Class division, social immobility, and capitalism in ‘Parasite’

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!

Summarising Parasite

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.

Analysing Parasite

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 Park’ house, Bong Joon Ho actually designed and had the houses and sets built from scratch because he had a direct vision in mind.
The interior of the Park house, notice the different stairs and elevations.

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.

The outside of the Kim’s semi-basement. Down the stairs to their home.
Bathroom of the Kim’s home.

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.

The stairs from the scene where the Kim’s descend back home during the storm.

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.

Slums in Mumbai, visualises the class divisions and ability to look away from poverty even when it is right 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.

The Kim’s home after the flood.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Bong Joon-Ho

Let’s talk about billionaires

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.

Bernie Sanders

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!