I woke up with the Paul Kelly version of the song “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. The words of this song tell the story of the Gurindju strike and Vincent Lingiari as part of the Indigenous Australian struggle for land rights and reconciliation. [1]

In a big picture way this song tells the story of global injustice and the uneven distribution of power through wealth inequality. A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. [2] According to Branko Milanovic, one of the world’s leading experts in inequality, the rise of globalisation has fuelled a boom in inequality in advanced nations and the biggest winners have been the richest 1% of people on the planet. [3]

But as indicated in the Paul Kelly song there are divisions beyond material standards of living, such as in health, education and social mobility, as well as between gender, race, age, geography and social groups.

One of the consequences of global inequity has been the polarisation of politics and the rise of popularism in the UK and elsewhere around the developed world. Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US, as well as growing support for new political movements in Europe from both ends of the political spectrum has been linked to rising inequality. [2]

Ted Howard, co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, a leftwing research institute, says three people, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezon and Warren Buffett own more wealth than bottom 160 million people in the US. The same could be said for Australia where the highest 1% income earners earn as much in a fortnight as the lowest 5% receive in a year. [3]

Ted Howard says, “It’s not just an economic fairness issue but also a democratic issue. Can you hold together a democratic culture and state when the wealth holding patterns show no democracy at all? It’s a great threat.” [2]

This raises the question, how do you reverse inequality? I am not an economist but one thing that has happened since the global Coronavirus pandemic is that Democratic Governments worldwide have had to find a way to assist people who are no longer in a position to support themselves. The Australian Government has provided a type of “Universal Basic Income” to people who can no longer support themselves through their $320 billion support package. The virus has also pushed employment into a more automated economy, which may result in a future where greater numbers of worker’s jobs will be a risk. And of course there are the people who have fallen through the cracks such as International Students who cannot return home and who are not eligible for any Government assistance. It is these people and others in need who have prompted mobilisation at a local level, where community groups and concerned citizens are freely volunteering their time, resources and services to help.

These new types of local innovations are the positive side of the Coronavirus, which has allowed the space for a whole new wave of inventiveness and entrepreneurship to unfold by individuals. It has revealed one of the universal laws of life…. that is, how an entire future can be summed up and set to unfold within the tiniest of things…. a seed! In the same way that a tiny seed holds the blueprint for it’s future, so does our own abundant future lie within our tiniest of inspired ideas!

The unmistakable message of the song is that true abundance is not held in monetary values but in valuing what is most important to each and every one of us. Every human being has the basic human right to good health and well being. We are being given the opportunity to pause our busy lives, sit up and take notice of our neighbours and find the seed of inspiration within each of us for a new way of global living where we are not only levelling the playing field but giving more to those who need it.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_ndC07C2qw

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/sep/09/inequality-is-it-rising-and-can-we-reverse-it

[3] file:///C:/Users/mwalters/Downloads/ACOSS_A3%20Factsheet_V10.pdf

[4] https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/04/06/how-will-coronavirus-reshape-democracy-and-governance-globally-pub-81470