You’re familiar with the phrase “Your actions speak louder than your words.” But in today’s tense political environment, what you don’t say about the issues is quickly becoming more significant than anything else. Because in an extremist political atmosphere, you cannot straddle the division. When you try to remain neutral, your silence starts to become suspect.
Just as Desmond Tutu said:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
The mouse and the elephant are a perfect metaphor for what’s happening in the US right now–– extreme wealth inequality.
The mouse is the vast majority of Americans, the elephant is the small group of oligarchical super-rich who control 40% of the wealth in our country. And according to the reports by the Boston Consulting Group, the elephant will only get a foot over more of the mouse as 70% of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of millionaires and billionaires by 2021.
This issue of wealth inequality only exacerbates other controversial issues in the US–– like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia ––as people’s fears are fed and seek to place blame for their lack of wealth. And then, of course, we have to contend with the huge legal advantage corporations have in government...
Corporations Get to Use Money Like Free Speech
Yep, it’s true. In the USA, money equals free speech. In 2010, the US Supreme Court held in the case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits government from restricting “independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.”
In other words, there can be no limit on political campaign spending by these organizations because it’s considered an act of free speech.
In other other words, the people with the most money in this country can contribute as much money as they want to politicians and issues so they can influence elections.
The point: The super-rich corruptly control our elections with no limits on spending to influence the outcome.
So if money equals free speech, then what you do with your money speaks volumes, right? Corporations that can spend money on lobbying at the federal level straight up pull the strings on politicians like they’re puppets. They have so much power that they can even say one thing in public about supporting an issue, and support the complete opposite with their money.
The Super-Rich Are Out of Control
To add insult to injury, we give super-rich corporations huge tax breaks. This is a classically Republican idea initiated by Reagan-era “Trickle Down Economics.” The theory is essentially that if we don’t tax the rich, they’ll use the money saved from tax cuts to invest back into the economy, supplying the lower classes with jobs and the ability to be more philanthropic.
But as we’ve proven in the US over the past three to four decades, instead of the rich gracing us with the dribble of their money saved from taxes, they store it away like hoarders and just get richer. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the rich take a stronger hold of the role of the ruling class.
In fact, the ten richest people in the US give a despicable amount of their wealth to charity. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the tenth richest person in the US, gives literally 0.1% of his wealth to charity. Warren Buffet, the richest person in the US, gives 71.1% to charity, but he’s also got a net worth of $65.5 billion–– so he’d kind of be a dick if he donated anything less than that also considering the tax breaks he’s getting.
And then there’s us: the little people. The small business owners. The self-employed. The employees. The unemployed. We’re afraid to speak up because it might hurt our chance at making an income. We worry that the people who pay us– or who might pay us –will decide not to pay us if we speak out.
And in many cases, that’s depressingly true. Workers can be punished for speaking out. See: the Oklahoma bill to prohibit teacher walkouts. Many businesses also have cultural policies that limit or totally prevent their workers from advocating for issues they care about.
But the only way to work through our differences as a society is to talk through them. And that starts with people like business owners who already have a voice and support.
Small Businesses Need to Be Role Models
Small businesses have the most power to speak out against the super-rich, the lobbyists, the corporations, the laws that allow for this system to operate, and a myriad of controversial socio-political issues that are strongly influenced in our government by big money. You may not have the money corporations do to affect change, but you do have a sphere of influence that can be effective.
Small businesses and self-employed people have the most agency as “little people” to advocate for these issues. That isn’t to say there’s no risk involved–– there’s always a chance you could lose out on business or potential partnerships because of the issues you chose to advocate for. But the chances are very good that you’ll attract better business and better partnerships if you’re an advocate for issues that affect masses of people.
Plus, you have to consider that what you don’t say becomes increasingly louder than what you do say. As politics grow more and more contentious, the voices out there advocating for the little people will matter more and more. Think about it: would you rather be remembered for using your influence to advocate for important issues during some of the tensest times in history? Or would you rather be known for keeping your head down, remaining indifferent and silent on political issues, and becoming just another socially aloof business?
My advice to you is to be a brand that can be remembered for caring about people.
The Key to Advocacy is Content
The key to connecting with people through these issues is content. As an entity with influence, your goal is to put out messaging that resonates with people and drives them to action. If you can persuade people to take the action of buying from you, you can also persuade them to take action in supporting political issues.
Most importantly, you can help educate people on the issues using your influence. Too many people out there are unaware of how wealth inequality affects them and all other issues in our political arsenal. You can make a difference by educating people with messaging, and inspiring them to take action. Not only will you do something for the greater good, but you will be remembered as a brand that cares beyond your own profits. And as more Millennials contribute to the economy, showing that you are a business that cares will become imperative to your success.
Stand up for the mouse, not for the elephant. Use your voice to do good.
For help in creating the best content for your audience and your cause, reach out to me. I’m happy to help you find your voice and advocate for something greater.