“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.” — Howard Beale
Howard Beale, the main character in the 1976 film Network, became a part of cinematic history when he uttered the line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” That one line expressed a growing rage among America’s shrinking middle class at a time when Americans were reeling from years of war, political scandals and economic downturn.
In the four decades that have followed, little has improved for the average American. We’re still ‘mad as hell’ and the middle class is being eroded right in front of our eyes. When adjusted for inflation, many Americans are working longer hours and earning less than they did in 1976. So, how have we gone from vibrant middle class to the working poor in a matter of decades?
Median Incomes Are Stagnant
Despite increases in the national income over the past fifty years, middle class families have experienced little income growth over the past few decades. According to U.S. Census data, middle class incomes have grown by only 28 percent from 1979 – 2014. Meanwhile, a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the top 20 percent of earners has seen their incomes rise by 95 percent over that same period of time.
Contributing to the stagnation of wages is a notable decrease in the workforce participation rate. According to the Brookings institute, “One reason for these declines in employment and labor force participation is that work is less rewarding. Wages for those at the bottom and middle of the skill and wage distribution have declined or stagnated.” Historical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics backs up these findings, showing a steady decrease in workforce participation over the last two decades.
The Erosion of the Minimum Wage & America’s Purchasing Power
Anyone who has read a comment thread on the internet about minimum wage laws knows the debate is currently one of the most highly contentious political topics in America. In the halls of Congress, the debate has turned into a nearly decade long impasse. As a result, workers at the low end of the wage scale have watched the purchasing power of their wages decrease from $7.25 in 2009, to $6.19 in 2018 due to inflation. In 2018, you need to perform 47 hours of minimum wage work to achieve the same amount of purchasing power as 40 hours of work in 2009.
The inflation-adjusted minimum wage value has been in steady decline since 1968, when the $1.60 minimum wage was equal to $11.39 (in 2018 dollars). Since then, lawmakers have reduced minimum wage increases relative to the rate of inflation. As Christopher Ingraham reports:
“Recent research shows that the reason politicians — Democrats and Republicans alike — are dragging their feet on popular policies such as the minimum wage is that they pay a lot more attention to the needs and desires of deep-pocketed business groups than they do to regular voters. Those groups tend to oppose minimum wage increases for the simple reason that they eat into their profit margins.”
To be clear, the erosion of the purchasing power of everyday Americans is hardly a new phenomenon. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the purchasing power of the U.S. Dollar has plummeted by over 95 percent since 1913, the year the Federal Reserve was created. The Bureau’s Consumer Price Index indicates that prices in 2018 are 2,436.33% higher than prices in 1913 and that the dollar has experienced an average inflation rate of 3.13% per year during this period.
The Rich Get Richer
While the outlook may be grim for low-wage workers, this is fantastic news for large corporations. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economics shows that corporate profits are approaching all-time highs. But it’s not just workers who are feeling the effect of growing income inequality. The contrast is also being felt on Main Street. An analysis of the S & P 500 and the Russell 1,000 & 2,000 indexes by Bloomberg revealed a growing gap between America’s largest employers and smaller businesses.
A report from the Institute for Policy Studies entitled Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us echoed these findings when it revealed that America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet – now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined.
Although the Trump administration continues to tout stock market and labor force increases as signs of economic prosperity, numbers show that the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 84 percent of all stock. A study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute found that wage growth remains too weak to consider the economy at full employment and that stagnant wage growth has contributed to the growing level of income inequality in America. The study noted that while wages have recovered from the 2008 recession, the gap between those at the top and those at the middle and bottom has continued to increase since 2000. As the study’s author, Elise Gould writes:
“We’re looking at nominal wage growth that is still slower than you would expect in a full employment economy, slower than you would expect if you thought there were any sort of inflation pressures from wage growth.”
The Decimation of the American Dream
Comedian George Carlin once said, “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.” For millions of middle class Americans Carlin’s statement has proven eerily accurate. Stagnant wages and decreased purchasing power has put the prospects for middle class children in a tailspin as upward mobility trends have reportedly fallen by over 40 percent since 1950.
A poll conducted by the Pew Research Institute corroborates this claim. According to Pew, only 37 percent of Americans believe that today’s children will grow up to be better off financially than their parents. That means more Americans think that today’s children will be financially worse off than their parents than those who believe they will be better off.
The sentiments expressed by millions of middle class Americans appear to be wholly justified due to the fact that middle class families are becoming more fragile and dependent on two incomes. A report from the Council of Economic Advisors found the majority of the income gains made by the middle class from 1979 to 2013 were a result of increased participation in the workplace by women. The report also noted the fragility of two income families amidst a decline in marriage and a drastic rise in single parent homes in recent years.
As a result of the slow growth in wages, over half of Americans now receive more in Government transfer payments (Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security) than they pay in federal taxes. An analysis of all 50 states also found that in 42 states the cost of living is higher than the median income.
The rising cost of healthcare is also putting the pinch on the wallets of many Americans. As Jeffrey Pfeffer noted in his book Dying for a Paycheck, healthcare spending—per capita—has increased 29 fold over the past 40 years, outpacing the growth of the American economy.
While many Americans continue to look to the government to fix problems like wage stagnation, income inequality and rising healthcare costs, the sad truth is that we live in a time when 1 in 3 households has trouble paying energy bills and 40 percent of Americans face poverty in retirement at the exact same time the Federal Government has admitted that they lost $21 trillion. Not only did they lose $21 trillion (yes that’s TRILLION with a T), but the Department of Defense indicated in a press conference that they “never expected to pass” the audit to locate the missing taxpayer money.
John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton famously proclaimed in 1887:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
Perhaps it’s time for the millions of Americans who are quietly ‘mad as hell’ to start expressing their rage at the corrupt institutions of power that are decimating their livelihoods rather than expecting those very same institutions to fix the problems they created.
UK Queen’s Statues Torn Down Amid Anger Over Mass Graves for Indigenous Children
This year may have had one of the most muted Canada Day celebrations, but this didn’t stop Indigenous protesters from making their anger felt – especially in the wake of the discovery of over 1,000 children’s bodies near the residential schools run by the Canadian state and church authorities.
And with churches being likely targeted by arsonists for the crimes of Catholic clergy, protesters are now attacking the symbols of Anglo colonialism – namely, statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.
About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.
Former students have testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad children died from preventable diseases, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”
The discoveries have churned up deep-seated anguish and memories of the suffering visited upon First Nations peoples, with many lashing out at the symbols of colonialism.
At least seven churches, all but one of which were Catholic, have also come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks.
In June, a statue of the late Pope John Paul II at a Catholic church in Edmonton was splattered with red paint and red handprints.
On Thursday, July 1, residents in Canada also held organized protests and pulled down the statues of the top figurehead of British colonialism: Queen Elizabeth II, as well as that of her great grandmother, Queen Victoria. Sky News reports that the toppling of the statues was accompanied by the chant, “No Pride in Genocide!”
In Ottawa, protestors gathered en masse at Parliament Hill chanting ”Cancel Canada Day” and ”shame on Canada,” urging an end to the national holiday over the deaths of Indigenous people.
Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. The event could take place by year’s end, according to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
However, it remains unlikely that the British crown will offer the same amends to Canada’s Indigenous nations who, like many across the globe, suffered greatly in British Colonialism’s worldwide search for riches and glory.
3 Reasons Why Introverts Are Undervalued in Today’s Society
It’s undeniable that our society favors assertive extroverted personalities with strong communication skills and underestimates the quiet ones. If you are an introvert, you have probably learned it the hard way.
It could be that you felt unseen in the classroom as a child or teen. Or you may have watched your less competent co-workers get a promotion thanks to their social skills.
It feels unfair, but if you think about our society, it makes perfect sense. The consumerist mindset that has become our second nature inevitably affects the way we treat other people. It seems that everything, including our personal qualities and worth as human beings, is translated into some kind of market value.
In other words, to make other people see your worth in personal or professional life, you need to be able to ‘sell yourself’. Yes, this expression alone tells it all.
You need to know how to make a good first impression, say the right things, and be assertive. If you can’t do it, you are perceived as incapable and uninteresting – whether we are talking about a job interview or an informal social gathering.
But it’s not the only reason why introverts are undervalued in our society. Here are a few more:
1. They are less efficient in teamwork
Communication and teamwork skills are required for all kinds of jobs. It seems that without being able to work in a team, it’s impossible to do your job even if your duties don’t involve interaction with clients.
Introverts are much more efficient when they work on their own and are given a certain extent of independence. They thrive in quiet environments with few distractions and interactions. This is when a quiet person gets the chance to unleash their creative self and make good use of their analytical skills.
Most office jobs don’t give employees this opportunity. Office meetings, group projects, phone calls and all the other attributes of a 9-to-5 job make it almost impossible for an introvert to be productive.
2. They don’t like to be in the spotlight
Sometimes it feels like we are living in a society of attention seekers. Today, you are expected to go public about the most personal matters, such as your relationship and family life.
People share their most intimate thoughts and feelings on social media, post updates about the most trivial events, such as what they had for dinner, and upload countless selfies.
Introverts are among those who still value privacy. They are less likely to showcase their lives online or share the details of their personal affairs with the whole world.
At the same time, the quiet ones don’t like to be in the spotlight at social events. An introvert will never interrupt you. They will listen to you and talk only when they have something important to say. This tendency to avoid attention can be mistaken for insecurity and even a lack of intelligence.
3. They prefer to be real than to be ‘nice’
If you want to make a good impression on others, you are expected to be nice. But what does it mean to be ‘nice’ anyway?
In an introvert’s mind, it equals saying things you don’t mean. Quiet personalities will never bombard you with compliments or say meaningless social pleasantries just to win your fondness. But if an introvert said something nice to you, then be sure that they truly meant it.
Small talk is another component of social relationships most introverts struggle with. To them, it embodies utterly dull, uncomfortable, and pointless conversations they can perfectly do without. For this reason, introverts are often mistakenly believed to hate people.
The truth is that they don’t – they just crave stimulating, meaningful conversations and choose their social circle more carefully than extroverts.
In my book, The Power of Misfits: How to Find Your Place in a World You Don’t Fit In, I write about the reasons why so many introverts feel inadequate and alienated from other people in today’s society. It all goes down to social expectations this personality type has to deal with from a very early age.
But the good news is that every introvert can overcome the negative effects of these expectations and find the right path in this loud, extroverted world.
The Esoteric Meaning Behind Neo’s Interrogation Scene in The Matrix
More than 20 years old now, The Matrix is recognized by fans across the world as being one of the most brilliant films in history, most notably for its deeper meaning and esoteric philosophy.
One scene that is particularly intriguing, considering the social climate of today, is Neo’s interrogation by the Agents of the Matrix.
Now, before we dig into the potential hidden meaning here, as I perceive it, and how Neo found himself in this uncomfortable position to begin with, let’s first establish some key points in relation to the overall story line that will help us to appreciate the implications behind this scene a little bit more.
What Does The Character Neo Represent in the Matrix?
Neo in ancient Greek (νέος) means new/young one. This is an important piece of the puzzle to help us understand what the directors of the film are trying to communicate to us. With that said, when we assess Neo’s character in the first film, we find that he is a solitary individual that keeps to himself and is struggling to find deeper meaning in this world by constantly searching the internet.
What Does The Character Morpheus Represent in the Matrix?
Morpheus in Greek mythology is a messenger of the gods. He appears to humans through dreams with the intention of delivering divine Knowledge and Truth. In the Greek mythos, he can appear in almost any form in people’s dreams, which could be because anyone, regardless of race, gender, or outward appearance, can be a messenger of enlightenment and Truth.
The First Matrix Film is About The Beginning of the Journey to Awakening
With the understanding of the deeper meaning behind what Neo and Morpheus’ characters represent in the film, we can now appreciate the intro scene of Neo sleeping (whilst searching for Morpheus) through a different lens of perception and awareness.
You see, Neo sleeping whilst searching online for Morpheus represents the early stages of the Truth seekers journey — “asleep” but still searching for deeper meaning in life — and hoping to find that meaning by seeking out a “messenger” of higher Knowledge and Truth.
Truth is Terrorism in the Empire of Lies
Through his incessant efforts, Neo begins to get closer and closer to finding the elusive Morpheus. This, however, also attracts the unwanted attention of the Agents in the Matrix, which represent the enforcers of the shadow government of this system. Their job is to ensure that no one exposes what the Matrix really is, and how it turns unsuspecting every day human beings into useful resources that it can use and exploit.
The Agents proceed to apprehend Neo and interrogate him, where they make it very clear that they’ve been spying on him and keeping meticulous records of his activities, both online and offline, for quite some time now. As we all know very well today, all around the world intelligence agencies are doing exactly that — tracking what we view online and keeping meticulous records on many of our movements.
The agents, however, do not see Neo as being a major threat to the Matrix system, as he is still in the early stages of his awakening and does not know enough to be a major threat. Instead, they offer him a deal where they will be willing to “wipe the slate clean” on his illegal activities online, if Neo will simply help them track down the man they call Morpheus, who they claim is “a known terrorist” that is “considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive”.
This represents that the single greatest threat to this manipulative system — which is overwhelmingly ruled by deception and exploitation — is any messenger of higher Knowledge and Truth that can potentially awaken those who are still “asleep” to what the proverbial Matrix really is. In fact, one could argue this sort of power struggle has been going on for thousands of years, and is possibly why Socrates was accused of “corrupting the youth” by the ruling class more than 2,000 years ago and subsequently sentenced to death; or why Fred Hampton was assassinated by government authorities in 1969; or, in more recent history, why civilians that were peacefully protesting against Wall Street and the bankers for their part in destroying the world economy in 2008, were targeted by the FBI and even labelled as potential “domestic terrorists“.
Simply put, Truth is terrorism in the empire of lies.
Neo, still being somewhat naïve and unbegun in his journey, rejects the Agent’s offer and demands he get a phone call because “I know my rights!”
To this, Agent Smith retorts, “tell me Mr. Anderson, what good is a phone call if you’re unable to speak?”, which results in Neo’s mouth warping in the most eerie of ways.
This scene represents a lesson that all genuine Truth seekers eventually come to learn — this system is not concerned with human rights nor is it concerned with upholding authentic justice. Instead, it inculcates these beliefs and misperceptions into our minds from a very young age, because it serves to help legitimize its unnecessary existence in the eyes of the unsuspecting public and indoctrinate us as to why we think we need it. But in reality, our government guaranteed “rights” can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye.
In relation to current events, for example, many thousands of people worldwide have been arrested for violating curfew orders; In one Indian state, civilians were told they must take selfies every hour and send it to the authorities to prove that they are staying indoors; in South Africa, some have been fined for not wearing masks while driving their cars; In Boston in the United States, people have even been told that they will be fined if they walk “the wrong direction” down the street; Homeless people in France have reportedly been fined for not staying indoors; Some people have been arrested for attending funerals of loved ones because it violated lockdown orders; Others (including doctors and scientists) have had their right to freedom of speech censored online; In Australia, a pregnant woman was actually arrested in her home for facebook posts that encouraged protesting against the lockdown; According to the International Labor Organization, tens of millions are being pushed into unemployment; and travel all around the world has been severely restricted by these authorities who have taken it upon themselves to be the rulers of this planet by dictating what the rest of us can and cannot do. Whether you agree with these policies or not, these things cannot logically be called “rights” since they are so very easily violated and taken away from us.
There are many other examples that demonstrate how our government given “rights” are more of a comforting illusion than an actual reality, such as the CIA’s secretive Black Site torture programs, which have been done in cooperation with other intelligence agencies and authorities throughout the world. In these programs, people have been kidnapped — without any legal criminal charge or trial — and then taken to undisclosed secret locations where many of them are tortured for many months on end, in ways that are considered to be in violation of international law and basic human rights. The CIA, of course, simply claims they are suspected terrorists. In 2014, however, a Senate Intelligence Committee Report found that at least 26 of the people that were kidnapped and tortured were actually “wrongfully detained”.
Wake Up Neo — You Are the One
Fortunately, Neo manages to escape this unthinkable situation without any serious injury or harm. Soon after, he is contacted by Morpheus, where he is told that he was very lucky that the Agents underestimated his great potential and spared him, because if the Agents had known the great secret that Morpheus knows, then Neo would probably be dead.
Confused by the obvious strangeness of everything taking place, Neo asks Morpheus what the hell is going on, and what exactly is he talking about?? Without hesitation, Morpheus replies to him, “You are the one Neo — You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.”
This is perhaps the most important lesson the new Truth seeker must eventually come to learn — We are the ones we have been waiting for to change this corrupt world my friends; and we must stop looking for heroes and human leaders to absolve us of this very serious responsibility. Instead, we must all take on the role of Morpheus — which is to awaken as many Neo’s (new minds) as we possibly can, whilst also taking on the role that represents the journey of Neo, by challenging ourselves to become the best version of who we authentically are.
By doing this, we will help to awaken and unleash the unique creative forces of each individual’s problem solving imagination; and we will also find unity in our shared struggle against the injustices, and corruption, of this inhumane system which invariably exploits us all.
If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?
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