What About the World's 99 Percent?

The Occupy Wall Street movement has propelled a monsoon of democratic awakening and courage to confront the powers that be on income disparities and socioeconomic injustices. It has been met with widespread support in many countries in the world, revealing the extent of corporate impunity and oligarchic exploitation. Nevertheless, the surface on the landscape of global inequality remains significantly rugged, as the grievances facing different societies profoundly differ in aggravation and severity. On a global picture of inequality, even the 99 percent of America are still the crème de la crème. For an optimal solution to inequality, Americans and other nations participating in the Occupy movement need to highlight the discrepancies between nations. Through deliberative democracy, they need to elect governments that will implement Pareto-efficient policies within their countries and with their trade partners.

Plagued by increasing foreclosures, rapacious corporate executives, loss of jobs, unfair working conditions, and fiscal and environmental irresponsibility from the public and private sectors, the threat of impoverishment is gradually permeating the United States and other developed countries. However, developing countries are still bedeviled by more chronic problems that also need an urgent resolution.

In Africa my home continent, the fight against global poverty is far from being won. Famine in the Horn of Africa is still claiming lives and thousands of children in Somalia have died as a result. Injustices against humanity loom large in the continent, mostly affecting women and children. In various countries, children are being recruited to fight in wars they barely understand. Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are subjected to rape and sexual slavery in a recurrent civil war that originated from the Cold War. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We need to accord all these problems a unified global platform.

The Human Development Index (HDI), an indicator for global performance in human wellbeing through health, income and education, depicts the grim reality of the disparities within and between the developed and developing nations. According to the 2011 Human Development Report, the United States is ranked 4th on the HDI. But when the index incorporates internal health, education and income inequalities, the United States drops to a less prestigious 23rd position. However, out of the 187 countries on the HDI rankings, the real losers are mostly sub-Saharan African countries, occupying the lowest rungs on the ladder of human existence. Characterized by low life expectancy, low literacy rates and lopsided income distributions, basic subsistence is the way of life in many African countries. Rather than privilege their plight, Western demonstrators should show solidarity with severely affected countries and accommodate their woes on the Occupy movement.

While Americans and other citizens from wealthy nations have exercised their democratic right to assemble and publicly express their dissent, the most adversely affected masses are conspicuously silent. Most of them wouldn't risk their lives in public protest. The unfortunate fate of Syrian protesters is an example of the brutality used against voices of opposition by undemocratic regimes. In Uganda, a similar fate awaits any daring reformer. Kizza Besigye, a political opposition leader in Uganda, has been tear gassed, pepper sprayed and brutally arrested four times this year by the Ugandan police for merely walking to work in protest of high prices of food and fuel in his country. Perhaps Americans and other concerned citizens in different countries participating in the Occupy movement could use their democratic privilege to represent the dissidence of the suppressed millions living under tyranny.

In an era when economies and cultures are globally integrated, solutions to end inequality only within country borders could only be sub-optimal. Inequality between nations is partially spurred by the same corporate greed that the Occupy movement is lamenting about. Holding leaders and Multi National Corporations (MNC's) accountable for their exploitations in the developing world should be a central theme in the protests. The wide income gap between developing and developed nations needs to be reduced if we are to live in a world where children do not have to die of malnutrition and diarrhea. A democracy of global inclusion where grievances of the world's citizens are addressed in unison is therefore imperative.