Many Canadians and Americans struggle financially. Millions are unemployed. Many others live paycheque-to-paycheque. A 2017 report by the US Federal Reserve Board found that 40 percent of US citizens couldn’t cover an unexpected expense of $400 without selling something or borrowing money. There’s a lot of denial and misunderstanding regarding the financial challenges faced by a large portion of our fellow citizens.
Equally, though, there is misunderstanding, denial, and myth-making regarding those among us who are more financially secure, those who are well off—“the rich.” Most glaring is the way we mischaracterize the sources of our wealth, luxury, and ease. We lie to ourselves and each other regarding why we have it so good. The rich often claim that their wealth is a result of “hard work.” We hear people objecting to even the smallest tax increase, saying: “I worked hard for my money and no one is going to take it from me.”
The reality, however, is quite the opposite. The rich don’t work very hard. Every poor women or girl in Asia or Africa who gets up at dawn to walk many kilometres to carry home water or firewood for her family works harder than the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires. Every farmer with a hoe or toiling behind an oxen works harder than any CEO. My farmer grandparents worked far harder than I do, yet I live much better. I would be self-delusional in the extreme to attribute my middle-class luxury to “hard work.”
No, those of us in North America, the European Union, and elsewhere in the world who enjoy privileged lives live well, not because we work hard, but because of the vast energy windfall of which we are the beneficiaries. We live lives of comfort and ease because our work is done for us by “energy slaves.”
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