It has been a hot minute, I know! 2021 has been a very busy start for me, lots of new adventures and opportunities, which is very exciting. However, it has meant I have had much less time to be writing here! I am back today though and do apologise for taking a long absence, I can’t guarantee the posts will be as consistent as they were before but I will do my best to share with you as much as I can. I’ve always wanted to ensure that the content I do share is quality and worthwhile, and that takes time, so bare with me!
Today’s post is an important one. Something I’ve learnt over the past few years of my life is that it is important to always speak up about injustices and global issues, even if they don’t impact you personally. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own bubble, living our lives, dealing with our own issues, that we don’t look up and see what’s going on around the world. So, today, consider this me waking you up to wider world issues that we should be concerned about.
Before we get into it, I do want to disclaim that after the year we have all had, I think that it can be quite overwhelming constantly bombarding yourself with the news. Finding the right balance is important. Don’t constantly check the news or read about world events all day, everyday. Have a designated time to catch up and be aware and then make sure after that, you shut off. We can’t simply ignore what is going on around is, but we must also protect our mental health and know our own limits.
Uighur Muslims in China
It makes me sad to be raising this issue again on my website, but the situation in China and the horrific oppression Uighur Muslims are facing has only worsened. There must be more awareness of this issue. On September 22nd I shared information about the concentration camps in China. Today on the 14th February, the situation has only worsened, five months on.
If you haven’t read my other post. In the province of Xinjiang in China, Uighur Muslims are being detained into ‘re-education camps’, and they have been for the past few years. It is believed that over one million people are being forced into labour and tortured. Inside this camp Uighur women are being sexually assaulted and mass sterilisation has taken place with the goal of supressing the population.
People that have managed to escape these camps have reported physical, mental and sexual torture. Research shows that almost half a million people are being forced to pick cotton which is then supplied to newly built factories next to the concentration camps. These vast cotton fields in Xinjiang account for 1/5 of the cotton that is supplied to the global fashion industry.
The Chinese government continues to deny claims that these camps are anything more than poverty alleviation schemes or vocational training schools. Records suggest that the reality of these camps is to enforce loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Holding any different identities of faith and culture is seen as untrustworthy and therefore a radical belief. Uighur Muslims and other minority groups are brought to these camps to be ‘de-radicalised’.
This crackdown on Uighur Muslims began in around 2017 on the grounds of counterterrorism. It was a campaign to assimilate the Uighur community and eligibly de-radicalise with indoctrination programmes, which is really horrific torture methods. This crackdown was justified to the Chinese government because of a Uighur independence movement. Uighur Muslims are native to the Xinjiang province and held independence for short periods, their religious faith has built tension with the Chinese Communist Party.
If you want to read more personal stories of the horrors that have taken place in the concentration camps you can click here. You may find these stories upsetting.
When I last shared my post, little was being done to help stop this injustice. Leaders around the world have finally started to speak up. The US has declared the activity in Xinjiang to be a genocide as well as banning imports from the province because of the inhumane forced labour. The UK has declared China’s actions to be barbaric and has now introduced measures to tackle the human rights violation. UK companies now cannot trade with Chinese companies connected to the forced labour. Fines will be put onto British companies that do not publish modern slavery statements. The UK, as well as various other western governments, have condemned China and continue to put pressure on their actions. Whilst many condemn the actions of China, not enough is being done to save Uighur Muslims from their oppression and to free them from the camps.
What can you do?
Often we learn about this news and think, well, I’m on the other side of the world, what can I do? Firstly, stay educated and keep speaking up. Share posts, read articles, stay up to date with events. The more people know, the better. Overall, the media has struggled to gain coverage from the camps because there are such strict rules and bans in Xinjiang. We need to keep sharing and speaking about this issue, raising awareness is the first step before change can happen, so keep speaking!
Secondly, find resources that can help to amplify voices and spread awareness. The Uyghur Human Rights Project shares press releases and news about the continued oppression in China. It is a great way to keep up to date and share the right information. They are a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organisation. They promote democratic freedom and human rights for the Uighur community.
As well as this, Save Uighur, are working to raise media attention and awareness of the crimes of Xinjiang. They are an education and advocacy project campaigning for the liberation of Uighur Muslims. They are part of a Justice for All campaign based in Chicago, Illinois. Justice for all work with various grassroots, media, and advocacy campaigns to address issues that do not receive enough international, public and political support.
Thirdly, sign petitions, this one here calls for more countries to stand up for Uighur Muslims and to raise awareness. The one here calls for the Winter Olympics in Beijing to be cancelled if Uighur Muslims are not released. A country does not deserve to host the Winter Olympics whilst over a million Uighur Muslims have been stripped of their rights and detained into concentration camps.
Finally, boycott complicit fashion brands. Whilst most countries have banned imports from the Xinjiang province, be conscious of this issue when you shop. It took a long time for awareness to be built up about the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China. The entire fashion industry was buying into this human rights violation. A representative from Anti-Slavery International explained that “there is a high likelihood that every high street and luxury brand runs the risk of being linked to what is happening to the Uighur people.” Some of the worlds leading clothing brands buy cotton from the Xinjiang province, be aware of this and shop responsibly. Now more than ever small businesses need support, use this as even more of a reason to buy less from fashion giants who do not ethically source their materials or support their workers.
Thank you for reading…
I hope you found this post insightful and helpful. Even when global events aren’t appearing right in front of our eyes, they are still happening, and this is not the only one. Stay educated and keep speaking up, raising awareness is pivotal if we want leaders to take stronger action against human rights violations. I wanted my first post back to be something important and outside of our general world view. I hope this post woke you up and that you will continue to stay aware of what is going on outside your bubble.
I’m hoping to come back soon with a post on mindfulness. My last one did so well so I want to come back after learning a bit more about it and share some more experiences I’ve had on my own mindfulness journey since then.
I’d like to begin by wishing everyone a happy new year! I hope you all managed to have a lovely holiday period despite the impacts 2020 has had on all of us.
I’ve definitely had a dry patch with ideas for posts. I kept coming up with ideas that felt easy or boring and I realised that I didn’t start this website to aimlessly post without any real intention. It was to allow me to learn and to share what I’d learnt with all of you. I love to read, learn new things, and to write, that’s why I made this blog. Getting back to that root motivation has been important to me. I would rather post quality over quantity and share something truly interesting and beneficial with you all. Something I’ve put real work into learning about and producing. That is what brings on today’s post and future posts to come.
Reading is a huge factor to inspiring me and allowing me to learn new things, it triggers thoughts and usually is what motivates me to learn more. I got a lot of books for Christmas so I’m excited to learn from them and share what I learn with all of you. That being said, let’s get into today’s post.
I recently finished the book ‘Out of the Wreckage: a new politics for an age of crisis’ by George Monbiot. Within the book he discusses ways to improve governance in order to lead us to a better future. The book is politically and economically focused, introducing effective solutions to the key issues we face in society. Monbiot highlights issues and areas of corruption and how they are causing a strain on democracy and society. He begins the book by talking about how neoliberalism has essentially doomed us from the outset.
Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, and the shift away from state welfare provision. Simply, neoliberalism favours the market and aims for a restriction in the welfare of the people. It desires less government spending. Neoliberalism has warped itself into our political and economic systems, even our daily lives. Monbiot explains that we are so used to it’s presence it’s hard to even step back far enough to see it.
We are all cogs in a machine going around scrambling individually to get to the top, a point that an overwhelming majority won’t reach. We need community, we need empathy. These two factors are key in Monbiot’s rethinking of politics. It is sad to say that without these factors society will continue on it’s path of self-destruction. The rich only get richer and the poor sink even further, struggling to survive and unsupported by their government. A neoliberalist world would view the rich of society wealthy because of their own merit, ignoring any aspects of society that gave them a foot in the door such as education, inheritance, and class. These unequal boosters would be classed as the natural order of society.
Neoliberalism’s definitions have evolved over time but it is essentially solidified in competition. We are all trying to get ahead of eachother, and that is part of the problem. Humans are essentially capital. Society rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. Neoliberalism views effort to create an equal society as morally corrosive. Limiting competition and enforcements of tax to support a welfare state are viewed as inadequate and hostile. Neoliberalism believes in the full privatisation of services, everything is a transaction. Ideals of welfare prevent the natural winners and losers of society from being discovered. Neoliberalism is cold and unkind to anyone who slips below the line, but sadly in a neoliberal society, most of us would be classed as below the line already.
We certainly have not gone to the far extremes of neoliberalism yet, but world leaders have tried, such as Margert Thatcher in 1979. Huge tax cuts for the wealthy, abolishing trade unions, privatisation, and even attempting to remove universal healthcare. Thatcher was stopped of course as we know but, these cold methods of neoliberalism live under the fabric of society and affect so much more than we realise.
Biased Perceptions of the Poor
Have you ever wondered why there is such an increase in mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression in our generation? It’s because of comparison and competition. In a world where we are constantly told to do more, be more, and get ahead, even when our own circumstances restrict that from happening, psychiatric impact is bound to weave it’s way into our lives.
In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind come to be defined and self-defined as losers. The rich are the new righteous, while the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classed as social parasites.
George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage
Our society tells the poor that they are a loser and it is purely all their fault, not the system, and that lack of empathy needs to change, in a neoliberal society, it won’t. Deprivation happens because of soaring housing prices and unstructured employment systems, not because someone mindlessly threw it away like a disposable income. People are struggling to make ends meet, unemployment is rising. Perceiving the poor as losers or the failing flock of society is unfair. People need help and in a society woven with neoliberal ideology, help won’t always be there.
In the last five years the need for food banks has increased by 74% in the UK according to the Trussell Trust. The total number of people using a food bank this year was 1,900,122. The Trussell Trust put out a statement to say that food banks were already experiencing record levels of need before the pandemic and this need has only risen since the impact of the pandemic planted it’s roots. The Trussell Trust and it’s partners are urging governments to use their power more to ensure everyone has the essentials they need in this financial crisis.
There is an estimated 14.4 million people in the UK living in poverty, 23% of the population. 4.5 million of those people are children. These figures were recorded before the impact of the pandemic, which means people’s lives will only get more deprived. In a neoliberal society, those people don’t matter, they simply failed at the game of life. They were not born a natural winner. This kind of ideology is wrong and leads to staggering levels of inequality and social deprivation.
Neoliberalism is already here
In the UK, we don’t live in a fully neoliberal world of course, privatisation does not fully exist, if it did it would be detrimental to the welfare of society. The rich would become so overwhelming rich that society would simply fall to pieces. When privatisation is at it’s peak it would mean we would have to pay for services. When people can’t afford services, they don’t get them, that’s it. Whilst this is happening the rich are investing into these privatised services, earning from the essential needs of the people. These elements of neoliberalism linger in the fabric of our society today.
Investment in essential service
If we go over to the US and look at Kelly Loeffler and other US senators, we see a similar issue taking place right now that really shows the impact neoliberalism has on society. In January, Loeffler invested millions into PPE stock whilst simultaneously stating that the hysteria building around coronavirus was just democratic nonsense that was misleading the American people. She knew, like many other senators, what was coming, so she benefited from it whilst still downplaying the impact coronavirus would really have on the US. She would earn money, whilst people died from the pandemic. To phrase this another way, whilst 350,000 people died from coronavirus in the US, whilst people lost their jobs, families and businesses, Loeffler was earning money off of their pain. If this doesn’t horrify you then I’m not sure what else to say. In a neoliberal society, Loeffler is simply a winner because she manipulated the market to earn money. The people struggling are the losers, and that is a cruel way to live.
This is what happens when services become privatised, the rich gain even more money from essential services we all require. Neoliberalism benefits the rich of society, after all, neoliberalism years ago was endorsed by millionaires which started it’s long political narrative and history.
Political influence from the rich
The rich already have an overwhelming influence on politics, particularly in the US. It’s well known that the large corporations and business heads give money to the parties that offer the polices they want. “Corporations and the very rich spend their money almost exclusively on politics that favours their interests; less taxation of the rich, less redistribution, less protection for people and the planet.” Monbiot refers to this as the pollution paradox. Large companies need to pay their way into politics and they do this by paying for grassroot and thinktank organisations to speak on their behalf. They buy up political space and capture the system.
In other words, this is not democracy, but plutocracy.
George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage
Don’t be fooled though, in the UK donations to parties still takes place here. While there are limits on campaign spending, there are no limits on how much a donor can make. This means the rich can buy their way into parliament to speak. British MP’s will deny this but an Oxford University research study showed that the probability of this denial being true is ‘approximately equivalent to entering the National Lottery and winning the jackpot five times in a row’. Do what you will with that information.
Neoliberal ideology overtime leads to the disempowerment of democracy. Neoliberalism is essentially a market world, without money, you can’t speak, you can’t make change. Voting without money would essentially mean nothing. We can’t continue on a path that puts all the power in the elite’s hands, it is purely unequal. George Monbiot’s book explains how we can change this path and steer towards a politics that navigates us out of the wreckage. We as humans have the capacity of altruism but neoliberalism supresses this, instead pushing for alienation, competition, and individualism, strongly turning away from community. Monbiot states that, “by confronting the politics of alienation with a politics of belonging, we rekindle our imagination and discover our power to act.” The reason neoliberalism has such a strong hold is because we haven’t reimagined a way out of it, created a new direction for society. Once we do this a new politics can grow at the heart of community.
I’ve had a lot of response to my posts on communication in political conversation. Figuring out the best way to communicate with people who oppose our political views can be tough. I’ve spoken in past posts about the difficulties involved with speaking to people who disagree with us, polarisation has effected us as a society and had led to divisions. A divided nation does not make for an effective democracy, learning to communicate even when we disagree with people is essential for productive debate, but also for respect.
How do we reconcile or communicate with people who disagree so deeply with our values? This is a question I have received from you all in response to my articles and a question I do ask myself. I think the best way to approach this question is to offer a resource I have found helpful and one I’d like to share with you all, the Jubilee YouTube channel. I first of all want to shout out one of my friends for introducing me to Jubilee, Arty! We are obsessed with the channel, its a great conversation starter tool. The videos often spark questions about society and make us look into our values, watching it with friends and family can allow us to have important conversations that we should be having about our society and the way it benefits and disadvantages people. We can understands others perspectives and that is so important. I heavily suggest you check out the channel.
Today I’m going to be talking about their Middle Ground series. This series brings together two opposing groups to discuss their similarities and differences. Examples of opposing groups they bring together are; LGBTQ+ and Christians, Flat-Earthers and Scientists, Rich and Poor, Atheists and Christians, Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun, Feminists and Non-Feminists, Socialists and Capitalists, Democrats and Republicans, and so on. They have so many videos so be sure to check them out, they’re very insightful. I will leave a link here for you to check out their Middle Ground playlist of videos.
Today I’m going to be sharing three of their videos and highlighting parts I think are interesting and important. I’m going to be selecting the videos more focused on political policy and societal issues to keep it related to the past posts I’ve already been discussing.
Pro-Life and Pro-Choice
What is interesting about this video is the diversity in peoples experiences. You’ve got someone who’s had two abortions and regrets that, a man that actually works for planned parenthood, and then a woman who works to reverse abortions after a change of mind. There’s a mixture of people who all have different experiences associated with abortion. We get a humane picture. When I say humane I mean peoples stories. Often when we talk politics or policy the actual people get left out of it. When you hear peoples stories and experiences associated with a policy, such as abortion law, it has a greater impact. I like that we get to see that in this video.
It is also interesting that when asked if anyone ever questions their belief about abortion, half of the group steps forward, explaining that some debates make them question what they believe in. One girl even says she feels that her religion drives her pro-life belief and if she wasn’t religious she would understand the pro-choice stance.
It is refreshing to see people with such different beliefs, still respectfully discussing their opinions and even mentioning that they respect the other persons faith or belief but, this is how they feel. It’s an amicable disagreement, and that’s okay. In the last question, when they are asked if anyone was shocked by a response they heard, they all admit that they respected eachothers responses. One of the women even mentioned that too much of our dialect is through screens and not in person and that creates a whole different way that we respect eachother. I think that point is important to make because at they end of the day we are all people and the internet has affected the way we all communicate and how we respect eachother. It’s a lot easier to not respect someone through a tweet or a Facebook post because you don’t see that real person, they are behind a screen, that influences the level of empathy and understanding in discussion.
Feminist and Non-Feminist
This is a really interesting video, similar to the last one, they respect eachothers views and they listen to eachothers points. They definitely don’t always agree but the effective communication is there. We see this when the non-feminist side agree with the guy talking about his mum, a teacher, being seen as lesser at work and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s nice to see that respectful agreement is taking place within this conversation, empathy is being utilised.
It is also interesting to see two people from the feminist group disagree on the statement ‘would being a man make life easier?’. This shows how diverse all of our perspectives can be, even within the same group. This is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the video by Faith, a non-feminist. Faith says she isn’t feminist because she doesn’t believe in core feminist ideals. Later in the video she explains that she is pro-life, but she was raised by strong women and she is an independent, strong woman too, but feels certain values of the feminist movement mean she cannot be a part of it. Faith believes in the strength of women and that there should be more women in government, but feels she can’t identify as a feminist due to her other views.
There’s some in the group who do not agree, that’s obvious though, not everyone’s going to agree, this is literally feminists and non-feminists communicating. They definitely reach some tension at certain points. In one part of the video a non-feminist states that there is no wage gap and that women choose lesser paying jobs because of culture, this is going to offend a feminist and is also not factually true. One of the feminists states that as an attorney she is paid less than her male colleagues for the same job and compared to some, she is more qualified. We see this situation happen in many workplaces and for a non-feminist to say this is because a woman chooses a lesser paid job just doesn’t make sense, especially if the job is the same. Conversations that become close to our personal lives become more emotional and we feel attacked when people don’t agree about obvious situations such as the pay gap, which has been proven countless times. Frustrations rising in this scenario make a lot of sense.
The phrase ‘disagree-agreeably’ was mentioned towards the end and this is exactly where we need to strive too. Productive communication can’t take place in an environment where respect and listening are non-existent. There is so much noise, but no listening and understanding; these are imperative for communication to be successful.
Democrats and Republicans
Alright, so this one gets a little heated. Let’s just dive right in.
They do all seem to agree on media bias and the misuse of news channels. Josh (democrat) points out that we live on different information spaces, we all have access to different information which can make it hard to communicate. Both groups do however say that the other party is worse in media bias, so they are clearly not agreeing on one being worse than the other, but are defending their own side. This is probably because of the different access to different information.
On the ‘should me make America great again’ statement the conversation becomes heated. Charity (democrat) discusses how America was not a good place for minorities and people of colour, which is 100% true. There should be no desire to go back to a time where there was less equality. The conversation gets heated because of a more personal comment when Charity (democrat) refers to the group having white privilege and Christy (republican) who is Hispanic is upset by this comment. This whole conversation breaks down because Charity wants to explain her point but Christy won’t let her speak because she is clearly upset. This creates a lot of commotion in the group. Michael (republican) says the statement is based on going back to economic strength and growth, not racism. There is mention of the statement ‘make America great again’ being too broad which I also think is a fair comment to make. If someone says ‘let’s make America great again’ and also is referring to the social issues and racism, that was in even worse shape than our current society, then that is wrong and shouldn’t be something we want. I think the reason why the statement ‘make America great again’, shook up tensions in the group was because people were interpreting that statement in many different ways, there was no shared understanding to begin the conversation and this stunted productive communication here.
Interestingly when speaking about the right to carry a gun, Josh (democrat) actually believes that there should be a right to carry a gun and that it’s a false view to think all democrats believe we should not have this right. Michael (republican) believes there should be more access to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Between these two people who have different political views, we see some cross over in belief. Another democrat, Alan, says that gun safety is what should be focused on and that there should be more regulation on gun control, which they all seemed to mutually agree with.
In the final question they all agreed that the nation is too divided. Hope (republican) says she shouldn’t have to lose friends over her political beliefs, but she is, which she says proves the nation is divided. The group say that we need to agree to disagree. Being willing to come to the table and have productive conversation is so important. This was a good end to the video and I think an important note, we need to be able to agree to disagree and to have respectful conversation or we will remain divided.
A lot of the times we can think of our opposition as some radical psychopath. But these videos show us that our opposition can agree on some beliefs that we hold. We can communicate. We don’t always have to agree, but we should still be respectful when having social-political conversations. These videos show that even when people have polar opposite beliefs they can still communicate. I hope these videos showed that respectful and productive communication is not a lost cause for our society. When communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you, remember that you don’t have to agree, but if we want to see any lasting change in policy etc. we have to learn how to communicate with our opposition. These videos show us that this can happen, but mutual respect has to be there, we have to agree to disagree, we can’t force our beliefs onto someone.
I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it interesting! Be sure to check out Jubilee’s other videos on their YouTube Channel. I also wanted to add a thank you for 100 followers! It means a lot that you enjoy reading my posts and that you find them interesting, so thank you for following and please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you! I’ll be back soon for a post on mental health during the Christmas period so be sure to come back for that post!
Today’s post is a follow up to my last post on political polarisation. If you haven’t read that one yet, click here. Today I’ll be talking more closely about how polarisation and differing political opinions affect our relationships and friendships.
We have all become very politically saturated in society. Politics takes up a large part of regular conversation, it’s no longer taboo to talk politics, it’s become part of regular discourse. With that, politics has saturated our conversation, including with our friends and family. So, when our friends have different political opinions to our own, can we get along even if we have different political ideals? I’ll be discussing this today.
Politics is personal, its our identity…
Politics has become very much personal over the years. It’s not just a passing remark to say you voted for a different political party, in some cases its an insult or violation to our political identity. To say you voted for a different political party, is to say I value this over what you value. When a certain policy effects the way we live out our lives, for example, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, gender pay gaps or low-income support, it can feel very offensive, and like a personal attack, when someone says they do not believe in a policy that protects those rights. In that case it can feel very personal when someone opposes your political ideals and values.
Our political values are becoming more and more a part of who we are and how we choose to live, disagreeing with that is like saying I do not agree with the way you live your life, and we take that very personally, because it is something that defines who we are and what we believe in.
Friends who don’t support your human rights and values…aren’t friends
I think it’s best to get the obvious out the way. If someone’s political values and beliefs mean that they do not support your fundamental human rights, then they are not a friend to be keeping around. You simply cannot disagree on human rights, and be friends. If someone is saying any of the following statements to you and they correlate with a part of your identity, then they are not a friend.
‘I like you, but I don’t believe in gay marriage’
‘You’re great, but, I don’t think that our governmental systems restrict people of colour.’
‘I think that the gender pay gap is just something women are complaining about’
‘You are transgender though, you shouldn’t be allowed to use the women’s bathroom if you aren’t biologically a woman.’
The person telling you that, is not your friend. That person is supporting policies that restrict how you live, they are dictating your place in society. They are choosing to ignore your rights and on an even more personal note as a friend, your individual struggles, they don’t support you because they don’t value your rights or your political identity. That is not okay, they have to go. Overall, even communicating with someone who doesn’t support your basic human rights is next to impossible, so being friends is just a no go zone.
I think in situations such as this, you get those people who think that just because identity politics doesn’t impact them, they don’t have to worry. If you’re a white heterosexual man, society was built for you to thrive, there’s a fat chance you’ve never thought about your identity or your place in society, because it’s never impacted a decision you’ve had to make. Due to this mindset, thinking about other peoples rights may not cross your mind, you don’t have to worry because it doesn’t affect your life. But, other peoples lives are affected. Even if you don’t need to worry about your own rights, you should worry about others. You don’t have to be a part of the minority to care about the rights of the minority. If you don’t and your friends are part of that minority, it is not okay to not support their rights just because ‘you don’t have to worry’, open your eyes and support other people in society, not just yourself. It’s not a good enough reason to not have to think about how political policy impacts other peoples lives just because it doesn’t impact yours. If you have friends that are oppressed or restricted by a party your vote for, your a bad friend.
Do not be friends with people who do not support your basic rights, this shouldn’t even be political. This is not a debate topic. You can’t compromise when it comes to human rights. You definitely can’t be friends with people who disagree with your rights, that’s for sure.
But what about small disagreements about politics, that aren’t close to our identity?
When it comes to politics or areas in policy we aren’t so passionate about or focused on, we can have a fairly healthy debate and even disagreement with friends. The likelihood of this discussion is that you will still be friends at the end because your identity is not so closely attached to the policy, or you have less passion associated to the area.
Let’s imagine you are talking to your friend about an area in current political discourse that neither of you have strong opinions about, if they were to object to your opinion you would not feel particularly upset or attacked by their disagreement. If you and your friend do not strongly lean either way you may end up being convinced by your friends opinion or you may mutually agree to disagree. Either way you carry on the friendship with that person because you both respect eachothers opinion, even when you have minor disagreements.
The main reason this communication was successful was because you and your friend were both fairly neutral about the topic anyway, you may not agree, but you were not on polar opposite ends of the political spectrum. If however, your friend was to say they didn’t think the recent transgender rights reform was important and you or a close friend or family member was transgender and this topic was important to you, you would feel very attacked by this comment. You are no longer discussing a part of politics that you feel neutral about. You feel strongly about this topic and a friend disagreeing with transgender reform feels like an attack on values that you deem important.
We see this in multiple different scenarios. You may not feel bothered about the way the UK trades with other countries, but you care strongly about protecting low income families. In that case, when someone debates with you about foreign policy you are fairly neutral and engage in healthy debate with friends or family, but when someone challenges you about free school meals or argues that we should increase the charge of transport for kids to get to school, you will not want to entertain a debate such as this because you are passionate about it and you are not willing to compromise on something that is so important to you.
When things are close to our identity or our political values they aren’t up for debate and in some cases, we are not willing to entertain an opponent because, like in the last example, having free school meals is simply essential. There are things we view as ‘not up for debate’ and when someone tries to challenge this, it attacks our literal political identity. We take it very personally.
In that case, if our friends disagree with some of our opinions about politics that we don’t prioritise highly, that friendship can continue, but if a friend doesn’t support the same core values as us, we can find it very hard to be friends with them because our political values and identity are too different. The way we live our lives and the values we hold close to our hearts should be supported by our friends, not challenged.
I think we can debate about policy we don’t hold close to our political identity and if a friend doesn’t agree about a policy that isn’t a number one priority to us, then that’s okay, as long as they do support what is important to us. A friend can’t be your friend but also not support policy that determines your rights as an individual and your freedom in society.
Surrounding yourself with friends that have the same core values as you is important. Especially when those values are so closely tied to your identity. This is why we surround ourselves with people who support or vote for the same party as we do, because we share important values about how society should be and the livelihood of others. However, this is also the reason why polarisation continues to divide us.
Finding a common ground between people who disagree on core political values can be difficult, some policies completely contradict the other, for example, pro-choice and pro-life, wealth inequality and lowering taxes for the richer of society. These different sides of policy often struggle to find a middle ground because they are both on the opposite end of the debate. I’m going to look into this a little more in a post to come with the help of the YouTube channel Jubilee and their series called ‘Middle Ground’ where they put people in the same room with completely different opinions and make them debate, some outcomes are really not what you expect.
That being said, realistically we can’t be friends with someone who is polar opposite to our political beliefs because we both would impose values onto eachother that don’t correlate with the way we want to live our life. I myself could not be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality or women’s rights because that means the other person is willing to oppress those communities, even giving them the time of day sends shivers down my spine. Learning how to communicate with people who don’t believe in the same thing as we do is important if we are to see change in our society, so I am hoping that looking at how people do find middle ground when they disagree on so much will be insightful, so make sure to come back to that article!
Today’s post felt a little like a ramble of my never ending thoughts since writing my dissertation and how we can reconcile communication with such different people when they really are sooo different, but I hope you still enjoyed it! 🙂
Today I’m going to be discussing a topic that has become part of mainstream conversation recently, and in the last couple of years in political discourse, polarisation. This is a hugely important topic to be talking about, especially in today’s political climate. The reason why political polarisation is so necessary for us to talk about is because it threatens the longevity of democracy and the way we communicate with eachother. I have been planning on writing this post since I created this blog and I think with the recent US election, the idea of polarisation could not be more prevalent right now.
At university I focused a lot of my learning around political philosophy so naturally when the time came for me to pick a dissertation topic…I choose politics. My dissertation was about voter ignorance and the effects political polarisation has on our ability to communicate and engage in political discourse. I looked into an argument that critically evaluated the sustainability of democracy in our current political climate. I assessed how valid this argument was and explored ways to combat ignorance and to limit polarisation. Political philosophy was, and still is one of my favourite areas to read, write and talk about, so I hope you find todays article interesting and insightful!
What is polarisation and why does it happen?
Polarisation is when we intensify our beliefs and values because we are surrounded by likeminded people. When we communicate with like-minded people, we begin to hold our beliefs and political opinions in a higher regard. We become a more extreme version of ourselves.
In some cases, we have a strong reason to shift in intensity of our view, we may have been supplied with actual facts and information that gives us a reason to intensify our beliefs.
In other cases, we are merely surrounding ourselves with people who have the same opinion as our own, for obvious reasons this will increase our confidence. We place ourselves into an echo-chamber that is biased towards what we already believe. People are affirming our opinion instead of challenging it.
Another reason why our opinions can polarise is due to the internet and our social environment. Our environments are organised around our lifestyle, identity, and preferences. Politics has worked its way into our identity, because of this, we are more likely to socialise with people who share the same political beliefs as us, meaning we are constantly communicating with people who agree with us. We aren’t being challenged to revaluate our views; we are merely confirming what we already believe. A study I looked into for my dissertation even suggested that people who share the same political opinions are likely to shop at the same places, creating an even bigger divide between us and our opponents, even in the way we live out our daily lives.
As for online, this environment is personalised to what we support. Imagine you come across a tweet that has over 50k likes and is supporting your political belief. This will affirm to you that the belief is worth holding because other people agree with you. You will then hold the belief in a higher regard, making you more extreme. The internet has become a polarisation machine of other people online affirming their original beliefs. We know that our social media suggests certain content to us that we like, so when this comes to our political opinions, we are constantly suggested posts and tweets that are similar to our political values. We agree more and more, without being challenged, furthering our extremity. We live in our own personalised bubbles.
How does polarisation influence the way we communicate?
Effective argumentation and communication cannot exist in a society where its citizens are polarised. Polarisation leads to deep divides. If our opinion is challenged when we are polarised, we cannot effectively compromise or communicate with our opponent. We view these people as completely absurd. In my dissertation, I referenced a recent Pew study from the US, in that study people described their political opponents as ‘misguided, unintelligent, dishonest and immoral.” Even further than this ‘a threat to the nation’. We don’t even want to engage with our opponents. We view our opposition as almost dumb or naïve to have the opinions that they hold. For me personally, in what world would you want to remove access to healthcare or protection for the transgender community? To think that way appears oppressive and malignant to me, but to my opponents they are their ideologies. When we view someone in this way there is absolutely no way, we would want to productively communicate with them or compromise. This only furthers us into our group identity and bridges an even greater gap between those with opposing ideals.
These graphs above and below, show that overtime in the US polarisation had let to even further shifts in the divide between republicans and democrats in their ideology. The republican party becomes even more far-right and the democratic party becomes even more far-left. This is because the parties have adapted to the increase in polarisation; democrats are aiming to become way more progressive to keep up with Black Lives Matter, women’s reproductive rights, gender pay gaps, transgender rights, ending wealth inequality etc. Whilst republicans have become far more right leaning and conservative with immigration laws, white supremacy, lower taxes and actively working against progressive rights. As these two parties continue to shift apart it becomes even harder for them to communicate because their values and ideology could not be more different. The other party works directly against the other.
Something I found particularly interesting in my dissertation is that polarisation even affects the way people interpret information. We don’t even believe the facts that are given to us, we are so stubborn and stuck to our view, we will believe anything that supports our belief, even if it is baseless claims and we will reject everything that supports our opposition, even if it is hard evidence. We see this right now in America with people believing baseless claims of voter fraud, purely because it will protect their own views and discourage the opposing one. If we don’t even believe hard facts, then how are we supposed to reason with people?
Reasoned communication is something we cannot properly do when we are polarised. Reasons are not required for people to shift in extremity of their views; by merely agreeing with someone’s views they can hold their belief with more confidence. Consequently, we are left with a society of people who hold their political belief with a huge amount of confidence, yet cannot adequately provide reasons as to why, nor can they competently reason with other individuals to defend their unjustified views. All we end up having is an abundance of baseless claims and assumptions that cannot further a conversation or any productive political discourse. We have two radicalising sides of the political spectrum that are furthering away from one another, leading to growing resentment and division.
Where does this leave us and democracy?
If we can’t fix this it will only get worse, we will divide even further, which is the conclusion I made in my dissertation. Communication is everything and unfortunately, we are in a very toxic relationship with our democracy and our political discourse. If we can’t learn how to communicate with people who disagree with us and compromise, democracy will fail us.
Polarisation is becoming rapidly uncontrollable; it completely limits our democratic capacity and does create harsh political divides and these divides do undermine democracy. Whether or not we can reconcile is a whole other matter but as we continue to become more extreme and further leaning in our beliefs, communication will only get worse and so will the divide.
Democracy can only function when citizens reason and engage with each other and are open to criticism. In our political climate people are in no way open to criticism or opposing views. We can only hope that changes in administrations and governmental practices will allow us to heal and steer towards a place where we can communicate effectively and reason with eachother.
If we look at the US election, Biden’s win does bring hope that the US can steer towards a place where productive communication can happen, and everyone’s voices can be heard. But the election was tight, Trumpism has not gone away and the divide between democrats and republicans is a bitter one. There are still millions of people in the US who essentially hate democrats and vice versa, they both believe that the other party will destroy the country. These types of people cannot effectively communicate, and it has led to a sour division is America. Without healing that division, it will get violent and democracy won’t be able to support everyone anymore. The way we communicate must get better for the sake of democracy.
But how do you reconcile with someone who doesn’t even support your rights as a human being? Can we effectively communicate with people who have such different political opinions and values to our own? Have we already become too polarised? Politics is very personal; we all have our own political identity. I’ll be looking into this possibility of reconciliation in my next article, so be sure to return or follow to check that out!
I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it informative. Maybe you’ll walk away from this with slightly more of an open mind and a readiness to communicate with someone who challenges your own views. Unless they completely disagree with your basic human rights, in which case…we do not negotiate with terrorists, but I’ll save that for next time!
Today I’m going to be discussing a very important topic that poses a threat to all communities. It is an area that is increasing in threat levels. This could be a trigger for various minority communities as I will be discussing far-right hate attacks and ideologies. This is one of those topics that is not nice to hear about, but, one we need to be aware of as I believe it is one of the biggest threats to modern society.
There is a racial and prejudice stereotype about terrorism in the West. This has created hostility towards non-white communities, particularly Muslim communities. This prejudice continues to grow and has created a whole group of people who bring about terrorism in the west; white supremacists or far-right extremists. Their hateful ideologies are causing harm to our communities and recently white supremacists have become the biggest terror threat to the western world.
White supremacist terror is very prominent within the US, but that doesn’t mean the threat doesn’t exist right here in the UK. So, today I wanted to briefly talk about the US and then dive more into the threat in the UK.
What is white supremacy?
White supremacism is the belief that white people are the superior race and that they should therefore dominate all races. This is a far-right extremist belief. It is a hateful and dangerous ideology that has led to colonialism, increase in hate crimes, genocide and a long painful history of oppression.
The term has become a political ideology that wishes to maintain the social, political, historical and institutional domination of white people. The beliefs often rely on the now discredited scientific racism doctrine and on pseudoscientific arguments, meaning that they are mistakenly or wrongfully relying on scientific methods to prove something that is false.
White supremacists in the US
The best way to get an idea of the threat white supremacists or far-right extremists pose in the US is to look through the statistics. This is purely because the facts are all there. Domestic terrorism is high and it continues to rise.
Since 9/11 white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for 3x as many attacks on US soil as Islamic terrorists.
2019 was the 6th deadliest year for domestic extremist-related killings. 90% of these killings were from right-wing extremists.
The September 2020 draft report from Homeland Security stated that white supremacists presented the greatest threat to the US. These attacks have become far more lethal since Trump became president.
From 2009-2018 far right extremists have been responsible for 73% of domestic extremist-related casualties.
2018 and 2019 were the most lethal of all domestic extremism movements over the last 20 years.
The main point we can take away from these stats is that far-right extremist attacks are the biggest threat to the US, and they are still on the rise. These attacks are racially and politically motivated and they aim to incite hate. They are becoming more and more lethal. The added factor of gun violence means these attacks just keep getting worse. There is an epidemic of tragic mass shootings.
One of the biggest factors as to why domestic terrorism has been reaching record highs is also due to the President himself. Trump continually downplays the threat of right-wing extremists. In the early days of his presidency, Trump stripped Homeland Security which focused on combatting violent extremism. As well as also pulling funding that was meant for organisations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other likeminded groups. Efforts to combat domestic extremism came to a halt. In fact the Trump administration focused federal resources on Islamist terrorism even though the greater risk was coming from right-wing extremists. Trump even tried to change the name of ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’. Trump repeatedly turns a blind eye to the real threat posed to the US; hateful ideologically driven violence.
In a very recent study from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies it was found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41/61 terrorist plots and attacks in the first 8 months of 2020. That is 67%. Many Americans believe that Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal to condemn an extremist right-wing group has raised fears throughout the year of politically motivated violence. The study warned that violence could continue to rise after the presidential election because of concerns about polarisation, economic hardships, racial injustice and the ever-growing issue of coronavirus. If Biden was to win the report believed white supremacists would violently mobilise against Black, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ+, Jewish and Latino communities. Protestors and demonstrators are increasingly being targeted which is alarming, particularly when those protesters are exercising their freedom of speech.
White supremacists in the UK
Police have said that the fastest growing UK terror threat comes from far-right extremists. The head of counterterrorism in the UK, Neil Basu, said that 7/22 plots foiled since March 2017 where linked to far-right ideology. Some of these plots were designed to kill, mimicking the attacks seen in jihadist attacks. This rise in threat and hate crime came in the period following the vote to leave the EU in the years 2016-2018. These groups in the UK range from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, Islamophobia, white nationalists, neo-Nazi’s, National Action and Sonnenkrieg Division.
Examples of white terror in the UK
David Copeland, a self-confessed racist and homophobe, was jailed for attacks on Brick Lane, Soho and Brixton in 1999 in a 13-day nail bombing attack that killed 3 people and injured 139. The first attack in Brixton was intended to harm the black community, 48 were injured. A week later in Brick Lane a second bomb was set to target the Bangladeshi community in east London. A passer by in a stroke of luck found the bag containing the bomb, mistaking it for lost property and put it inside their car, reporting it to the police. The final attack was targeting the LGBTQ+ community. This bomb had 1,500 nails and went off at Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, central London. When Copeland was arrested police discovered Nazi flags hanging in his bedroom along with news reports of his bombings.
Thomas Mair, in a politically motivated attack, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox outside a library in West Yorkshire on June 16th 2016. It was discovered that Mair had been using the library computers, just where Cox was devastatingly attacked, to learn about the KKK and how they had killed people supporting civil rights. When his home was raided they discovered an extreme nationalist and racist library, as well as Nazi ornaments and literature about white supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-fascist organisation, has published records that showed Mair had bought books about explosives from the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Those orders were made days after the Copeland attacks in London, attempting to start a ‘race war’.
National action are unashamedly racist and overtly neo-Nazi. The group claim they are patriotic yet are hostile to all rules of law, democratic processes and people who do not share their views. They were disbanded in 2016 after a government assessment that deemed National action to be an extreme racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group that raised a concern of terrorist action as well as glorifying terrorism and extreme violence. The group was described as “a really dangerous, well-structured organisation at the heart of a neo-Nazi ideology that seeks to divide communities.” They do still remain active in places but some people have been convicted for holding a membership.
The group was founded in 2014 by Ben Raymond and Alex Davies. They believed British far-right organisations had been diluted so they aimed to respawn far-right extremism. They believe in white power and targeted specific political leaders for being ‘race traitors’.
Oskar Dunn-Koczorowsk and Michal Szewczuk
These two teenagers were jailed for terrorism offences and for being part of the far-right extremist group Sonnenkrieg Division. They encouraged an attack on Prince Harry for marrying a women of mixed race, outside of his own race. They deemed he should be shot for being a ‘race traitor’ and stated that white women who date non-white men should be hanged.
The teens ran personal accounts sharing far-right propaganda that encouraged terrorist attacks, specifically lone attacks against the public. Police found Szewczuk in possession of bomb-making instructions and a white resistance manual when he was a student at the University of Portsmouth.
Martin Snowden, the head of counter terrorism policing in the north-east of England, explained that the teenagers saw themselves as superior to the majority. He explained that it “only takes one individual to be encouraged or be inspired by that propaganda to take that further step” and this “represents a significant risk”.
Links to extra resources
I have linked articles and reports on UK terror attacks from far-right extremists below. I have summarised here their ideologies and attacks in an attempt to censor horrific details, this is also the reason for the lack of photos in this article. If you would like to read more about this topic and the prison sentences, as well as responses from judges, they are all in these articles. The Copeland article features reports from victims 20 years on.
Both in the UK and the US, even globally, the internet is the fuel to hateful ideologies fire. It continues the spread and extends the reach of hate groups online. The internet has brought about a new era of violence. White nationalism grows because of the dark corners of the internet that incites violence and allows aspiring white supremacist terrorists to draw inspiration from other killers. They in some cases on different message board forums and sites attempt to copy eachother and one up different attacks. The internet has allowed hateful ideologies to spiral out of control, particularly in the US, where gun violence poses an even greater threat to communities.
Prejudice towards Muslim Communities
Throughout all of this the Muslim community have been discriminated and terrorised against. The islamophobia present in white supremacists hateful views creates violence against innocent Muslim lives. There is a mainstream prejudice against Muslim communities, one possessed particularly by far-right groups that expresses violent hatred against all Muslims. Unfortunately this hatred has led to various targeted attacks towards Muslim communities, with the attack on mosques.
This prejudice is fuelled by false and toxic narratives in the media. When a white supremacist killer attacks communities they are called ‘mentally ill’ or ‘lonely’, not terrorists, even though their action is politically and socially motivated, aiming to bring harm, the definition of terrorism. A US study showed that between 2008-2012, 81% of terrorism suspects that were subjects of news reporting were Muslim, which was a far greater percentage of terrorist attacks in the US actually committed by Muslims. This is a harmful bias that incites violence against the Muslim community.
These prejudices and false media narratives led to the Finsbury park attack where Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslim’s near a north London mosque. Osborne injured nine people and killed one. The judge of Osborne’s case said he was rapidly radicalised over the internet where he became exposed to racist and anti-Islamic ideology.
Ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam
The false media narratives fuel the ignorance people have towards Muslim culture, religion and beliefs. The majority of Muslims reject the Jihadist violence involved in terrorist attacks, they believe it is not justified by their religion.
ISIS follows a jihadist tradition, they are a militant Islamist group. They reject all innovation in the religion and aim to return to the early days of Islam. The group has been condemned by many Muslim leaders, explaining that their extremist ideas decay the earth and destroy human civilisation which is in no way a part of Islam, it is an enemy to Islam. Leaders have explained that their sacrifice without legitimate cause it not jihad at all, it is criminality.
An academic criminology paper called ‘ISIS is not Islam: epistemic injustice, everyday religion, and young Muslims narrative resistance’ by Sveinung Sandberg and Sarah Colvin does a great job at explaining the harm prejudice has done to Muslim communities as well as correcting ignorant mainstream beliefs about Islam. They aim to debunk dominant western narratives that construct young Muslims as easily radicalised and potential violent extremists. They undertook a study that addresses prejudices and biases towards Muslims and Islam. Young Muslim participants were interviewed, they openly spoke out against martyrdom and terrorist action, saying it goes completely against Islam. They referred to terrorists as anti-Islamist, wrong and satanic. One participant stated that “It is not only the jihadists who are acting wrongly but also a mainstream media that actively furthers epistemic injustice by spreading the jihadi misrepresentation of what Islam says.” Participants wanted a voice to present another image of Islam than the one they faced daily in the mainstream media. The mainstream media fuels this false idea of Muslim and we urgently need to remove the narrative and present this religion for what it really is.
I urge you to read the paper to learn about Islam from young Muslim accounts and to find out more about the danger false narratives can have on Muslim communities. To read this paper click here and download the PDF.
Far-right extremists and white supremacist groups are the largest and most rapidly growing risk to society. They incite hate against innocent lives and they threaten the very foundation of a multicultural world. They bring harm to the Muslim community with their abhorrent islamophobia. But not only do these groups incite the violence, the media and political leaders spread false narratives of what terrorism really looks like in society. The truth is right here in what I have said today, domestic terrorism and far-right extremist groups are a radicalised and growing threat to the western world. Our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye to their hateful ideologies.
Today I’m going to be analysing the Oscar award winning film, ‘Parasite’. This film was easily one of, if not my favourite film of 2019. It’s ability to tell a story of such harsh realities in a inquisitive yet humorous way was remarkable. Parasite sparks endless questions and debates about the social order and class system we live in, bringing awareness to the effects capitalism and social immobility can have on our everyday lives. It is no wonder that Parasite became a hit globally because of it’s representation of societal themes that are so prevalent and consistent globally.
In February 2020 Parasite became the first non-English film to win best picture at the Oscars, showing how much this film resonated with people across the world. I’ll be giving a summary of the film, so spoilers are definitely ahead! I’ll then analyse different parts of the film and the questions they raise about our social and economic systems.
This is definitely a longer article today but hopefully a really interesting read! I had a lot of fun writing it so I hope you enjoy!
Parasite is a South Korean dark comedy thriller directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho. It tells the story of the poor, working class Kim family who live in a deprived slum, desperate for work so that they can continue to survive. They infiltrate the wealthy Park’s home fulfilling the duties of tutor, art therapist, driver, and housekeeper. The Kim’s rely on manipulation and cunning deception to obtain jobs within the Park’s household. They act unrelated, lying about their experience and qualifications, convincing the rather gullible Mrs Park, into hiring them. The film deals with issues surrounding class division, wealth inequality and the effects of capitalism on our daily lives.
As the film progresses the Kim family discover the ex-housekeeper has hidden her husband in the basement of the Park’s house, an area of the house the Park’s are unaware of. It appears the ex-housekeeper and her husband are desperate in similar ways to the Kim’s. Moon-gwang, the ex-housekeeper, discovers the Kim’s secret, that they are a family, and threatens to unveil this to the Parks if they expose her husband living beneath the house. The film reaches a turning point when a huge storm hits and the Park’s are returning to their home after a failed camping trip. The Kim’s rush to tidy the home and deal with Moon-gwang and her husband. From this point class division tensions build to a climactic end at Da-song’s birthday party, the son of the Park family. The ex-housekeepers husband escapes the basement, bludgeons Ki-woo, the son of the Kim family, with his symbolic scholars rock and runs into the party, stabbing Ki-jung, the daughter of the Kim family, which leads to her death. Chung-sook, the mother of the Kim family, stabs the ex-housekeeper’s husband for killing her daughter. In a surge of anger for being disrespected and dismissed by Mr Park for so long because of his level of class, Ki-taek, father of the Kim family, stabs Mr Park and fleas to the basement where he remains, to the viewers, for the foreseeable future.
The ending of Parasite is filled with despair as Ki-woo aspires to allow his father to climb the stairs, metaphorically and physically, out of the basement he is trapped in, once he saves the money to buy the house the Park’s have now moved out of. The director explained that Ki-woo would never be able to achieve this aspiration because of the society we live in holding him back, revealing that it would take Ki-woo 564 years to afford the Park’s house. Demonstrating that our aspirations to sore up the social and economic ladder are saturated in false hope and impossibility.
Parasite is a brutally honest representation of the lives we lead within the capitalistic system. Bong fears that this social and economic order will not change for generations, leaving many stuck in a system working directly against them, no matter their aspiration and ability. I will be exploring some of these harsh realities resembled in Parasite in more detail today, playing close attention to how they resemble cultural hegemony, ignorance of the middle class, class division and the lack of social mobility.
The setting: use of stairs
The film follows two families, both leading very different lives. We see the Park family living in a wealthy mansion on top of a hill, with large windows and modern amenities. While the Kim family live in a tiny semi-basement, riddled with stink bugs.
The film heavily relies on setting to depict the different levels of class hierarchy, it is as if, the less sunlight you have access to and the lower down your home is, the more impoverish you are. The Park family literally live higher up, on top of a hill. There are stairs leading up to the entrance of their home and can be found around the property showing different elevations. Meanwhile, the Kim’s live within a semi-basement, with small access to light. The Kim’s make reference a lot throughout the film about how nice the light and sunshine is at the Park’s house, with their big floor to ceiling windows.
The film uses stairs to resemble different class divisions, as if you must climb the stairs much as you would climb an economic ladder. We see this at the Park’s household with its assent up to the top of their home. This visually shows that they are of a higher social class to the Kim’s who live almost below ground.
Perhaps one of the saddest scenes in the film is where we see Ki-taek and his children descending down the many stairs in the storm from the Park’s house to their home, which they discover to be flooded. This huge descent down visualises the different class divides, with the rich living at the top protected from the harsh realities of the outside world, whilst the poor live almost below ground.
Capitalistic consumers and the ignorance of the middle class
A significant theme demonstrated in Parasite is the influence capitalism has had on the way we behave. Mr and Mrs Park represent capitalistic consumers of the middle class. As capitalistic consumers, like many of us, they do not need to care about those below them, nor do they want too, because not caring and remaining ignorant gives them peace and protection. Throughout the film Mr Park talks about drawing a professional line between him and his workers. However, this line stretches further than professionalism. Mr Park literally wants to live within his own bubble, out of sight and out of mind from the poverty that does actually surround him and his family. The Park’s are physically distanced up on a hill away from the slums and impoverished lives, but it is still very much there.
Mr and Mrs Park display ignorance by reacting to the smell of Ki-taek, this reaction becomes more and more exaggerated as the film goes on. Mr and Mrs Park refer to the smell as one you would find on a subway, a place they have not been in years, therefore leading us to question how they would know what a subway smells like. They connect the idea of public transport with poorer people, creating a social construct of what a poor person should smell like. Not only is this heavily disrespectful to Ki-taek, it is also ignorant of them. They are fortunate enough to live a luxurious lifestyle yet turn a blind eye to the poverty that lives around them, instead being ignorant and disrespectful.
The Park’s present themselves as kind-hearted people but they are the same as any capitalistic consumer, unaware of the struggles spent below them to afford their lifestyle, a struggle spent by the poor within the capitalistic system. It is easier to look away when you distance yourself from the social and economic issues of the world. The smell of Ki-taek and the rest of the Kim family is a constant reminder to the Park’s that poverty is not far away from them, causing them to draw a line between themselves and the poorer of society, purely for peace of mind in their own lives.
As capitalistic consumers, the Park’s have expectations of how things should be there for them immediately, an example of this is when Mrs Park rings Chung-sook demanding there be Ram-don ready for her when she gets home in 8 minutes. The Park’s expect service from the Kim’s immediately, much like any capitalistic consumer, desiring things as quickly as possible, giving no thought to how that effects a labourer below trying to make that happen. The night after the storm, after the Kim’s house is flooded with sewage water and they have to evacuate to a gym, Mrs Park, ignorant to the fact that the storm did more harm than ruin her son’s camping trip, demands Ki-taek assist her with shopping for her garden party, she also assumes Ki-jung will be available short notice, and both Mr and Mrs Park order Chung-sook to throw together food and lay out furniture for the party rapidly.
These assumptions from the Park’s, that even after a mass flood the Kim’s will be readily available to work, shows their ignorance that climate and world crisis’ have differing effects on different classes. Climate crisis has unequal repercussions on the rich and the poor. This is something Bong Joon Ho wanted to resemble in this film. For the Park’s, their camping trip is cancelled, but for the Kim’s their whole home is flooded and destroyed with sewage water, leaving their possessions ruined. The next day, when Ki-taek is driving Mrs Park she not only again makes reference to the smell of Ki-taek, she also on the phone talks about what a blessing the storm was because it has cleared out the air pollution and now the skies are blue for her garden party, meanwhile Ki-taek had to spend the night in a gym on the floor because his home was destroyed. Mrs Park disregards the amount of people who lost their homes in the mass floods, instead seeing the storm as a blessing in disguise. The Kim’s are hit with real tragedy whilst the Park’s are merely inconvenienced and quickly move on.
Another example of capitalistic consumer expectations is when Mr Park walks up the stairs in his home, he assumes the lights are on a sensor but actually Moon-gwang’s husband living in the basement below, hit’s a button for the light every time Mr Park walks up and down the stairs. This is meant to resemble that the luxuries Mr Park enjoys are often there due to someone’s hard labour beneath him. Mr Park chooses to be ignorant or unaware of this labour, relishing in the luxury. This choice to ignore is something many do as capitalistic consumers, feeding into fast fashion and next day delivery services, blissfully unaware of the impact that has on the labourer, potentially working in poor conditions.
The Park’s are ignorant to the poverty and socio-economic issues around them because they can afford to be. A further example of this ignorance is Da-song’s enjoyment of Native American culture, to the Park’s it is just a decoration and a fun activity, when in reality Native Americans have an oppressed and complicated history. This is not important to the Park’s however, as they allow their child to dress in Native American clothing and refer to Native Americans in incorrect and sloppy language. The main point of this is that the Park’s can afford to not care because they are not directly affected by any of these issues. They take what they want and stay on the other side of the line, turning away from any sort of complicated world issues.
These examples show that everyone on the other side of the line means nothing to the Park’s, they are merely a means to an end. The Park’s take dignity and time from their labourers, giving a tiny fraction of what they have back. Capitalism at it’s finest.
Cultural hegemony and social immobility
Late capitalism and divisions between the rich and poor exist so widely in our world because of cultural hegemony. This favours the ruling class or the rich because they are seen as the norm that we should all aspire to be. Anyone who falls outside the ruling/rich class is told to work towards that level of luxury. This is shown in the film when the Kim’s change their clothes and their dispositions in an attempt to fit in with the Park’s. They aspire to become them economically and socially, to liberate their lives through wealth. The poor aspire to be the rich, much like how the Kim’s wish to have the lives of the Park’s.
Within cultural hegemony the rich can create an illusion of social mobility within society. Whilst it is largely impossible for the Kim’s to reach a similar level of economic status as the Park’s, they are told by society that with a little bit of hard work they too could have economic freedom. This means that the rich stay rich feeding off the working classes labour, whilst the poor live under the illusion that they can achieve that wealth one day if they just keep working hard. This is the environment that capitalism thrives in because it means labourer’s keep working as hard as they can, for the rich, whilst the rich give back a tiny fraction of what they actually own for this service, trapping those in lower classes.
In Parasite this hope to reach economic freedom is shown the most in Ki-woo, the symbol of his hope comes from the scholar’s rock he is gifted by his friend, the rock is told to bring wealth to a family. As the film goes on, we see Ki-woo literally clinging to the rock hoping to feel its benefits. At the end of the film when Ki-woo and his mother are right back where they started, he has still not lost hope. As the film ends Ki-woo writes the letter to his father promising he will save the money to buy the Park’s house, saying that his father will be able to simply walk up the stairs and be free.
Whilst this is an admirable promise to his father, it is quite the bleak ending that Ki-woo will likely not fulfil this promise. As stated earlier, the director, Bong Joon Ho, explains that it would likely take around 564 years for Ki-woo to save that money, he will remain trapped in his social class working hard laboured time for low wages, stuck in his social and economic position, unable to grow from it.
Social mobility is stalled in this society, the capitalistic order is unforgiving and inescapable for the majority. This way of life is too normalised because of people like the Park’s who can live blissfully unaware feeding off the backs of the poor, keeping them below the line, stunting any form of social or economic progression for those of a lower class. The lower classes work as hard as they can, but it never seems enough to reach the level of the rich because social mobility becomes an illusion.
Disunity of the working class
When the Kim’s infiltrate the Park’s household, in order to replace the current housekeeper with Chung-sook, they come up with an elaborate plan involving a peach, a selfie, some hot sauce and a few lies here and there to influence Mrs Park into firing Moon-gwang. This plan succeeds but, Moon-gwang comes back to the Park’s house which then leads to the Kim’s discovering that Moon-gwang has been hiding her husband in the secret basement. Both of these families are poor, yet they fail to unite and help eachother. Instead they end up fighting in order to keep their secrets from the Park’s.
This lack of solidarity among the working class ends up supporting people like the Park’s even more. The wealthy live within their luxury, way beyond their means. Whilst the poor fight amongst themselves with what little they have. When Chung-sook speaks to Moon-gwang she explains that her family is not needy, the Kim’s in their semi-basement have that slightly higher level of hope in comparison to Moon-gwang and her husband. However, this also fills the Kim’s with fear that there is potential to fall lower than they currently are so they do everything than can to defend themselves.
Class division and tensions reach breaking point
The disrespect that the Kim’s end up feeling from the Park’s ends up intensifying as the film goes on. A growing resentment is created after the storm as the Kim’s now seem discontented fulfilling task they had originally enjoyed. These strained tensions explode at the garden party.
Ki-taek’s anger seems to come from his acknowledgment of inescapable poverty; he has lost hope. The smell becomes a symbol of that feeling. In a previous scene Ki-jung mentions that the smell will not leave them until they leave the basement. This smell reminds Ki-taek of his place within the system and he can no longer deal with these reminders from Mr Park of where his place is within society. As Ki-jung is stabbed and lies on the floor bleeding out, Mr Park demands that Ki-taek leaves Ki-jung to die and drives Da-song to the hospital after he faints due to the hysteria of the events unfolding. Whilst Da-song is Mr Park’s son, this scene shows how much Ki-jung really is merely a commodity to the Park’s. She is literally dying on the floor, but Mr Park would rather everyone focus their assistance on his son who has fainted. This event further enforces Ki-taek’s feelings of disrespect from Mr Park and he stabs him.
The Kim’s are intuitive, smart and resourceful. They infiltrate the Park’s house strategically. Ki-Jung appears to be one of the smartest in the family and shown to be the most accepted by the Park’s with Mrs Park wanting her to be at Da-Song’s birthday party to give him his cake. The Kim’s also mention that Ki-Jung fits in the most in the wealthy environment. Ki-jung was the member of the Kim family with the potential to scale the economic and social ladder. This is why her death is so significant because it symbolises that no matter how much you work, no matter the intuition and vigour you have, society says that you don’t get to move. Social mobility has trapped her, even though she had the potential to go far.
Who is the parasite?
The villain of this film is not properly defined because really, there is no villain. Both the poor and the rich are displayed in ways where we see them as real people, they have their highs and lows but ultimately, they act as humans, and they are not vilified for that.
We see the Kim’s who have dishonestly and deceitfully entered the Park’s home by lying about their qualifications and experiences, pretending that they all are loosely acquainted when in reality they are a family. However, they did this because they needed work. This family are not depicted as a lazy poor family. They are willing to work hard in whatever way to get by. We end up feeling sorry for the family because they very system they live in just will not give them a break. After forging the fake university certificate, Ki-woo says that it is only temporary and that he wishes to go to university one day to obtain a real one. The Kim’s are not bad people, they are doing what they can to survive in a system that constantly pushes them down.
As for the Park’s they are clearly a wealthy family heavily benefiting from the capitalistic system. They can feed off the labour of the working class to afford their luxurious lifestyle. They appear as kind-hearted but they are largely ignorant. However, particularly in Mrs Park, we can feel sorry for her being so manipulated by the Kim’s and how gullible she appears to be, she is after all just trying to do the best thing for her family.
Bong Joon-Ho explained in a video that the name for the film, ‘Parasite’, was decided because the Kim family slowly infiltrate the wealthy Park’s house, much like a parasite. However, this film is riddled with symbolism and many have argued that the term parasite can be flexibly applied to all the characters within this film. Including Moon-gwang and her husband in the basement. It is largely up to interpretation.
Parasite is a very interesting film riddled with deep meanings connected to our social and economic systems. It gives us a lot to think about, including what needs to change in society. Perhaps the darkest part of this film is that it is a depiction of our very lives. The comparisons of class we see between the Kim’s and the Park’s shows how deep class divides are becoming and how social mobility is becoming impossible within a capitalistic system. It is also insightful to see that as capitalistic consumers, we often behave and live in ignorance whilst the rest of the world suffers, and that needs to change. Parasite raises many questions and it’s a thoroughly symbolic film of the very world we all live in.
This film is a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains, all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs.
First of all, I would like to apologise for not posting in a month! I went away for a couple of weeks and then struggled to get back into the rhythm of writing, but I am back now and ready to continue posting and putting out as much content as I can! If you are returning to my website, thank you so much for coming back and I can’t wait to keep sharing information and thoughts with you all again!
For today’s post I wanted to bring attention to some world events that I think are hugely important and that more people should be aware of. To disclaim there are a huge amount of social, environmental, political and economic issues in the world, sadly too many to count. To list them all in this article would be overwhelming. I’m going to shed some light on 3 today that I have recently heard about and feel others should look into more themselves. I encourage you to look into other ongoing global issues that threaten people’s human rights and identities other than these 3 as well. People’s voices need to be heard and we need to support them.
UK Transgender Rights at risk
The first issue I want to bring to light is the UK government’s plans to stop transgender people from being allowed to legally self-identify. This is an extremely recent issue and something I just learnt about yesterday. This is a huge attack on trans rights and a step in the opposite direction.
Plans were being made to reform the Gender Recognition Act from 2004 to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender in the UK. These plans would introduce self-identification which would make the legal process of changing your gender much shorter. During a consultation to reform the current gender recognition act they suggested removing a Gender Recognition Panel which consists of two medical professionals certifying a transition. This process can feel overly medical and demeaning. Instead the trans person would have the ability to legally change their gender by making a sworn statutory declaration, removing the long-winded medical process. 70% of people supported this reform. However, it seems the government are going to scrap the plans for the reform this week.
This is a huge setback in the progress of trans rights within the UK and hugely disappointing. Unfortunately, our current conservative government administration simply do not deem trans rights as important as other governmental issues, this comes at a surprise to no one. It is hugely demeaning to trans people that they would have to prove to a medical professional that they are worthy of a transition or change in self-identification. We should be moving forwards, not backwards. This is simply not right. The government has been dragging their feet on this issue for far too long. If you wish to support the transgender and non-binary community and stop this reversal of the governments promise to reform the Gender Recognition Act, please do sign this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/327108
The US Supreme Court and the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
After the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a truly remarkable women who fought for gender equality and women’s rights, a seat has opened within the supreme court. Ruth’s dying wish was for her seat to not be filled until after the next president is elected. However, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced that they would be filling the seat before the end of President Trump’s term. The hypocrisy of McConnell’s statement is huge because in Obama’s administration, after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, he stated that they should not fill the vacancy until they had a new president, even though Obama still had 11 months in office left. Currently Trump has just over a month left, yet McConnell believes they should replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the next election. This is hugely controversial of McConnell, double standards should be applied and replacing Supreme Ginsburg is not a process that should be rushed.
Replacements in the supreme court can take a long time. However, Trump announced that he would be nominating a replacement by the end of this week. He appears in a rush for the supreme court to ratify it before the election date. Democrats have argued that Trump is pursuing without delay in order to invalidate the affordable healthcare act before the end of his term. Another huge issue within the US right now that would put countless more lives at risk during a global pandemic.
Supreme Court seats are hugely influential positions. Ruth Bader Ginsburg accomplished some remarkable reforms including the right for women to sign a mortgage without a man, the right for a woman to have a bank account without a male co-signer, the right to a job without being discriminated based on gender and the right for women to work whilst being pregnant and having children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has paved the way in women’s rights and gender equality and became a true feminist and equality icon. The work she achieved will live on throughout generations.
Having a supreme court replacement that wishes to see change as much as Ruth did is hugely important. Discrimination and oppression is rampant within the US (as well as globally). The ongoing black lives matter movement has shown that systemic change needs to be made and replacing RBG with someone who will strive for that change is pivotal for the future of the US. Rushing to fill the seat before the election is not right.
Uighur Muslim Re-education Camps in Xinyang, China
An estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained in so called ‘re-education camps’, where they are being brainwashed and stripped of their religious and ethnic identity and replaced with loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Hundreds of these camps have been built in the past 3 years throughout Western China within the Xinyang province. They are completely stripping Uighur Muslims of their religion, culture and language. This is a form of torture and brainwashing yet China is portraying it as rehabilitation and education when this is not the case.
Some accounts of the horrific forms of ‘re-education’ Uighur Muslims must undergo are listed below:
Forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, acting against their religion.
Uyghur women are forced to marry a Chinese man and sleep with him in their bed.
China is forcing birth control onto Muslim women to prevent the Muslim population from growing, in even more extreme cases abortions and sterilisations are taking place.
Hijabs are being removed, and those in camps are forced to wear sacks and some are shackled.
People are living in unsanitary and crowded conditions, their human rights have been completely stripped away. On top of this the coronavirus pandemic has catalysed the unsanitary conditions with many prisoners falling ill.
They are shocked and disciplined to support the Chinese Communist Party as if they cannot survive without it, it is the only way. They are told their religion is not right.
BBC Panorama discovered orders sent to the re-education camps: ‘no one escapes, increase discipline and punishment, encourage students to truly transform, promote confession and repentance, make remedial mandarin studies most important.’
This is a hugely horrific and inhumane event, it is a genocide and it had to be stopped. This is a heart-breaking issue that more people need to be talking about and raising awareness on. World leaders are not stepping up in the ways that they should be and action needs to be taken. Trump actually supported the decision to lock up Uighur Muslims and the UK Chinese ambassador claimed it was fake news.
Below are some links to petitions and also the Uyghur Human Rights Project that shares information on this topic in more detail than I have today, as well as Amnesty.
For a lot of these issues, if not all of these issues, a person of privilege is not directly affected. In some cases people believe that because they are not directly affected they do not have to care or support change. Just because something doesn’t directly affect you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care or educate yourself on the topic. It certainly doesn’t mean you should sit in ignorance and silence just because you can.
Millions of people in this world are hurting and have been marginalised because of their identity, whether that be religion, race or sexuality. It is a privilege to not be oppressed and marginalised and we should use that privilege to learn about what’s going on in the world and do what we can to speak out against oppression and injustice. It’s your social responsibility as a decent human being. I myself am a white cis woman, this gives me a level of privilege and ability to speak out against the injustices in society instead of just standing by. It is the right and decent thing to do, we are talking bare minimum, do not praise yourself for it, just be a good human.
I hope you learnt something new about a current global issue and that you will continue to research other global issues that I haven’t mentioned today. I also hope I did these topics justice today by talking about them as best as I could. I may make this a regular post to bring attention to important world issues because I think it’s hugely essential that we stay up to date and do our best to support those who are hurting in any way we can and spread their voices.
I first started to learn about billionaires and the wealth gap when I watched the Netflix documentary Explained. The series has a huge variety of short 20 to 30 minute documentaries on numerous topics. I couldn’t recommend the series enough, it is a great way to learn something new in just 20 minutes! I came across the billionaires episode and it sparked my interest in learning even more about it. This is one of my favourite topics to discuss and learn about because it is truly insane and mind blowing to understand how rich billionaires really are. This is a slightly longer post but I think its important to discuss!
Let’s put this into perspective
Understanding how much a billion is, is something that is genuinely difficult to comprehend. Here is a few statistics that I have found whilst researching billionaires that helps you to understand what you can do with the smallest percentage of the top 400 richest people in the world’s wealth.
With less than 3% you could permanently eradicate malaria. Around 800 children will die today to malaria. 3% is so small billionaires would not even notice that loss of money, but that money could save thousands of lives.
With less than 5% you could lift every American out of poverty.
6.8% could provide everyone in the world with clean drinking water and toilet access. 844 million people have zero access to this currently.
You could end the Yemen humanitarian crisis.
You could repair and rebuild Beirut, Lebanon after the recent and devastating explosion that killed and injured hundreds and has left many homeless.
Here are a few more statistics for you to bare in mind when discussing billionaires:
“The worlds top 26 billionaires own as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion people.” TIME Magazine 2019
“In 2019, the number of billionaires grew by 8.5% to 2,825 people. The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires reached 9.4 trillion dollars.” Wealth X: The Billionaires Census
“Billionaires got 565 billion dollars richer during the pandemic, making 42 billion a week on average.” Business Insider
In 1987 there were 140 billionaires, in 2019 there were 15x more billionaires with 30x more wealth. (Worth 8.7 trillion dollars according to Forbes 2019)
If billionaires formed a country it would be the 8th wealthiest in the world.
The richest 1% own half of the worlds wealth.
Many people underestimate the wealth of the super-rich, it is quite literally unimaginable wealth that one person cannot spend or even fully utilise themselves in a lifetime. More and more billionaires are being created and their wealth just keeps growing.
So how do people get THIS rich…
Forbes has done a lot of research into understanding how people become billionaires. The Explained episode on Netflix about billionaires explains really well how we ended up at this point.
The first ever billionaires surfaced in what was called The Gilded Age. They founded companies in the metal, oil and railroad industries. These billionaires corrupted the working class by paying low wages for labour. This theme remains similar with some of today’s richest billionaires such as the Walton Walmart family and Jeff Bezos the founder and creator of Amazon who is currently the richest person in the world.
The main reason why billionaires exist is due to capital. It is a known fact that money makes more money. The richer you become the less your income comes from labour and the more it ends up coming from capital that creates itself instantly. To take the quote from billionaire Edgar Bronfman Senior: “To turn 100 dollars into 110 dollars is work, to turn 100 million dollars into 110 million dollars is inevitable.” In the Explained episode they used the example of Michael Jordan. His hard work and labour to become one of the worlds greatest basketball players earned him his millions, but his capital sponsorship’s and deals made him into a billionaire. That money just keeps growing, and it doesn’t stop.
When we look at a company, for example Amazon, the wealth just keeps growing. Jeff Bezos makes more in one minute than what a labourer of his company would earn in one year. Business insider estimates that Jeff Bezos makes an average of 150 thousand dollars a minute. His money quite literally makes itself, he doesn’t even need to lift a finger.
So how should we feel about billioniares?
Well, they are scary, they have power. They can be in contact with a world leader in minutes. Some of them are world leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, and it’s not like Trump is the nicest guy in the world given recent world events such as protecting and upholding a system that dehumanises and attacks black lives, attempting to take away trans rights and referring to coronavirus in racially derogatory terms that incites violence against Chinese Americans, but that’s a whole other discussion for another day that deserves more attention.
Money buys power, and being a billionaire means that you can do literally anything you want, good or bad, and you will face very little threat to your wealth and power. Bad people, plus wealth leads to power in the wrong hands.
There has been a huge amount of controversy surrounding the ethical treatment of workers and labourers that work under billionaire companies. Places such as Walmart and Amazon pay low wages and there has been reports of employees losing their jobs for wanting bathroom breaks and time off, even for religious commitments. Even further than this there are constant reports of bad working conditions particularly in creating a safe working environment for Covid-19.
You would think billionaires would pay their employees more because they have the money to do so, but the way society is structured they literally don’t have to. People have to work, they need to, so they will work in poor conditions in order to live, they shouldn’t have to live like that but they do, and some billionaires exploit that need to work and survive which has been established by capitalism. Paying for better working conditions and higher wages would have a minuscule impact on the wealth of a billionaire. They choose to turn a blind eye and not properly support their labourers because there will always be people that need work, no matter the working condition. Paying for cheap labour is how companies thrive and grow. This theme is prevalent within the fast fashion industry because it is how stock is created so quickly and in turn that brings in more profit. This is the way working conditions have become and it isn’t right.
Controversy and unrest has begun to grow surrounding billionaires and the wealth gap. Exposing information on billionaires stashing their assets in offshore accounts and avoiding taxes have recently surfaced in the past couple of years. The Cayman Islands being a popular one that takes advantage of the tax breaks, as well as Crooked Island in the Bahamas. Billionaires hide their assets so much that it has become impossible to accurately predict how much their net worth really is. The news that billionaires hide their wealth and avoid paying tax has become more mainstream, and it angers many. It was found that the wealthiest people in the world do not pay around 25% of the taxes they should be paying, that is 10% of the worlds GDP stashed in offshore bank accounts, amounting to trillions of dollars. That is a huge amount of tax not being used for public services. Tax avoidance is a huge issue with the super rich and legal action is beginning to be taken, but in most cases, loopholes can be found, and legality cannot do enough to correct this injustice.
I think people are sick and tired of living in a nation and a world where, so few have so much and so many have so little.
Whilst the super rich avoid their taxes, the middle class begin to pay more taxes than the super rich. “The 400 richest U.S. families now pay a lower overall tax rate than the middle-class, the first time that’s happened in 100 years, according to economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman…Factoring in federal, state and local taxes, those ultra-wealthy households pay a total rate of about 23% — that compares with just over 24% for the bottom half of households.” CBS News. That means a middle class family pays slightly more tax than some billionaires. This is because most of their income comes from capital and not labour which means they are taxed less compared to the working and middle class. This is an income inequality issue that some democrats in America campaign to resolve. While the US tax system is supposed to be progressive there is no wealth tax on the ultra rich. Some billionaires are even open to be taxed more but the system is not in place in the US.
Stop trying to defend billionaires
A huge response to people who speak out against billionaires is an immediate naive attempt to call that person a communist or radical liberal. My response to that would be, one, challenging the super rich doesn’t automatically mean we need to redistribute all global wealth so that everyone is equal, and we live in a communist society. That is a radical value that we do not need to immediately jump to. We don’t need to destroy all wealthy people. We need to understand the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire because they keep getting richer and we are living in their world. There is a difference between being rich and super rich. Sure, the rich can buy a nice house and a nice car. But the super rich have the power in their hands to end some of the world’s largest humanitarian crises and still be the richest people in the world. It would cost around 29 billion dollars to end the Yemen famine crisis. That is 20% of Jeff Bezos’ net worth. Imagine what would happen if all the billionaires put forward a small amount of their whole earnings. Now I am by no means expecting all these billionaires to do this, we shouldn’t have to rely on billionaires to end the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, that is up to a failure of our government systems to control wealth inequality. But imagine if they did because they have that much money to do it and still be insanely rich.
Two, why do you want to protect someone that has literally a billion times more power than you anyway, they really don’t need your support unless they feed off of your labour. They have the power to influence government and politics, avoid tax, and earn thousands within a minute without even lifting a finger. They really don’t need your support. Billionaires have power and influence; they are un-elected political influences that cannot be held accountable. Billionaires are self-interested and they will promote themselves before anyone else. Don’t defend someone who is purely untouchable, when you are sat stuck in a system that prevents you from ever earning close to the wealth they acquire.
Another response people give is, well they worked hard surely they deserve it. There are hundreds of millionaires out there that worked hard and deserve their earnings. To become a billionaire is a whole other ball park. I came across a post online that compared millions and billions. A million seconds is 11 days, a billion seconds is 32 years. Let that sink in! Being rich and super rich are different, don’t assume they are the same. They may have worked really hard, but newsflash, everyone does. If you make the American minimum wage it would take 70,000 years to become a billionaire, a billionaire is not working 70,000 times harder than a labourer. It just so happens that the billionaire got lucky and their money started creating more money and will continue too. People who work 16 hour days on minimum wage work very very hard. People on the average living salary work very very hard. These people work just as hard, if not harder than most billionaires and will never reap the value or the lifestyle that a billionaire has. Billionaires are not gods, although their money has the ability to make them powerful enough to act like one.
Although I did say do not defend billionaires it would be unfair to assume that they are all evil, some do give back and pledge millions or billions towards social and global issues. However, it is important to know the difference between a performative amount of money that puts them in the good books of the public (when in reality they just earn’t that amount of money in the time it took you to read this far on this post), and genuinely wanting to see real global and social change. We need to learn to see the difference. Some billionaires exploited the working class to gain their wealth, being charitable means giving back what they avoided through taxes and fair wage policies to begin with. People shouldn’t be put on a pedestal for that.
Quite frankly, billionaires should not exist, literally no one needs all of that money and for most of them it just sits there and wont even be used in their lifetime. When you really put into perspective how much a billion is and what you can do with even 5% of that, it is truly terrifying that one single human controls that much.
This is just a basic understanding of the impact billionaires have and the amount of money they really have. The discussion on income inequality and wealth gaps is a huge and long one, I have only touched on the basics today.
There is even more to discuss surrounding the morality of billionaires, philanthropy, celebrity billionaires and how the governmental structures we live under furthers this income inequality. I would also love to learn more myself about the paper billionaire argument which aims to dismantle the thought that billionaires aren’t actually that wealthy because their wealth is tied up in assets when this is simply untrue. Also I’d like to further explore how the capitalist system supports billionaires and income inequality.
Income inequality is a huge topic and the morality of billionaires is a sensitive one to some because people can view them as god like for creating a product they may enjoy. But to me that doesn’t mean they need more wealth than they even know what to do with, whilst the rest of us struggle under a system that is working against us and supporting them. Whilst I do not know the solution to wealth inequality, it is interesting to discuss and to examine how billionaires came to be in the position they are in.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I have upcoming posts on perfectionism and analysing the capitalistic social themes in the movie Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho, so please do come back to check those out!