So, I post this little article partly to continue my thread on overpopulation. This company, which assembles i-phones, has literally 900,000 workers, spread over only 16 factories, and they plan on growing to 1.3 million workers.
As usual, I love how entirely non-controversial the article tries to stay, to the point of glossing over some startling issues. The workers live in dormatories. How many days a week, or is it the permanet home of some employees? What percentage of chinese workers live in factory dorms? For how long is the average employee employed, and what percentage of that time do they spend in dorms? Do they have to live in dorms? Is it their only choice, econoically, or company-policy-wise? Do families live in dorms? Do workers spend days on end away from their families?
Then, notice, they are attending mass rallies, basically compelled by their companies to do so, one can see, and their psyches are being deliberately manipulated during these rallies. They are being made to say and do things, by following a cheerleader. It’s obviously just like communism, but now applied to factory working.
My question is: how much of this is due to simple overpopulation? In other words, if most chinese people lived in smaller communities, and worked in smaller-scale places, would they still be having such mind-control exercises, or have people have to live in factory dorms? How much does scale matter? For most of us in the west, I dare say, the idea of a stadium rally where people are being ”encouraged” to chant company slogans is the epitome of everything that the profits of totalitarian doom (e.g., Huxley and Orwell) were talking about – it’s a sign that the borg have won.
Well, obviously, the borg is now, and it is china. How does china stop these people from committing suicide? It’s amazing to me that so few have done so, given these conditions. To me, the answer seems obvious: lower population over time, so that such things as mass factory rallies of hundreds of thousands of workers is physically impossible. If you have hundreds of thousands of workers in a single factory, life will be more or less necessarily regimented, souless, spaceless, individual-less. Perhaps through centuries of hardwiring, Chinese people are less genetically allergic to individualism? I really wonder, is individualism a genetic trait in the west, as well as a cultural one? While the notion of genetic social traits has very rightly been treated with kid gloves ever since World War II resulted in an orgy of social darwinism, recent advances in genetic science are making it clear that we as social historians are going to have to take genetic behaviours into account (although I myself maintain that these genetic factors can be highly mutable, over the course of a few generations, based on the changing experience of the people involved – in other words, I’m at the extremely most progressive and ”optimistic” end of genetic determinism – I believe that “genes” do very little to “lock” a culture or a subgroup of people into specific behaviours, even though they can have significant causal effects for social behaviours. It does seem, to get back to the point, that centuries of conditioning have made it so that, in general, Chinese people are less genetically hard-wired to act in individualistic fashions, and to think in terms of “having to be free, having to be different.” Obviously, though, much of this, if not the majority of it, is culturally determined. The answer to the nurture/nature question is usually, most of the research has shown, a healthy mix of both (and again, I think that “nature” is highly mutable anyway).
So the question then becomes: do these hundreds of thousands of factory workers yearn to breathe free? One could never imagine rallies like this in the west–there would be far too many people trying to sabotage the whole thing, far too many managers who thought that the whole idea was evil, for it to ever come off, or become normative. And then, is this cultural, or genetic? Would it be wrong for some chinese people to start importing western ideas, or perhaps reviving older chinese ideas, of individual freedom, of concern for individual quality of life? Would it be alien, in a literal sense? Have the chinese people evolved to the point that the majority of them do not even care about individual rights? Or are these truly universal human goals? I know that most western people, given the chance, will happily be slavish followers of whatever their superiors tell them to do, or the advertisers tell them to buy – slavishness, of course, is a universal human trait? But what about the desire for individual dignity? Surely, this must be universal? But looking at these rallies, it is hard to imagine that these people can be yearning to “break out” of the system. Some must be, surely.
And the suicides that are recorded below; one could be cynical and ask: Is it just a fad? Do these people really commit suicide because they are protesting, or want something different? Or is it just because everyone else is doing it? Is there actually some platonic spark, some philosopher’s desire to exit the cave, some Matrix-esque desire to take the red pill and see the truth? Clearly, Tienanmen Square, and the few conversations I have had with individuals coming from that culture suggest that not everyone is happy with this uber-regimented lifestyle. If this is so, then this culture is indeed sorely repressed, and I do hope that both the people and their leaders will slowly come to a series of solutions that make life more sustainable and actual, more real, less borg, for everyone. But in order for that to happen, today’s enormous global population is going to have to decrease, and we’re all going to have to come to a better understanding of and appreciation for the paramaters of human happiness.
The main fear, of course, is that this model of capitalism will spread outside of china. I suspect that global companies would love for this to be the norm – many big corporations already introduce elements of mind control over their employees, have done so since the nineteenth century. Factory stores, factory dormitories – highly regimented lifestyles, these were the hallmarks of capitailism through World War II, and so the economic form is obviously well suited to borg-ism. (This despite the fact that in the west, with our short memories, we have forgotten, or dismiss, the idea that capitalism can be so cosy with totalitarian forms). And now, of course, we have the same thing in western companies, only it’s sublimated through the medium of advertising. Everytime you walk into a store and see a video playing – it’s mind control, just as egregious as the mass rally, only on a “personal” level so that we don’t even notice it.
Finally, we’ve skirted around the question, is mind control bad? I think that we’re pretty universally agreed that it is – when it’s done intentionally, for the purposes of having you surrender your own interests for the purpose of serving someone else’s. When it helps to perpetuate a system of economic and political inequality, then yes, it is. Pretty much everyone would tend to agree with that – except for those who are so embedded in a system that they entirely can’t see out of it (which is actually the human norm – you need to participate in a “culture of reason” in order to see out of this – you need, in other words, to step out of the cave.