Lying Media Bastards

October 17, 2006

These Dirty Hands


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Sorry for my extended absence. I have recently learned that when I have multiple writing projects going at once, I often freeze up and don’t work on any of them. But I think I’ve choked my paid workload down enough that I can post here some more. Let us dive in.

You have to feel sorry for NY Times columnist John Tierney. I presume that he is a rational human being, but when the moon is full and his column deadline looms, his typing hands are clearly posessed by demons. Batshit crazy demons.

“Has any organization in the world lifted more people out of poverty than Wal-Mart?” typed Tierney’s hands this morning, as the man himself surely screamed “noooooooooo!” at the heavens, tormented by his Damned, lunatic appendages.

Yes, those ghoulish hands of the probably-noble Tierney would have us believe that sweatshop factory work is the Rainbow Bridge to Puppy Town, leading the starving denizens of the Third World to that garden of delights known as “Above the Poverty Line.” Tierney’s devilish hands concede that such jobs “may sound like hell to American college students — and some factories should treat their workers much better”, but they’re plenty good for hungry brown people. Why, those whiny, pampered college students aren’t half as American as those valiant, hard-working Hondouran sweatshop workers (at least, until those Hondurans try to cross the border).

This argument is tired and insulting. “Exploitation wages are better than no wages, so all you people who are against exploitation are the real villains here.” Bad Tierney’s Hands! Bad!

First of all, the people working in sweatshops aren’t rising out of poverty, they’re simply treading water in the poverty sea. Not only that, but Wal-Mart’s insane drive for low-cost product is driving down factory wages worldwide as the behemoth searches for ever lower prices.

But behind all this are some appalling yet common assumptions.

Third World poverty is seen as natural. These poor “backward” people have always been poor and backward, but perhaps one day their society will advance and evolve to be as enlightened and fair as the United States. These countries have no history, and they have not been acted upon, influenced, or robbed by outsiders, foreign powers, or colonizers. Western corporations would never collude with these Third World governments to breed conditions favorable for cheap, powerless labor. Therefore any touch of Western enlightenment that we can grant these poor brothers and sisters is a blessing, even shit jobs at shit wages.

For example. The passage of NAFTA allowed American agribusiness to sell cheap vegetables (heavily-subsidized by the US government) in Mexico. Unable to compete with these low prices, many Mexican farms went out of business. Since the law’s passage in 1994, 1.5 million farm jobs have been lost. Many of these folks forced of the land had little choice but to move and get a sweatshop job in the city. Of course, a sweatshop wage is better than no wage, but your wage before the Americans ruined the farm economy was better than both. American business kindly gives Mexican workers a crutch after breaking their legs.

While we’re at it, let’s look at this lawsuit (.pdf) filed by workers at Wal-Mart-supplying factories in Swaziland, China, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Bangladesh:

Plaintiffs were subjected to forced overtime, payments below the legal minimum and overtime wages as established by the laws of supplier countries identified herein, and overall were forced to work in sub-standard sweatshop conditions detrimental to their health and safety and in violation of their basic human rights… Plaintiffs and their families would be subjected to threats of reprisal, including threats of current and future job loss, and in many cases, threats of physical danger by the supplier companies and/or their home country governments if they were to fully pursue and enforce these claims in their home countries.

“Violation of basic human rights”? Well, you can’t make an omlete without breaking some human spirits.

Let us all pray that John Tierney is soon released from his personal hell, and that his typing hands are soon exorcised of their stupid.

Posted by Jake on October 17, 2006 11:36 pm

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