Tuesday, February 14, 2012

American slavery (1865-1945)

Manufacturers who often wear the same American-flag lapel pins that politicians do (and with the same self-serving effect) appear to be feeling the downside effect of 'out-sourcing' and are considering bringing some of their jobs back from India and China and Mexico and other places where labor is cheap but quality and delivery can be shoddy.

"We see the opportunity to bring jobs -- certain jobs, not every job -- back" said General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt. 

"Certain" jobs ... not "every job." Business is in business for money. Any reference to love of country comes in a distant second, though the desire to be seen as 'American' behooves a businessman seeking favors and accolades in Washington and in the mirror. Money is money. Where it comes from is a matter that both business and consumers ignore with ease.

Last night on TV, there was a show ("Slavery by Another Name") about slavery (1865-1945) in America -- a slavery that helped fuel the Civil War, led to the Emancipation Proclamation, enjoyed a brief respite after the Civil War, and then was reinstituted in southern states through the simple expedient of rewriting the laws so that vast numbers of black people could be jailed for minor offenses. Once blacks were jailed (for things like vagrancy), the states rented out their prisoners to a variety of businesses, including such giants as U.S. Steel. By renting out these prisoners, the states found a revenue stream that had been cut off with the abolition of slavery and businesses found a labor supply that was far less uppity than a free-man workforce. Black men 'disappeared' in ways that would do a South American dictatorship proud. Pleas to the president of the United States were (as with Teddy Roosevelt) addressed half-heartedly and then sank into a maw of collective forgetfulness. Business was simply too important, too woven into national need. Slavery was necessary because disentangling its cruelties from a world of need and greed was impossibly complex and politically suicidal. Whipping, lynching and a supposition that blacks were somehow inferior became infused in the culture. But business was booming.

Like the German companies (I.G. Farben, Krupp, Bayer, Daimler-Benz, etc.) that employed concentration camp prisoners during World War II, American business was, and probably remains, willing to turn a blind eye to the costs of doing cheap business. Poverty and its attendant slaveries produces a vast pool of menial labor ... expendable and replaceable labor. I doubt if there is a country or perhaps businessman in the world that does not employ some version of this tactic.Business is about money. But its financial costs hardly begin to tally its costs.

The vileness of institutional slavery is so vast and so rooted in human greed that yowling about it rivals screaming at the stars. Silence is not enough ... and yowling is not enough either.

The best I can figure is this: "Don't YOU do that!"

1 comment:

  1. GE designed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.