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Are you the 50%?
Or are you the other 50%?
#OccupyWallStreet speaks of the 1% and the 99%. But in another important context things are about the 50% and the other 50%.
There's a poverty line in the US right now that goes straight down the middle of the country: 50% are below it. 50% of the 300 million people in the US are officially poor, and many of them are destitute. Many of them probably won't even bother to vote or even consider they may have a say in their own future.
Poverty is a killer. So is disenfranchisement. Take a trip to LA sometime and watch how the destitute and homeless wander the streets. See them in their clothes stained with oil from sleeping under the lorries. Take a look at what shelters are available. Note the fact that most of those shelters are tax scams and the people running them are filthy rich with houses in Paradise Valley. Realise that no one really gives a hoot about their future.
Take that mental image and compare it with what you find in any other city. You'll find the same thing. Those people are not well connected online. They've got too much on their tables to worry about freedom of speech and whistle-blowing and the transgressions of supposedly democratic governments. They need food and they need jobs, except there are no jobs and there's precious little food.
50%. 50% of the population of the world's mightiest military power are officially poor.
But as you're reading this, you're probably in that other 50% - the 50% who are not yet poor and disenfranchised. You still have food for your belly and you still have an Internet connection and you're hopefully not yet so distracted you can't think properly. So try a bit of thinking as we approach a new year in the Western World.
The French Revolution of 1789. The US War of Independence. The Magna Carta and the ensuing judicial system in the UK. Comparable watershed events across the globe: did any of them really usher in democracy?
Representation. Send someone to a capital city to work for your best interests. Cute concept. No mobiles back then when those concepts were formalised. Meets at Uluru and parliaments in London, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm. A national assembly in Paris. A Reichstag in Berlin. Representation. Democracy.
But do you pay any attention to this, even if you're in the fortunate 50%? Statistically the odds aren't great. And why wouldn't you pay any attention? You're probably stressed out commuting to and from work on concrete mazes, working in high rises hundreds or thousands of feet from the planet's surface, gobbling up your greasy fast food and 'getting fatter and fatter and splitting your jeans'. You eat hamburgers and the colonel's fried chicken, Krispy Kreme poisons, drink lots of sugared water, drink the occasional imported ale, you might even know the difference between a champagne and a sparkling wine.
You watch footie on the telly. You've got a family. Raising a family costs a lot of money and pretty much ruins your sex life. Dental plans, PTA meetings, and of course the occasional extracurricular affair. All in the course of a good day's work.
You get a few days/weeks holiday every year. Some of that is paid for by your employer. You get money up front before you saunter off if you're lucky. You get to go to exotic places on cheap junkets made just for the likes of you. You take lots of pics with your mobile phone and send them straight back to your envious friends.
You live the life. And in many ways it's an ideal life. So why should you complain?
Hopefully you sleep well at night. For whilst you sleep, there are US naval fleets patrolling the entire globe, in every major body of water. There are nuclear subs very close to your shores. There are aircraft carriers everywhere - except you rarely see them.
There are satellites bouncing signals across the sky. They're connected to the most monstrous computers you've never seen and never knew were possible. They're picking up electronic traffic of all sorts. They're picking it all up. They filter the data as it comes through. They look for keywords and look closer at who's conversing when they find those keywords.
There are cameras on the ground. Those cameras can not only track you - they can identify you too. And subsequently follow your every move. Enemy of the State might have been bordering on science fiction at the time but it's not science fiction anymore.
And what do those people want from you? Not much. They want you to keep on doing what you've always been doing. They want you to hold down your job, kiss your spouse, raise your children, eat those killer foods, keep Fox News on your telly, believe in the honesty of your elected leaders, believe in 'your' system.
And what are they doing? You already know if you're connected to the Internet. At least you should know.
They're involved in high stakes games where they bring people into power and push them back out again. They control more money than you can conceive of. There's no way they can ever use that much money but they don't care. They want only more of it.
And they're prepared to double-cross other world leaders, plot assassinations and state coups - do anything at all to get what they want. That's not a life for you. It's better you just stay at home and mind your own business.
And if you should suddenly one rainy night blow it all and break ranks? No worries there either. For they don't really care what you think anymore. They're perfectly capable of destroying your life if they have to. You might think protest and activism is a way to effect change, you might - against all odds - be inclined to do something about your miserable life. They're OK with that. Just don't bring a tent to Zucotti Park.
Life is good amongst your 50%. For now. Knock on wood. And Happy New Year.
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