Saturday, April 19, 2014

Men, Myth & The Monster-Rapist

"My wife was murdered by a 'monster' – but most perpetrators of violence are normal men" - The Guardian
By insulating myself with the intellectually evasive dismissal of violent men as psychotic or sociopathic aberrations, I self-comforted by avoiding a more terrifying concept: that violent men are socialised by the ingrained sexism and entrenched masculinity that permeates everything, from our daily interactions all the way up to our highest institutions. Bayley’s appeal was dismissed, but I left court that day in a perpetual trauma-loop, knowing I needed to re-imagine the social, institutional and cultural context in which a man like Bayley exists.
Three days after Jill’s body was found, 30,000 people marched respectfully down Sydney Road. I watched on TV as the long parade of people reacted to their anger at what happened to Jill with love and compassion, the very opposite of everything Bayley represents. I remember my sister’s voice from behind me as I fixed my eyes on the images saying, “wow, people really care about this.”
The major difficulties in mobilising this kind of outrage on a regular basis is that most cases of men’s violence against women:
  • lack the ingredients of an archetypal villain and a relatable victim
  • are perpetrated and suffered in silence, and
  • are perpetrated by somebody known to the victim.
The more I felt the incredible support from the community, the more difficult it was to ignore the silent majority whose tormentors are not monsters lurking on busy streets, but their friends, acquaintances, husbands, lovers, brothers and fathers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

US Government Serves Economic Elite

The United States is an oligarchy, not a democracy, asserts two affluent universities, Princeton and Northwestern, in a recent study.

Finally, the proper authorities affirm what any thinking person has always known. You probably had a hunch, just no endowment to prove it.

Business Insider and fancy schools: making yesterday's insights today's news!

The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country's citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (PDF), used extensive policy data collected between 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the U.S. political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile), and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

Researchers concluded that U.S. government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organizations: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. 

Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."

The positions of powerful interest groups are "not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens," but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10%.

The theory of "biased pluralism" that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the U.S. system fits holds that policy outcomes "tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations."

The study comes after McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial piece of legislation passed in the Supreme Court that abolished campaign-contribution limits, and record low approval ratings for the U.S. Congress.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cairo & Alexandria


Read: Interview with Michelle Ryder on Go Overseas

Shitty Rich White People Endlessly Entertain

Cunting yuppies pose for camera. (Photo credit: New York Times)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Flashes Of Insight

When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed

If you blame Native American communities for their poverty, remember that the entire continent was stolen from them.

If you blame Black American communities for their relative poverty, remember that Black Americans were stolen from a continent, trafficked, and enslaved for nearly 300 years.

Tell me again about how your family ‘started from nothing’ when they immigrated. Didn’t they start from whiteness? Seems like a pretty good start.

The American Dream required dual genocides, but tell me again about fairness and equal opportunity. Tell me about democracy, modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy. Tell me your proud heritage, and I will show you the violence that made it so.
  ~ Kim Katrin Crosby  

When you’re a trans woman you are made to walk this very fine line, where if you act feminine you are accused of being a parody and if you act masculine, it is seen as a sign of your true male identity. And if you act sweet and demure, you’re accused of reinforcing patriarchal ideas of female passivity, but if you stand up for your own rights and make your voice heard, then you are dismissed as wielding male privilege and entitlement. We trans women are made to teeter on this tightrope, not because we are transsexuals, but because we are women. This is the same double bind that forces teenage girls to negotiate their way between virgin and whore, that forces female politicians and business women to be agressive without being seen as a bitch, and to be feminine enough not to emasculate their alpha male colleagues, without being so girly as to undermine their own authority.

~ Julia Serano, Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive
*[TW: Rape]* Society has allowed rapists to define what resistance is: screaming, crying, scratching, pushing, kicking, biting, punching. I didn’t resist like that. My resistance was to wriggle a bit, turn my head away when he tried to kiss me, try to stop his hand going into my bra and knickers, push him ineffectually, talk about wanting to get my cab; all things which normal men recognise as not being enthusiastic participation when they are engaging with women but pretend it’s a grey area when they talk about rape. Rapists have managed to get society to believe, that what I did, was consent. Because I didn’t resist in the way rapists - and society - say that women should resist, they define our non-participation as consent.
 ~ A section of the article “How I became a rape victim” 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Picturing Hunger In America"

James Baldwin, always treading the road to truth, once remarked, "Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor."

The following project is a powerful reminder of just how expensive poverty is and the high price it exacts in terms of one's mental, emotional, spiritual and material health.

Hunger Through My Lens” has a dual mission: to empower people who are living in poverty and to promote awareness about hunger issues. Sponsored by the non-profit group Hunger Free Colorado, the program gives digital cameras to food stamp recipients and asks them to chronicle what it’s like to be hungry in America.

Photo by Elizabeth Deak

“This photo represents a couple of things for me. First, you can’t eat with a broken fork just like people in this country can’t eat because of a broken system. But the photo also symbolizes the delicate balancing act that people in poverty have to maintain– finding employment, housing, transportation and food.”

Time To Freak Out

NASA, that esteemed American governmental agency, recently alerted us to the fact that the end of the world is nearer than we think, assuming there's no radical break from the status quo. Unsurprisingly, we have the super rich and their instincts to hoard to blame.

Elites are the main drivers of unsustainable resource exploitation, which we all, to some degree, play a role in. The Guardian reports that "Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:

"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

But is it that bad? Are the rich that rich? Rich enough to usher in the unraveling and eventual collapse of modern industrial civilization? Is civilization really terminal? Is acute economic stratification the greatest conspiracy of our time?

Answer: Yes, yes. And yes. 

It's worse than you think. Forbes states that a new report from Oxfam found that 85 of the richest people in the world - a group that would fill a single double decker bus - have as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population. The report also noted:

  • Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
  • The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
  • Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
  • The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
  • In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Such extreme degrees of disparity are a threat to not only those on the receiving end of such disastrous policy, but to the entire world.

The vast concentration of wealth on this fragile orb isn't a minor irritation. It is, as we can see, a public health crisis, an environmental crisis, a political crisis. Crises should not be tolerated as mere facts of life if the continuation of life on earth is the desired outcome.

The gap between the rich and poor is growing in the United States, where income distribution is amongst the least equal in the developed world. Actually, income inequality is the worst in the US out of 24 advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Check out the difference between what Americans think the distribution of wealth is in America compared to what it really is, according to Harvard data:

The ideal distribution chosen by the respondents interviewed in the above study, however, offers us a glimmer of hope, reminding us that Americans still have a sense of fairness and justice. Unfortunately though, words and ideals have little power if our actions speak a different truth.

It's time to wake up and freak out.

Most worrisome is the thought that even with all the facts we still won't have the courage to stave off this crisis, nationally or globally. Our apathy, not the self-annihilating elite, will be our biggest obstacle.

But maybe the one good thing about this crisis is that it could be our last

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Poverty Of Wealth

I harbor a secret fantasy: that one day everyone will look at poverty through the "attributionalist" lens, thereby eradicating poverty. That is, people won't moralize poverty as a character flaw, as a personal failure; rather, they will see it for what it is, a dereliction not of individual duty but of wider society, particularly the elite glomming on to the levers of power.

It's worth letting your mind roam free, to build castles in the sky, because the state in which we live is filled with so many bad ideas, like the idea that poverty is natural or an ontological given.

We need new ideas. Data sets, hard science, good old empiricism is validating the attributionalist stance, promising to push my daydream through the portals of reality.

I'll quote poverty expert Shamus Khan at length in his excellent piece at Aljazeera America, "The Marriage of Poverty and Inequality":

In the attributionalist’s view, people are poor because of personal traits — especially their moral failings. In order to relieve poverty, we must make poor people into better human beings, by essentially regulating their behavior. The opposing “relationalist” view contends that economic positions are largely explained by relationships between groups, and that we all share a responsibility to alleviate poverty because the experiences and behaviors of those who aren’t poor have an effect on the lives of those who are.
We can debate these points theoretically, but we can also look directly to evidence of the relationship between poverty and inequality to evaluate whether the relationalist or attributionalist stance makes more sense in the real world. The rich have become richer in the United States, but they haven’t done so simply by creating new economic value through their own hard work. Instead, they have seized considerable value created by others.

Look, for example, at the relationship between productivity and wages. From the 1950s through the 1970s, productivity increases and wage gains kept pace with one another. Workers took home much of the value created by their increased output. But starting in the late 1970s, the relationship between wages and productivity began to diverge. American workers continued to be more productive, but they didn’t enjoy anywhere near the wage increases they once did. As economist Lawrence Mishel has shown, productivity from 1973 to 2010 increased about 80.4 percent, but wages increased by only 11 percent over the same period.

If workers became so much more productive, what happened to the extra value they were creating? The answer is simple: Executives and shareholders took it for themselves. This is evidence that supports the relationalist point of view. The rich aren’t getting richer just because of their personal attributes; they’re getting richer because they’ve been able to appropriate the value created by others.

All of this points to a conveniently overlooked truth: the real moochers are the wealthy, not the poor. Khan continues:

There is an irony to their stance. The rich credit their own attributes — hard work, skill, discipline and intelligence — for their good fortune. They shame the poor, painting them as immoral and lazy no-gooders waiting for the next handout. But who really lives off the gains of others? Who really reaps the rewards of economic gains for which they are not responsible?

And the scary part? NASA, yes NASA, concurs. And even goes a step further in a recent study it commissioned, stating that the "Elite" - with a truly creepy capital E - are hastening the collapse of modern civilization:

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
"... accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels."

Thanks Wall Street.

Intersex Rights

If we take reality into consideration, namely biological variation and the reality of intersex babies, then we have to admit to ourselves that assigning tiny humans with either a male or female designation at birth is, at bottom, a social determination, not an obligation or necessity dictated by nature.

Approximately one in every fifteen hundred to two thousand children born each year is diagnosed with a disorder or difference of sexual development. (Accurate figures are difficult to obtain, because it is difficult to measure degrees of physical and hormonal difference, and because many, like Ambrose, may not know they were diagnosed as such.) Some advocates believe the numbers are even higher: by the broadest measurement, one out of every hundred children has some subtle form of “sex anatomy variation.” Parents whose newborn babies have indeterminate genitalia typically follow what has long been the standard medical advice, to have doctors perform surgery to help the child conform to one or the other fixed gender category. Traditionally, the choice has been which gender to assign to the baby, not whether to put a baby through invasive surgery at all.
(Picture credit: New York Times Magazine) 

In The Trenches Of Low Wage Work

The economy is becoming unrecognizable as the spoils of the war on the working class go to the rich.

Our economy doesn't look like what it did just a decade ago.

It is shrinking in terms of opportunity and advancement; pre-exisitng class structures are hardening to lock out all but the fortunate few. (Remember this?) Social mobility, once a national treasure, is now more myth than reality as dreadfully low paying work proliferates.

The fastest growing sector of the economy is low wage work. This explosion of dead end, minimum wage work is a bad bad thing, poisoning the well for future generations.

The elite - the asset holders wielding political power - are structuring the economy to suit their interests, dispossessing ordinary workers of their rights and the hard earned fruits of their labor.

Collectively, we are being denied entry to a better future.

— For years, many Americans followed a simple career path: Land an entry-level job. Accept a modest wage. Gain skills. Leave eventually for a better-paying job.

The workers benefited, and so did lower-wage retailers such as Wal-Mart: When its staffers left for better-paying jobs, they could spend more at its stores. And the U.S. economy gained, too, because more consumer spending fueled growth.
Not so much anymore. Since the Great Recession began in late 2007, that path has narrowed because many of the next-tier jobs no longer exist. That means more lower-wage workers have to stay put. The resulting bottleneck is helping widen a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.

It's ordinary people who pay the highest price. A local reader of The Tacoma News Tribune writes a gut-punching letter to the editor. It's a painful read:

Re: “Fix poverty with minimum wage? Not so fast” (editorial, 2-23).
Your editorial seems logical, but it is flawed. People with money and power think they know how to solve problems;they don’t. If you really want to reduce the results of poverty, listen to those in the trenches.

For example, my minimum-wage working adult daughter died due to lack of medical care. Her income was $700 a month. The state of Washington told her that income was too much to receive medical benefits. She died several months later from a condition that if she had access to medical care would not have occurred. Needless to say, I detest this country and the state of Washington.

Adults who work for minimum wage need medical, dental and mental health support. It costs more than $1,000 to rent a decent apartment. The cost of child care is beyond minimum wage.

If the social contract is that one must work to survive, then to have 20 people seeking one job is sadistic. My advice to those who make the laws and urge certain paths is to talk to those in the trenches. Find out what the needs are in everyday living for the poor. And then give a damn, and get out of your ivory towers, have the courage to look reality in the face.

Paying wages that do not support basic needs and the unwillingness to supplement those needs in support of low-wage-paying business is equivalent to slavery.

I'll conclude with a charming quote/meme combo:
You may call me an anarchist, a socialist, or a communist, I care not, but I hold to the theory that if one man has not enough to eat three times a day and another man has $25,000,000, that last man has something that belongs to the first.
~ Mary Lease

Read more here:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Part Three: 20/20

Let's back up. I've gotten ahead of myself.

Yes, it was a revolution. And yes, this revolution did give our trip a precedent of note. But hindsight is 20/20. And without it, chaos just looks like chaos. It's bewildering, messy, easily mistaken for other things  

In the unwritten pages of history, the events enveloping us were not a neatly packaged 18-day popular revolt. They were not a controlled burn, but an irrepressible wave of popular protest pitted against a cold and calculating machine.

It was street fighting. It was anarchy. The breakdown of 30 soul-battering years of repression and routine.

And innocent blood was shed.

Only in hindsight can we call it a revolution.

But in the moment, the only thing that registered on our tired faces was the shock of uncertainty. We arrived at our destination in Alexandria shaken and relieved, awarding Ashraf, who chauffeured us through the crescendoing violence, with quite possibly the biggest baqsheesh (tip) Egypt has ever seen.

From the moment Alex and I landed in Egypt, we were guarded and on high alert, not starry-eyed revelers.

We weren't going to join the dance. The movement wasn't ours to join. 

This sobriety my friend Shaimaa teases me about years later. Apparently we were the "serious couple" whispering secrets (the only secret we were trying to keep was our habitual squabbling, I clarify).

But only now does she admit to me that every night she slept with a knife under her pillow in the gated complex we shared.

Shaimaa will never forget the exhilaration of those initial history-making days as her country swelled with a spirit beyond ordinary experience. She says they were the most exciting days of her life.
Yet, at the time, she armed herself in her sleep and wore a constant look of worry while we were there.

Things were complicated. Sometimes neurotic. Everyone had images of looters and newly freed prisoners scaling walls. Neighborhood watch groups attempting to keep the peace and restore order materialized on every street corner and in every alleyway (these citizen patrols were a widely reported feature of the revolution and a point of pride for Egypt's people).

Uncertainty loomed over the nation. Faces were glued to television screens. Our Egyptian friends and hosts, terrible soothsayers, promised, with the casual wave of the hand, that it would all be over in a day, three at the most.

In great suspense we waited.

The big unanswerable questions everyone was asking were ones we never had to ask ourselves: Would the dictator abdicate? On whose side would the army insert itself? Would blood flow in the streets? Would the world watch idly or intervene?

Stuck on the outskirts of Alexandria, I can't say those days were romantic.

Ordinary life ground to a halt as roads closed and workers stayed home. Businesses shuttered. As paralysis set in, we had to decide to flee before it was too late or hunker down as the momentum clamped down around us.

Gas was running out at the pump - soon we'd have no choice.

What the guidebooks don't tell you.

[Part One: Three Years Ago]
[Part two: The Plunge]

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Part Two: The Plunge

Entering Egypt on that day was a free fall. Into depths unknown we plunged. 

It turns out those inconsequentially cheap tickets I had bought for us three months earlier, were in fact, quite consequential. They landed us in Cairo at precisely 5:00pm January 28, 2011, on The Day of Rage.

This was the beginning of the revolution. This was the day the people of Egypt showed the world that they were ready to give up everything for something; the day their courageously advancing bodies beat back the police and security forces; the day they broke down the fear barrier and reclaimed their streets one avenue, one bridge, one square at a time.

But as their fear barrier shattered mine grew.

Let's me honest: I am no adrenaline junkie.

As we decamped the cool, calm interiors of the airport with our equally cool and calm driver, Ashraf, Alex and I were apprehensive, just as we had been as we boarded our trans-Atlantic flight from New York. We knew from previous reports and complimentary WiFi on an earlier flight - and basic common sense - that something was brewing.

Something major was on the horizon. It was just a matter of magnitude.

Yet, these gut feelings weren't enough, for we were wholly unprepared for what lie ahead. But back home, through the prism of normalcy, it seemed simple: If things got dicey, turn around. Book a flight out of there.

But that's to assume a lot of things: that one has control, that revolutions can be approached slowly and from a distance, that their massive orbits can be sidestepped.

Truth be told, a revolution is an event horizon. An unstoppable force.

We weren't going anywhere.

So, I watched the revolution from the car window. For hours we zigzagged around Cairo in search of an exit, taxiing through spontaneous check points and energetic crowds of people - mostly young men, some filled with purpose, others milling about, many protesting, some blocking traffic, some exacting payment for letting cars pass, some striking cars with pipes, some bewildered, some unfazed, some jubilant, but all of them absolutely expectant.

Like the pollution, electricity choked the air.

Cairo, a mega-city of twenty million, was in an athletic fit of rage. Apoplectic. Bridges and buildings were on fire, roads barricaded with smoldering tires and detritus. The city's arteries, big and small, surged with bold defiance, with flesh that saw as One and no longer believed in Death.

Squares, of course, were morphing in battlefields.

Cairo stuns on an ordinary day. But on this day it asked you to abandon everything you knew, to hold your breath and each others' hands tightly as it expressed itself through the movements of revolutionary truth.

An American dancer and choreographer once said, "The only way to know the truth of a movement is to do it on your own body." And that's exactly what the people of Egypt, of all ages and backgrounds, were doing. Experimenting with the truth of revolution with their own bodies. Dancing defiantly before a dictator. Holding lightsome the transfixed gaze of the world.

Life was no longer meaningful without this movement. The risk was worth it. "In movement there is life; in change there is power." The people found their beat. And the country pitched forward in a mutinous dance as the sun set - and into the night as we made our way to Alexandria by the sea. 

I held my breath those whole 6 hours, moving as little as possible as not to squander what felt like a finite supply of air. I put all my effort into total body control, like a diver, fearing one minor mistake might veer us off course. But what that course was I had no idea. Neither did Alex, despite him being a repeat visitor.

And at times, neither did our driver Ashraf. Regardless of being Egyptian born and raised, he had little control over the situation (his real power lay in cuing our nerves with the volume switch for the music which he adjusted according to his level of distress - yes, it's always a good time for music in Egypt). Ashraf was navigating a totally new and bewildering scene. Such volatility was unthinkable a week before. Yet he mastered every obstacle with incredible finesse, particularly talking his way out of bribes and skirting long lines at impromptu checkpoints.

Nothing was normal that day. Despite some moments that put my blood on ice, I felt the warmth around me. The buzzing, humming, and roaring around us was generating the heat of change, of possibility, of freedom.

We couldn't complain.

Alex and I were mere spectators, mere aganib, but we were bearing witness to history in the making, to an epic battle that that day put the revolutionaries in its good graces.

I'll close with the only appropriate words, the words of an Egyptian, Mona Elghobashy, as she recounts her people's history on that day, January 28th, The Day of Rage: 

At 5 pm on the afternoon of January 28, when reports started rolling in of police stations burning down, one after another, al-‘Adli [Mubarak's much-feared Interior Minister] capitulated and ordered the removal of his forces from the streets. It was a sight unseen in modern Egyptian police rule -- the one and only time that Egypt’s three protest subcultures were able to jointly defeat the coercive apparatus that had existed to keep them apart.

No longer apart, the square filled.

[Read Part One here]

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Brigid Schulte of the WaPo nails it. Compared to the citizens of other advanced nations, we work more but produce less, are sicker, dumber, unhappier, more stressed and miss out on those things that make life worth living: family and leisure. 

Check out her piece: "Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Work So Hard."
You know what really needs attention? What working like crazy and taking no time off really gets us:
1. Sick. Americans spend almost twice as much on health care per person than people in other advanced nations – paying out of pocket, while other countries pool resources — and we suffer more injuries and illnesses and die younger, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report.
2. Stressed. America may be the richest nation on earth, but the World Health Organization has found it is also the most anxious, with nearly one-third of all Americans likely to suffer from anxiety in their lifetime.
3. Stupid. In a study of brains using functional MRI technology, scientists at the Yale Stress Center have found that subjects who both lived through stressful events (and who hasn’t?) and felt stressed out had smaller brain volumes than less-stressed subjects in critical areas of the prefrontal cortex that govern thinking, planning, decision making, learning and remembering.
4. Off Balance. The United States ranks toward the bottom of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s work-life balance scale. And a growing number of Americans report feeling rushed, pressed for time, that they don’t spend enough time with their families, and at the end of the day, haven’t gotten to all the things they needed to do, much less wanted to do.
5. Disengaged. Gallup estimates that 70 percent of all workers are disengaged from their jobs, costing between $450-$550 billion each year in productivity. And although American productivity looks mighty in international comparisons, slice that productivity by hours worked, and the United States falls several rungs – in some years even below those countries whose workers stroll home in the evening after a shorter, more intense work day, stop by a café and take the entire month of August off. Off.

It doesn't have to be this way. In Denmark citizens get two "nurture days with their children until they turn eight," Iceland gets year-long paid maternal and paternal leaves, and Belgium? Belgians have the right to three-month sabbaticals. In most European nations, the entire month of August is spent out of the office. Europe leads the way in guaranteed paid leave. The US guarantees none. This paucity of paid days off is a matter of law, which mandates for the American worker exactly zero:

The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. By law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation.

 [Continue reading]