Q: How many radical lesbian feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: That’s not funny.
Do you know that joke? I do. I have told it so many times and my delivery is pretty good (which is saying something because I am a pretty shitty joke teller). I used to feel okay about telling the joke, which I deployed only among friends and allies who would understand the irony of me being semi-self-deprecating about the seriousness and earnestness with which I once expressed my political views. Those views have changed, becoming more nuanced and as a result (at least in my case), more radical. Age may have withered many things for me, but it has not undermined my fundamental belief in human equality. I have sensed the urgency of defending those rights, and I have sometimes participated directly in such efforts.
The longer I live, the more assaults on human rights I have seen. Well, of course . . .I am older. Moreover, my perception of inequality is certainly impacted by the development of the globally-connected-world-internet-bitrate-camera-in-every-hand culture that I inhabit as a US citizen. And doubtless, “things” are better for some people on the planet than they were in the 1980s (even some things for me). But while those “things” have gotten better, we have developed a very serious problem with wealth inequality. I am not sure we have ever seen anything like it since this country was founded (I leave that to the economic historians). And my response to this situation reminds me of my own more-youthful earnestness.
Again, today, reading about the various ways in which the US seems to be veering straight towards a totalitarian regime and we all debate about the extent of that spread, I kept coming back to the five men who own 50% of the wealth on the planet.
Of course, this statistic has was derived from methodologies both complex and imperfect. Of course, it is “more complicated than that.”
The more strident me would insist on drilling down into the factual accuracy of the statistic. The older, and more radical me thinks: context. Consider that such a statistic can come even close to being accurate. But more importantly, consider that as a society, we can and do entertain the possibility of quantifying the wealth of the planet and naming the names of those who possess it.
This week, American Nazis and their ilk have terrorized the public. It is freaking me out, of course. But what worries me even more is that we already have a global totalitarian economy.
That is a human rights violation of unimaginable scope, with the gravest of consequences. And that is most assuredly not funny.