Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why Do Steampunks Care About Local Versus Global Economy?

With some very serious groups forming to announce intention to make Steampunk a lifestyle choice, and local events pointing out the strength of their conviction to support local artisans, craftsmen, restaurants, and local businesses over large chains, much less an avoidance of the evil empire of Wal-mart, I started thinking in depth about the reasons and rationale that drives these passions which are surfacing more often and more strongly among some in our community.

The conclusions I came to are both enlightening and disturbing at the same time.  Enlightening in that it seems that Steampunk brings out the best in many, and disturbing because it forced me to look more closely at the pervasive destruction of the middle class and of any real opportunity for those not born into privilege the world over.  It's almost as if Feudalism is making a huge resurgence under the disguise of "Globalization" while, like the fictional character from the East India Company in "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies says, they just consider it "good business" when abuse of the common people in order to squeeze them into a convenient box is accomplished by big business.  It seems that our tiny community (as compared to the Goliath size of our foe anyway) is not putting on narrow blinders when they try to buy locally, but rather, quite the opposite, they are one of the few communities totally removing the "goggles" , so to speak, and looking at the true evil of "Globalization" as it is really being practiced now, full in the face.  They are thinking, like the fictional Steampunk Hero Captain Nemo, in terms of concern for the world as a community, rather than as a nation, a state, a city, or a neighborhood, and like him, fighting passionately to help the oppressed resist the seemingly unstoppable steam roller of "progress as it tries to destroy any attempt at individuality or efforts to maintain things like quality, customer service, good or even safe working conditions, pollution controls, equal opportunity, human rights, or anything that might support the wants and needs of anyone other than the top level executives and their shareholders at the expense of destroying our world (quite literally) and our economies in the process.

Globalization, when all the rhetoric is stripped away, means finding the cheapest possible labor market in the world, firing almost all of the business's employees (usually with little or no notice) and then moving production to an extremely undeveloped area where poorly trained an unqualified workers are paid slave wages (sometimes children literally bought as slaves and chained to a weaving loom) in a place where hundreds of years of equal rights laws, human rights laws, pollution laws, worker safety laws, and all forms of unionization labor standards are totally thrown away in a single stroke!  In fact there are even a few cases where the abolition of slavery was proven to be overturned in some cases by this wonderful new profit maker "globalization".

What happens more often is that indigenous people are lured away from traditional lifestyles, usually agricultural, where they usually had love, family, clean water, good food, and enough to eat and taken to a strange place where they are treated almost like slaves, worked in very dangerous conditions, and often raped, beaten, and or murdered, usually on the streets while walking to and from work, but sometimes even in the workplace.  They are lured by the promise of having all the gadgets, fancy clothes, cell phones, etc. that westerners have, but they give up, literally everything and become severely abused, depressed, and suicidal instead.  At least that is the typical dismal picture for many of them.  In exchange for this they receive pathetic wages and increased cost of living that allows them to save little or none of what they earn.  In exchange for tolerating these horrors, we are permitted to buy cheap goods (in all meanings of the word) from Wal-mart, Target, or dollar stores, etc.  Of course the junk sold there is usually bland, cheap looking, all looks alike, works poorly, and breaks very quickly, but of course, "Hey it's cheap and that's all that matters!"  For the manufacturers who have sold our American dream down the sewer in this way leaving millions of Americans unemployed and destroying the manufacturing powerhouse that America once was, this is an ideal situation, because they never have to care about what the worker's think, don't bother to pay lawsuits if thousands of people are killed due to poor safety standards, horrifically irresponsible industrial accidents (even ones that kill a huge portion of a city in a single night like the chemical insecticide plant in India that released poison gas killing thousands and maiming more than 10 times as many just because they wanted to save money by shutting down all the safety systems and refrigerating compressors.)  Not only that, but if their cheap and poorly made goods have poor enough quality standards, they will break quickly and force us to buy even more from the same source again!

The Globalization movement also is taking a page from the book of "Khrushchev" who told the west that threatened the Soviet Union (by luring away their talented young minds with that irresistible rock and roll and the hope of a better life).  "Khrushchev" said "I will crush the west with my shoe and took it off and pounded it on his table at the UN Assembly.  While it was not an idle threat, he finally realized that in order to do so, they would have to destroy themselves as well.  I mention this incident as it is essentially the same as the "Wal-mart" phenomenon.  When we complain that a store only carries the prettiest items in size medium, small, and extra small, or that they all look alike, or that we have to wait an hour to get through a check out line, or that customer service no longer exists, we are always told "Well...I know, and that's sad, but Wal-Mart has forced our stores to act just like them in order to survive.  We lay off at least half of our workers, carry only the very most popular and cheapest items, and have to service big buyers first even if it means offending our regular customers in the process."  I even get this answer in hardware stores, plant nurseries (the few still in business) and an amazing number of other types of businesses.

Below are a few stories that I think are fairly typical of the problem that I found in a very cursory search of the internet by simply typing in worker abuse into Google.  Take a look at them and please advise me of the worst of what you find yourself, or already know about regarding the question "Why should Steampunks (Republican or Democrat) want to do their utmost to stop the tide of Globalization that has gutted our national economy and our national culture while abusing people horribly and almost ensuring the increase of pollution to levels that may make all life here extinct.

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