Sunday, June 15, 2008


For me, one of the most depressing concepts in Orwell's 1984 was the idea that humans have always existed, still exist and will always exist in three groups: the high, the middle, and the low.

The high rule. They control the vast majority of power and resources. The middle have ownership but much less control. The low, too busy trying to survive from day to day, have little ownership and practically no control.

Even if the current middle usurps the current high, they just become the new high, now wielding power, and the plight of the low never changes.

It makes me sad because it seems so true.

Take high gas prices. For the majority of people reading this blog, high gas prices are a frustrating inconvenience that will, for the most part, not significantly alter the quality of your life.

Maybe you won't go out to eat as much, maybe you won't take as many trips this year, but you will be able to feed your family, your job will likely be secure. Even if you lose your job, you can likely find another job, even if it doesn't pay as well, and your family will survive.

You won't end up homeless, and if you did, you could likely find a family member who would take you in until you got back on your feet.

But, what if you are a low-skilled, low-wage worker who is barely surviving as it is? What if you are someone who can barely put enough food on the table? And, regardless of your income, you have to drive to work every day, just like everyone else.

Now how do high gas prices affect you? Remember, you are already barely making ends meet. Gas prices go up and they cut deeply into your already stretched resources. Maybe you have to decide between taking your sick kid to the doctor, putting food on the table or getting gas to get to work.

And since the middle class are eating out less, traveling to hotels and parks less, maybe the restaurant or hotel where you work slows down. And they don't need you anymore. And the only place you can really look for a job is at another restaurant or hotel. But sorry, they aren't hiring because everybody is slow.

Then what do you do?

And, while gas prices are rising, so are food prices. So, how does that hurt you and I? Let's be honest, it really doesn't. Maybe, you and I don't get to eat the porterhouse (although the really rich still get to).

But what about the guy who yesterday butchered the cow or packed the meat? Maybe, because demand is down, maybe he doesn't even have a job today.

In fact, as this article from the NY Times points out, much of the global food shortage, which is leading to higher food prices, isn't really a shortage as much as it is the unequal distribution of food wealth. The rich get fatter (that's you and I), the poor get skinnier.

High, middle and low. Inequality. Mostly because of where you were born. The luck of the draw.

There is nothing better about us that makes us deserve more or better than anyone else on this planet. Yet here we are, sitting on our high horses, richer than any other country on this planet. Even our poor people are wealthier than many other people on this planet.

But why should I be any "richer" than any other person in this country, or on this planet. I would submit that the majority of people reading this are white-collar, office workers who don't work half as hard as the typical "low-skilled" low wage worker.

When was the last time you had to stand on your feet for eight straight hours, lugging, slugging, lifting and heaving? Why should you make more money than the person who grows your food? Makes the clothes you wear?

It strikes me as odd that the people who manufacturer the essentials of our lives are the least compensated among us. How does that make sense?

It's sad and it's unfair. It's frustrating. It hurts my heart. If I have any "cause" close to my heart, it would be ending global inequality. Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

Not quite sure how I am going to do that. How we are going to do that. Would it help to be reminded how rich you are? That you could probably give away a lot more of that wealth and help global inequality? I don't really know.

Pretending for a moment that reminders of your wealth and the poverty of others will help, in some random way, take a step to ending global inequality, here is that reminder...

...when was the last time you had to search the trash for food?

So, what can you do today, this week, to end inequality?

1 comment:

  1. Good comments...
    In the spirit of John Edwards