By #hastag in the comments at the bottom, you can cause your hashtag to treand here on swayr and Twitter #showyoursupport# voteitup^

Updated: 07/02/2019

Published: 30/10/2018

A Guide to Social Issues in 2019

 

Though the term was coined in the 70s, Social Issues, sometimes referred to as First World Problems didn't “enter” the scene, until forty-odd years later. The Oxford Dictionary defines the phrase, first world problem, as the following:

n. a problem affecting the First World and its inhabitants; spec. a cause of frustration or dissatisfaction regarded as trivial, and arising only as a result of the economic and social privilege, access to technology, etc., associated with the First World.

 

Social Issues (social problems) on the other hand, as defined through societal constructs, has an air of seriousness hovering about it. The Oxford Dictionary is a tad vague with its definition, “Any aspect of society that requires alteration or development, especially through some form of social engineering,” but we understand the overall implications.

 

What exactly are Social Issues?

The University of Minnesota defines social problem (social issue) as any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people and that is generally recognized as a condition or behavior that needs to be addressed.

 

Think on that for a minute: any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people. If we apply this explanation to issues like domestic abuse, racial or religious intolerance, we're ready to take sides. However, if we push social issue and first world problem into the same ring, we find certain overlaps with some issues bordering on the ridiculous, trivial and/or wasteful, e.g., consumerism i.e., “Starbucks gave me a full fat latte instead of a non-fat special! #firstworldproblems”. Does a somewhat trivial issue seem irrelevant in comparison to those of a more serious note? What happens if we expand the trivial issue? Do we sit up and take notice then?

Air pollution in China is a direct consequence of global consumerism

Pollution in China is a direct consequence of global consumerism. Source: CambridgeProBusiness

 

At first glance, it seems somewhat insulting. “How dare they (whomever you are) deem my issues trivial?!” There's a sense of outrage and entitlement, perhaps guilt, at issues we phrase problematic as some typically arise out of privilege.

 

For those living in third-world countries, an eyebrow might lift, a scornful smirk might emerge but truth be told, modern social issues have become a great cause for concern. Not only do they impact inhabitants of first world nations, the by-blow after effects trickle down to developing and underdeveloped nations that may not have the means of dealing with such concerns.

 

 

The following social issues are listed alphabetically:

Abortion:

An issue often linked to religious and feminist concerns, abortion has remained a controversial topic for decades. The ongoing debate between a “woman's right to choose” versus “the right to life” has, at times, created deep rifts between families, communities, political parties and more. The current political climate in the United States has seen a change in federal policy where faith-based, anti-abortion clinics are competing for federal funds in the same arena as organizations like Planned Parenthood. United States President, Donald Trump, has cemented his opinion on the issue by nominating conservative judge, Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court bench, a judge often called the swing vote with regards to gay rights and abortion.

Chart: Abortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women from various minorities who accounted for 49% of patients in 2014. Guttmacher InstituteAbortion has become increasingly concentrated among poor women from various minorities who accounted for 49% of patients in 2014. Guttmacher Institute

 

With Kennedy gone, “equal rights for all” has taken something of a beating. The appointment of Kavanaugh revives speculation that there may be “enough conservative support within the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v Wade decision and once again allow individual states to ban abortions outright.” Individuals who aren't concerned with either side may find themselves forced to pick a side. The effects of Trump's global ban on funding abortion, also known as the “Mexico City Policy” has trickled to all corners of the world, including Kenya, where thousands of women were left without access to contraceptives, particularly those of the injectable kind. This places them in tricky situations where abortion is illegal and contraceptives are frowned up.

 

Animal Rights:

Issues concerning animal rights, welfare and experimentation/exploitation have long been a pressing concern for those worried about the earth and its welfare. Animal rights, while a vast topic, can be simplified in a few sentences by asking the following questions:

  • What defines man from beast?
  • What makes one more valuable than the other?
  • Are we all equal in the eyes of the law and each other? If yes, recall (all) the times in our history when “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” George Orwell, Animal Farm.

 

Pictures of dog meat. Issues concerning the consumption of dog meat in Asia have created organizations like StopYulinForever. Though we find it hard to think of our pets as food, what is the difference between dog meat and pork or chicken? Image source: mercyforanimals.org 

 

Humanity is defined through acts of compassion, benevolence and acknowledgment of brotherly love. Our “dominion” over the earth, a religious construct, demands we respect that which has been given to us in trust. Contrary to various beliefs, we have instead exploited our natural world to the point of exhaustion. Activists, like Gary Francione, have created thought-provoking arguments that stand without need for embellishment. Francione has stated:

“We should always be clear that animal exploitation is wrong because it involves speciesism. And speciesism is wrong because, like racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, classism, and all other forms of human discrimination, speciesism involves violence inflicted on members of the moral community where that infliction of violence cannot be morally justified. But that means that those of us who oppose speciesism necessarily oppose discrimination against humans. It makes no sense to say that speciesism is wrong because it is like racism (or any other form of discrimination) but that we do not have a position about racism. We do. We should be opposed to it and we should always be clear about that.”

 

Animal rights, often associated with the welfare of beloved pets, incorporates the notion that all species considered non-human, are entitled to their own life and accorded with the most basic rights, similar to human beings. Questioning our relations with various fauna of the world, acknowledging our errors and opening our minds to new possibilities is key to creating a balanced world that recognizes the value of every sentient life, great and small.

 

Austerity:

Financial austerity is a macroeconomic policy that reduces government spending on public services and can be defined as state-sanctioned corporatization of a government’s fiscal-social contract between citizens and the state.

 

 

Khadija Sharife Profile Picture

Khadija Sharife a senior fellow at WorldPolicy.org and swayr guest contributor comments: 

___________________________

Khadija's writing has appeared in numerous publications including ForbesThe Economist, Al JazeeraForeign PolicyBBC, and others.

“By prioritizing the rights of capital instead of citizens, inequality is significantly deepened and broadened culminating in a world where over 80% of global wealth accrues to 1% while about 40% own just 1%. The performance of austerity affects vulnerable citizens in developed countries as much as developing but with a caveat: vast loans previously doled out to African, Eastern European and Latin American countries meant these countries were economically starved as a mandatory condition of loans. Ironically, “first world” countries have no such external conditions yet the reproduced outcome between citizens is much the same. In his report on the United States, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston framed the US last year as a deeply unequal society where at least 40 million lived in abject poverty. Despite this, austerity is limited to education, infrastructure, housing and other public services as opposed to the rights of capital, frequently subsidised by hundreds of billions of dollars propping up transnational companies and vast bailouts for the same. In targeting the vulnerable with little political clout to fight back, a class war is waged and won with justice as the loser.”


Civil Rights (Racism):

Cornell University's Legal Information Institute defines “civil rights” as follows: A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. The fight for civil rights has likely occurred in every country around the world, our focus remains on the 4 regions below:

 

  • Australia and the campaign for Indigenous Rights (1933 - 1980)
  • The Civil Rights movement (US) and the Black Power/Panther Movement (US/Canada), spearheaded by personalities like Martin Luther King, Malik el-Shabaaz (Malcolm X), Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali, reached its climax during the 1950s and 60s.
  • The US, Canada and the Native Rights movement had a dual purpose: achieving the civil rights of Native peoples as American citizens, and the sovereign rights of Native nations. Native activists fought against dispossession, racism, poverty, and violence, but they also focused on protecting treaty rights and keeping Native tribes distinct.
  • The Civil Rights (Liberties) Movement (UK) is not the first group that pops into your mind when one thinks about rights, however, there were people like Paul Stephenson who fought racial discrimination during the mid-twentieth century. Racial discrimination applied to anyone considered a ‘minority group’.

Solidarity between African Americans and Native Americans grew with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, whose goals were closer to the nationalism espoused by American Indian Movement activists.

The Longest Walk, 1978 Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights.The Longest Walk, 1978
Pictured here (left to right) are Muhammad Ali, Buffy St. Marie, Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman, Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory, Richie Havens, and David Amram at a concert at the end of the Longest Walk, a 3,600-mile protest march from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., in the name of Native rights.

 

While such discriminating laws are no longer legal, our behavior (or lack of decent behavior) has led to the rise of movements like #BlackLivesMatter in the 21st century. 

 

Climate Change:

Believers in climate change: An ice-free Arctic. Hurricanes. Drought. Rising sea levels. Heat waves. Floods. Earthquakes. These are some basic disasters that have intensified in existing geographies and may be introduced to new regions due to the ecological implosion that is climate change. Whether one blames current U.S. President, Donald Trump, for reneging on the Paris Agreement (and denying climate change outright) or take a more-than-cursory glance at China's mass production (culminating in excessive CO2 levels) of everything under the sun, climate change is not only here but it is escalating as a direct result of human activities.

 

Disbelievers in climate change contend these are natural occurrences, such as fluctuations in the sun's heat and ocean currents. They question the theory of human-caused global climate change, citing faulty climate models and misleading science. The back and forth ping-pong match between the two groups has made this a key area of concern – regardless of who is responsible (or not), natural disasters have taken a turn for the worst.  

 

 

Khadija Sharife Profile Picture

Khadija Sharife a senior fellow at WorldPolicy.org and swayr guest contributor comments:

___________________________

Khadija's writing has appeared in numerous publications including ForbesThe Economist, Al JazeeraForeign PolicyBBC, and others.

“By prioritizing the rights of capital instead of citizens, inequality is significantly deepened and broadened culminating in a world where over 80% of global wealth accrues to 1% while about 40% own just 1%. The performance of austerity affects vulnerable citizens in developed countries as much as developing but with a caveat: vast loans previously doled out to African, Eastern European and Latin American countries meant these countries were economically starved as a mandatory condition of loans. Ironically, “first world” countries have no such external conditions yet the reproduced outcome between citizens is much the same. In his report on the United States, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston framed the US last year as a deeply unequal society where at least 40 million lived in abject poverty. Despite this, austerity is limited to education, infrastructure, housing and other public services as opposed to the rights of capital, frequently subsidised by hundreds of billions of dollars propping up transnational companies and vast bailouts for the same. In targeting the vulnerable with little political clout to fight back, a class war is waged and won with justice as the loser.”

 

 

 

Consumerism:

At the risk of sounding repetitive, consumerism has infiltrated every level of society, on a global scale. Members of the Kardashian family have built their fortunes around the solid knowledge that their influences and appearances will not only continue raking in the $$$ but ensure their importance for years to come. George Monbiot, a thought leader for the Guardian reveals a tremendous shift in social norms and practices, stating the results of a study, “In 1997, the dominant values (as judged by an adult audience) expressed by the shows most popular among nine- to 11 year-olds were community feeling, followed by benevolence. Fame came 15th out of the 16 values tested. By 2007, when shows such as Hannah Montana prevailed, fame came first, followed by achievement, image, popularity and financial success. Community feeling had fallen to 11th, benevolence to 12th.”

 

We find ourselves immersed in a society motivated by thoughts of fame, money and power, in no particular order. Edward Bernays, the nephew of psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, was known as the “father of public relations.” Bernays’ use of individuals as the proverbial means to an end can be summed up in one line: “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway."

Image Kim Kardashian had to remove from her Instagram account regarding morning sicknessImage: Kim Kardashian posted the photo to her 42 million Instagram followers and was forced to take it down. Image source: kimkardashian via Instagram

 

In 2014, Kim Kardashian had a run in with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A selfie promoting a drug that supposedly dealt with morning sickness made its way to the FDA who promptly fired off a warning. Though some of us may poo-pooh the influence certain individuals have over society, one cannot ignore the attached risks of bending to consumerism promoted by the influential among us.

 

Gun Control (US):

Bring up the issue of gun control and you will find a distinct line separating two teams: those for and those against. Invoking the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” and yes, it speaks to a different era in US history. Officially, gun control revolve around those laws that “regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification, or use of firearms by civilians.”

Gun deaths for the year 2016 in the following order: US - Canada - Australia - UK. 75 percent of the world's 875 million guns are civilian controlled.  Roughly half of these guns (48 %) are in the United States, which has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.

Gun deaths for the year 2016 in the following order: US - Canada - Australia - UK. 75 percent of the world's 875 million guns are civilian controlled. Roughly half of these guns (48 %) are in the United States, which has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Image source: GunPolicy.org

 

The constant battle for supremacy between those for and those against, has not yielded a winner but one thing is certain. Whether you're remembering the Columbine High School Massacre almost two decades ago or the most recent gun-related violence anywhere in the world, one cannot help but notice the ease in which civilian arms can be purchased in the United States nor the number of deaths resulting from these weapons.

 

Gender Violence (Domestic, Intimate Partner):

The United Nations Women organization states, “One in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence — mostly by an intimate partner.”

 

According to the Office for National Statistics, UK, 1 in 4 women “experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales, and in the year ending March 2016, 1.2 million women reported experiences of domestic abuse in England and Wales.” Apparently these number are capped where research provided by Sylvia Walby, Professor of Sociology and UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, Director, Violence and Society UNESCO Centre, Lancaster University, UK, could result in a 70% increase. A startling increase in the number of male domestic abuse victims, as reported by the BBC, reveals the trend follows similar patterns. “While one in six men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, only one in 20 will ever seek any help,” states charity, the ManKind Initiative. Domestic abuse costs the UK £23 billion per year!

 

Drug Addiction:

United States Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy stated the following in his most recent report, Facing Addiction, “One in seven Americans will experience a problem with alcohol or other drug misuse in their lifetimes, and some 20 million have current substance use disorders. But with 78 people dying from overdose every day, only 10% of people with addictions ever receive any sort of help towards recovery.” The drug epidemic is not contained within US borders as statistics provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime point out an epidemic of global proportions: 247 million drug users worldwide.


Cocaine deliveries within 15 minutes or less: Denmark, England and Germany in 3rd place.  GlobalDrugSurvey

Cocaine deliveries within 15 minutes or less: Denmark, England and Germany in 3rd place. More people could get Cocaine delivered quicker than they could a Pizza. 

Source: GlobalDrugSurvey

 

How much does drug abuse cost a first world country like the United States? According to an article in Psychology Today, costs would exceed $1 trillion...back in 2015!

 

Other relevant polls and guides

Is it possible you have ever been addicted to a drug? 

Should Cannabis be legalised for medical use or is it open to abuse?

 

Educational Opportunities:

When one imagines first world nations, you never stop to ponder the variety of social issues lurking beneath the glossy surface. Linda Darling-Hammond of the Stanford Graduate School of Education emphasizes the disparities between the ideal vision of equality in the United States and the educational experiences of African-American students and other minorities. “Despite the rhetoric of American equality, the school experiences of African-American and other ‘minority’ students in the United States continue to be substantially separate and unequal. Few Americans realize that the U.S. educational system is one of the most unequal in the industrialized world, and that students routinely receive dramatically different learning opportunities based on their social status,” Linda Darling-Hammond, Inequality in Teaching and Schooling: How Opportunity Is Rationed to Students of Color in America

The Bush Administration's “No Child Left Behind” Act was to raise educational achievement and narrow down or close the racial/ethnic achievement gap. Unfortunately, the act frequently harmed those students it was designed to help through a narrowed curriculum, the exclusion of low-scoring students from schools in order to maintain the target aggregate, and failure to address issues concerning the distribution of educational resources (including qualified educators) in much-needed districts.

 

Equality (Gender):

It is the 21st century and somehow, we continue to have debates around gender equality, an issue that continually evades us on a global scale. The Guardian reports the global gender gap remains ever present with first world countries, like the United Kingdom, falling to 26th place. What's startling to note is that Rwanda, a country torn apart by civil war and child soldiers, have shot ahead to place in the top 10 countries currently noted for gender equality.

Based on current trends it could take the USA 70 years before the gender pay gap closes, where women are equal to men. Based on current trends it could take the USA 70 years before the gender pay gap closes, where women are equal to men. 

 

The United Nation states 143 out of 195 countries constitutionally guarantees men and women equal rights, yet women continue to be discriminated against, directly and indirectly through gender-based stereotypes, law and policies, societal and/or cultural norms and practices.

Dr. Beatrice Alba, a research fellow at La Trobe University, Australia published an article pointing out unspoken prejudices exhibited toward the female sex. In each social experiment listed, participants had the choice of deciding who to hire based on gender (male), who sounded more convincing on a business pitch (male) and in the case of another study, gender bias was again displayed by young children.

Tracey Spicer, award winning journalist and founder of NOW Australia, comments:

___________________________

Tracey's Associations: The Daily Telegraph, Network 10, Sky News Australia. 

In 2018 Tracey Spicer she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia "For significant service to the broadcast media as a journalist and television presenter, and as an ambassador for social welfare and charitable groups

“Gender equality is good for everybody. It's not a women's issue. It's about women, men, families, and society. If we get gender equality, this is good for everybody.”

 

Gentrification:

Urban gentrification is generally thought of in a positive light. Plans for the improvement of rundown and decaying neighborhoods are greeted with enthusiasm by many, until you dissect the nitty gritty details. The renovation of deteriorating neighborhoods with an influx of a middle-income demographic generally adds to a socioeconomic facelift. The dark side, however, is something which cannot be denied for it is the poor and low-income households that ultimately pay the price of displacement. During the last century, many American cities experienced what is known as “white flight”, an era defined by high racial tension in the 1970s where majority of individuals from European ancestry inhabiting middle-income urban areas, migrated to the suburbs. This, in effect, left behind minorities who could ill-afford the cost of gentrification, including increasing rent and taxes, reduction in cultural diversity and community welfare, fewer businesses offering supplies and services to the poorer members of the community, and disrespect from those of a higher financial standing. 

Samuel Kye, a Sociologist at the University of Indiana comments:

“Residential economic integration may be slowly decoupling from residential racial integration with white residents. Stereotypes and prejudice may persist, even despite the socioeconomic attainments of minority groups." Kye confirmed that racial segregation continues to be "a key predictor of reduced life chances, across health, academic, and economic outcomes."


The issue is a complex one with pros and cons presenting valid points. Does one inject funds into dilapidated areas at the risk of disenfranchising the poverty-stricken? Do you leave these areas alone to muddle through? Poverty is often associated with increased levels of crime so at what point do you intervene?

 

Human Trafficking:

Human trafficking or modern day slavery is the trade in human bodies for the purposes of forced labor, involuntary servitude, debt bondage or peonage and sexual exploitation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports the most “common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation.” According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 12.3 million people are victims of forced labor at any given time, 2.4 million of whom toil in forced labor as a result of trafficking."

28% of identified victims of Human trafficking are children. 28% of identified victims of trafficking are children. Image source: Antislavery.org

 

In general, poverty, poor levels of education, civil conflicts and gender discrimination play a huge role in the migratory patterns associated with women and children seeking opportunities for a better life. “In 2015, the United States National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) received 24,757 substantive signals nationwide: 21,947 phone calls, 1,275 emails, 1,535 online tips. For about 60 percent of callers, the primary reason for calling was to report a human trafficking tip (NHTRC, 2015),” University of California. These statistics are not limited to illegally trafficked individuals alone: 100,000 - 300,000 American children are considered at risk for sexual exploitation every year.

Intersectionality:

This term is defined by Oxford Dictionary as:

Chart showing features of intersectionalityChart shows different protected factors of intersectionality. Image source: Michigan State University

n. The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

 

Intersectionality can cover a number of issues presented in this article, including racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, and more. The theory observes certain pools of data concerning individuals affected by a number of prejudices and disadvantages, accounting for identity and experience. These structures, often working in tandem, interact and create inequalities, discrimination and oppression.  

 

Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American Civil Rights advocate and scholar of critical race theory, introduced the theory of intersectionality in 1989. Crenshaw advocates the understanding of this term as crucial to “combatting the interwoven prejudices people face in their daily lives.”

 

Take our poll and read our full guide to intersectionality:

Intersectionality: Another 'silly word' or 'important theory' to listen to?

 

Student Loan Debt:

Student loans are a problem wherever you go. First world or third world, it makes no difference - the government ends up dealing with a deficit worth billions of pounds at the very least as most students will default at some point. The current system, accused of excessive interest rates while ripping off students and providing poor value for taxpayer money, requires an overhaul capable of providing value for money for all parties concerned.

 

National Union of Students vice-president Megan Dunn added: “Forcing debt on to students as a way of funding universities is an ­experiment that has well and truly failed.”

 

The War on Immigrants:

Immigration, the nightmare of governments and citizens alike (in some countries anyway), and one of the platforms which current US President, Donald Trump, built and advocated his presidency on. Immigration, an issue that has polarized an already divided Republican house, need we say more? The Brookings Institution advocates for new immigrant blood, citing, “The problem lately is not the American Dream in the abstract. It is the growing failure to realize it. Two necessary ingredients of Americanism—meritocracy and momentum—are now sorely lacking. American society itself has become stuck, with weak circulation and mobility across class lines. The economy has lost its postwar dynamism. Racial gaps, illuminated by the burning of churches and urban unrest, stubbornly persist. We need more young workers to fund the old age of the baby boomers. But there is more to it than that. Immigrants also provide a shot in the arm to American vitality itself. Always have, always will.

 

On the opposite side of the table, Roy Beck of the Washington Post makes a firm case against new immigrant populations back in 1996! “The unrelenting surge of immigration above traditional levels is transforming communities throughout the United States into something their residents often don't like or quite recognize as their own. The trend in this country during the previous decades of low immigration had long been toward higher wages, less poverty, and a larger middle class.

On average, US respondents estimated that immigrants made up 36% of the US population. That is more than three times the real share of immigrants in the country, which is 10%US respondents - estimated that immigrants made up 36% of the US population.

 

If one takes both sides into account, each side holds valid points. How do citizens feel about immigrants? The National Bureau of Economic Research undertook a study across 6 developed countries. The results perceived by most respondents:

  • Immigrants are poor
  • Immigrants are arriving in droves
  • Immigrants are more dependant on welfare
  • Immigrants are stealing American jobs
  • Immigrants are responsible for the increase in crime

 

Who held the biggest misconception? The United States. Considering the current political state, it’s not surprising. Ultimately, we ponder the final question: In the case for (or against) Immigration, who wins and who loses?

 

What Next?

At swayr it's always important to voice your opioion, that's why you are here, right?

Take to the comments to let us know what you feel the most important social issues will be this year and why!

NOTE: By #hashtagging in the comments at the bottom, you can cause your hashtags to trend here on swayr and on Twitter.  If it's important to you: #showyoursupport #voteitup ^

 


Share the comment, hastag and article on twitter.Get your hashtag #trending