“Eight men have all the money. Eight men have more than half of the money that everyone else in the world has combined,” sings Leah Hennessey in blistering new single 8 Men.
The New York Electroclash outfit has gone viral this week with the release of their caustic new track taking aim at the financial inequality plaguing our planet.
The video, shot in a gloomy bar and layered with letters cut from newspapers that read like a ransom note, names and shames the eight richest people in the world – who all just happen to be men.
In just four days it’s racked up well over 50,000 views across social media and been shared to stories and news outlets globally.
So, who are these eight men? And why has the song struck such a chord? We spoke with Hennessey to find out.
It was an infographic, taken from the searing 2017 Oxfam report on the stark realities of global wealth concentration, that focused Hennessy’s anger and moved her to action.
“The thought of reposting it gave me that same old nauseous feeling of futility; everyone knows how fucked capitalism is, everyone knows how broken this system is, if I’m not spreading the word about a specific action people can take what is the POINT of sharing this information?”, she explained to The Latch.
“And sharing information about the obscenity of Mark Zukerberg’s wealth on Mark Zuckerberg’s app is just increasing his ad revenue and stores of data. “I thought, ‘what if I just took this information and put it into a song?’ The chorus just wrote itself when I tried to imagine the absurdity of a better world.”
The song itself puts forward – perhaps tongue-in-cheek but perhaps not – the idea of guillotining the rich and redistributing the wealth as the most effective solution to our problems. It’s an idea that’s been thrown out flippantly in social media discourse for years but it does appear to have been gaining traction amongst certain groups, particularly after the GameStop/Robin Hood/Wall Street debacle last week.
Doing so would mean “we could all have houses. I could have a dog. No one would die of hunger or starvation. I could believe in God”, shouts the chorus.
“People are fed up,” Hennessey says. “I have to believe (for my own sanity) that we are the verge of a revolutionary awakening of class consciousness.”
As for alternative solutions, “taxing the 1% fairly would be a start,” Leah suggests. “As would universal basic income, Medicare for all, putting money into our broken education system, and decriminalizing poverty – defunding the police, legalizing drugs, eliminating cash bail etc.”
But, she does believe that “we’re going to have to have some more chaos before enough people are ready for real change”.
The 2017 Oxfam report – which differs slightly from the song – lists the following men as the richest people in the world. They hold a combined wealth of more than what half of the other 7.6 billion of us have in total.
Born into a family of bankers and lawyers, William Henry Gates III went to Harvard University and founded the computer company Microsoft.
Born in Spain, Ortega’s father was a railway worker and Amancio learned to make shirts at the age of 14, eventually founding the fashion chain, Zara.
Buffett is the son of a US congressman, who, at the age of 15 ran a pinball machine business and became one of the wealthiest people in the world through stock trading.
Owner of Grupo Carso, Carlos Slim made his fortune in the stock market and investments.
Bezos went to Princeton and founded Amazon from a garage. Made vast sums through the company, though it is frequently accused of worker exploitation, and has recently stepped down as CEO.
Born to wealthy parents, Zuckerberg went to Harvard, and allegedly stole the idea of Facebook from the Winklevoss twins, the company he is still the head of.
An adoptee who taught himself to code, Ellison is the founder of the computer data systems management company, Oracle. Also owns the 6th largest island in Hawaii.
The founder of the Bloomberg company which distributes financial market information. The Bloomberg Centre at Harvard is named after his father.
Of course, since the Oxfam report, which was based on 2016 figures, things have dramatically changed. While the top eight is still entirely comprised of men, Elon Musk has joined the ranks along with Chinese businessman Zhong Shanshan, knocking Larry Ellison and Amancio Ortega further down.
The world’s richest people are also a lot richer. Jeff Bezos is now worth $196.2 billion, Elon Musk is worth $188.3 billion, and Bill Gates is worth $122.2 billion.
There is also a somewhat conspiratorial belief that the richest people in the world are not publicly known at all. One suggestion is that Vladimir Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, with wealth hidden throughout Russia.
Australia’s richest people are nowhere near as wealthy as the top eight but still have vast sums. Andrew Forrest, Gina Rinehart, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Scott Farquhar, and Anthony Pratt all have a combined wealth of US $79.7 billion or AU $104 billion.
Hennessey finishes by telling us that, “for all the impressive organizing and activism that’s going on around me, what really gets me excited and hopeful and impassioned is always art and pop culture”.
“Our country has proven that trickle-down charity from idealistic philanthropists does not educate, or house or protect the American people in any significant way. We need a complete overhaul.”
Their catchy bop may just be the soundtrack to that overhaul.