Friday, December 24, 2010

My review of 'The Boy in Striped Pyjamas' (film)

There is no greater testament to mans’ capabilities than a genocide. We can gain a pretty accurate idea about the enormity of the Holocaust and of its literal human cost through history books - a few million deaths here, a few more there. Is this the way in which we should be educated on such insane acts of human cruelty in order to prevent reoccurrence? Or is there another way, a more accurate way, a penetrating way, a way that leaves no room for apathy or indifference?

The film ‘The Boy in Striped Pyjamas’ uses the personal, the innocent and the sweet to release the enormity of this human tragedy, and what better way is there of making it as real as possible, than through a small story of two children’s’ struggle to understand what cannot be understood – what only the insane and the cruel can understand. Its simplicity and innocence are what make it the most effective depiction of what happens when big men get big ideas - ideas that suffocate the life out of adorable little children, children that could be your children, children destroyed simply because they were born.

It is, for me, the most important film ever made. We have an obligation to see it, to see two little boys, a representation of the billions of little boys and girls all over the world suffering under the tyrannical boots of the monsters and ogres that have ruled the world for centuries and still do. We must acknowledge it if we are to end it, we must be reminded if we are never to forget, and please, we must NEVER forget.

History has always been personal as humanity is personal, and thus a personal account of history is in my opinion the most accurate. We all know how many men, women, children and tiny babies lost their lives in the Holocaust, and now, thanks to this movie, we actually know the reality behind the figures. It could have been our children in striped pyjamas.

Bruno and Schmall’s story happened. It is not a lie; it is not just a portrayal. Their story happened to so many children and is still happening. Why are we letting this insurmountable suffering continue? If you haven’t already asked yourself this question, you will after you see the film, and I pray its innocence speaks to you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Right People

When you walk in it's the head to toe thing
You know what they're thinking and you care too much
And ignore them

They communicate with nice white snarls
And rubber promises
They're happy, happy, happy

Identity in six inch cloppy daggers
Fluffy coat hangers
And chests and thighs and hawks' eyes
Hey bitches! Mwah, mwah!
I'll be there for you until I have to be there for you

Their pruned pincers clench each other's shoulders
And they smile hard and rehearsed
Their eyes pretty diamonds

When did it all happen?
When did meaning get so tossed and turned
And burned
Into a hot whirlwind of cold, stark appearance?

Spin and whirl your rich blonde curls
Since when has one shoe size fitted you all?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Child, The Chew Toy part 2

Don't get me wrong, MNCs do a lot that help host countries. They build invaluable infrastructure (bridges, roads, airports) and do provide employment to an otherwise destitute population. NOT ALL MNCs are bad. Many have strict policies on labour, wage rates and the like. MNCs bring in investment and foreign currency - usually stronger than the local currency, lead to the growth of new industries and some provide education and training in new skills for the local population. BUT. There is a massive but.

If a firm wants to achieve maximum profits, if that is its main motive, its main aim, it will probably do just about anything it can to achieve it. It will probably try to stay within the bounds set by the authorities and the law, but sometimes may feel the necessity to overstep that boundary just a tad in order to scrape up just a few extra billions.
So they want to make big profit. Let's take the example of a manufacturing firm. They need to lower their costs in order to achieve as much producer surplus as is possible. How to achieve producer surplus. Well first we'll need to employ a mass of labour so we can make a ton of output. Ah, problem, we'll have to pay those workers. So we need a way of keeping a lot of workers at low wage rates. We can't do that in our own country (let's say the UK or US) because of the gosh darn Minimum Wage and all those snotty workers' rights regulations... so let's move to somewhere desperate. Somewhere cheap. How about Guatemala? Sierra Leone? 
So they pack up and move across the world. 
Once they find a sufficient location in which to exploit low wage rates, they set up camp. Thousands upon thousands of employees flock the factories labouring for hours for a few pence. In one Nike factory it was reported that they were working for as little as $2 a day. Nike admitted to the allegations about child labour but stated that it would be hard to change policy. Pause a moment to take that in.
There have been many accusations of sexual harassments of female employees in Nike factories in Vietnam and some muslim workers stated they were kicked whilst praying by the regulators. Forgive me, I don't have the statistics for this information it's all in my geography folder and when I have time I will put them up. The evidence is all over the place, look it up and decide for yourself. Anyway I digress again.
As soon as wage rates get too high or the companies are forced to raise them, they pack up and move somewhere else - cheaper. 
Chocolate. That milky, creamy treat we all indulge in. Some people call it the innocent sin. When they say this they're implying when you eat it you'll gain a few pounds. Let me enlighten you on the true sins that come wrapped in that packet of dreamy delight.
The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world's largest cocoa producers. Around 100,000 children work in chocolate factories in the Ivory Coast, it is estimated that about 10,000 of those little children are slaves.
Here's a shocker, Cadbury Schweppes, Nestle and other major chocolate brands have stated that they cannot confirm whether the chocolate they sell has slave blood on it or not. Scary huh? Well, frankly, I think it's ridiculous. The massive MNCs that generate insurmountable amounts of profit can't even pin point who produces their cocoa? I'm sensing something very fishy here...
The Ivory coast produces 43% of cocoa around the world, so chances are we've all indulged in a bit of tainted chocolate. 
Something has been done. The US congress passed a legislation that agreed to end forced and abusive child labour by 2005. The International Labour Rights Fund has stated since that little has been done.
The kids that work in these factories are constantly exposed to poisonous pesticides used on the cocoa beans, they work long hours in blazing heat, walk miles to transport their produce and face regular abuse from their 'employers'. We are talking about children here. I'm not saying that it is excusable to treat adults this way, but just think. Little children, some below the age of 10, beaten, whipped, hungry, innocent children. What hope do they have if those who have the ability to help draw them out of the poverty trap are pushing them further and further into it. They have no chance of an education, a ticket out of the degradation. By constantly consuming tainted cocoa for our own enjoyment we may be funding the most unethical, evil system on earth.
It is not easy to solve this problem. An Association Spokesperson for the chocolate companies in question, Mr. David Greenwood said ''Boycotts will not help anybody. Hand-outs to people without change will achieve nothing''. He is mostly right in my opinion. Yes it raises awareness and yes that may spark the light in a few peoples' hearts and they may opt for fair trade products (though who's to say how 'fair' these products are). However it is up to us. We can know everything about this and choose to ignore it. If you don't acknowledge it, does it exist? That's the attitude I fear a lot of people take. It is easier to ignore it, there's no doubt about that, it doesn't affect us right? Look into your hearts, see into the love you have for your children, for anyone, for yourself, would you want or let anyone go through this if you had the ability to contribute to ending it? 
How do we know what is tainted and what is not? Chances are almost everything we buy has been passed through the hands of an ill-paid exploited worker at some point. Where do we draw the line? I don't know the answer, I'm still trying to figure it out. For now all I can say is that it's a choice between that shirt for £5 with no guarantee of fair trade or the one for £10 with the red label on it. Think about it. 

Next post on more aspects of globalisation

If you want information or any bibliography for the above facts and figures, please let me know I'll be more than happy to assist you

Some useful links

The Child, The Chew Toy

I bought a Nike watch, bag, purse and water bottle. I paid for them - £45.99.
I walked back to the car, contented and satisfied with my purchase, went home, got out of the car, showed the stuff to my mum, ate something and went to bed.

The notes were stored in a drawer, at the end of the month they were taken out and split up. Maybe £15 for the shop £10 for the cashier and the rest went to Nike, to Mr Phil Knight maybe, I don't know. What I can assume, now, is that the little boy or girl who made my stuff, got 2p.

She/he sat at a little table in a sweatshop somewhere in Guatemala at 5am slaving away, stitching, cutting, pricking for probably a minimum of 10 hours no break. Who was looking after her you might ask? Maybe the Taiwanese ex-Army Officer in charge of the work place. Forcing the children into the strict regimes he knows only too well. 
Maybe the child protests a little, she's a little hungry and would like some lunch. Her protest is greeted with a sharp blow to the ear and a snap to get back to work. Maybe she'll go home with her earnings for the day and be able to sleep a bit. Maybe her hard earned 2p will go towards her education, food, shelter. Maybe not.

This is going to be a big post, I may split it up into little posts because reading it all in one go might be a bit much. 

Ahhhh globalisation! The development of the TNCs and MNCs giants as a result of this great 'accomplishment' of mankind has led to such diversified product choice, who would complain? Who would want to?
What we see is the final product. We see the tailored Nikefit pretty polo shirts, the smart footballs, the running shoes, the 'cool' factor we are automatically branded with when we walk through the streets kitted out in our new gear. The Gap fashion trends are eye catching, people glance at you. Why would you want that to end? 

Nike admitted to using child labour in its factories and stated that they 'blew it' by exploiting little children for the motive of profit.

Profit. Money makes the world go round. It certainly goes round everything - it circulates us, the economy, countries, policies and dives head first into the motives of politicians, governments, firms and entrepreneurs in their definitive conquest to rule the world and how? Well, through us, the consumer. 
We swallow up the adverts and regurgitate them through spending, spending, spending, a lot of the time on crap we don't need, we just do it because we can, and because they tell us to. They watch from their towers on high as the masses squirm and swarm below, doing (unknowingly for the most part - some just choose not to care) exactly what these devils bid. A fiendish grin stretches across their faces - they've got us down.
What drives the world economy? Lending, spending, saving - has anyone stopped to think hang, on, where is all this going? Why should they stop? People need money to survive, without it we simply would have nothing...right? 
What leads to the success of these multi national corporations? What drives them? What do they hope to achieve? How do they get there? One motive. One cold, jingling, result-creating motive. The profit motive. 
For the most part, businesses that cater to the consumer are out there for profit. They seek to profit maximise wherever they can. They will exploit the consumer no end, they price discriminate; they brutally bar other firms from entering industries to compete with them; they cheat, the lie, they guzzle down the result. But do we complain? No we don't, we have no reason to. It doesn't affect us. What goes on behind the scenes doesn't show up in our everyday lives. We just buy the products. 
I digress, I'll  get back to the point in my next post. 
To start with I'll explain the profit motive in terms of how the average run-of-the-mill Transnational Company hopes to achieve it.


The age of the iPod

I have an iPod. Don't get me wrong it's a fantastic invention. To be able to store what defines the world, society, us, you, me through music in a tiny little box of metal that fits into a pocket is indeed extremely handy. The efficiency of the iPod is incredible, it's easy to search, play, stop, start, rewind, fast forward... and this is where I have a problem

I can't help but notice that the so-called iPod generation can now not listen to a song to the end. It's just so easy to stop the song and play another one that whatever delight in the song the user first had is slightly devoid of meaning... I know this could happen on a cd player or any other device but the iPod seems to encourage it.
I'm not blaming the iPod, how could I? It knows no better. I'm rather blaming the fickle population that falls prey to the new age of technology. If we can't even finish listening to a song without getting bored what has the world come to.
I'll never forget one of my friends saying 'hey this is an incredible song, listen', he then put the earphone in my ear and I listened, we got to the end of the first chorus, about a minute in, and he said 'yeah that's enough I'm bored, listen to this'. 
Anyone reading this is probably thinking 'what the hell is she on about, this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read'. But it started me, and since then I've noticed that people just don't listen to a song anymore and thus the enjoyment they once had in the song has deadened. 

It just shows how impatient we have become, and how mundane and trivial activities are that were once so much more indulgent. And it scares me. It's easy - why bother? Scary.


I've been following the blog of a very impressive friend and found myself compelled to start my own. 
I'll make the prediction now, so no one who may find what I have to say interesting will be disappointed - I'll probably never stick to this but I'm going to give it a go
Here goes