Lately I’ve been watching a few downloaded documentaries from British TV. Most of the ones I’ve seen so far have been quite good. I will probably comment on Dawkins’ documentary on religion, bearing the provocative title Root of All Evil?, in a few days, but for now, I’m too busy to post about that at the length it deserves.
As much as I think it’s important to discuss the plight of exploited workers in factories in places like China, I found this documentary interesting because it doesn’t stop with the simple question we all know the answer to—that exploitation is wrong. This film asks why and how it happens even though we all know it.
So yes, I wanted to strangle the manager who, being informed of how unacceptable the toxic chemicals in the womens’ bathrooms are, tells a worker (in Chinese, which he didn’t realize would be translated later) to move them to the kitchen. It’s not surprising—the kind of disrespect that people with power can have for people without it rarely surprises me anymore—but it is infuriating.
But what was interesting was seeing how the Westerners—those running the factory and those conducting the ethical appraisal—as well as the Chinese managers and workers adjusted themselves to the situation. It was a little saddening to see how accustomed all of the foreigners seemed to seeing these conditions, and hearing one of the managers’ occasional about Chinese people, one wonders how much of what’s tolerated is simply tolerated on the basis of, well, underlyingly racist attitudes.
Imagine if the Industrial Revolution in Europe—the dark Satanic mills and all of that—had been fueled by foreigners, or aliens, or something. That’s what the picture of this Chinese factory seemed like to me.