We are all the 1%


(from somebody’s perspective)

Image borrowed from csmonitor.com

It’s so easy to identify with the 99% Occupy movementthat has now reached 600 communities in the U.S. and 82 countries worldwide. Certainly, the financial difference between the elite rich and the rest of us is off-the-charts bigger than it’s ever been in recent history and shows little sign of slowing down. Economist Paul Krugman  writes that the number is really more like .1%, making this gross inequality even more mind-boggling. If even a portion of this difference were redistributed to those in need, it would be an enormous benefit across a wide spectrum of the population.

But are the elite 1% the only ones unwilling to give up their advantage to better others less fortunate (or less ruthless)? Just as Obama’s lack of audacity may represent the way many of us exhibit our own wishy washy complacency, I find it useful to see how the major archetypes in the news reflect something in the general public. Let’s be conscious as we hurl that first stone.

Image borrowed from thefreemanonline.org

If you are reading this Blog on a computer, you are in the 1% from somebody’s perspective, just on a different scale. You have a roof over your head, electricity, probably food in your belly, and a place to sleep. You may even have some disposable income, even if it’s a meager pittance compared to Wall Street insiders.

Yet how willing are you to relinquish some of your cash to the beggar on the street, to organizations like Oxfam or Women’s Earth Alliance or Amnesty International, or any of the other thousands of organizations set up to address social inequalities? Is it worth passing up that cute little necklace or foregoing a few soy lattes?

I recently considered buying myself the new iPhone 4 for a mere $200, even though I already have an old 3G model. Then I heard a chilling description from Mike Daisey’s monologue aired on NPR. It’s about Apple technology and Foxconn, the plant where they make all those nifty life-changing products we love so much. Foxconn is a plant in China the size of a city — 430,000 people. Many of the workers he interviewed are age 12-16, crammed together like sardines, doing meaningless repetitive work for 12- to 16-hour shifts. Their hands get crippled by their work before they reach adulthood and they have to put nets on the buildings because there are so many suicides. Terry Gou, chairman of Foxxconn, refers to them as “animals.”

Image borrowed from businessinsider.com

I’m not sure what to do about this problem, but it’s keeping me awake at night. I love my Apple products the way Wall Streeters love their bonus checks. Daisey’s monologue has produced a flurry of letters to Apple, and apparently they have their own rebuttal about attempts to change the situation.But we know this is happening, not just in China, but all over the world, where slave labor brings us cheap products that we in the first world get to enjoy.

Whenever I am tempted to complain about my life, or vilify the 1% that are soaking up the general circulation of funds like a blood clot soaks up blood, I have to remember that whenever I point a finger outward, three fingers point back at me.

It’s all just a matter of scale.

Brightest blessings,

-Anodea Judith, Ph.D.