Category Archives: China

On leaving the country and sweatshops

So the obvious has happened. I was offered a job as an english tutor in Tokyo; truly, it was never in doubt. My bags aren’t packed, my visa not ready, but my ticket is booked for the 23 August.

I’ve been here for far too long. People are getting old. If I don’t leave now I will never leave. I feel like, finally, this is my own story, being written, lived, by me. Not my father’s story, not my mother’s. Though I will, in time, write their stories.

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I don’t want to exult too much (because it’s no big deal get in a job teaching your native language). And, further, I’m currently watching a short documentary on sweatshops on Saipan (American Territory). A painful reminder that the clothes I love so much, are made in the same conditions I try to avoid in my own life, repetitive work, hard work, the selling of time, indentured labour, physical labour, slavery, chains. 8 -16 hours a day, for the princely sum of some $7000 a year. Hourly wage of $3.5 USD. Poor ladies getting exploited.

Many of these ladies are promised a better life in the USA and so they fork over a year or two’s chinese wages just to go to Saipan – which they are told is a part of the Great US of A with all its laws, rights, and freedoms. But they are greatly mistaken when they arrived and are carted in worn old buses and crammed into barracks that are guarded all day and all night. They are given quotas that are increased when reached but without reward, yet if they do not reach their quotas they are threatened with dismissal, and what of the debt they incurred to their paymaster’s then? These women must stay, pay off their debt which they incurred in going to Saipan with their first year’s salary, and then spend a few more years hoping to earn some money for themselves and their families in China. An alarming fact raised in the program is that the corporations can deduct up to 200 USD per month for living expenses and board, whereas the average monthly salary is about 500 USD. Scant reward for their labour. Yet, that the women do not rebel, means this is the true state of the world labour market. People are willing to work for a couple of dollars an hour, doing mind-numbing labour. The masses, truly are the masses for a reason. They may all be slightly brutish by our standards, but that is only because they were never given the same opportunities we were, so before we condemn them as beasts, let us not forget that we are merely beasts who have no need to give up our manners and humanist tendencies (usually) in the thinly veiled fight for survival that is, and always will be, life.

Blogging surely is one of those privileges, as is Burberry clothing.

My questions ~ Who will take up the sword? But will these cause my garment prices to rise? What will I wear then? Is this hypocrisy? Is it the nature of humanity to continually exploit everything around us. I doubt I could stop wearing nice clothes. I doubt it. Shit!

In the end, I think this is a real problem with modern life. Do we care more about the welfare of a human stranger? Or do we care more about the value of our purchasing power. If there were no sweat shops, our clothes might cost twice to three times as much or even more. How do you make such a decision when you can’t even feel the pain of another… can’t even feel pain ourselves…

The link is here… http://www.smh.com.au/tv/Fashion/Behind-the-Labels-4272008.html

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