Friday, February 10, 2012

A final exchange with Brian Ford regarding my answers to his open interview. He writes:

One thing I question, from his answers, is this seeming contradiction:

He says that "surprisingly little" of what we're seeing is cultural.

I was working in the context of your question. When people ask if something is "cultural", in the context of Chinese labor, what they generally mean is, "isn't this just the natural cultural context of the Chinese people?" The answer to that question is no—there's nothing "natural" about the SEZ, and so honestly I'm not certain what was meant by the question in relation to it, so I just took my best pass.

But, let's face it: Without the suicide clusters, this is much more the story of a job that really sucks, because it's a ton of hard work, low pay, and too many hours -- and because of all that, Foxconn has a 20% monthly turnover. In other words, the job sucks, so a lot of people quit.

This kind of minimization is infuriating in a reasoned discussion. This isn't about a job that "really sucks"—it's about the systematic, industry-wide non-enforcement of labor law. It's about things that, were they happening in California, would result in indictments. It's not about jobs that "really suck."

(It would be interesting to know how that compares to manufacturing jobs here, for example. Having watched How It's Made, I wonder how many of those people last more than a month?)

That is a very high rate of turnover for any job, anywhere in the world.

He goes on to say that the suicides are, in large part, based on familial pressures and the need to support large families in villages. I'm not sure how that can be described as anything other than cultural/political pressure that is causing these people to snap?

I don't understand how that is political, but is it cultural? Insofar as having a family is a cultural phenomenon—it's really built in to the human experience, so I believe this would be an economic issue. But on a deeper level—who cares *what* it's defined as here—why does that matter? I don't really understand why it's important to come up with a singular word for what the pressures are, when I have already explained, at length, that they are complex.

In general, I think Daisey gives good, fair answers. He ratchets up the hyperbole a bit in a couple places, and I think he still offers some overly simplistic answers (as well as a couple non-answer answers) but I think they're about the best he can do given that I'm not doing follow-up questions.

Mr. Ford conveniently doesn't tell us what he considers hyperbole, nor does he actually comment on which answers are simplistic, or when he thinks I am dodging his questions. He just lets the accusations hang in the air as a way of closing.

Now that he's reviewed my work, and I'm done with giving him what he requested in a measured, forthright way, I have a response for Mr. Ford.

Nothing about your "open request" was genuine—your questions were leading, ill-informed, and made clumsy overtures toward "trapping" me in ways that a child could have seen through.

You insulted my art form and my work, at length, without knowing what it is, proud of how ignorant you are, and your sneering and contempt say a lot more about your worth than I ever could. You insulted my integrity, and in a better world we should settle this in an alley outside a bar of your choice the next time I'm in Kansas City.

You never expected me to answer your questions, and the fact that you pretend now that this has been to any degree a civil exchange is indicative of the kind of intellectual cowardice you've been trading in. If I gave you more attention you'd eventually shift to sucking up to me, if that served your ends.

You don't know me, Mr. Ford. But you know yourself. That's why you know I'm absolutely fucking right about you.