WHILE SCANNING MARK ZUCKERBERG'S Facebook timeline, I stopped to read Emer Martin's lovely post and hope Zuck did the same. Emer's ideas resonate with me as I watch our two young children grow up in a world shaped by bankers, billionaires and the privileged class.
In Ireland, we have the situation where wealthy bankers and privileged politicians make decisions that effectively safeguard the upper strata of society against the pressures felt by the working class. Those decisions are driven by a capitalistic philosophy that prioritises jobs over any other strategy and while that may appear to be empowering, the strategy means Ireland, like the States, needs ever-increasing capitalistic growth to pay for ever-increasing obligations for public service and to offset sovereign debt. It might be too great a disruption for a country to accept the fact that the Post-Capitalism Age has arrived. So in the meantime, I'm impressed that Mark Zuckerberg is funnelling much of the proceeds of capitalism to disadvantaged.
Here's what Emer Martin told Mark Zuckerberg:
I applaud your move to use your vast fortune to help other people and build communities. I would do the same if I had the resources. Reading the newly released report today on income disparity, it confirms that the top 100 richest people now have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population. You are one of those top 100. This is a bigger wealth disparity than existed even the Gilded Age in the U.S. In fact, the report stated that nowhere in the history of this country has the gap between the rich and poor been so pronounced. Voting won’t change this as the candidates who can afford to run only represent those billionaires who gave them the money to do so. Democracy has disappeared and we are living under an oligarchy. This makes the world, and especially this country, a dangerous place.
I hope you use your money to combat the Fascism that is on the rise; the rhetoric of odious characters such as Trump confirms that. We can’t just dismiss him as a buffoon. His racist and incendiary pronouncements are encouraging the disgruntled, undereducated, underclass in this country to place the blame on the wrong people when they experience no upward mobility and are living lives of constant struggle. It’s always easier to blame poor, desperate, powerless migrants than the slick, faceless hoard of Goldman Sachs bankers who have ensured that the education of the underclass does not equip them to truly analyze the complex economics of rapid wealth shifts. We’ve seen places in recent history where this can get ugly real fast.
The fascists are already in the arena. The Republican Party has shifted the debate so far to the right, that we, who once bemoaned the loss of the left, now bemoan the loss of the center. Yes, the fascists are in the arena, but they can’t be allowed to take control. Especially, with all the data the government has on its population. Especially, given the unprecedented situation of virtually every person on the planet being so easily tracked and labeled and understood. Facebook is a part of this, as you are aware of. Especially Facebook. Even if your intentions are purely to collect our data in order to market to us, this information gets into other’s hands and they can use it however they want to. There could be a situation where the government would use all the data to control the population. This is not paranoia. These days we are our own Stasi and we hand the devices to our babies so they can begin to be tracked and marketed to at an alarming rate. Will you give your daughter a smart phone and let her constantly upload personal information that is accessible to all? I confess I let mine do this, despite the queasy feeling I get if I think about the consequences and the power it gives others over their lives.
There is so much you can do with your money it must feel overwhelming. I hope you use to bring peace to this country so your daughter can live in a better world than the one we have created. She has been born into a world where wealth is being hoarded and stored and used to hurt and kill innocent people in far off countries for vast profits and resource grabbing. I hope you use this money to find alternative sources of energy. It is no secret that this country profits from war without end. Much of this war centers around our addiction to energy. Dark energy, fossil fuels, oil is all the dead things compounded and compressed deep into the earth. We have unleashed our dark liquid ghosts and paid a heavy price. Every now and then I find myself coming back to the 1961 farewell speech of President Eisenhower. He was a republican and a military man, yet he saw with an uncanny prescience the future of this country if we continue down path. He warned of the military, industrial complex that had taken hold post WWII. In fact he originally called it the military, industrial, congressional complex, but was too polite as a president to criticize congress so he dropped the last vital part. It has taken hold and it must be dismantled. You could help dismantle that.
As an artist and a teacher, I am heartened that you see education as one of the keys to change. I believe it is.
We have entered a new age in history, a communications revolution bigger and faster than the Guttenberg print revolution. The Genii cannot be put back into the bottle. You didn't personally unleash the Genii but you did profit from it. You are a leader of this revolution.
I hope you use your vast resources to fund the kind of education that will bring awareness to people and an ability to analyze and see through the masses of misinformation, manipulation, and marketing they are subjected to on a scale never seen before. A century ago access to information was the problem, now the challenge is to learn to filter information and find the small nuggets of actual truth in this polluted raging propaganda marketing stream that can sweep you away if you don’t have anything to hold onto.
I hope you too find it frightening that in this oligarchy billionaires, like yourself, have the power to personally distribute this money to those they deem fit. Should we advocate that every billionaire has to give away 99% of his or her wealth? I’m sure you know that some billionaires are nicer than others.
While I read and was moved by your letter to your newborn daughter, and trust you will do the right thing, I hope it makes you feel uneasy that you can do this and make those choices. The benevolent despots of the 18th century have given away to benevolent billionaires of the 21st. But that is still too much power for any one man to have. I hope you use your wealth to disempower yourself and people in your circle.
For there are others like the Koch brothers who are making different choices and putting their money to increase the wealth disparity, promote racial and gender inequality, and continue to raid the earth for its limited oil and minerals; they will have no compunction about using the data you helped to collect on us all to crush any dissenters.
If this is an oligarchy we have to trust you, and that’s not a good situation. The notion of Billionaires shouldn’t exist. It’s too much power in too few hands. And it is absolute power. For every one enlightened Mark Zuckerberg there are many other rich white men who side with the Koch brothers. You say you believe in the worth of every single human being. Everyone born today should have the opportunities that your daughter will have. I hope you use your money to close the income gap and bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth. I don’t want a revolution. Too many get hurt and I don’t advocate violence. But the conditions in this country are leading to one if we can compare ourselves to other historical moments. I would rather taxes than a revolution. Taxes that go to education, health, arts, infrastructure, environment protection rather than the military industrial congressional complex.
I applaud you Mark Zuckerberg for your decision to spread your own personal wealth. Wealth that I and all the other Facebook users have willingly contributed to by giving you all our data, images, whereabouts, time, energy. Facebook has enhanced my life, given me a forum to both promote my art and even more crucially enabled me to keep in contact with friends and family in this unsettled restless life I have led. While I applaud you I hope you use this wealth to ensure that in the future people will not be able to accumulate that much wealth. Wealth in an oligarchy means you have all the power. Power needs to be equitable too if we are to reduce the insanity of the world and attempt to come to terms with our own avaricious, competitive nature and live in harmony with other species and the earth herself.
We, the people, have created this wealth for you. We have trusted you with our information. You were enriched by this trust. We urge you to use it with wisdom and depth to make real change for us all. I’ll sign off with the words from Eisenhower’s prophetic speech.
“Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
All the best, - A Facebook Addict!
Emer Martin is Emer.Martin1 on Facebook.