The implications of inequality

What on earth has inequality to do with dogs!

A fair question one might think. Because this blog is primarily about what we humans should be learning from our dogs. Well, I do see a connection, a message of learning for us. Stay with me for a while.

But first, here’s how I open up Chapter 18 Sharing in my book – Learning from Dogs.

Here’s a silly story that made me laugh when I first came across it.

A man in a casino walks past three men and a dog playing poker.
“Wow!” he says, “That’s a very clever dog.“
“He’s not that clever,” replies one of the other players.
“Every time he gets a good hand he wags his tail.“

This clever dog couldn’t hide his happiness and had to share it by wagging his tail. OK, it was a little bit of fictional fun but we all recognise that inherent quality in our dogs, how they share so much of themselves in such an easy and natural fashion.

Now if one was being pedantic one would say that sharing is not the same as equality. Yet I see them as two separate seats in life’s common carriage.

Many lovers of dogs know that when they lived a life in the wild, slowly evolving from the grey wolf, they replicated, naturally, the pack characteristics of wolves. As in the pack size was around 25 to 30 animals. Yes, there was a hierarchy in the pack but that really only presented itself in the status of three animals: the female ‘alpha’ dog; the male ‘beta’ dog; the ‘omega’ dog that could be of either gender. Ninety percent of the pack were animals on equal standing. If only that was how we humans lived.

A few days ago there was an essay published on The Conversation blogsite under the title of Why poverty is not a personal choice, but a reflection of society.

It opened with this photograph.

A homeless camp in Los Angeles, where homelessness has risen 23 percent in the past year, in May 2017. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

Let me emphasize this: “A homeless camp in Los Angeles, where homelessness has risen 23 percent in the past year, in May 2017.”

Here are two small extracts from that article:

Research Investigator of Psychiatry, Public Health, and Poverty Solutions, University of Michigan


As someone who studies poverty solutions and social and health inequalities, I am convinced by the academic literature that the biggest reason for poverty is how a society is structured. Without structural changes, it may be very difficult if not impossible to eliminate disparities and poverty.


About 13.5 percent of Americans are living in poverty. Many of these people do not have insurance, and efforts to help them gain insurance, be it through Medicaid or private insurance, have been stymied. Medicaid provides insurance for the disabled, people in nursing homes and the poor.

Four states recently asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for permission to require Medicaid recipients in their states who are not disabled or elderly to work.

This request is reflective of the fact that many Americans believe that poverty is, by and large, the result of laziness, immorality and irresponsibility.

In yesterday’s post celebrating July 4th, where I shared that lovely picture sent to me by Neil Kelly from my Devon days, there was an exchange of comments between me and author Colin Chappell. Colin is the author of the book Who Said I Was Up For Adoption.

First, in response to Colin saying “That pic really says it all doesn’t it!”, I replied:

No question. Indeed, one might ‘read’ that picture at many levels. From the level of providing a smile for the day all the way through to a very profound observation on life itself.

Colin then replied to me:

I ‘ll go straight for the profound perspective! As I recently noted on another blog, I cannot recall anybody from history who became famous for their material possessions. In fact, I recently read an article written after an individual had surveyed a few thousand gravestones… and they drew the same conclusion. There was not a single epitaph which alluded to a material possession. Dogs know all that intuitively, so why does our superior (?) mind have trouble grasping such a simple perspective?

I then responded by saying that I thought it would make a fabulous introduction to today’s post. The heart of which I am now coming to.

Here in our local city, Grants Pass, there is a Freethinkers and Humanists group. They meet once a month. Jerry Reed from that group some time ago recommended to me reading the book The Spirit Level authored by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

Jerry and I were exchanging emails in the last couple of days and he reminded me of that book.

There it was sitting on my bookshelf with a bookmark in at page 62. For reasons that escape me, I had become distracted and forgotten to stay with the book. Despite me being very interested in the proposition.

I said as much in an email reply to Jerry. He then replied to my email with this:

Hey, that happens to me a lot too, very frequently. So, I frequently settle for a video that might capture the essence of the book in considerably less time, while also maintaining my attention much better.

So, if you want a video about what Wilkinson has to say, here’s the one I recommend:

Here is that video. It is a little under 17 minutes long. Please watch it.

Published on Oct 24, 2011

http://www.ted.com We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

I haven’t got anything profound to say by way of closing today’s post.

But what I will say is that if our societies, especially in certain countries not a million miles from home, more closely emulated the sharing and caring that we see in our dogs then that really would be wonderful.

Image seen on this website: http://enlightendogs.com/about/testimonials-2/

15 thoughts on “The implications of inequality

  1. That’s a whole kettle of worms here. Inequality in social standing and income are magnified when you become an old single woman just barely hanging on. I won’t labor this and listened to the Ted talk with deep interest. Homelessness in this country is inexcusable. Lazy in not how anyone would describe me and I know many other women of my age in the same fix. I think a good portion of Americans are one paycheck away from living in the street. One major illness and they are out there as well. It’s the reason I don’t get another dog. I’m not sure I could continue to feed or provide quality care for it. I’m not sure about doing the same for myself with the coming changes here. I don’t see this country heading in a positive direction where that is concerned. I’ll let it go at that. It took me awhile to absorb all of this but it was very interesting and enlightening.

    1. Marlene, As best as I am able I sense the core message of what you are describing. However, I would expand your assessment that Americans are one paycheck away from the street. Expand it to include many so-called modern countries as Richard Wilkinson’s slides demonstrated.

      Again, uncertainty as to how many fit years Jean and I have ahead of us fuels our focus on trying hard not to take on any more dogs.

      But I return to this not being an American problem. Think how many governments across the world preach growth, growth and more growth.

      Thank you, Marlene, for your feedback and for spending time going through today’s post. Big hugs from Oregon!

      1. I agree it isn’t just an American problem. I see so many in other countries struggling too. There has to be a solution and I agree, growth is not the answer. I think we have lost sight of what is important. Big hugs back from Portland. 🙂

  2. I heartily agree with your post. Inequality is quite prevalent in the US. I see it every day in my town of about 120,000. It is certain to become more prevalent in the US with the new admin which only cares about lining the pockets of the very rich. Social evils are on the rise such as crime and drug abuse. Very few average citizens actually care about the poor. It is a disgusting aspect of society when folks with decent living conditions and earing ability have no empathy or sympathy for the poor.

  3. The worst aspect of inequality is that it makes civilization so stupid that it collapses. I have played that theme like a violin in the desert, for decades. Hopefully I die soon, before civilization does! 😉

  4. Lots of information here Paul.. I have yet to watch the video as I skip along in my catch up mode.. So many more people now are becoming homeless.. And it is not always laziness that is at the core.. So many now are caught within the traps of debt.. Banks and lenders foreclosing on their properties. You are right with one of your comment replies.. Many are only a pay cheque away from being turned out and made homeless.. So many more now on the streets of the UK too..
    I know I was speaking to a lady blogger who lives in Pennsylvanian She was telling me a few months ago how whole families are living in cars on the streets after being made homeless.. It is shocking..

  5. The roots of inequality in the USA are hidden in plain sight. But nobody talks about them.

    Another point: the graphs mix countries which are not comparable in size and military might. France is around 20 times Norway in population, and wages war in more than half a dozen countries. Norway is immensely rich in fossil fuels. France imports ALL her energy.

    In the West, the two main military-industrial complexes are French and American. In other words, France and the USA, and to a lesser extent the UK do most of the heavy lift to make the small countries’ wealth possible… And even Japan.

    Denmark fought 6 hours in the Twentieth Century. Compare with Poland, occupied until 1919, and then losing 20% of its population, and then re-occupied. The French empire lost more than 4 million dead. By 1919, most French males of fighting age had been killed or wounded.

    At this point, the USA and France are fully at war. The others? Enjoying the ride. (Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland enjoyed through World War Two,as they didn’t fight, but mightily profited from Hitler, especially Sweden…)

    Inequality is partly a consequence of the military mood: there is no equality in an Army.

    Anyway, not quite dead here yet, but it saddens me that those deep roots I alluded to in the tax structure, are not contemplated.

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