This blog is normally devoted to spreading positivity, peace, love, understanding, and all of that. We get more than enough negativity and combativeness in the outside world.
Indeed, we are here specifically to fight that combativeness which turns person against person.
But today, there’s something we need to talk about.
An increasingly divisive issue, in the United States and globally, is that of wealth inequality. While that term may have seemed ridiculous a few years ago, it has been increasingly used as more people have become aware of the fact that a tiny percentage of the world’s people control most of its resources.
Protesters for income equality are often described as “waging class warfare” because they are “envious” of the rich and/or want “free handouts.” One recent article went so far as to suggest that poor Americans should stop complaining because they already have so much more than most people in the world. “How dare you complain about the top 1%,” the article asked, “when you are IN the top 1% from the perspective of millions of starving people?”
Dissecting this argument is interesting. On one hand, it is absolutely true that average Americans, including those who are upset about not being able to afford healthcare or higher education, do have access to many amenities that most of the globe does not. We eat better than most of the globe; we suffer from fewer infectious diseases as a result of having good hygiene and healthcare infrastructure; we have more opportunities to move up than many people.
The logical implication of the argument seems to be that average Americans should, if anything, be willing to sacrifice more to bring better lives to those overseas.
That’s not a bad sentiment. But let’s think for a moment about who controls the resources in America.
It is an unsettling fact that the richest 500 people in America have the same amount of wealth as the “bottom” half of the American population. On the surface of it, this would seem to suggest that these wealthy 500 are equipped to do as much good for the world as the poorest 150 million people in America combined.
That in itself is deeply unsettling. If money is power (and it is), we are effectively looking at a differential in which a single person among the elite has the same amount of power to change the world for better – or worse – as 300,000 low- to middle-income Americans.
But the situation is actually even worse than that. Because the 500 richest Americans only need to procure food, healthcare, shelter, etc. for 500 of themselves.
With the same amount of resources, the bottom half of America has to procure food, healthcare, shelter, etc. for 150 million.
As such, while it might be an admirable sentiment that everyone should devote some resources to creating a more equal, sustainable global system, it is clear that the wealthy are vastly better-positioned to do that than America’s poor or even its middle-class earners.
Where this becomes particularly important is when we are examining the critics of people who champion wealth inequality. The article referenced above suggests that Americans should stop complaining about wealth inequality because there are people starving overseas.
However, the people who use that line of logic are often the same people who say Americans need to stop envying the wealthy and waging “class warfare” against them.
This suggests that critics of American inequality protesters are more upset about “class warfare” against the rich than they are about starving children in Africa.
What does that say about our priorities?
What do your reactions say about yours?
The issue we face goes even beyond the question of middle-class Americans, or lower-class Americans, or starving children in Africa, having all their basic needs met.
The question is one of global sustainability – research shows that when power is held by an “elite” class, that class is often so isolated, by choice or by accident, from the needs of everyday citizens, that they have no sense of what society needs to sustain itself.
This poses an obvious problem when the same people who control most of the world’s resources lack either the knowledge or the motivation do to what will sustain society.
This is why a NASA study recently found that a great civilization has, on average, about 125 years between the development of an “elite” class and utter collapse due to a combination of exhausted natural resources and violent social unrest if the trend is not reversed. America started showing signs of developing an “elite” class around the year 1980.
That means we’ve got a little less than a century to fix the problem, or go the way of the Roman, Gupta, and Han empires.
This blog will, by and large, be reserved for positivity and unity. But we can’t ignore facts in the name of unity. Pretending malaria does not exist won’t cure it.
And in fact, this subject matter is in keeping with this blog – insofar as we need to realize who our true enemies and allies are.
Your enemy is not your neighbor who has slightly different ideas about taxation, or personal responsibility, or what industries should or should not be socialized.
Your enemy is not the opposing political party, who in all likelihood holds extremely similar goals to your own.
Your enemy is those who turn neighbors against each other in the name of social issues. Your enemy is those who demonize others in your eyes by telling you how they are greedy, or lazy – how they intend evil.
Let’s be honest – almost nobody intends evil.
Our enemy is ignorance as to what is the right thing to do.
Sometimes, all people need to do good is a wakeup call.
Consider this yours.