Thursday, February 8, 2007

Pet Peeve

Wal-Mart is my pet peeve. Betty Dukes deserves our respect for taking on the world largest supermarket chain with its 3400 shops; a chain seemingly discriminating women, not giving them training possibilities, not paying the same wages for the same jobs. Two million women have worked for Wal-mart since December 28, 1998. Now they could get a settlement if they win this case. Furthermore there are no trade unions, except I am told in Quebec, in Canada because obviously ‘nobody wants to get on the wrong side of the Quebecois’ and in China where trade unions are not free and independent. China only acknowledges state trade unions. Not only are much of the ugly cheap plastic consumer goods Wal-Mart sells and that break when one looks at them Chinese, but the workers producing them live in miserable circumstances. When China did bid for the Olympic Games they made 5 promises: they would organize green Olympics, there would be freedom of the press (that is actually in their constitution!), friendly security, the profit would be used to create a better social situation for all, and lastly more transparency to the public. Nice promises, good rhetoric. One could compare this to the 1936 Olympics when in Germany a certain dictator pulled the same publicity stunt. What are the problems with China: the internet is not free (Google accepted that), cyber dissidents are thrown in jail, there is no freedom of the press, vast stretches of land is so polluted it can not be used and in Bejing the air makes you cough constantly. The country doesn’t think about sustainability. There are problems with health (HIV is increasing rapidly), with women rights. NGO’s can do their jobs. There has been a severe crack down on lawyers last year. Human rights, capital punishment with about 10.000 executions per years, workers rights, ecological disasters such as the big dam projects responsible for the displacement of 30.000.000 (40 million, 300 million, what figure is right?) landless farmers and Tibet to name but a few issues which should make one think before buying Chinese goods.
China claims Western values don’t work in Asia. Is that true? Are there no universal values? Is only competition and profit universal?

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