Humans have existed on this planet for about 2.5million years with cognitive revolution starting over 70,000 years ago. Our present is just a blip in this landscape, we are the most powerful and the weakest creatures at the same time.
Historically speaking, vast majority of humanity has developed and progressed in a way by which one group has taken advantage of the other, creating different forms of social oppression namely race, class, gender, sex, institutional, economic, colonial and more.
In 1948 we made a universal declaration of human rights, yet we are far away in putting it into practice. In the UDHR we declare every human has a right to shelter but yet there are so many homeless people in the world. It is estimated that 150 million people are homeless worldwide. Habitat for Humanity estimated in 2015 that 1.6 billion people around the world live in “inadequate shelter”. Homelessness is a symptom of broken social structures, of social injustice, of racism which are kinds of oppressions.
Extreme poverty has gone down by a significant amount in the last few decades 1. There is also a very close link between poverty and homelessness. It is said by end of 2100 human population will be around 12 Billion. The sooner humanity comes out of extreme poverty, the sooner population stabilises. So, it is equivalent to say, a solution to overpopulation is eliminating extreme global poverty completely. 2
Often the help of an external party is seen in liberating the oppressed because they feel helpless and the internalised stereotyping worsens the situation even more, to an extent that they start believing their situation is destiny or that there is no way out. It is especially this mental barrier that is extremely difficult to overcome. 3
Example1: In 2005, Utah (a state in the U.S) launched a program to eliminate homelessness from the root by allocating free apartments to 17 street sleepers. After 2 years, they expanded the program. It didn’t matter if you had a criminal record, addictions or debts. Shelter became a right. The program was huge success and Utah saw a 74% decline in homelessness. State economists calculated a drifter living on the street costed about $16K a year (for social services, police, courts and health departments). An apartment along with professional counselling costed around $11K.
Example2: In 2006, inspired by Utah, The Netherlands launched a program to lift all the homeless people from the street. There were about 10,000 people on the streets in 2006, by end of 2009, this came down to 4,500. It was a huge success, drug use was down by half. The beneficiaries’ mental and physical health improved significantly, and park benches were finally vacant. And then they cut down the budget due to the financial crisis, so by the end of 2013 homeless people skyrocketed to 24,800. In 2018 it was 39,3K. 4 5.
Along with education, I argue that NVC can help them giving a stronghold on possibilities with which they can come out of the oppressed situation. Thus helping in overcoming the difficulty by providing a mental stronghold. This further can be taken up socio-politically by enabling the oppressed to making a request to the local municipality or a local governmental body (depends a bit on the focussed community) but the idea is also to empower the oppressed.
It is only possible for us as humanity to make progress if we truly start listening to each other and especially to the oppressed. Let’s take climate crisis for example: for centuries, we had slavery and it had an economy on its own. As soon as we found coal, oil and gas, we’ve just been exploiting the planet and the oppressed still remain socio-economically oppressed again because of internalised stereotyping and exercising of power along the borders and through nation states. In this article from Eric Holthaus Why climate change is a civil rights battle, economic anthropologist Jason Hickel says:
To illustrate the extraordinary disparities between the perpetrators of climate breakdown and the victims. Get this: the G8 nations, including the European Union, are responsible for 85% of all historical emissions in excess of the safe planetary boundary (350ppm). The vast majority of global South countries have emitted so little, in historical terms, that they are still well within their fair share of the 350ppm boundary.
And yet, ironically the consequences of climate breakdown fall hardest on the South, and particularly on those countries that have contributed the least to the problem. The Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimates that the global South suffers 92% of the costs of climate change-related loss and damage, and 99% of climate change-related deaths.
It is impossible not to notice the echo of colonisation here. We know that the North’s industrial rise was enabled by the colonial appropriation of land, resources and bodies from the South. The data on historical emissions reveals that the North’s industrialisation was also a process of atmospheric theft. And just as colonisation wrought ecological and human destruction across the South, now so too is this. If our analysis of the climate crisis is not attentive to these colonial dimensions, then we have missed the point.
The oppressed are still being oppressed and almost pushed to the brink of extinction. We need compassion and empathy in the global community, a global solidarity. Only by listening and by giving a voice to the oppressed we can be on the “right” side of history, make progress and cause least suffering. It should be our moral imperative to make any being (not only humans but also animals, insects any living organism) suffer less. Climate crisis is not only the story of environmental damage and biodiversity loss but also about how we treat each other and a story of social justice.