8 Jul. 2007

Screwing The People

Where angels fear to tread, Ted Rall goes:
By 1999 Kashgar was a dusty, impoverished outpost near the Afghan, Tajik and Kyrgyz borders under occupation by a central government whose first instinct was to crush the locals when it bothered to think about them at all. A small but growing minority of Han Chinese colonists, brought in from eastern cities like Beijing and Shanghai, sped in their new Mercedes past impoverished Muslims on foot and riding donkey carts. The Old City, a maze of curvy, unpaved medieval streets running between rows of neglected two-story wood houses built during the 18th and 19th centuries, was cordoned off with razor wire and Chinese policemen armed with riot gear: the Uyghur ghetto. "You don't want to go in there," one hissed at me.

Inside the wire, unemployed men were listening to the United States' Radio Free Asia and its calls to resist. Some had even gone to Afghanistan to attend Taliban training camps so they could take on the Chinese. They believed what they heard in the broadcasts. "America will help us," the Uyghurs said.
If you have a hard time reconciling the idea of a repressed people turning to both the USA and the Taleban simultaneously, the rampant capitalism of their supposedly Communist Chinese overlords is no less mind-bending.

This is where globalization, in its current form, is inexorably leading us all. It's a case of those with power (i.e. capital, or money) exploiting those without, while the government turns a blind eye (or a greased palm).

Just compare the Uyghurs predicament with the more familiar world Digby describes:
I've worked for many, many years in the corporate pink collar ghetto and later the corporate white collar management ghetto and was always moved by my overseer's devotion to freedom when they would "allow" us to leave early for a doctor appointment or theatrically dole out a discretionary bonus of a hundred dollars at the end of a banner year and expect us all to gush adoringly at their generosity. The entire enterprise is designed as an exercise in conformity in which those most eager to reinforce the corporate ethos rise to the top and enforce it even more rigidly. (Which is understandable. Having been through the "boot-camp" that beat every original thought and idea out of their heads until they don't even know they once had them, the next generation of bosses are always ready to give it even harder to those coming up behind them, if only to justify their own acquiescence to such humiliation.) And anyone who complains is reminded of that inspiring war cry of American liberty: "you can always quit."

Except, of course, most of us really can't and they know it. You can't go without health insurance and you can't afford to take a chance on a new job that might not work out because there just isn't much room to fail in our society. It takes a very brave person to put their own and their family's well being at risk when the consequences of failure are so high. Most people make the rational decision to stick with the soul destroying job, answer to a boss that treats them like a lackey and live a life of quiet desperation because to do otherwise would be irresponsible.

Doesn't that work out nicely for the corporate owners of America, eh?

And then there is the crippling debt load, a situation which people are conditioned to accept as a normal part of life, necessary to their happiness and a decent, middle class way of life. Which it is. Lucky young people today start out life with a burden that forces them to sell their souls very early, do not pass go, do not take that year long trip to Europe or write that novel or start that small business you and your pals thought up in junior year. Better join the firm and get that debt paid down before you even have a chance to think. Get in there and start getting your training to be a Corporate American. Before long, you'll have forgotten all about that other stuff. Go out and buy yourself something pretty. It'll make you feel better. Put it on the card.

For everybody else, those who work paycheck to paycheck in restaurant jobs or toil in retail or struggle in one of those elusive manufacturing jobs, it's just pure fear of being out of work that keeps you in line. If you are lucky enough to have health insurance you will do almost anything to keep it. If you have a sick family member you are as good as a slave.

I know this is depressing. But being enslaved is depressing and our economic system is slowly but surely turning into a system of involuntary servitude in which people are trapped in jobs they cannot leave or so panicked by the idea of being left holding the huge bag of debt or illness that they are paralyzed with fear. It's not like you can just check out and reinvent yourself, or "go west young man." There is no escape in the 21st century surveillance society. If that's freedom, then we need a new word to describe "the power to determine the course of one's own destiny."