-phrase where the phrase describes another word. Rather than getting lost in definitions, e.g. when the massacres in Rwanda or Bosnia were happening, NGOs and governments were debating if those events should be classified as genocide. Instead, we will discuss the major issues that Social Justice covers. Social Justice, like Human Rights is a value which is covered both in the U.S. Constitution as well as by the United Nations Universal declaration of Human Rights. Similarly all the major faiths from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism have principles which cover social justice. The sad reality is that nations, communities, and individuals fall far short of these ideals. However, only by working together can we reach these principles. At its most primitive level, social justice, is “justice for all” in all spheres of society. This is not a political statement, nor does it lean to the Left or the Right wings of the political parties. It is not about socialism, which as an economic philosophy has essentially died with the ending of the former Soviet bloc. Although some interpret social justice to mean having principles of equality, a more apt description would be having principles that are equitable. This distances itself from socialism, and gives every human being their recognition, dignity and self-worth; all components of human rights. If everyone has access to the basic human needs of food, shelter, education, healthcare, it provides a social safety net, against poverty, homelessness, aspects of crime, and other ills. When the “playing field” and opportunities are level, for all members of society, without discrimination, that provides the social bedrock for communities to grow and flourish What is equitable and how, who should implement or enforce these rules, are open for discourse. About Insaaf

Insaaf is a new community whose vision is “Social Justice for All” and mission is “Make a difference In the world using the power of narrative.” Insaaf means “justice” in several Asian and Middle Eastern languages. We create or share narratives that speak to social change. Together we can educate world citizens through the power of media including shorts, feature films and documentaries. Why Insaaf? Without justice there will never be true peace. The good news is that global citizens are making their voices heard. From the “Arab Spring” to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, to “India Against Corruption,” people are taking a stand. By uniting, we can make a difference in the world using the power of narrative. Insaaf is a grass roots community project. Educate, Engage, Entertain to create social change. Imagine a World of Social Justice. Insaaf is a work in progress. We are just taking the first few baby steps in the world of Social Justice. We are trying to connect the dots, build awareness, and trying to understand where we fit in the big picture, Stay tuned, Stay Just.

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