Many, if not most, of the stories and news reports on Humanosphere are about inequity — the global gap between the lives lived by the world’s rich and poor. But this gap is growing here at home as well, making people angry and perhaps threatening to undermine the global push for equity.
People are right to be angry and worried, says guest columnist Nathan Furukawa, an MD-MPH student at the UW, but humor can be more effective than moral outrage. Here is Furukawa’s case for adding a laugh track to the protest movement.
By Nathan Furukawa, guest columnist
Many Americans are outraged at the growing income inequality they see around them. They should be, since this is bleeding our chances in a consumer-driven economy for lasting economic recovery.
In 2010, 93% of additional income created that year went to the top 1%. This represents an average income increase for the richest one percent of $105,637 and an outrageous $4.2 million increase in income for the richest one-tenth of one percent. How much did earnings rise for the bottom 99%? $80 on average.
This imbalance translates into mounting personal debt, lost opportunity and worse health for those stuck in poverty or teetering on the brink. Yet, according to a December Gallup survey, only 17% of Americans think reducing the income and wealth gap between the rich and poor is extremely important.
The lesson here appears to be that shouting about how unfair life has become is not a compelling message.
Occupy Wall Street’s attempted Mayday protest and reboot resulting in poor turnouts, acts of violence and property destruction — and loss of public support.
So maybe it’s time to try humor.
Humor is an often overlooked and powerful tool for raising awareness and stimulating action. Laughter can spread messages rapidly and make civil disobedience accessible, fun, and trendy.
For example, look at the the youth protests in Chile last summer which motivated over 500,000 students to demand affordable secondary and higher education.
The broad support for the movement originated from campaigns aimed at organizing events that blended defiance with entertainment such as ‘Kiss-Ins’, where students locked lips in front of the presidential palace for 1,800 seconds to symbolize the $1.8 billion needed to finance public education.
In another event, students donned zombie attire and performed 1,800 relay laps around the palace to the tune of “Thriller”, a tribute to the viral Filipino prison rendition. By December, the Chilean students had turned the government on its head and made educational reform the top priority for lawmakers. Continue reading