Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What are we, retarded?

Konrad Yakabuski had an op-ed in the Globe and Mail the other day wherein he bemoaned the fact that certain fast-fashion retail chains have become so globally ubiquitous that he's not sure whether he's shopping in London or Paris, Tokyo or Toronto. "McShopping," he calls it.

And while the veil of stultifying sameness that has descended on the great shopping cities of the world makes him sad, he does find a silver lining; millions of "decent" jobs have been created in the global South to bring this cornucopia of fast-fashion to the consumers in the global North.

How retarded would you have to be to buy into that?

The reality is that the same brand names that were once manufactured in factories in Canada and the US are now made in sweatshops in Bangladesh and Pakistan and China. As recently as twenty years ago you could buy jeans made in Canada, shirts made in Canada, shoes made in Canada... and while we may have referred to those factories as "sweatshops," they had little in common with the sweatshops in Asia that we've outsourced our production to.

Back in the "boat people" era my family sponsored a family of Vietnamese refugees into Canada. Two or three of them got jobs at the Rennie shirt factory in Guelph. That was considered a bottom-rung shit-job, the kind of place that new immigrants go to to get a toe-hold in the new land. Within three or four years that Vietnamese-Chinese family had bought their own house in Guelph, which was a veritable palace compared to the "house" that a typical Bangladeshi garment worker in one of Yakabuski's "decent" jobs would find themselves living in today.

Yet we are constantly implored to view the immiseration of workers in the global South as evidence of progress.

That's not progress!

That's just bullshit!

And here's some more progress for you. I happened to find myself wandering around Home Depot this afternoon. Spied a Samsung fridge that had been marked down by an unbelievable $2500! That caught my eye; I often buy shit I don't need because I get a good price on in. My garage is so full of these bargains I haven't been able to park a vehicle in there for years.

But wait a minute... even with that $2500 discount, this refrigerator is still within a whisker of five grand. What gives?

It's a good-sized double door stainless-steel with an ice-maker. OK, that's way more complexity than I'd ever consider, but you can get one of those for around fifteen hundred. So where's the other six thou come in?

Aha! Our Samsung has a 21.5 inch touch screen right on the fridge door! But wait a minute; how does that become a six thousand dollar touch? There's plenty of touch-screen monitors out there for $500 or less...

I figure you can buy that stainless two-door fridge, a computer with a bigger touch-screen, and top the package off with a decent phone, and you'll barely break the two grand barrier. I guess the genius of Samsung is to stitch all that into one package and charge a 200% premium! That premium is your ticket to the "internet of things!"

That's more progress for you!

Or maybe just more bullshit.

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