poverty, human fear, and social redistribution


“The protection of humanity against the blind caprices of nature was an integral part of the modern promise. The modern implementation of that project, however, has not made nature less blind and capricious, while focusing instead on the selective distribution of immunity against its effects. The modern struggle to disempower natural calamities follows the pattern of order-building and economic progress: whether by design or default, it divides humanity into those categories worthy of care and the unwertes Leben – the lives unworthy of living. As a consequence, it also specializes in an uneven distribution of fears – whatever the specific cause of the fear in question might be.
Hurricanes, earthquakes and floods are not special cases. We have managed to render selective even that most unchoosy, truly universal of natural ills: the biological limitation of human life.
As Max Hastings commented, [“]modern wealth offers its possessors every chance of living to a ripe old age. Until the twentieth century, disease was no respecter of purses. The wife of a Victorian financial colossus was almost as vulnerable to the perils of childbirth as a maid in his household. The tombstones of the great reveal how many died long before their natural spans were exhausted.
Today medical science can do extraordinary things for people able to pay. There has never been a wider gulf between the remedies available to the rich and those on offer to most of the poor, even in societies with advanced healthcare systems.[“] Whether it is aimed at disasters of natural or artificial origin, the outcome of the modern war on human fears seems to be their social redistribution rather than any reduction in volume.” (pp.80-81)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold, mine) Zygmunt Bauman (2006) Liquid Fear. Polity Press: Cambridge, UK


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