As far as I’m concerned, the most useful thing to come out of tonight’s presidential debate was this:
As far as I’m concerned, no show turns societal conventions upside down quite like Sons of Anarchy.
For the first paper, I want to take a look at Nike’s current business and manufacturing practices, and examine them through the lens of the shareholder/stakeholder debate. The Michael Moore movie that we watched for class was outdated, as was the case study. The picture that was painted of Nike’s labor practices in those days seemed overwhelmingly bleak, and I would like to know if that has changed. A quick preliminary search turned up this article, indicating that Nike has changed for the better. I look forward to addressing the questions of whether ethically-motivated protests can actually have an effect on a huge company like Nike, and whether their current focus is more stake or shareholder-motivated.
When I saw that politics was one of the potential choices for our blog-search, I was immediately moved to browse reactions to the recent tragedy in Libya. For those unaware of recent events, following the airing of a scene from an offensive anti-Muslim film in Cairo, unrest erupted in the Middle East, culminating in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the deaths of four American diplomats, including American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. These tragic events were followed by statements from both President Obama, and Governor Romney. Continue reading
“Hold on a minute!” [Foxconn employee runs onstage] “Mr. Daisey, how many workers did you actually talk to? Because I work at the Foxconn plant, and a lot of what you’re saying just isn’t true. I’m actually grateful to Foxconn and Apple for providing me with work. I don’t have any special skills, and without this plant, I wouldn’t be able to earn enough to support my family. The work is honest, it isn’t overly dangerous, and it’s giving me the chance to provide a better life for my family.”
[employee walks closer to Mr. Daisey] “We don’t have any children working in my section of the factory, and I haven’t heard of any working in other parts. Sometimes we Chinese look younger than we are to you Westerners, but don’t project your cultural bias onto us.” [turn to the audience] The guards at the gates don’t have guns- in China, only the military and government workers can carry firearms. And we don’t sleep cramped in dorm rooms. I go home at night to see my family, who I’m able to feed thanks to Foxconn.” [turns back to Mr. Daisey] “Before you go making up stories, why don’t you actually do some research, instead of pulling together stories that you’ve heard from other plants. I’m glad that Foxconn is here, and I’m happy to have a job.”
Mike Daisey’s second appearance on This American Life was painfully awkward to listen to, with pauses so lengthy that I found myself checking to see if the audio had paused. There is no doubt that while many of the events in Mr. Daisey’s monologue have occurred in sweat shops and factories in China, it quickly became apparent that he himself did not witness them. Looking back, I could have written an equally entertaining and compelling monologue by reading the Wikipedia article entitled “sweat shops”, and perhaps if I had passed the information off as having been gleaned through personal experience, I too could have been risen to Mr. Daisey’s current level of fame.
For me, the most entertaining part of the podcast occurred when Ira Glass brought up A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Almost everyone knows the story of Frey’s so-called autobiography, later proved to be untrue, and then torn apart by Oprah Winfrey herself. I was amused to learn that Mr. Daisey had previously commented on the scandal, even admitting to fabricating a story himself. As an entertainer, Mr. Daisey cannot be held to the same standard as a journalist. However, when he enters the realm of journalism, acting outside his monologue show, then he must be held to that standard.
However, Mr. Daisey’s actions are not alone in deserving scrutiny. This American Life is a reputable journalistic program, and the idea that they ran a story as potentially divisive as Mr. Daisey’s without checking out his story is laughable. The ease with which they were able to find Mr. Daisey’s translator Kathy makes TAL look sloppy and unprofessional. They didn’t put in the work up front, and frankly, deserve to have it backfire.
Looking back, I cannot believe that I didn’t question Mr. Daisey’s statement regarding the security guards with guns. Guards rarely have guns here in the United States, where we live in a democracy. The idea of guns being allowed in China, where the government doesn’t even allow Google free-reign, is ridiculous. A passing internet search was all that was required to confirm that guns are illegal in China, except in the case of government officials, which the Foxconn guards were certainly not (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_law#China). Perhaps if TAL had done a cursory search themselves, they could have avoided the public embarrassment of running Mike Daisey’s story.
I split my time listening to “Mr. Daisy and the Apple Factory” between my iPod Touch and my Dell laptop. I was also wearing clothes, the labels of which I felt immediately compelled to check. Made in China, made in Mexico. In fact, I started looking through all of my clothes, and it took me longer than I would have liked to find something made in the USA. I will own to the fact that I rarely give the origin of my possessions a second thought, instead focusing on the benefit that they provide to me. That said, I was unsurprised by the majority of the content of Mr. Daisy’s show. People know what a sweat shop is, and what goes on there. We know that China has them in abundance, and while I would like to say that hearing about the working conditions in Shenzhen horrified me, I found myself listening to Mr. Daisy and thinking, of course they have child workers. This is China.
My reaction to Mr. Daisy’s story lacks the justifiable outrage that I feel the situation warrants. I cannot bring myself to rise to the level of social indignation that would move me to attempt to affect any actual change. Corporations exist to make profits. Those that are concerned for the welfare of their workers seem to be the exception, not the rule. I recognize that this is a pessimistic attitude, but when you pair a capitalist society of customers with a communist society of workers, it isn’t difficult to imagine which will benefit more. The news is full of stories of outsourcing jobs- most recently, the furor over the manufacturing origin of the US Olympic uniforms. The fact is, outsourcing is cheaper, and companies know it. Apple puts on a good show, but ultimately they are out to cut costs and increase profits.
I think that many Americans have a “see no evil” approach to the relationships we have with our products and possessions. As long as our things function as expected, we are content. If something does not work, we are inclined to curse the company and the brand, rather than think about the worker who assembled the product. Also, I do not know if I find the idea of a sweat shop economy as a stepping stone to 1st world status deplorable, or having some merit. I would be interested in reading more research on that particular idea.