Issues you should be talking about

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

For more information and how to help: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/gender-recognition-act-gra-take-action-trans-equality

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.

Photo captured by Getty Images outside McConnell’s home protesting against the rapid replacement of RBG.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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!