The miasma of domination

Have you ever wondered… what it’s all for? Why bother waking up everyday just to repeat the same old grind, the same old depressing life, day in, day out? You are not alone….

The World Health Organisation estimates 350 million people of all ages, globally, suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause – the leading cause – of ill health worldwide. More women are affected by depression than men and at its worst depression can lead to suicide.

There are glaring social inequalities explaining why so many people are so unhappy with their lives here on the planet. It is not just by coincidence or chance. We know from our day to day living that when we are unhappy, it is not by chance or accident. There are always reasons, whether these are recent, or have existed for a long time, as far as can we remember. It is just that the reason or reasons for our unhappiness may be circumstances or social situations that are beyond our control. Unless, we are responsible for our own depression by something we said, or did, or even thought! Yes, depression can be temporary, or can last over long periods of time – even years.

But let’s first take a look at our social condition as the human race, and what would contribute to so much misery! I posted an earlier article about the structure of domination in human society. This follow up post looks at how systems of domination create social dysfunction through exclusion of marginalised groups. Social exclusion is the process by which certain groups are systematically disadvantaged because they are discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, caste, descent, gender, age, disability, HIV status, migrant status and along the lines of any other demographic out there. Discrimination occurring in the wider society and its’ institutions both stems from and occurs among families at the level of the household.

Unequal power relations in social interactions between individuals and groups all lead to deficiencies in social participation, social protection, social integration and power for those at the lower end of the power spectrum. These exclusionary processes are seen across the four dimensions:

  • Political exclusion, which includes the denial of citizenship rights such as political participation and the right to organise, and also of personal security, the rule of law, freedom of expression and equality of opportunity.
  • Economic exclusion, which includes lack of access to labour markets, credit and other forms of capital assets.
  • Social exclusion, which takes the form of discrimination along the lines of; gender, ethnicity, age, etcetera, which reduces the opportunity for such groups to gain access to social services and limits their participation in the labour market.
  • Cultural exclusion, which refers to the extent to which diverse values, norms and ways of living are accepted and respected.

The Impact:

Globally, 836 million people still live in extreme poverty (measured as living on less than $1.25 a day). There are about one in five persons who are affected in developing regions, the overwhelming majority of whom are found in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. This then translates into poorer levels of health and education, particularly when poverty is combined with remoteness and lack of infrastructure and social services.

The psychological aspects of marginalisation described by Eyben and colleagues (2008):

‘The injury done to people who experience discrimination on the basis of labels they are given by society and entrenched ideas about their inferiority or societal taboos around sex, death and dirt goes well beyond that of economic deprivation and lack of political voice. When people are treated as lesser because of the colour of their skin, their sex, what they do for a living, and where they live, they can come to internalise a sense of lack of worth that profoundly affects their sense of what they can do and what they are due by society’ 

What Next?

Advocating or agitating for social change can be undertaken by excluded groups forming and/or participating in organisations that represent their group interests. And where possible, potential partnerships should be built between the state and civil society to drive transformative agendas.

At individual level, we need to be constantly reminded of and affirm our worth as human beings; who are just as deserving. When our minds, bodies and spirits are constantly beset by adversity; we must seek deep within our spiritual core for groundedness. And by spiritual; I don’t mean religious, as institutional religions are as much to blame as regressive cultures and educational systems in perpetuating systems of domination. It is to remember that there is so much more to us as individuals than just marginalised bodies living in human society. We are essentially spiritual beings having a human experience. And it is in this spiritual centeredness that we must seek refuge.

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