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Inequality: a tale of two pyramids

This pyramid appeared in the Washington Post.


Looking at it I was reminded of another pyramid in a classic poster from the 19th century, which could be a “poetic” rendering of the graph from the Post.


The signs are all around us, if you want to take a peek at the near future, have a look at the scheme Jeff Bezos has dreamed up over at Amazon. It is called “Mechanical Turk” and its goal is to turn clerical tasks that require education and specialized training into sweatshop piece work like making T-shirts in Bangladesh. I urge my readers take a very close look at it to see where their training and skills might be used and what pay they would receive for performing these tasks.

That is the story: in developed countries we are in the process of recreating the class differences and the ensuing class struggle of the 19th century, but this time in a world where consciousness, class or otherwise, with the new social networks, quickly becomes universal. The 1% are sitting on a powder keg. These graphs explain the Tea Party and the Koch brother’s spending millions bankrolling it. The idea is to keep a person from thinking clearly and like the fellow said, avoid an individual being “at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

If the problem of controlling the “powder keg” is one of consciousness, the system seems to be working rather well. It would appear that converting human beings into mental cripples is an enormous industry and they have to catch them rather young. The following is a sample of what a school teacher wrote Thomas Friedman, quoted in the New York Times.

We are dumbing down our classes.  It is an inexorable downward progression in which one day all a kid will need to pass is to have a blood pressure. The kids today are not different in ‘nature.’ … The difference is that back then, although they didn’t want to, they would do the work. Today, they won’t. … This is a real conversation I had with a failing student who was being quite sincere in her comments: ‘I know you’re a really good teacher, but you don’t seem to realize I have two hours a night of Facebook and over 4,000 text messages a month to deal with. How do you expect me to do all this work?’

Maybe Americans are finally waking up, but for the moment, from my perch on the other side of the Atlantic, the only one really talking any sense is Naquasia LeGrand.

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David Seaton

David Seaton