Whenever I’m asked, “What’s your favorite movie?”, I bring up Parasite by Bong Joon-ho. Not only was it a cinematic masterpiece, but it also reflects on the growing social and economic divide that is plaguing South Korea, and many nations around the world.
Disparity is at the heart of significant challenges within modern society – between the haves and the have-nots. If America were a country of 100 people and you divided all the wealth in America into 100 slices of pie, the richest person would get a whopping 39 pieces of that pie and the bottom 50 would not get anything. It is not a nice picture to paint, and some may argue that the richest person also worked the hardest to get there – don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to dismiss anyone’s efforts – but the fact I want to highlight is that we never start on the same playing field.
I am often asked why I feel so strongly about economic inequality – it is not just that – it’s deeper. It is about how where there is inequality of wealth, there is significant inequality in terms of opportunities to succeed, get educated, and leave the poverty trap. A good handful of my peers have the belief that hard work is all anyone needs to succeed, without the understanding that not everyone begins their journey on the same playing field – this applies to startups, job hunting, and frankly, most major aspects in life if I may be so bold to say so.
The usual counterpoints are that this disparity of opportunity and resources is natural and necessary to drive humans to work harder and achieve greater things – that people will turn lazy and rest on their laurels if they do not feel great pressure to become more than they already are. This of course is with the assumption that people require pressure and constrained resources to become great. The counter-attackers tend to pay no mind to the research that an annual salary past US$75,000 has been noted to not add any meaningful increase in a person’s happiness. Nor has the fact that this train of thought is suggesting better living standards to bring us out of poverty traps and education for those who cannot afford it, and finally, suggesting that this would bring about the next wave of communism.
Even within the struggle of playing a part in bringing balance back to the playing field itself, there is inequality in the ability of individuals like ourselves. What makes things even harder is that we are not just after equality – it is justice that we are truly after. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then society has a long way to go in playing catch up. An African proverb succinctly posits that if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. Something we all can start with is doing our best within our own communities and circles to make a change where we can, within our own means, to close the social and economic divide.
What are some ways your business strives to bridge that gap and make your communities a better place? Please; share your ideas in the comments.