Perpetuating Inequality

One of the hardest things to see is the poverty in Bangkok: amongst the neon lit massage parlours, expat bars, towering hotels and Bladerunner like Sky Train tracks, young women with children, just babies really, sit begging in the street.


I realise it’s a sight i’m not used to, mainly because in the UK any mother begging with a child would be taken in by social services and given help, or the child would be taken into care.

As i walked home last night, one of these children, he can only have been three or four, was lying on a towel on the street, his mother quite some distance away talking to someone. Cradled in his arms was a puppy, itself fast asleep on him, it can only have been a few weeks old. It was a picture of unbearable pathos, although, in it’s way, the sight of the two of them finding comfort in each other was reassuring.

Knowing what to do in these situations is hard: at home, i would not give money. There’s a thought that it’s best to give money to a charity that supports homeless people, not to give it directly to the person themselves. Here, i’m less sure.

I was heading home after dinner with a friend. She’s a senior executive in a global business. It’s a new job, the last one having been taken away from her. On telling her employer that she was thinking of starting a family, which would restrict her travel, she lost her job four weeks later. Naturally it went to appeal and was settled out of court, but it bought me right back to thinking about the journeys we take in search of equality.

I won’t apologise for writing a few pieces about this recently, as it’s an important battle and reflects my evolving thinking as i write further around the Social Age, around Social Leadership and the nature of ethical, fair decision making.

As my friend described the process, she explained how many of her fellow Execs had been sympathetic, outraged even, but had not intervened, instead saying things like ‘That’s how it works in Asia‘, despite both of them being based in the UK. The ways we justify unfairness are indicative of wider issues: it’s essentially a personal choice of whether we value being within the community that is unfair as opposed to risking being excluded through our actions.

When i think about that small child, asleep on the pavement, my choice was simple, do i give money, possibly perpetuating the situation or would i give money to a charity or body that may include support to change lifestyle, to find a home. I’m also aware that by giving money you can encourage a culture of begging, which may not be good for anyone.

But the choice to do something is reasonably clear. Doing nothing perpetuates the inequality, but there are many routes to change.

There are parallels to the employment situation: does a bystander do something, or say nothing? By tacitly and silently allowing the situation to play out, you are encouraging, complicit in and perpetuating a toxic culture.

The argument of ‘that’s how it’s done‘ is self fulfilling: if that’s how we respond, then that’s how it will continue to be done. We change culture by removing the spaces for toxic behaviours to be exhibited. We remove permission to exclude.

For the business, the current situation was simple: they knew that most cases are settled out of court, so it’s a simple process of paying to remove the problem. It may be legal, but by no measure is it right. Legal and right are different things, as i’ve been writing about recently in regards to the case of disgraced footballer Ched Evans and the way his status as a role model is not a matter of law.

If you read my work around the foundations of the Social Age, you’ll see themes: the need to engage with communities, to be magnetic to talent, to be fair. These are not coincidental: they make us agile, able to respond and bring our communities with us. They let us be creative (because we have inclusive cultures with clear permission to experiment and fail) and they let us innovate by iterating and developing ideas over time. If the culture if fragmented, you can have none of it, and without it, you cannot thrive.

Equality is more than a matter of conscience. It’s a matter of good business. But it won’t be delivered by rules, processes and laws alone. It’s delivered through our actions, and sometimes we have to fight.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Equality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Perpetuating Inequality

  1. Sukh Pabial says:

    My curiosity begs the question, Julian, what was your action in regards to the child on the towel?

    • julianstodd says:

      At the time, i did nothing: but now i’m thinking out loud about it, trying to make sense of it and sharing it in the community. The unfamiliarity of the situation made me reluctant to intervene: in England, i would have done or said something.

  2. Pingback: Homecoming | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Tradition and Change | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: Eclectic Reflections: Culture, Agility, Technology, Authority and Equality | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  5. Pingback: Eclectic Reflections: Culture, Agility, Technology, Authority and Equality | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  6. Pingback: 4 Aspects of the Agile Organisation | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  7. Pingback: Here Be Dragons: The Ecosystem of the Social Age | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  8. Pingback: Voices | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  9. Pingback: The Complexity of Equality | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  10. Pingback: Six Tenets of Social Leadership | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  11. Pingback: An Imperfect Humanity? | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  12. Pingback: The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women: Proud Mentorship | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  13. Pingback: Games for Boys. Games for Girls | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  14. Pingback: International Women’s Day | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  15. Pingback: REFLEXIÓN 10:LO SOCIAL EMERGE | Mariano Sbert

  16. Pingback: Let Slip the Dogs of War: Unfit Organisations and the Social Revolution | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  17. Pingback: Lost Values: The Objectification of Women | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  18. Pingback: Voiceless | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  19. Pingback: Normalising Dolly | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  20. Pingback: The Comedy of Equality | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  21. Pingback: Engaging Power [4]: Diffusion | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  22. Pingback: Guide to the Social Age 2019: Inequality | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.