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Inequalities Brew Tensions

Inequality especially when it is institutionalized is a recipe for discontentment often resulting into uprisings and armed struggles everywhere. History is replete with instances of struggles and sometimes violent behaviors as a result of the inequities in societies. From the Middle east to East Asia, from North America to sub-Sahara Africa, there are fresh memories of citizens rising up through various means to protest against political, social and economic imbalances. The ones I saw in my mother land especially as I reflect on the fourteen year carnage and events leading up to Black Tuesday in Monrovia are profound and must serve as guideposts as rebuild the country and reclaim its wounded dignity.

Everyone loves to be treated special and in spite of our social and economic standings, we all love to be treated fairly and related to on equal footings like other human beings. This is not a sweeping generalizations but an inherent human desire that propel even the most timid to act when they become victims of others given preferential treatments. When there is a war, the one most likely to be recruited are those ones who have been segregated against due to their social or economic standings. I have seen that happen during the Liberian civil war when villagers who “have not tasted cold water from the fridge except from creeks and rain water” took us by storm ravaging towns and cities for things they have long been denied or never had access to for decades. While I understand that some of the inequities can be unintentional, when they become institutionalized, the impact can be disastrous.

Some situations of apparent examples of inequalities that existed before and after the Liberian uncivil war come to mind. Anyone who has lived in company areas like Bong mines, Lamco Yekepa, and Firestone is a witness of communities segregated based on income levels or economic classes. In those areas, the housing units are built and all other amenities are provided based on where the employee finds himself/herself in the company’s organizational structure. such is the way and the power that be justifies such segregation. While luxurious homes are built for high level employees, those who find themselves at the tail end of those companies live in areas not even suited for farm animals. It is not just the segregated environments of the workers that institutionalizes this practice but that children and other dependents of those segregated workers have to bear the brunt of their “parents’ sins” by being equally under classed and sometimes not given equal opportunities to succeed. In Yekepa for example, there is a chasm existing between Area F, the staff quarter and Area N for the down trodden laborers. Looking back, I wonder what would become of all the people and their children if they were to all live together. While children from area N have to live under a perpetual stigma of inferiority and consequently written off, children of the privileged Area F are often foolishly arrogant but under a constant pressure of being successful. The results sometimes don’t match the expectations.

Various forms of segregation coupled with the privileged or powerful living above everyone else have not gone away. Up till today top government officials are above going through what every one else goes through. The president for example, does not go to the same hospitals that citizens go to when they are sick but has to travel overseas for even a routine physical exam. Special parking areas are allotted for ministers and their deputies no matter when they arrive at work. Top ranking government officials do not have to even obey traffic rules at times and other dos and don'ts of any civil society. Although they often get up late for work, every other car carrying other workers, students and everyone else has to stop when government officials turn on their deafening sirens to make their way to work. Those subtle but unfair preferential treatments add up and often bubble up when those who don’t get a fair shake because of their social or economic status can no longer bear the sweltering unequal treatments.

It is heart wrenching to note that the inequalities in Liberia have persisted as normal practices and the status quo of the society. The gap between the have-much and the have-nothing continues to widen by the hour. Visiting Liberia today, one will be amazed by the amount of United States dollars circulating in the streets but such abundance has not been felt in the emaciated bodies that jam the busy and not so cared for streets of Monrovia. Stepping outside the overcrowded city, the situation of those whose rights to equal treatment are trampled upon because of their economic standing is even more apparent.

It is not that the poor will suddenly disappear, but the manner in which this disproportionate arrangement has been institutionalized forcing the victims into acquiescence as a way of life is troubling. It frightens me and I pray that it would not brew so strong discontentment that people will lose their minds again and begin to resort into illegal means of making their voices heard. I say this with profound caution of not sounding like a doomsayer or a paranoid chicken little. I am just freaked out about how segregation based on class has become a way of life in spite of all the things we have seen and felt as a result of a lopsided relationship between the haves and have-nots.

Our present day leaders need to realize that being in leadership does not put them above everyone else. No one is above the law and no one one should get preferential treatment because of their political, social or economic status. If there is a rule that all cars for example submit to checks at a checkpoint, even on should go through the same way regardless of the license plate. When too much of the country's resources are concentrated in the hands of a few,segregating against those at the tail end can brew tension.

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