There is a very fascinating book on the shelves right now by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor; “ A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madison’s.” For history buffs like myself, it is like pumpkin pie and cool whip; a real treat. I have always felt that studying history helps us understand and develop a better appreciation for the times we live in. As compared to lamenting about current problems and longing to live in a past time when things supposedly were a lot better. It is easy to fall into the trap of living backwards, not forward when times get hard!
Granted, most everyone at one point in their lives has wished they could go back to the good old days. Politicians without answers regularly assure us that times have been better and if we support them, they will turn the hands of time back to when America had better values and treated each other better! But to play devils advocate, might I ask, where in the past should we you go?
A recent letter to the editor in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette extols the virtues of living in the idyllic 1950’s. Great days if you were not a woman trying to gain access to corporate America, African American, Jewish or Gay! Others seek to turn back the hands on the clock circa the days of the founding fathers. Back to the days of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Monroe.
Today on FAUX news a TV bobble head was elaborating on the virtues of our founding fathers and what these men of high moral ground must have been like to have created such documents and then followed through initiating those rights for us all! Good times for sure, unless you were a woman or worse yet a slave! In due time you might say those problems were addressed. Give or take a hundred years of injustices and indignities!
Few recall openly that every President up until Lincoln was directly connected in some way to the ownership of slaves. Fillmore had two plantations full of slaves. Jefferson fathered eight children to one of his, and Madison’s personal slave slept on the floor outside his room while he attended college and acquired the knowledge he would later use to create our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Dolly and James Madison’s slaves had living quarters right outside the White House and cooked the Presidents and his family’s meals in the basement of the same.
So the argument of, “lets go back to the past for better moral values”, really isn’t a reality we should waste our time on unless we are willing to accept the bad as well as the good. Slavery and its effects on America are a part of our past we should well remember in the hopes that we never let anything like that happen again.
Today to most slavery is not even an issue. Can you hear Ron Paul at a Presidential debate, suddenly going off on a tangent about modern day slavery and how it has to be stopped? There are plenty of issues a good libertarian should be upset about, but for sure the audience would quickly dismiss him as really having gone over the edge! But it truly is an issue that is very much alive today. An issue that in much the same way slavery was a part of our founding fathers world, it is very much a part of every American’s world today. Issues I dare say most of us carry around in our back pockets!
I am talking of course about that item in your pocket; your cell phone and all those must have internet connected devices you could not possibly live without. The American consumers addiction of having 24 seven 4G Internet fueled access has created a product market that is larger than the economies of many nations!! Supporting that product market is a worldwide production effort that starts in the mines of Africa for the precious metal tantalum, and culminates in assembly factories in one of several far eastern countries, depending on who puts the product parts together the cheapest!
Ah, the beauty of a global marketplace. We buy from them and they sell to us, pumping up economies, filling the wants and desires of a demanding public totally enamored and waiting for the next thing to buy! Yet this market has more than just a dark side, it has what some might consider a living hell aspect to it. That being in a world where price point production is key to any successful venture, American capitalism raises the winner flag, reminding us that he who can secure the least in cost of production and materials is always the winner. And the sad parallel that goes along with this is that greed more than often trumps safety of workers!
When and if that happens, the losers always turn out to be the non-union, production people. Be they the miners working without contracts and unions or the assembly personnel working for ninety-five cents an hour and on fourteen hour work days! The consumers, which are a vital part of this production cycle, do have the power to make changes in the process, but all to often their input is as fickle as the prices they are willing to pay.
In the wave of conservative I, me, mine thinking that seems to have overtaken the American consumer as of late, the cheaper the price the better and if some people get the short end of the stick in the production end of the deal, well we often just remark, they should be glad they have jobs. Sort of a let them eat cake statement if you ever heard one! Gone are the days where the America consumer is willing to tell corporate America to clean up their act overseas so that products produced there are created in an environment just and safe for workers.
Fair trade laws and companies supervising the companies they contract with would help. But in a world where companies are formed and abandoned in the blink of a production line, there seems to be little regulatory help out there to protect the vast workforce that keeps America stocked with its internet toys.
The company Foxconn in China makes many of Microsoft’s X Boxes and Apples I products. As I write this, the new third generation people who are at best expendable are creating I-pads in plants there. The Chinese government and company officials, surprisingly not one in the same, are in the process of doing a major PR program to make the company seem more humane than it has been recorded in the past. Working conditions are so bad in some plants that FOXCONN has put nets around their buildings to keep workers from jumping off the roofs and killing themselves. Apparently more than a few have already been successful at doing so! The fine for trying to create a union to improve working conditions in China is said to be twelve years in Prison!
I started writing this blog piece because it was hard to understand the hypocritical actions of the Founding Fathers with regards to slavery and the rights of men documents they were in the process of creating. While pointing that one finger at them, I quickly realized I was pointing three at myself.
Every piece of electronic 24 seven wired equipment I have was probably made by someone who was being taken advantage of in some way. The events and things happening at Foxconn only tended to highlight all of what can easily be seen if one had their eyes open. I, like the founding Fathers, should have a real clique in my neck from turning the other way!
Is there a way we can address the issue of people being worked in slave like conditions on the world labor market? The cold sobering fact; probably not. Can we as consumers be aware of where our equipment comes from and at least make our voices be heard? Yes. Belonging to organizations such as Amnesty International, and Green Peace, is in some small way going to help address the problems of the day,that we as American seem oblivious too.
It boils down to caring. It boils down to making choices that affect whether you really need the latest as greatest piece of equipment or will the one you have be just fine? As a consumer you have the right to make your voice heard. You have the ability to step away from a purchase for more than the sole reason you don’t like the price.
A friend recently posted to Facebook that the company that made her favorite lipstick, quit making it. She can no longer find it anywhere. She has the right to let them know her concerns. A popular TV show has remained on for almost five years despite poor ratings. How? Because consumers made known their wants that this show be kept on. If social networks can be used to let the world know about what a movie star is feeling or doing today, they can be used to make changes on the much more important issues of human rights and workers rights.
I can only imagine the founding Fathers tweeting about what they were doing in secret in Philadelphia those many long years ago. Had they had the power the public has today at it’s fingertips to communicate, it might not have taken a hundred years to address the injustices of the day and that truly would have been an awesome thing to behold. One time living in the past just might have been something we could all have enjoyed.
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