Social inequality is the condition of unequal access to the benefits of belonging to any society. In a purely equal society, every citizen is equally able to contribute to the overall wellbeing of that society, and they are equally able to benefit from their membership within that society.
Modes of Social Inequality
The Achuar are a group of indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin, currently numbering around 6,000. Their ancestral lands - nearly 2 million acres in all - straddle the modern borders of Ecuador and Peru, a remote area that has allowed them to preserve their way of life with little outside influence or colonization.
Social inequality is usually the result of inter-social treatment (biases and prejudices) that inform unjust government regulations). Social inequality can be further broken down into two modes: direct and indirect.
Direct Social Inequality occurs when unfair treatment of a group (or groups) is deliberate and can be present in both community or government capacities. Direct inequality is a purposeful act that takes away resources, opportunities and/or rights from some and not others. Examples include:
- Governmental: Legislation mandating the segregation of schools and other public places along racial lines
- Inter-Social: Business owners refusing to serve clients based on sexual orientation
Indirect Social Inequality occurs when unfair treatment of a group (or groups) is not the explicit purpose of a policy or action, but still results in social inequality. Examples include:
- Governmental: Legislation that eliminates or limits early and mail-in voting and/or requires photo ID. The stated purpose of these laws is to mitigate voter fraud but the consequence is that people who often can’t vote in-person only on election day (students, the elderly, or those who can’t otherwise afford to leave work or transport themselves to polling stations) are disadvantaged.
- Inter-social: Purchasing clothing that was made in sweat shops. Sweat-shop laborers are overworked, underpaid, and often work in unsafe working conditions, hindering their ability to contribute to and benefit from society. So while buying clothing itself does not create social inequality, it supports conditions that do. Buying food and produce that use harmful pesticides
Indirect social inequality can be avoided if the consequences are elucidated through education and transparency.
The Pachamama Alliance and Our Fight Against Social Inequality
The Pachamama Alliance is an organization that protects the rights of the indigenous Ecuadorian tribe, the Achuar. The first aspect of The Pachamama Alliance’s mission is to give the Achuar access to technology and resources in order to strengthen their defense against incursions into their territory by extractive industries like oil drilling, mining, and logging.
The second aspect to our mission is to “change the dream of the modern world,” which means to wake people up from the dream-like trance that prevents them from seeing their true purpose in connection with all life on earth. For example, the system of unexamined assumptions and beliefs around consumerism (economic growth is paramount, waste can be thrown “away,” the impacts of consumer choices are contained and minimal) are what perpetuate global problems like social inequality. If we are to achieve a thriving, just, and sustainable human presence on this planet, we need to both address the root cause (the dream of the modern world) and the impacts (threats to the survival of the Amazon rainforest and its people.)
The Achuar are experiencing indirect social inequality by virtue of policies and behaviors that perpetuate destruction of their homeland. When we, as consumers, continue to drive demand for fossil fuels, it results in governmental policies that favor oil companies over the rights of indigenous land-holders. When their land is seized or otherwise degraded , the Achuar are unjustly, unfairly, and unequally bearing a burden that modern society has imposed upon them.
Join Thousands Like You and Take Our Symposium to End Social Inequality
The Awakening the Dream symposium is The Pachamama Alliance’s greatest tool for informing the public about social inequality issues and solutions. The Awakening The Dreamer program provides an open and judgment-free space for participants to evaluate the current state of the world, the events that led us to this point, and what actions can change our fate. Become an agent of change and help The Pachamama Alliance transform the world into one that is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling.