York Union Review: Professor Danny Dorling: Injustice, Inequality, and the 1%

The York Union roars into the new term with their brilliant first event, hosting Professor Danny Dorling

THE HALFORD MACKINDER Professor of Geography at Oxford University, Professor Dorling specialises in social geography and is an authoritative voice on inequality, placing him with the likes of the French economist Thomas Picketty. Having written extensively on the subject, Professor Dorling offers a harrowing perspective on one of the greatest challenges that we face as a society today: rising inequality and the difficulties that arise as a result.

A protester at the Occupy London Event in 2012, against inequality. Image: Darren Johnson/IDJ Photography

A protester at the Occupy London Event in 2012, against inequality. Image: Darren Johnson/IDJ Photography

He argues that since the 1980’s, the UK has become one of the most unequal countries in the world, only surpassed by Singapore, Israel, and the United States. One would be hard pressed to find a member in the audience who could not be swayed by his powerful argument backed by a nuanced use of statistics to demonstrate just how strange the UK is among other European countries. As one of the only developed nations to suffer serious wealth inequality, the implications, Dorling argues, are enormous. But first, the good news.

in contrast to many, other, particularly eastern, European nations, the UK is becoming more tolerant

Coming as a surprise to many in the audience, Dorling’s view on the rise of UKIP is a positive one, believing that it indicates that the UK is becoming more European as it’s rare to find a nation on the continent without a radically right wing party present in politics. However, in contrast to many, other, particularly eastern, European nations, the UK is becoming more tolerant. Whether this manifests itself as acceptance of different races, sexualities or any number of other historically excluded groups, this sets the UK apart. The hope is that the trend will continue and that we will be moving towards a more equal society as a result.

Only the 1%’s wages have risen since 2008

The bad news, he is quick to stress, is that what sets us apart from Europe even further is the very different attitude that the UK has towards winning a “global race”. A resounding sentiment “pay successful people more” has dominated UK politics since the 1980’s, following the American lead in adopting the dogma of the market. We pay around 2000 bankers, the most vilified profession since the 2008 crash, more than £1,000,000. This sounds reasonable but when contrasted with Germany, the leading economy in Europe, who pay only 197 bankers that figure, the situation is brought sharply into perspective.

Global protests against inequality have increased since the financial crash. Image: duncan c

Global protests and anger against inequality have increased since the financial crash. Image: duncan c

Only the 1%’s wages have risen since 2008, the rest of us are left with nothing more than hollow words asking to work harder and be better than everyone else. Rents have risen every year, and London is, by no secret, one of the costliest cities to live in the world. Renting in the South East is on average two times more expensive than a mortgage. This is however offset by the fact that on average, to be able to buy a house in London, one would have to earn around £300,000 per year. What’s more worrying is that to be classed as part of the 1%, a household has to earn £160,000.

those with a degree earn around ten times more than those who do not

When even those at the top of society feel financially insecure, it’s not hard to say that the situation has gotten out of hand. One of the most pertinent implications is that this competition rhetoric has negatively impacted our education system. We teach our children to pass exams rather than develop a love for learning, and university students are seeing higher education as a means to earn more money.

The effect is social segregation

In fact, those with a degree earn around ten times more than those who do not. The effect is social segregation, compounded by the highly polarised and divided population, blue in the south, red in the north. We don’t talk to each other, our own ideas aren’t challenged and that makes it easy to see other people as different. A bad kind of different.

As the talk continued, it becomes clear that Dorling’s passion for this subject is intense. Candid and honest, the conversation turns to the question that weights most on the mind of the audience during the Q&A: what do we do about it? The answer isn’t as complex as one would think: we just have to begin recognising it as an issue. When only the 1% of the 1% benefit, we should all strive to understand each other more.

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