Friday, September 11, 2020

A Meme's Response

 I begin by saying that this post was brought about by a friend's posting of this me:

I saw this post and immediately thought political propaganda pitting one underprivileged class against another, but I soon realized that many others did not see it this way.  My purpose in writing this is to explain my view and how I came to believe this.

First of all, let me be completely honest about my biases up front.  I used to work at UNHCR - the High Commissioner of Refugees to the UN.  I worked a lot with UNICEF - the UN's arm to protect children, and later I worked at the WTO - the World Trade Organization on free trade disputes between nations.  Before that, my background is heavily in political and international affairs. I worked for a devolopment arm of the EU and the World Bank.  In short, I have a very thorough background and history in working with International Organizations whose sole goal is to help underdeveloped and underprivileged populaces. I fall very strongly on the side of the belief that Americans care about the world, that they care about fighting oppression and inequality wherever it is found.  So why then do I feel differently about this post than some?  

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me just address the elephant in the room of Nike and hypocrisy.  In the early 1990's until the early 2000's Nike had one of the worst human rights records in their sweatshops around the world.  For around the past 15 years, however, Nike has changed many of their work processes and created better working conditions.  In fact, Nike was one of the first companies to begin publishing and allowing monitoring of their work sites to improve working conditions in 2005.  While these conditions are still not ideal, Nike is far from the worst offender anymore and the steps they've taken to become better are laudable if nothing else.  This is why I see this meme and I'm confused.  It's like taking reasoning from 2005 and trying to apply it 15 years later.  That's almost like someone trying to convince you in 2020 that you should buy stock in Enron.

Next up, this meme seems to point a finger at a couple of notable black athletes, satirically attacking their comments on fighting oppression because they are so hypocritical.  This is a little harder view to defend.  Especially with LeBron's recent comments on violence in Hong Kong.  If LeBron can't speak out against oppression in Hong Kong, can he speak out against it in the US?  Of course, he can!  He has done so much to help in his home community and underprivileged communities in the US.  He is the right person to speak out about those things to help fund schools and scholarship programs for these communities because he understands them.  He knows what they need.  It's where he grew up.  Does he truly understand how best to comment and help Hong Kong?  I doubt it.  Not only that, but Hong Kong is and has long been a world issue that the world has refused to handle, blaming LeBron for his response is an interesting view, but shortsighted to say the least.  So can these athletes speak out against oppression in the communities they grew up in?  Of course they can.  What about their sponsorships by Nike though?  Does that make them hypocritical because they now make lots of money and get this money from a company that pays workers less in China?

Finally, there was a general misunderstanding of how this post led me to begin a tirade against President Trump's international policies.  Hopefully I've explained why I did not react to the initial meme because #1 it is using outdated information and trying to pass it off as current truth by vilifying Nike.  #2 because black athletes can and, in fact, should speak out against oppression and inequality in their home communities, just as we all should in ours.  Why Trump though when the post doesn't mention him at all?  This comes back to the underlying purpose of the post.  If the author is so concerned with human rights and working conditions in China, why not bring up the organization that organizes and funds the watchdogs that monitor factories in China - the UN and mainly its arms of UNHCR, the WHO, and UNICEF and the damage Trump has done to poor workers by removing the US from these institutions.  If the creator is so concerned about poor working conditions in China, why is there no mention of the current trade war with China that has cost Chinese workers so much?  Why did the author pick Nike when there are so many other companies that are so far behind what Nike has accomplished with their workforce in these poor factories.  Companies like Zara are still using slaves in their partner factories in the Middle East, yet Nike comes off as the big offender.

This is why there is a clear delineator that makes this meme propaganda. If it had been presented simply as hey we should be against sweatshops, that is completely different, but it's not!  It's presented as a way to undermine the qualifications of prominent spokespersons in poor communities who have been speaking out for the Black Lives Matter Movement.  This movement has become associated with the democratic party and therefore whether we subconsciously realize it or not.  When we see memes like this and we agree with it, subconsciously we are disagreeing with the ideals of a party.  We are saying bad working conditions in China lead to -> hypocritical Nike -> hypocritical athletes -> hypocritical BLM -> hypocritical Demotractic Party.   When in reality, the meme is false and these things are just not true.  Time and time again international realist policies have been proven not to benefit the vast majority of the poor working class.  In short, and in my opinion, if you really care about improving these working conditions, you will stop voting for a president that wants to take from the poor to give back to the rich.

No comments:

Post a Comment