We have been raised to think all inventions are good. We call it progress. It is an automatic response, a way of being “modern.” We do not ask the question, “…..good for whom? Belonging to a society that heralds change as always good for everyone, we go along with it. We push away growing anxiety; It’s hard to ignore that your job is shaky, that people are being laid off, that equivalent jobs are moving to India, to the Philippines, away. Is your job next?
Newspapers and radios and television frame the wonderful world which technology is bringing us . It treats disaster when it happens as an “over there” experience, a breakdown which has nothing to do with what they make, nothing to do with us. Take the worker-killing fire in Bangladesh. It was in a building whose doors are locked once the workers are at their task, to avoid theft. There was no way to get out. The US pay the Bangladeshi owner too little for him to upgrade the building yet -continue to blame the factory owner for not having safe quarters.
I believed in the Green Revolution about which I heard so much until I visited Vandana Shiva’s farm and school in Dehra Dun, India. She was a grower, seed saver and spreader of those heirloom seeds to needy farmers. Her seeds were appropriate to local soil and weather. She offered seeds to farmers that had gotten into the Monsanto trap via American seeds presented as offering a huge crop increase which totally failed.
Indian farmers commit suicide in vast numbers when their Monsanto seeds produce so little that their many generation inherited farms are taken over by the bank. They kill themselves by swallowing the Monsanto pesticide. They previously kept the best seeds saved from one harvest to use in the next. Thanks to Monsanto, all the seeds from the last harvest were eaten and so the farmer was trapped.
I was so ready to believe in the “Green Revolution” that I suppressed my suspicion that American seeds raised on American soil are not suited to the Indian soil, rainfall, etc.; also that a foreign corporation is incapable of replacing the knowledge, experience and seed selection by local farmers. When I even mentioned my skepticism about foreign “Greens,” intelligent friends dismissed my concern. It is always easier to go along with the crowd.
When evaluating the value of new mechanical/electrical/internet inventions, we need to look at the philosophy that lies behind them. Increasingly, the intention of producing a device is to replace human labor. Machines do not require health benefits, vacations, retirement wages. They can be moved from here to there in a box. Someone can easily learn to push the proper buttons. A little oil and an occasional wrench and on they go.
Jobs are being done by foreign workers, Indian, China, the Phillippines, etc. because they accept tiny wages. But this is only a step on the way to the total replacement of human labor. In the best of all possible worlds, you would be supported in a fine state because machinery does the job for you. However, the intention behind increasing mechanization is to create more for me (the owner) which means yes for you.
We now are in a “Jobless recovery.” What kind of recovery is that? It is a recovery for those who own stocks in the firms which produce the product. It is a recovery for banks which lend money to investors for mechanization and receive adequate returns. It is recovery for the one percent who do not look beyond their glittery feudal walls to see the misery which lies behind.
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