The Dec. 10 Bay State Banner editorial titled “Rich versus poor” is healthy food for thought. It serves as an excellent basis for discussion and path forward to an otherwise stuck debate over our core values.
Fundamentally we face a value proposition that forces us to ask if individual pursuits and self-interest still indirectly promote the good of society as a whole, or not. In essence, does personal capital gain produce social capital gain?
We all understand personal capital. Social capital, on the other hand, not only describes how we relate to each other through the institutions we’re part of, but is also the critical binding agent and engine for a sustainable future.
To be sure, that sustainable future is in jeopardy. The Banner story on Thomas I. Atkins Apartments highlights the point. Neighborhoods of color are definitely deserving of quality development, but how are we paying homage to the opportunity Atkins espoused?
No doubt we’re doing our best to address shortages in affordable housing. Few dispute this need. What’s troubling is the income gap cited in the piece. How are we closing that income gap, with failing schools and institutional norms and policies that do not strengthen the social fabric required to ensure the opportunities Atkins was a proponent of and that ultimately provides a path out of poverty?
If all we’re talking about is construction jobs and an environmentally greener place for folks with fewer means to live, the truth is we haven’t addressed poverty at all. All we’ve done is figure out how to warehouse our poor and stifle meaningful economic mobility for them.
Add to this the sobering revelation of a recent National Public Radio report which stated the vast majority of black children will be born to households ill equipped to affect proper rearing. It’s no wonder we’re troubled by: losing a job and staying unemployed for too long; not getting a fair shake when we apply for a loan for a home or business; gentrification of our neighborhoods; and the list goes on.
But blind loyalty to personal capital or social capital only by folks in the middle will not solve the problem. Moreover, folks of modest means believe they are not sidelined in this conflict, but brokers of peace between the warring factions.
The perspective from the middle is clear: too hard one way or the other is always unsustainable! So why don’t we just figure out how to make the poor richer in a sustainable way?
Jackson Square CAC Chairman