The world is smaller than we realize. To Americans, a country like China, may seem so far away, and if you measure it in distance, it really is. However, there are many things that connect us. Even though we have different languages, food habits and cultural expectations, there are also many things America has in common with other countries; like certain technologies, religions, and even educational foundations. However, despite these similarities, there are many more things that separate countries from each other. Some of these major differences include the gap between wealth, technology, distribution of resources, and overall economy. And, not only is the world as a whole broken up by these differences, but there is a whole other level of inequalities right in our own backyard. These differences in well-being around the world make up the concept known as the Global Divide.
As previously mentioned, one of the most prominent areas of global divide is financial. The world of wealth is an imperfect system. Countries hit a high of economic growth and wealth, only to suffer a collapse, resulting in bail-out plans for large banks. Governments have to act and rescue these financial institutions, often adding more financial problems to their own institutions in the process, causing even more problems for the taxpaying citizens living in the societies of these crisis. It begs the question: where is a safe place in the cycle?
When looking at these types of issues, one could use a theory called the World Systems Analysis to understand and graph anything from reading levels across countries, to economic growth and decay. It has been found that the richest 1% of people in the world own more than half of the wealth of the entire world. (www.theguardian.com) But why is this the case? Well, as MarketWatch.com describes it, “the rich are rich because what they do is so valuable.” One may argue that celebrity actors shouldn’t be rich because they really don’t do all that much for humanity. However, people still pay to see their work, and on a large scale as well. The majority of those in the top 1% are corporate executives for financial firms, and lawyers for those firms. Because of the fact that the rich thrive in only the top percent, that means after the most recent recession, they were able to fully bounce back, while those in the poor category remained the same, or only got worse. This isn’t only happening here in America. Millions of people all over the world are struggling just to survive through the next day, while others lead privileged and secure lives.
Here is a short video that shows a simplified look into the wealth divide around the world, and mostly in the United States. It really makes you think twice about the way our country works.
Our world is not only divided by wealth, but also by the lifestyles and attitudes of the people involved in these categories. In this class, we have learned about the Social Class System. The Social class system is the division of people into categories based on their income, and while this does have to do with wealth, there is a whole other cultural side to these classes. The way people are able to express themselves, the way they conduct their everyday lives, strongly depends on their social class. This is where we tend to experience and see Social Inequality and Social Stratification. Obviously someone who makes $5,000 a year is going to live quite a different life from someone who makes $100,000. And there are many reasons for this gap. Education, connections, family ties, all are involved in the fate of a person’s financial status. In class we’ve also discussed the stratification side: the fact that “social inequality is built into the structure of society”. (Witt, SOC pg. 238)
- From here one is able to truly visualize how the Global Divide effects us. Allow me to break it down one last time:
- The 1% rule more than half the wealth around the world.
- Income, Resources, and Technology are unevenly dispersed around the world.
- This causes another gap, not just amongst countries, but amongst the states
- And then, there are even more divisions in our own state of Michigan
- In our own towns even
- There is always going to be a divide
Here is an image that charts the amount of internet access and usage around the world. The yellow being the highest rank, and the red and orange being the lowest. Just another example of the Global Divide.
Now that we’ve covered a more in-depth look at wealth and it’s relationship to the global divide, we will now turn our attention to a quick glimpse at what is probably the second most talked about areas affected by the global divide: digitalization. This divide is considered a social inequality, and is taken in reference to the access to, use of, and knowledge of the internet and modern digital technologies. This is a division that has really grown over the last couple decades. The inequality goes beyond just countries, but also to businesses and households. There are four arguments on why we should “bridge the gap”. They are: economic equality, social mobility, democracy, and economic growth. Connections have been made between the way a government is run, in correlation to a society’s internet usage and availability. ICT (information communications technology) centers are working to help developing countries in the adaptation and integration of technologies that we take for granted. There is also a lot of controversy surrounding this, especially from those who believe that our modern technologies are unneeded and polluting. What do you think? Do you think every country should have the same equal access to these technologies? What will be gained? What will be lost in the process?
Now that you know of just a few areas effected by the global divide, you will be able to easily analyze your own life, and where you stand on the scale. We see these divisions not only world wide, but on a small scale as well, within our own country, our own state, and our own neighborhood. We’re all affected by social inequality, whether we are in the top percent, or the bottom. Because of our easy access to the internet, we are exposed to hundreds of charts, graphs, and informational databases that can further explain these and many other world wide divisions. And while some may think that the coming technological world wide revolution is unneeded, I’m sure we’ve all appreciated our modern technologies at one point or another.