Now is the time to see that most of our problems are the result of the insatiable greed of the very few. And to say so, clearly and repeatedly. It’s the only way to start changing towards reality.
We often speak as though the source of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I’m not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.
Calling lies “lies” and theft “theft” and violence “violence”, loudly, clearly and consistently, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage. What protects an outrage are circumlocutions, and euphemisms. Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”
So let’s start calling manifestations of greed by their true name. By greed, I mean the attempt of those who have plenty to get more. Look at the Waltons of Wal-Mart: the four main heirs are among the dozen richest people on the planet, each holding about $24bn. Their wealth is equivalent to that of the bottom 40% of Americans. The corporation Sam Walton founded now employs 2.2 million workers, and the great majority are poorly paid people who routinely depend on government benefits to survive. You could call that Walton Family welfare — a taxpayers’ subsidy to their system. Strikes against Wal-Mart this year protested barbarous working conditions: warehouses that reach 120 degrees, a woman eight months pregnant forced to work at a brutal pace, exposure to pollutants, and the intimidation of those who attempt to organise or unionise.
Read more: Call it as it is - Le Monde diplomatique - English edition