Saturday, December 29, 2012

Worrying Trends

For the last few months I've been worried.

Steven Joyce summed up the problem for me at NetHui. His speech went something along the lines of:
People want more higher paying jobs. Business is exciting....
The problem with that is that it's a horrendously weak justification for only concerning themselves with businesses needs. And sure, they're important to the economy BUT what about people? Is it okay to dismiss people's needs or give weak justifications in order to protect businesses who, more than likely, are going to ship jobs offshore anyway?

Today I watched a documentary called "Food Inc." and while parts of it were horribly difficult to follow (mainly because it was made for an American audience. I'm starting to think that the insistence on the imperial system is so that points of comparison can't be made with other countries. Another way to make themselves insular), the same themes seemed to be coming up time and time again.

The documentary was a little disappointing in that they seemed to be naively under the impression that we can vote with our feet!

Why do I think this is horribly naive? Because everything is done to mislead us. For example, take free range chickens. The only difference that I know of between free range and factory chickens is that:

  1. They're not in cages. This doesn't mean that they aren't in horribly unsanitary, overcrowded, dark conditions.
  2. They are given the opportunity to get outside - and as far as I know, there's no minimum size on a door (i.e. if you have 2000 hens in a shed, with an door that only allows one chicken out at a time, then very few of the chickens will actually make it outside).
Labelling on food is kept to a minimum. We don't really know what we're buying. Terms are thrown at us such as "organic" (a buzzword if ever I heard one. Think about it - Organic Chemistry includes oil, man-made oil derived polymers etc.). We don't have to be informed of the fact that products contain genetically modified ingredients.

Likewise, when's the last time you saw ethical clothing which didn't cost the earth (i.e. you could buy from boutiques knowing that the clothing was made in the back of the store)? We've all been conditioned to believe that this is okay so long as we're getting cheap clothing. What if clothing was labelled with:
  1. The minimum age of the workers (sort of like a blended whiskey).
  2. The average wage of the workers.
Of course, this isn't going to happen. It would impact profits. But then, what would happen if all of them had to label their clothing as such? I imagine 1 of 2 things would happen. Either the prices go up significantly in order to protect insane profits (for which people would depressingly justify to themselves or others as if they were somehow responsible for a company's profits) or businesses would get out of the clothing business quick smart.

The Pacific Partnership Agreement seeks to give multinational corporations unprecedented control effectively asking those in the partnership to give up their sovereignty by making it possible for these businesses to sue a government if a government has affected their profits.

Food Inc. pointed out something that I only really heard about a few days ago. Around seed cultivation. It is no longer legal in America to cultivate your own soy seeds. This is also starting to happen in Mexico with corn. While you could cultivate your own corn or soy seed legally, traces of Monsanto's GM seeds (as happens with pollination) cause such practises to be illegal (or, if they're not, Monsanto has pockets deep enough to bankrupt farmers who try to do this). Why? Because it infringes on Monsanto's patents.

The last few years have seen an insane number of measures put around what was formally a civil crime - copyright. Think about the infamous S92A. The biggest objection around that issue was that the burden of proof isn't on the accuser but the defender. We can't possibly have businesses flipping the bill to prove you're infringing on their copyright. Instead, if I'm accused, it's up to me to either bend over, or go through the expense of fighting it. I'm guilty until I've proven myself innocent.

We the people no longer matter. Our laws, international agreements etc. are being written in favour of business. We need to get a lot more radical. New Zealanders need to be thinking outside of Labour and National to represent us. Of course, by the end of this term, it's probably going to be too late. The sorts of measures National are currently putting in are going to be with us for a very long time...

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