Creating a Just Society

The two readings this week go hand-in-hand. First, an impassioned Cheyfitz (2011) discusses the imperative need to reframe society; according to Cheyfitz the political and social structure of today’s world is unjust and materialistic. “[Eight] million people die each year because they are too poor to survive,” Cheyfitz (2011) points out, and it is a combination of our capitalist economy and Western law that are to blame for this extreme poverty. There is little debate that global inequality is rampant, and some form of wealth redistribution is necessary. Where the discussion gets more interesting, however, is when theorists begin to think up solutions: How can we eliminate extreme inequalities and promote a just society? Cheyfitz believes the answer lies in indigenous values and beliefs. The indigenous belief system harps on concepts that “true kinsmen are good mothers” and that “kinship…is ideally the mechanism for an equitable distribution of resources” (Cheyfitz, 2011). Moreover, “land [is] the inalienable ground of the communal, defined exclusively in terms of extended kinship relations” (Cheyfitz, 2011). Cheyfitz goes on to explain these concepts of kinship and land in detail, and it is evident that there is a strong sense of community amongst indigenous peoples with shared land central to this sense of community. Cheyfitz believes that the best way to achieve a just society today is to take note of what Native American societies have been doing for centuries, and try to incorporate these values into modern political and economic schemas.

 

The next article discusses the concept of Buen Vivir, and in particular how this concept has been adopted into the new constitutions of the Andean countries Ecuador and Bolivia. This article links nicely with the former by Cheyfitz (2011) because Buen Vivir is appears to be a manifestation of what Cheyfitz suggests as the best way to achieve a just society in the modern world. Buen Vivir is an ideology that has largely been adopted from the indigenous Andean belief system, and written into the new constitutions in Ecuador and Bolivia. It focuses on community and social action – in fact, the concept of Buen Vivir cannot even be understood in the individual context (Fatheuer, 2011). Moreover, Buen Vivir highlights the human relation to nature and achieving harmony with nature. These are both concepts discussed by Cheyfitz (2011) as vital towards achieving a just society.

 

Part of the incorporation of Buen Vivir into its constitution was that Ecuador granted nature the status of a legal entity (Fatheuer, 2011). This component of the institution is particularly interesting and relevant to the events in Intag, because approval of the mining will destroy an enormous amount of nature and water. By this logic, it seems that the mining project is unconstitutional. Recently the Ecuadorian government has come out in support of the mining project – is the government promoting something that is un-constitutional? How are they convincing people that they are not denying their rights? My best guess is that the government is arguing that the influx of money that will come from the mining will better serve the community than will preservation of the cloud forests. This argument has many holes, however, as the mine is already causing many rifts in local communities without construction. The other main proponents of the mining project (of course) are the mining companies themselves. It does not seem like the mining companies are well versed in concepts of Buen Vivir, and it would probably be to their advantage if they familiarized themselves with such concepts (they could then build even stronger manipulation tactics); by this same logic it is better for DECOIN and others who oppose the mining that the mining companies do not.

 

Personally, when I think of a just society I envision a society in which all individuals are adequately fed with nutritionally sound food. Unlike Cheyfitz, I do not envision a society in which there is a massive redistribution of wealth and power because this is too unrealistic. Capitalism is extremely powerful and prevalent, and it is so engrained in the global culture that I do not think it will ever be substantially reduced. Instead of focusing on 100% economic equality, I choose to focus on nutritional wellbeing because I think this is the most important human right: An individual does not have the same chance to make money or help others if he/she is malnourished. The process to achieve this goal, however, is unclear.

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