A friend of mine with a wonderful sense of humor is planning to publish a book whose working title is The Tao of Duh which will include examples of glaringly obvious, slap-myself-on-the-forehead “ahas” along with many personal witticisms of her own. I love the title (and the author, Leslie Eveland) and am urging her to get it to press ASAP. Meanwhile, I am amazed at how many glaring “duhs” there are out there and how we devour them as if they were not already obvious.
One example: In September 2014, Harvard published a study* declaring that the wealth gap is not only unsustainable but is growing worse. Why does it take a university like Harvard no less to publish something so obvious to anyone who is paying attention to current trends? Why do nearly 2,000 Harvard Business School alumni around the world need to be surveyed on this subject when anyone who is awake and observant of global developments already knows the trends and doesn’t need to read an expensive study to confirm it?
In a 2011 post to this blogsite I wrote about the growing wealth gap since Egypt’s Tahrir Square protests were fresh in our memories. I included the 2007 graph below to illustrate my point:
Even in this seven year old graph, the wealth gap had been widening for nearly thirty years. With the Harvard study just out, I looked for some more current stats and found this Federal Reserve comparison that brings us into 2014:
U.S. economic growth is not translating into higher median family incomes. Real GDP per capita has increased since the year 2000 [blue line here] while the real median income per household [red line here] has not, indicating a trend of greater income inequality.
So the gap continues to widen. And like any widening crevasse it will eventually fracture or erupt, leading to a revolt of the disenfranchised, those who wake up to the reality that the scales are tipped to create more wealth for those who already have it. Anyone who has been paying attention to this multi-generational trend knows this and anyone who knows how people respond to mass injustice knows what is possible.
Can this really be news for anyone? Isn’t this obvious – the biggest duh of them all?
As Eveland likes to say, “A duh is not a duh when you don't get it.”
The Harvard study, which received tons of publicity in all major media outlets, was treated as big news. So apparently the media thought it was real news and they weren’t stating the obvious. Clearly, they didn’t “get it” yet either.
What happens when something is “unsustainable”? What happens when something cannot continue? Exploring potential scenarios about what it means is often avoided, possibly because such implications may not only be speculative, but also get really messy. What happens when an established powerful system grinds to a halt? My best guess is chaos of some sort – global system collapse, stock market crash, widespread depression, public demonstrations and rioting, and martial law, to name a few possibilities, come to mind.
Hopefully, there will be a political transformation whereby the injustices will be seen not only as unsustainable but grossly unfair and conscious thought leaders “who get it” will stand tall for large scale reform of the system before mass chaos breaks out.
For my conservative friends, I am not talking wealth distribution; I am talking about restoring our economic system to one that is truly a free market. I am talking about removing all the systemic advantages that have been put in place over the generations by those with power. The supposed “free market” isn’t really free anymore. It has been rigged. People know this; they may be pretending they don’t know this, but they do.
If this kind of courageous leadership does not emerge soon we might not be able to avoid a revolution of a more violent sort – one that could involve riots and bloodshed.
One way or another, there will be a revolution. It could be hard. Or it could be soft. That is our choice. And we don’t need a Harvard study to tell us that.
*Harvard report: "An Economy Doing Half Its Job"