Just Another Day in an Evil Corporation

“We have all been trained to identify more closely with the abusive personal and social dynamics we call civilization than with our own life and the lives of those around us, including the landbase. People will do anything—go to any absurd length—to hide the abuse from themselves and everyone around them. Everything about this culture—and I mean everything—from its absurd “entertainment” to its equally absurd “philosophy” to its politics to its science to its interspecies relations to its intrahuman relations is all about protecting the abusive dynamics.”
 ~ Derrick Jensen, Endgame

I noticed the following clear example of corporate propaganda. It starts off seeming like a real news report, but it becomes clear that this is just corporate news rationalizing away corporate wrongdoing. I don’t know if there is a direct conflict of interest. It could just be institutionalized bias in giving big business the benefit of the doubt even when the evidence is damning.

I was able to see this as corporate propaganda because I’d already seen other reports about it from sources outside of the mainstream. What caught my attention was the info left out and the way the reported info was spun. Several details I recall (hopefully I’m recalling correctly) from the other news report are:

  • The workers have long days (as I recall something like up to 15 hr days) which would, of course, be illegal in the US.
  • The workers have high quotas and are penalized if they don’t meet those quotas.
  • The workers have high incidents of repetitive injury which causes them to lose their jobs at high rates and I’m sure they don’t have disability compensation like we have in the US.
  • The workers are the poorest of the poor in a society that has almost no opportunity for the poor.
  • The workers have families who depend on their paychecks.

To be fair, this news report did report one unpleasant truth. They mentioned that the managers had a history of abusing workers.

These workers are young people from rural areas. This is their first employment and first time away from family. They are simultaneously isolated from everything they knew and they are surrounded by strangers. In fact, they are forced to live in a room with eight other workers and so have no personal space or time to themselves. They have little chance to make friends as they’re constantly working and there is high turnover. The factory is entirely enclosed and so the workers have their entire lives controlled by the corporation. Worse still, this oppressive factory exists in one of the most oppressive countries in the developed world. These workers have little if any legal recourse and I truly doubt they have union representation. These are just poor people to be used up in a year or two and then replaced (like cogs in a machine) by an endless supply of the desperately poor.

All of this is done to create cheap products for rich people around the world. Foxconn makes parts for companies such as Apple (iPhone and iPad), Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Nokia.

The news report wasn’t half bad for corporate media. They were honest about some of the issues, but they had to spin it right at the end. Suicide cluster? They compare it to angsty teenagers who commit suicide because other angsty teenagers had committed suicide. They have got to be kidding. If they’re going to be in the business of corporate propaganda, they need to do a better job than that.

For more detailed info, here is the section from the Wikipedia article on Foxconn:

In June 2006, allegations of Foxconn operating abusive employment practices came to light as reported by Mail that were later denied by Foxconn.[8][9] Apple launched an investigation into these claims.[10] The result was that the claims of mistreatment of employees were judged by the Apple inspection team to be largely unfounded, but the inspection team also discovered that at peak production times some of the employees were working more hours than Apple’s acceptable “Code of Conduct” limit of 60 hours and 25% of the time workers did not get at least one day off each week.[11] These same workers complained there were not enough overtime work during off peak periods. The auditing team also discovered that workers had been punished by being made to stand at attention for extended periods,[12] and junior employees were subjected to military-style drills.[13]

Foxconn admitted that it makes workers do an extra 80 hours overtime per month while the local labor law only permits 36 hours[14] Foxconn sued Wang You and Weng Bao of China Business News, the journalists responsible for revealing these practices, for $3.77 million and filed a successful court ruling to have the journalists’ assets frozen.[15] Some disagree with the demands and the court ruling.[16] Reporters Without Borders sent a letter to Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs to implore Foxconn to drop the case.[17] Later Foxconn reduced the demand to a symbolic 1 yuan (12 U.S. cents), withdrew the request to freeze the journalists’ personal assets and initiated legal proceedings to sue their employer.[citation needed]

In a conversation between a Reuters journalist who had visited the Foxconn factory and a BBC interviewer broadcast on 27th May 2010,[18] the Reuters journalist commented that “many workers told us that throughout their shift…they are not allowed to speak at all, so there is absolutely no conversation at all between workers during their shift”.

It obviously annoyed me that this was corporate propaganda at worst and corporate spin at best. However, what specifically annoyed me was that this was just another day in the world of capitalism. Our wealth is built on immense suffering. Factories like this exist all over the world. People are abused by management, driven to suicide and harmed by unsafe working conditions. They’re poor when get these jobs and they’re poor after the company gets rid of them (if they don’t get rid of themselves first).

The same mentality that allows Foxconn to operate as it does also allows BP to operate the way it has been operating. While the rich get richer, the poor suffer and the environment is destroyed. This is how capitalism operates, how it has always operated.

This disgusts me. We in the West like to feel morally superior because we no longer enslave our own poor and we no longer persecute our own indigenous, but our capitalist system is dependent on countries that still do these things. I can’t even begin to explain how much this disgusts me. I really don’t see the average transnational corporation being any better than the average totalitarian government. These people are the worse of the worse. Even studies have proven that people who get positions in upper management show higher rates of sociopathic behavior. It’s just an obvious fact. Anyone with eyes to see can see the obvious. Yet, corporate media goes on spinning their stories.

This kind of evil is in some ways worse than something like the oppression under a Hitler, Stalin or Mao. At least, we (in the “civilized” world) can look back at those totalitarian governments and see them honestly as manifestations of the worst in humans. The immorality of corporations, however, is so much more subtle and hidden. We don’t have to see or even know about all of the suffering. It happens elsewhere to other people. I’m continually surprised by how ignorant most people are (including educated people) about what goes on in the world, but what saddens me is that most people don’t seem to care. It breaks my heart again and again.

No matter how outraged I feel, I can’t do anything to stop it. Every major corporation does business in oppressive countries. In capitalism, there is no choice between buying products from moral or immoral companies. They’re all immoral… or at least they’re all part of the same immoral system. Foxconn, for example, makes parts for all of the major technology companies. Most of the time, you don’t know (and can’t find out) where products and parts are made and where the natural resources were taken and how. Few people want to know… just as long as it doesn’t harm them personally. The only way to not contribute to the evil that is capitalism would be to entirely go off the grid and not even buy so much as a nail to pound two boards together.

To be honest, corporations in and of themselves aren’t the real problem. They are just a symptom of the disease. We all are the disease. We all are a part of the corruption and despair. It’s just a fact that capitalism as it exists couldn’t continue as it is without all of our support, whether overt or implicit. The same poor who are oppressed also join the various militaries of the world and oppress others. The wealthy may think they’re above it all, but they’re not. The disease touches everything, corrupts everything. Pollution and violence knows no political boundaries. The rich and the poor blindly follow along the path that those before them have travelled. The suicide of the Foxconn workers is just a sign of the collective suicide that the human species is committing.

“What does a scanner see? I mean, really see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does a passive infrared scanner ? see into me ? into us ? clearly or darkly? I hope it does see clearly, because I can’t any longer these days see into myself. I see only murk. Murk outside; murk inside. I hope, for everyone’s sake, the scanners do better. Because if the scanner sees only darkly, the way I myself do, then we are cursed, cursed again and like we have been continually, and we’ll wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.”

3 thoughts on “Just Another Day in an Evil Corporation

  1. I notice that clip isn’t playing now.

    This is an interesting article, though. Technology, as it currently exists, seems to go hand-in-hand with mass production and capitalism. Very few people, I notice, give any credence to skepticism regarding the true benefits of technology these days, but exploitation of resources and of human labour are both very real issues here.

    The problem, as you say, is that, to really be free of the taint, one would have to go totally off grid. This is something we are born into. My only hope -personally – is that small decisions do in some way make a different, such as the decision not to buy a new mobile phone every year, and so on.

    • The embedding is disabled on the video. You should be able to double click on it and it will open up in a new tab or window. If that doesn’t work, you can go to YouTube and do a search for it. It’s a CNN video and it’s titled “iPhone factory struggles with suicides”.

      I don’t think everything is hopeless. Little things do matter. I’m part of the system and I certainly don’t live perfectly, but at least my environmental footprint is probably less than the average American… which isn’t necessarily saying much. My existence is relatively lacking in technological gadgetries. It’s not for any ascetic reasons. I just don’t have much need for most technology.

      There isn’t much to be said about situations such as this factory. Humans are strange and sometimes very cruel creatures. It sucks to be a poor person in this world. Heck, it can suck pretty bad even if you’re not poor.

      Ya know, there was one detail about Foxconn that was more sad than anything else. I guess one of the preferred ways of suicide was leaping off the buildings. So, management built nets around the buildings to catch any leapers. Life sucks so bad that you want to end it and they won’t even let you do that. It’s not that they care about you. It just looks bad for the corporation if their suicide rates are too high.

    • I just saw another video about Foxconn:

      The news reporter said Foxconn has doubled the factory workers’ pay in order to incentivize them to not kill themselves. I suppose that is a positive thing. It’s an interesting way of looking at things. How much money is it worth to go on living? Everything and everyone has a price… or so I’ve heard.

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