I beg your pardon, but inequality is not a mere distraction

Dear President Trump,

I have a hyper-local vignette and a bigger picture take for you for today.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this before, but pre-you, Laura and I played Scrabble most weeknights. However, once you were installed as POTUS, it wasn’t until covid-19 slowed everything down and eliminated my commute time that it became possible to fit in both letter writing and Scrabble playing. Anyway, we played last night and Laura kept getting horrible letter draws – all but one letter being vowels, over and over. She dumped maybe three times and it never got better.

Her vowel-hoarding [:)] made it a tiny bit more challenging for me so most of the way through it was a pretty low scoring game. Near the end, though, I drew two S’s and a blank and basically decided that I had to figure out a way to use all my letters because it would be ridiculous not to at least try. Well, just as I finally saw that I could form the word “selfish”, my “be kind” 9pm chime went off. It was pretty funny. And I totally disregarded it. I played my stellar word and offered only the tiniest bit of remorse and that it would help the game be over sooner. Laura, being the truly kind one of us, was sweet and a total good sport through the whole thing. I’m feeling lucky that so far today there doesn’t seem to be any karmic fallout for me, which I truly appreciate.

The big picture take is in response to a recent New Yorker article by Ian Parker about Yuval Harari entitled “The Really Big Picture.” Harari is the author of “Sapiens,” which made him an international sensation. Even for New Yorker articles, this one was really, really long and I dutifully slogged through the whole thing, though what caught my attention came fairly early on. Here’s the passage:

“His (Harari’s) proposition is that humanity faces three primary threats: nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption. Other issues that politicians commonly talk about – terrorism, migrations, inequality, poverty – are lesser worries, if not distractions.”

Typing those words made my heart beat faster and my stomach churn, they piss me off so much. And they scare me. I’d like to shake both Mr. Harari for posing that proposition and Mr. Parker for helping him propagate it. Yes, obviously nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption (and now we can clearly add viral pandemics) are horrible big deals, but it does no good to flap our tongues about them for big-ass speaking fees if we aren’t dealing with what drives all of them, which to my mind is obviously inequality.

In other words, treating inequality and it’s more immediate offshoots of terrorism, migration, and, poverty as mere distractions means that we approach the shit that could annihilate us with blinders on. We are blinkered by the vast emotional overwhelm of those big picture threats and never realize that if f*cking everyone were equitably represented at the table and the common goal was cooperation on behalf of the common good, we wouldn’t have to worry about blowing ourselves into oblivion or ecological collapse or being turned into AI slaves.

It’s sexy to talk about the end of days stuff and it is patently not sexy to talk about (or goodness forbid, really do something about) inequality – but that is what we need to fix if we are ever going to make headway on the looming shit that will otherwise take us out. Sure, the looming shit won’t take you and your buds out right away, but it’s just a matter of time, and even you all have less and less of it to mess around with.

So how about it? Can we please get real about what is going to help us deal with the myriad ginormous existential crises we are facing? Now? Before it’s too late.

May we be safe from time wasters.
May we be willing to get real about what is fueling the threats we face.
May we strengthen our trust in one another so we can work together for the common good.
May we not accept this dangerously limited and limiting status quo.

Tracy Simpson

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