Archive

Archive for 25 July 2021

Capitalists in Space

25 July 2021 1 comment

.

.

Billionaire Richard Branson did it.

Also-billionaire, Jeff Bezos, did it.

Both will be the first money-hoarders into space (or sub-orbital near-space, to be more specific).

Also-also-billionaire, Elon Musk – not content with sub-orbital ‘jaunts’ – has expressed a desire to go Full Interplanetary and personally colonise Mars.

Meanwhile, as billionaires play “Captain Kirk” in their own private rocketships – it is worth noting the hardship and misery they leave behind on Planet Earth.

As of July this year, Jeff Bezos’ net worth is a staggering US$211 billion. Elon Musk is not far behind at US$180.8 billion.  Richard Branson lags behind at single figures billions: US$4.8. (By comparison,  New Zealand’s annual GDP, last year, was a little over US$209 billion.)

Sadly, Bezos’ workers at Amazon (which, until recently, he was CEO of), are not quite in the billionaire range. Not even millionaires.

Amazon worker’s median wage was US$29,007 last year, up US$159 from 2019.  Those people work for a company that last year (2020) increased its profit by US$100 billion to US$386 billion.

So when Bezos thanked workers for paying for his flight;

“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.”

– the response was less than appreciative of his “gratitude”.

US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter:

“Yes Amazon workers did pay for this – with lower wages, union-busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace and deliver drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic. Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small businesses.”

“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing.” 

Satirist/comedian, Trevor Noah, on The Daily Show put Bezos’ short flight into more human context;

“Jeff Bezos was in space for 5 minutes—or as its known at the Amazon warehouse, your allotted break time for a 16-hour day”

The joy-rides by multi-billionaires who pay little tax and exploit their workers with abysmal working conditions and pathetically low wages is nothing short of an obscenity.

It is not the future we envisaged when courageous men and women like Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova, Neil Armstrong, et al, took humanity’s first tentative steps into infinity, leaving Cradle Earth behind.

When television producer, Gene Roddenberry created “Star Trek” – perhaps the most easily recognisable TV sf series ever made – he envisaged a benign future free of war, bigotry, inequality, poverty, and greed. It was a future where human beings were free to explore their fullest potential. It was a future where we devoted our energy to looking outward, to explore the vastness of the Universe and the myriad diversity it offered.

As one of the main characters explained;

“A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of “things.” We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions…

… the economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century… The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.”

It was not a future where men with obscene hoarded wealth took joyrides into space for their own aggrandisement.  It was not meant to be the future lauded by libertarian sf writer, Robert Heinlein, whose “hero” in “The Man Who Sold The Moon” was a self-serving businessman hell-bent on commercialising ownership of the Moon.

As an avid sf* reader and space enthusiast in my youth (and still am), I viewed humanity’s first baby-steps into outer space as positive for our species. Not only could we further advance our understanding and knowledge of the Universe; marvel at the beauty of what we saw with our eyes; and understand our place in the cosmos – but the very act of looking outward was uplifting to us collectively and brought out the best from us.

But when society is inward-looking it inevitably creates social division with an Us/Them culture of dis-trust. Xenophobia increases.  Creativity and artistic endeavour are stifled. Groups are pitted against groups.

A society that looks outward has self-confidence. A society that ceases being outward and turns in on itself will lose that confidence and fear and anxiety will hold sway.

Think of Brexit and why so many British voters turned their backs on Europe.

Think of the United States under Donald Trump. Now think of Trumpism taking hold for another four years, followed by his spawn.

Bezo’s space jaunt was paid by his workers who are poorly remunerated and badly treated. Amazon actively prevents unionisation of its workers.

So a vulgar wealth-hoarder exploited his workers to reach for the stars.

Not content with the worst of  humanity’s nature on Earth, billionaires are now taking our “darker angels” to the Heavens. This was not how visionaries intended our future to look like.

Perhaps the next time a libertarian capitalist suggests that businessmen and woman know better than governments how to spend their accumulated wealth, think of Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, et al, standing on the backs of their workers.

“I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.” – Jeff Bezos, 20 July 2021.

“Fuck you.” – Every Amazon & other employee of billionaires, ever.

The exploration of the Final Frontier just lost some of it’s sheen.

.

.

∗ Correct abbreviation for “science fiction” is “sf”. “Sci-Fi” is considered unsophisticated colloquialism.

.

.

.

References

New York Times: What will it cost to fly Virgin Galactic to space?

Stuff media: Jeff Bezos blasts into space on board Blue Origin’s first passenger flight

Hindustan Times: Did Richard Branson really fly into space? Neil deGrasse Tyson weighs in

Axios: Elon Musk – There’s a 70% chance that I personally go to Mars

Time: Jeff Bezos Is the Richest Person Ever After His Net Worth Soars to $211 Billion

Knoema: New Zealand – Gross domestic product in current prices

Forbes: #589 Richard Branson

BBC: Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon boss

Business Insider Australia: Amazon reveals how much it paid its median employee last year – $29,007

Forbes: Amazon’s Net Profit Soars 84% With Sales Hitting $386 Billion

Sky News: Jeff Bezos space flight – Backlash after world’s richest man thanks Amazon customers and staff for paying for his trip

Twitter: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Jeff Bezos – Amazon workers – 21 July 2021

Twitter: Elizabeth Warren – Jeff Bezos – workers paid taxes – 21 July 2021

Twitter: Trevor Noah – The Daily Show – Jeff Bezos – Amazon workers – 21 July 2021

Wikipedia: Yuri Gagarin

Wikipedia: Valentina Tereshkova

Wikipedia: Neil Armstrong

Wikipedia: Gene Roddenberry

Memory Alpha: Money

Wikipedia: The Man Who Sold The Moon

CNN: The union loss at Amazon is another sign big companies have too much power

Forbes: What Entrepreneurs Really Want From Government

CNBC: What billionaires said about wealth inequality and capitalism in 2019

Twitter: @WendyCrossArt -21 July 2021

Twitter: @DanRather – 21 July 2021

Twitter: @meladoodle – 21 July 2021

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch – How Elon Musk can overcome Trump’s climate-change obstinacy

.

.

.

.

Liked what you read? Feel free to share.

Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

.

= fs =