Food for thought, from my venti coffee cup:
The measure of genuine civilization, it has been said, is the quality of life for a nation's poorest and least privileged people. By that measure, we are barbarians. Our current level of inequality cannot be justified or sustained.
--Robert W. McChesney Author, media critic and professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Amen, Professor. I don't know if he wrote that from his University office, or from his own home in the leafy, Urbana, Illinois neighborhood that we wanted to live in, but couldn't afford to. Doesn't matter. What is noteworthy is that we have become like those barbarians, who were apparently chiefly noted for their inequalities of income.
He's right. But we need to think globally, too. That's why I'd like to propose a new global ONE campaign, a ONE campaign that ends poverty in Africa, one professor at a time.
The ONE (Professor) Campaign to End Poverty
Yes, this can work. According to the American Association of University Professors, there are 122,000 full professors in the U.S., and nearly 200,000 more assistant and associate profs. According to the ONE Campaign, if we give $25 bilion to Africa by 2010, we will reduce poverty by half!
The great news: If American professors give half their gross income for just five years, that's $59 billion dollars -- enough to nearly completely wipe out poverty in Africa!
Yes, that's sacrifice, but not much, really. Professor McChesney, for instance, hates inequalities, and surrendering half his income will still leave a gaping chasm between his lifestyle and the typical African's. (Full professors in the U.S. make, on average, $95k per year. Associates make $67k, assistants $56k.) His lifestyle would yet be comfy, if perhaps less, relatively, kingly than the one he currently can lead.
It's a simple solution. It will set a great example for all of us. ONE professor at a time, ONE commitment to lifestyle change for the poor, and poverty is history. This will likely mean fewer trips to Europe, yes. And, in high cost-of-living areas, like Manhattan, forced experiences in communal living, eschewing the bourgeois concept of "private property." Utopia!
Sure, this does involve a bit of sacrifice, which is somewhat foreign to the original ONE Campaign. (Click here and see their "action" points, involving such sacrifices as wearing a cool wristband. Orlando Bloom, does, you know.)
There is, of course, this small matter: The ONE approach doesn't tend to, you know, "work". But let's set that aside for now. This is simple. ONE professor at a time, backing up her words with action, eradicating nearly all poverty in Africa by the end of 2010.
There is reason for concern. Professors tend to be liberals, and political liberals just aren't generous. They like to keep their money. They like nice things, and wind up conserving more stuff for themselves than, say, conservatives. But when given the opportunity to make a difference on this scale, you know they'll put their dollars where their coffee cup quotables are.
If they don't, well, we'd have to suspect they really don't believe what they're saying. Say what you want about Ted Haggard, but he says he's sorry.
After all, making an actual, longitudinal, hope-inspiring difference in the life of a child, through already-existing, grassroots structures run by nationals? That's thirty-two hard-earned dollars a month. But "standing up for justice"? It's priceless. Literally. It doesn't cost anything.
And I know our academics will more than take a stand. They're no barbarians. I, for one, welcome our new leaders-by-example, and salute them.