Friday, February 8, 2008

Mardi Gras vs. Chinese New Year, beads vs. bondage

Anyone who watches the news knows that work conditions in China are far from ideal. Mardi Gras - Made in China is documentary about how the beads thrown at Mardi Gras are made, in China of course. The majority of factory workers in China are women, usually girls who are sent from rural communities to feed the family back home. The movie wants to contrast the harsh working conditions and the backward, sexist attitudes of the factory boss with the decadent, liberated sexuality of Bourbon Street festivities. The contrast is particularly apt this year when Mardi Gras and the Chinese Lunar New Year coincide.

Now we all know our decadent Western lifestyle stomps across the backs of Third World workers, and our cheap crap at WalMart is made from the sweat on the brows of women and children making ten cents an hour. What is the solution? When we demand better rights for workers, the work moves away. Thailand went through the trouble of improving worker's rights, environmental conditions, and cracking down on sex tourism, and now that it costs more to do business there, companies moved to Indonesia and Pakistan and China where things are more business-friendly. Should we just let them improve on their own? It's a tough choice. Boycotts rob them of what little money they can make.

It's an interesting contrast. I'm no fan of China's government and while I'd like to visit there, I think they will be our economic and military rival sooner than we'd like. By keeping their currency artificially low, they've been waging economic warfare on us and we've been showing our boobs for their beads. Every cheap plastic turd we buy at Target or WalMart is probably going to bite us in the ass years down the line, but it's hard to avoid. That's if the lead in the pet food and toys, and the radiator fluid in the toothpaste doesn't kill us first.

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