The call for a New Narrative that heals the separation between who we are and how we are living on Earth is sounding louder. The profound suffering that has and continues to characterize our earthly sojourn, among human and nonhuman families and communities alike, can no longer be ignored. The degeneration of the biosphere and our observation and experience of more violent hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes are awakening us from the dream of disconnect from the Earth. What were once unquestioned forms of human behavior across the globe, like working at a job and earning a living, is slowly becoming a prime suspect as a major contributor to planetary suffering.
So to understand a bit more about how the belief in earning a living contributes to suffering, let’s first have a look at the fashion industry where in the U.S. alone over 1.8 million people are employed. This number includes, starting at the top of the hierarchy, people like Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring who earn an annual salary of approximately $600,000+, and each of the thousands of $9-per-hour-greeters who say “Welcome to Walmart . If there is anything I can help you with, let me know.”
While the U.S. fashion industry maintains major manufacturing relationships with countries in Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, China is the top producer, supplying 36% of the industry’s apparel. Back in 2010 China took the lead for the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, and balked when criticized that it’s the fault of the U.S. and other European nations whose populations the CO2 emitting garment factories serve. The U.S. counter argued that it actually sends China cotton produced in the U.S., What was not explained or revealed in this illogical rebuttal is how the cotton required for one t-shirt and one pair of jeans requires about 5,000 gallons of water to grow; it is one of the most chemically dependent crops around, consuming 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% insecticides. Most cotton is grown on farms run by families or sole proprietors, and a surprising 1% by universities who conduct experiments which include the development of new herbicides and pesticides. The production of cotton accounts for 55% of the annual $355M spent on pesticides in the U.S.
So either China or the U.S. blaming the other for their contributions to the degeneration of the environment is the right hand blaming the left.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25,230 people are employed as pesticide handlers, sprayers, and applicators, at a mean annual salary of $35,000. Monsanto boasts of about 24,000 employees in the U.S. and 4,300 employees worldwide. A typical annual salary for a Monsanto research scientist is roughly $98,000. With a growing awareness of the devastating environmental, human and nonhuman consequences of GMO’s, Monsanto’s profit for the first quarter in 2017 fell to $2.56B.
But back to the cotton. Once it arrives in China, it is migrant workers, mostly women, who earn about $2/day in deplorable and unregulated working conditions, and who perform the sandblasting required to produce a pair of distressed jeans. The process that achieves this trendy look requires that women expose themselves to silica dust particles which severely damage their respiratory passages causing the serious disease silicosis. If left untreated (and most workers’ ailments are left untreated in China) silicosis leads to death. And if the silicosis doesn’t kill them, China’s air pollution might.
It would require another 4-5 pages of nauseating facts and figures to address the impact that the fashion industry has on nonhuman families and communities. In Bangladesh, where the world’s lowest paid workers live, there is a school situated near a canal where dyes from garment factories are dumped, teachers reported:
“On the worst days, the toxic stench wafting through the Genda Government Primary School is almost suffocating. Teachers struggle to concentrate, as if they were choking on air. Students often become lightheaded and dizzy. A few boys fainted in late April. Another retched in class…Most of the factories are garment operations, textile mills and dyeing plants in the supply chain that exports clothing to Europe and the United States. Students can see what colors are in fashion by looking at the canal (italics mine).” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/world/asia/bangladesh-pollution-told-in-colors-and-smells.html)
For more about the fashion industry, see The True Cost, an eye-opening documentary that focuses on fast fashion and Bangladesh, where the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in 2013, killing 1,135 Bangladeshis.
Lest there be any doubt that the belief in working and earning is in bed with planetary suffering, let’s look at the U.S.’s largest jobs program and how it may help us to understand why it is so difficult to establish world peace.
As of January, 2017, there were close to 1.4 million people employed by the U.S. armed forces; that’s folks carrying weapons in fulfillment of their job description: 4% of the U.S. population serve in combat. About 23,000 military and civilian employees, 3,000 non-defense support (the ones not totting guns) are employed by the Pentagon. The U.S. military defense budget for 2016 was $573B. And $163B was allotted for Veterans Affairs Department programs.
In 2014, the U.S. sold over $36.2B in arms to 96 countries, some of whom were at war with each other! Great salesmen, big commissions. There are 44 U.S. based companies that sell U.S. armaments. The firearms industry contributes about $33B to the U.S. economy and supports about 24,000 employees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there are 64,747 licensed gun dealers in the U.S. (six dealers for every Starbuck’s). The average annual salary of a licensed arms dealer is roughly $40,000. These licensed dealers often import firearms from other countries, generating $478.4B in profit. There are few and exact statistics available for the “unlicensed” domestic, arms dealers, but it is “rumored” that some can profit roughly $38,000 a weekend, especially if a gang on the Southside of Chicago has a beef to settle.
In the first quarter of 2017 the U.S. military awarded a contract to Boeing for 268 Apache helicopters. Boeing’s 30,000 employees are responsible for, among the manufacturing of fighter jets and helicopters, the creation of surveillance equipment and cybersecurity products. The average Boeing annual salary ranges from $42,802 for an intern to $123,606 for an information systems manager.
Let’s pile on one more detail: The National Football League (NFL) receives millions from the U.S. military! Ever wondered why fighter jets are heard racing across the sky after the national anthem performances? (Best Super Bowl Flyover in NFL History, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_DPWJy4xcU).
This is only a minuscule account of what lies behind the belief in working, earning and doing what you have to do, to put food on the table!
It’s Universal Law: all beliefs produce form on some level, and the belief in separation produces form, knock on wood, structures and institutions that dictate how we must order the days of our lives according to those beliefs. It’s inevitable. Aback of the health care, prison, education and even the cultural institutions (whom we tend to dismiss as a nonparticipant in the belief in separation), all nation-states (a separation laden concept), world-wide, not only the U.S. and Europe, lies the belief in separation and the people of the earth who maintain it. There also lies the same people and the non-humans, both, who suffer by it.
A precursory observation of our world demonstrates that there is and can never be a belief in separation that creates any structure for the highest good of all life on earth. It is what it is, and that’s why the urgent call for a New Narrative and a radical transformation in consciousness.
That’s the Call, Rap & RealTalk about the beliefs in working hard, earning a living, blind obedience to the bottom line, disengagement and the BigAss footprint commute. Remember that you can find the Call, Rap & RealTalk on Twitter, most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Here is more information about the unsustainable U.S. workplace that may be of interest.
Fast Company, “The Ridiculously Simple (And Avoidable) Reason Most People Hate Their Jobs: https://www.fastcompany.com/3068201/the-ridiculously-simple-and-avoidable-reason-most-people-hate-their-jobs
UPI, “Watchdog: Social Security Administration Paid $38 million to dead veterans. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/09/06/Watchdog-Social-Security-Administration-paid-38-million-to-dead-veterans/3491504679615/
The Cut, “This is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley My Lawsuit failed. Others won’t,” by Ellen Pao. https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/ellen-pao-silicon-valley-sexism-reset-excerpt.html