Why Living a Minimalist life is central to environmental and social justice

All around the world, from Hollywood to South Delhi, on social media, in elite universities, the Millenials and Gen Z are increasingly more "woke" than the generation of their parents and grandparents. This can be particularly seen across in voting behavior, whereby young Americans typically tend democratic and old Americans are more staunch republicans. This statistical divide in India though is much more complex with layers of urban, semi-urban, and rural; north, south, and east, states with strong local parties vs states with national party hegemony, building a mosaic of liberal and conservative outlooks among the population.

Yet at large, with increased urbanization led mixing, the proliferation of the internet, or maybe general progression of generations, this idea that every human is equal and deserves equal stature and opportunity in society is increasingly becoming more common than previous generations. Despite these intentions, GenZ and Millennials are presiding over the most unequal society in modern history.

The top 10% of Indians hold 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the total wealth created in 2017 went to just the richest 1% population. The world's 22 richest men have more wealth than all the 325 million women in Africa. [1] And the global top 1% population owns 44% of the world's wealth.

Source : https://www.oxfam.org/en/india-extreme-inequality-numbers

Now, the first response to such numbers by an average reader is to shrug off that they are not the top 1% or the top 10%. So let me break your myths. Have you ever flown or taken a domestic flight in India? By 2018 statistics, that puts you in the top 3-5% of the Indian Population. Have you ever purchased anything online? 4%. Did you study in an English Medium School? Top 2%. (India has only 225,000 English medium schools). [2]

Now, none of this as a 21-year-old college graduate or early 30s young professional is your doing. But yet, you with your ignorant consumeristic behavior are by far one of the most insidious oppressors out there. Our daily lifestyle is a bigger source of oppression than Communist Gulags and Rural Police Brutality. Because not only do we live comfortably as the ignorant beneficiaries of the oppressive inequality-perpetuating system but we also fuel it on a daily basis with every single monetary decision of either purchasing something or earning from something.

  1. Centralization of career around income aspiration

    In no way, as a CEO and entrepreneur, am I not a big proponent of fair income. But the last two years of hiring experience have been centered around people constantly asking for higher and higher incomes. An average ask goes to 12-15 lpa, slightly higher 20-25, bizarre 30-36, and I have gotten 50 - 70 lpa as well.

    This is also at the time of one of the highest unemployment in the decadal history of India. Facts around working for climate change, interesting engineering, learnings, etc all take a back seat to the 10% increment or matching from their existing salaries. The same existing fat packages, which are typically paid out by well-set, inertial, 10-50-year-old companies with high carbon footprints, direct creators of environmental damages, and active demolishers of democracy.

    From fashion to FMCG to consumer products to food delivery companies, we all complain about excess consumerism, about rampant plastic production but hardly are willing to divert our own personal human capital away from these reasonably evil enterprises.

    If we were to potentially decouple productivity, growth, aspiration, work, performance with income demands (again with the disclaimer that the lower end of the salary of Rs. 35000 per month at Blue Sky still puts one in the top 1% of India) then the same human capital can be increasingly allocated towards active creation of social good by countless social entrepreneurs.

    The last two years of my life in India has been conversations with countless very smart people, who want to do "the right thing", want to solve climate change, actively do "social good" but cannot take a 10-50% cut in their personal income in top 0.08% category of India. As a social entrepreneur, with limited cash in hand, limited runway, limited predictability of sales, product-market fit, or even if there will ever be a PMF, and with a constant fear of bankruptcy, this upward pressure of labor market diverts 50-70% of high-quality human capital away from thousands like me to Facebook, Unilever, Swiggy, & PepsiCo.

    In fact, forget social entrepreneurs and impact creating jobs, the biggest limitation to people not actively pursuing independent projects to create impact or solve a problem is the blockage of economic incentive and the income

  2. Lack of Minimalist principles of consumption and lifestyle.

    Now, how is one supposed to provide for their family and loved ones? How is one supposed to live a quality life without a reasonable income, you will say. To which, lets really talk about what has come to constitute a quality life in our world.

    British consumers have an estimated £30bn worth of clothing that they have not worn for a year in their wardrobes.[4] An average American didn't use 82% of her wardrobe in one year. [5] And Indians are not far behind. The rise of the recent social media celebrities like CaughtinaCuff, KomalPandey not to criticize the girls for their beauty and exceptional content has led to an explosion of the wardrobe. No longer are clothes worn to cover bodies, but to make a statement and discard. An average T-shirt which can last 1-2 decades, hardly finds a place for 1-2 months in the modern Indian women's wardrobe.

Yet woke millenial influencers have little to no qualms of the excessive lifestyle they are commonly promoting. The fact that every T-shirt, every shrug, every piece of jewelry, every lipstick, every shoe has a material carbon, water, plastic footprint escapes the minds of both the influencer and the influenced. Now, you can say that fashion is an art, expression, and merely the job of the people in the fashion industry to promote so; but there can be no doubts that material wastefulness has deeply embedded roots in social and environmental injustices.

This consumption habit and pattern continues from fashion to food, from electronics to cars, from the spaces we live into the hobbies we indulge in. Under the garb of words like luxury, convenient, art, beautiful, we constantly justify the excesses. Often a benign extra T-shirt bought by the 1% population which takes approximately 2,700 liters to make equates to 57 days of water consumption of an average African. The vegan almond milk obsession of rich woke environmentalist Millenials, now expanding from California to India, is killing billions of bees per season

Much of the top 1% millenial action towards social or environmental justice has been namesake and to build a fashion currency.

3. Living a minimal life with minimal expenses

I am nowhere near perfect in this category, but I constantly try. This does make me aware of how addictive the traps of consumerism are. If your income is above say 1 lakh per month and you have a couple of lakhs Rs. in your bank account, walking into Zara and not buying that cute 600 Rs Tshirt is almost a challenge. In a moment, I feel week in my knees and turn to Gollum from LOTR. My precious.

10 years an iPhone user, when I had to update my phone, despite the options of much cheaper and better alternatives, it was easy to convince "that I need iPhone for work in a split second", This same convincing extends from iPhones and computers to bigger cars, business class flights, and before you know it private jets. "I need it for work"

The pricing in global markets is skewed. A T-shirt that requires the labor of 100s of people costs Rs. 600 but a quality healthcare visitation aka one person meeting another person with medical expertise doesn't cost Rs. 60. This is often because the markets are run by the top 1%, for the 1%, advertising to 1%, and employing about another top 10%.

Under the pressure of all the screens and advertisements and videos and content and people we see around us, our world of 7 billion people turns to mere 70 million. We don't even notice, acknowledge, know anything about the remaining 99%.

We are more than happy living with the disproportionate share of electricity, metals, iron, minerals, grains, proteins, computing power allocated to us, or say snatched from others.

Many people, take this conversation in the direction of limited resources hence fair competition and the winner deserves it. But if you look at the real resources and real needs, the planet has more than enough for everybody, if only the 1% can remember that their normal lives are constant oppression on the remaining 99%. If only the top 1% can rename the world as convenient and luxurious to villainous and oppressive. And if only 1% can focus on what really matters in life.

Growing up, I changed 6 schools, which made me an extrovert, as if being a Monday 12 pm born Leo, I already wasn't. My parents and grandparents kept telling I was very smart, so I studied a lot, of a lot of subjects, and gained ample knowledge. But then society never acknowledged or agreed with anything I said, so I became an entrepreneur to convert my words and thoughts into action :P