So, here’s a thing. On the first working day of 2012, Jan. 3 for most of us, one of the top news items was the annual reminder by the time the day was over, Canada’s top CEO’s had already made more than the average Canadian worker earns in the entire year.
I make well above the minimum wage and our family income, with one teacher and one engineer in the family, is above the Canadian average. So I’ll be generous and say it might take two days for some CEOs to equal my annual salary (though they could probably have knocked off at lunchtime today). A guy like Frank Stronach, Canada’s top earner, might be able to cover my salary in a day, though.
In a year of Occupy protests against the 1% who earn such ridiculous amounts of money while wage earners struggle make ends meet, this is obviously ridiculous and wrong. And it’s bad enough that the 1% includes people like our friend Frank, who can at least be credited with working for some of what he’s earned (though I don’t think top CEO’s work harder than teachers or engineers or nurses or janitors or any of the rest of us who put in a hard day’s work, so this idea that capitalism rewards hard work is a little out of whack somehow). What about people like the Kardashians, who are apparently famous for being famous and can blow gazillions of dollars on temporary weddings, because we all want to pay to read about and watch their exploits? (Well, I don’t, but obviously somebody must or they wouldn’t be on the cover of EVERY SINGLE MAGAZINE in the checkout line). Yes, our society is seriously skewed, but let’s pull back and widen our focus.
In these same two days of work during which I’ve been prepping for this semester’s classes and meeting new students while the CEO’s push some papers and take some meetings to earn the equivalent of my yearly salary — in these two days, I have earned pretty close to what the average person in Somalia earns in a year. (Based on stats from this website). And yeah, I bet some of them put in a harder day’s work than I did.
Who looks super-rich and self-indulgent now?
I posted this on Facebook and got a fascinating variety of responses, from people who clearly envy the 1%, to those who think we should count our blessings (which I agree with), to those who are angry at the imbalances in wealth in our world. I’m angry too, but I realize that I’m a legitimate target of anger too. Frank Stronach and Wassername Kardassian may seem super-rich to me, but I bet that my family of four with our two-story, three-bedroom home, our well-stocked fridge, our vehicle and our many many luxury items, seem pretty super-rich to that woman in Somalia and her kids.
I don’t know how to address all the imbalances in our world, but I’m sure they do need to be addressed. And I need to be reminded, when I start pointing fingers at the super-rich, that I am just as much part of the problem as I am part of the solution. It’s a big global village and a few of us are really living it up here in the suburbs.