From Lighting Fires to Financial Desires: How Corporate Greed Kills Those in Need

Ashtyn Zimmerman

A photo from Rasande Tyskar showing a peaceful BLM demonstration in Hamburg.

Many students at SPASH have heard of the economic disasters happening here in the United States, whether it be through news, the classroom, or homelife. Everyone has been affected by the global CoVid-19 pandemic… almost. Between Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk, the rich just seem to be getting richer. The citizens are beginning to notice the unrest, whether it be the BLM, gas prices, rioting, the pandemic, global warming, or just pure corporate unfairness, everyone has an opinion… not always positive either. 

There is a saying which goes ‘history repeats’, by looking to the past, one may be able to understand exactly why America’s political system for social class and economics is not working and how it could be changed for the better.

What is revolution and how does it occur anyhow? This is a question plenty of people have in mind when thinking about the situation faced with today, and it’s quite complicated. Revolution tends to come alight when a large group of the governed experience multiple levels of distrust, dissatisfaction, and oppression from their government. Many of these issues tend to be related to a financial crisis, like in the American Revolution, which is very well known in America, but in the French Revolution as well. 

A meme made on kapwing with a photo of Marie Antoinette from pixbayś creative commons photos, showing ¨her¨ famous quote… no, itś not let them eat cake.

The famous saying “let them eat cake” from Marie Antoinette has been heard round the globe, but many don’t understand the context and history behind it. The French Revolution experienced a lot of poverty and taxation, similar to today, with the rich being exempt from the gouging prices in which the poor experienced. “the bottom of society was being taxed without end… since the nobles held command in the royal armies, they were exempt from the taxes… the vingtieme required the payment of 5% of a taxpayer’s salary and was later increased to 10%… [The corvee] was actually a requirement to do public work without payment or the right of refusal… the first and second estates were once again exempted” from “Cause and Effect: The French Revolution” by Robert Green. Not only did these peasants have to pay 10% of their salary, they were basically slaves and had to not only pay their own portion of taxes, but pay the rich’s portion as well. 

With the rich being exempt from taxation, they could afford things like bread, cookies, cakes, and expensive meat, whereas the people residing in poverty would be lucky to make a single loaf of bread or to even find scraps in the filth-ridden streets. This is what caused true rage when Marie Antoinette held a banquette for the rich. Now, she didn’t actually say let them eat cake, the quote isn’t even about cake. The quote is “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” which translates into “let them eat brioche”, which is a buttery sweet bread. This quote wasn’t even uttered by the queen, however, as it’s been around much longer than Marie. The whole point of the quote is to show she was incredibly ignorant of the political and financial situation in France, which was true, but she isn’t the first ruler to be ‘confused’ by the poor not eating like the rich.

This blissful ignorance was one of the reasons the French took to the streets. “They turned their anger away from the bakerie and towards those responsible for the miserable state of France’s economy—the government itself”, another quote from Robert Green’s book. This anger bubbled in the people like a vinaigrette simmering on a pot. This is a revolution, when the people stand up and say ‘you know what? This isn’t right. These oppressors refuse to help us, so let’s help ourselves.’ The French stood up for themselves, and their monarchy is now gone.

Another good revolution to look at is the American Revolution. Many students who have grown up in America have learned about the American Revolution, where George Washington and a rag-tag group of “patriots” (A real patriot is actually aligned to the country they come from, and since these people were actively against King George to the point of disbanding, they were not true patriots) fought relentlessly against the British super-army over taxes. 

This is wrong. It was taxation, yes, but it was about more than taxation. Importation, labor, and abuse of power were true reasons for disbanding. “Angry colonists resisted, refusing to import British goods until the acts were lifted; government officials were violently attacked to prevent tax collection. In 1768, 4,000 Redcoats occupied Boston to punish the city for its resistance, and conflicts erupted between Bostinians and soldiers” as recorded from Stuart Murray’s “Eyewitness Books: The American Revolution”. This oppression of uprising and attempt at forcive control causes more problems than it fixes for the oppressors, because the blatant disregard for the needs of the people just enrages the people more.

Before the American Revolution, the colonies sent a letter, predating the declaration of independence, which basically warned the British of the revolution gathering, “These were called the ‘Intolerable Acts’ because the colonies would not tolerate them. They were also called the ‘Coercive Acts’ because Britain was coercing or bullying America” writes Stuart Murray. In simpler terms, the colonies were yelling out “Hey Britain, please be nice. I don’t want to fight you, but you’re making it kind of difficult. All these taxes and ignorance of poverty isn’t cool.” The oppressors, being Britain, ignored these intolerable acts, which severely agitated George Washington and the other rebels. A blatant disregard for the governed causes uprisings and revolutions that reshape the government.

Hopefully, some of those events sounded familiar, as they relate to civil unrest in America today. The French Revolution was caused by poverty being ignored by the rich, and the camera is turned to Jeffery Bezos.

According to the Independent News UK, Jeff Bezos makes $142,000+ every month, while the average worker makes $4,000. This money may sound good to teens, but as an adult, between rent, multiple kinds of insurance including health, dental, car, life, and home, food, electricity, water and a million more bills, one would have to live in low-income housing to try to stay comfortable. So, with an inflation rate of 6.8% as of this year, according to Trading Economics, which means that $4,000 is getting less and less helpful by the day, especially with the gasoline cost having inflated by at least $1 everywhere, and more in most areas.

Not all rich people are bad, though, according to CNBC, Elon Musk pledged to spend 6 billion dollars to end world hunger, but does that excuse the reported 6.7 billion dollar compensation for not taking a salary for 2020? If he decided not to take a salary, shouldn’t he stick to that instead of accepting such a large check?

According to CNBC, California, Alaska, Connecticut, New York, Hawaii and Illinois are all seeing gasoline going over four dollars per gallon, and more states are said to follow, including Wisconsin. According to Wall Street, the Average US rent is over 1,000 dollars. With ¼ of the monthly income going to rent, it can be difficult to stay afloat, especially considering over ¾ of the American population has some sort of debt.

A graph from The Federal Reserve (pictured) shows for every $1 a person in the bottom 25 percent earns, a person in the top 10 percent makes approximately $8,382. From 2016 to 2019, CEO’s and the other top 10% stock wealth went up $87,520, compared to the 75-89.99’s percentile of an average of $1,090. This is supposed to be the very next percentile! This gross overpayment is beyond belief. So America definitely has income inequality, but are there other events which contribute to America’s civil unrest?

A photograph from the Wikimedia Creative Commons, showing a clearly peaceful protest in Washington DC gone violent with police intervention. These people were gassed, and they are barrelled over, protecting their eyes from the tear gas.

Absolutely. Most SPASH students are rather familiar with BLM, along with many other American citizens. The unrest over inequality in black America is similar to the anger of the colonists fighting for their right to be treated fairly, and the oppressive response is just as comparable. Whereas King George sent troops to attack the rebellious Americans, America’s government let police attack the masses protesting. According to the New York Times, over 100 major cities have been tear gassed by police, including Las Vegas, Nevada; Austin, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This police brutality is simply another sign of political unrest and may be the gateway to another revolution.

American citizens seem to be torn on what these signs mean, how the government truly functions, and whether or not revolution is possible. In an interview with a local working man, John Yang declared “America has gone through this before. Plain and simple, things happen and unrest happens and we recover. It’s nothing new.” Certainly there is a sense of stability within the citizens, but some citizens aren’t so stable.

65 random people were interviewed and the results yielded a shockingly low 41.5 percent of people believe Democracy is alive. For a system of government which is by the people and for the people, the people don’t seem to feel involved. 38.5 percent of people interviewed said they believed America was an Oligarchy, which is defined by Oxford dictionary as a country run by a small group of people.

If this were true, voting wouldn’t matter or affect the elections. But with states like New York, Texas, and California voting the same way every election, people aren’t getting their voices heard. Whether it’s Democrats in Texas or Republicans in New York, voices aren’t being properly heard. According to, California Republicans don’t seem to think they even matter anymore, so for those who don’t think they matter, this is an Oligarchy through their eyes.

“The people rising in the streets, the war, the drought. The more I look the more I see nothing to joke about.” Bo Burnham is a well known comedian who tends to get real and introspective in his music, like in songs such as Straight White Male, an ironic song about how easy he has it and how that makes him feel atrocious; How the World Works, about the sociopolitical structure destroying America and the pedophillic elite; RANT, about his struggles with understanding and coping with religion being forced into his life; and Comedy, the song which this lyric was extracted from. Needless to say, he puts real opinion into his work.

So, not only is the current situation depressing someone in the top 10%, but he also says “I must be psychotic, I must be demented, to think that I’m worthy of all this attention. Of all of this money you worked really hard for, I slept in late while you worked at the drugstore” from Art is Dead, showing his lyrics are true self-aware fears, not just something to laugh at. Laughing is secondary. Another disturbing quote is from the song How the World Works,

The simple narrative taught in every history class is demonstrably false and pedagogically classist. Don’t you know the world is built with blood? And genocide, and exploitation! The global network of capital essentially functions to separate the worker from the means of production and the FBI killed Martin Luther King. Private property’s inherently theft, and neoliberal fascists are destroying the left. And every politician, every cop on the street protects the interests of the pedophilic corporate elite.

So if someone from such a high social class happens to believe the social structure is improperly skewed, certainly the American people are noticing as well, yes? SPASH students need to be aware of the constant political malpractices. Use critical thinking, what adds up and what doesn’t. Formulate real and true personal opinions instead of piggybacking off of something easy. Awareness of malpractice is key to stopping the elite from a total government takeover. Many seniors are either already eligible or are going to be eligible to vote soon, and making informed voting decisions is critical the maintaining what little democracy there seems to be left.