Feb. 12th, 2010

  • 12:58 AM
la_vie_noire: (Default)
I started to read Naomi Klein's No Logo (I downloaded it, of course, you know that).

This is a village where some multinationals, far from levelling the global playing field with jobs and technology for all, are in the process of mining the planet's poorest back country for unimaginable profits. This is the village where Bill Gates lives, amassing a fortune of $55 billion while a third of his workforce is classified as temporary workers, and where competitors are either incorporated into the Microsoft monolith or made obsolete by the latest feat in software bundling. This is the village where we are indeed connected to one another through a web of brands, but the underside of that web reveals designer slums like the one I visited outside Jakarta. IBM claims that its technology spans the globe, and so it does, but often its international presence takes the form of cheap Third World labour producing the computer chips and power sources that drive our machines. On the outskirts of Manila, for instance, I met a seventeen-year-old girl who assembles CD-ROM drives for IBM. I told her I was impressed that someone so young could do such high-tech work. "We make computers," she told me, "but we don't know how to operate computers." Ours, it would seem, is not such a small planet after all.

It would be naive to believe that Western consumers haven't profited from these global divisions since the earliest days of colonialism. The Third World, as they say, has always existed for the comfort of the First. What is a relatively new development, however, is the amount of investigative interest there seems to be in the unbranded points of origin of brand-name goods. The travels of Nike sneakers have been traced back to the abusive sweatshops of Vietnam, Barbie's little outfits back to the child labourers of Sumatra, Starbucks' lattes to the sun-scorched coffee fields of Guatemala, and Shell's oil back to the polluted and impoverished villages of the Niger Delta.

Very good, isn't it? Until the exact next paragraph:

The title No Logo is not meant to be read as a literal slogan (as in No More Logos!), or a post-logo logo (there is already a No Logo clothing line, or so I'm told). Rather, it is an attempt to capture an Anticorporate attitude I see emerging among many young activists. This book is hinged on a simple hypothesis: that as more people discover the brand-name secrets of the global logo web, their outrage will fuel the next big political movement, a vast wave of opposition squarely targeting transnational corporations, particularly those with very high name-brand recognition.

Uhm. So let me get this straight, Klein. You write this for First World Liberal Westerners. Who just have to wake up from their comfortable lives and fight corporations. Never mind that the same Third World Activism have been doing this for decades by now. I hope I'm reading you wrong, but I'm having a feeling you see them (us?) as Those Poor People who have to be saved by White First World Westerners. We have agency, you know.

I just hope the rest of your book doesn't treat Developing Countries citizens as The Other (Object) That Has to be Saved and Protected because I would be pissed.

(To be fair, I just started reading, so I have no idea. It says hell of important things, but it just reminded me to a post I read casually today on one of the linkspams about HOW WE NEED THE POWERFUL WHITE PEOPLE BECAUSE WE HAVE TO BE PRACTICAL EVEN IF IT COSTS US OUR DIGNITY, and sorry, I don't subscribe to your magazine. Sorry again. Powerful White People? Treat other human beings as human beings. A snake isn't more important than me, I don't care how your white self may see it. That's all.)

ETA: Also, its introduction is treating Western Activism as a Salvation and totally dismissing the effect a lot of it really has in Third World communities of color (I'm just seeing the praising of White Environmentalist). But I don't know if these things will be mentioned again through the book.

ETA 2: Ah. Okay.

Most memorably, it led me to factories and union squats in Southeast Asia, and to the outskirts of Manila where Filipino workers are making labour history by bringing the first unions to the export processing zones that produce the most recognizable brand-name consumer items on the planet.

Okay. I'm still wary. "Most memorably" because it differs from the rest of the activism she mentioned by being from South-Asian people and not Westerners? You know that's weird. But still, I may have a better relationship with this than I thought. Maybe I'm just being uber-picky because I have had a bad day at on-line discussions.


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