The story begins with a quick description of the authors former surroundings, and the type of industries which, until the present day, had been prevalent in that area. The location is the old industrial area of Toronto which was formerly dominated by garment factories, yet today resembles a ghost – town with its boarded up, dormant buildings.
Worldwide globalization has led many such enterprises to be forgotten in the wake of modernization and increased technologies. Many products available during its earlier days can still be purchased, yet it is the candy and movie stores which dominate the areas business. Remnants of an earlier era can still be seen in the various statues and monuments erected around Spadina Ave., the main street of the city known for its booming garment industry, which include women hunched over sewing machines and figures perched atop lampposts. An eleven foot thimble was also erected which directly symbolizes the transformation from the garment to sweatshop workers struggle. Old factory buildings are being turned into expensive lofts and condos complete with 24 hour concierge, underground parking, and sky lit gymnasiums. Few landlords remain, who have made their fortunes off the garment industry, that haven’t already sold their buildings in the name of condominium development, and many are caught between the harsh realities of economic globalization and an earlier period of time.
The author travels to Indonesia to prove that many large corporations such as London Fog, who formerly manufactured out of small neighbourhoods in cities such as Toronto and Montreal, are now moving their operations to Third World countries where they can take advantage of cheaper labour and much larger production rates. This has been the common trend of many billion dollar corporations operating in today’s society, including Nike, Liz Claiborne, and the Gap. Many people understand the products are not manufactured in Canada by simply reading the label, but what they are unaware of is the horrible conditions the workers who produced such clothing face every day. She visits a garment factory on the edge of Jakarta which is currently embroiled in a strike caused by its abysmal working conditions . Workers, who make less than 2 US dollars per day, claimed they were not being paid for overtime hours, and the settlement which was reached did make the situation much better. Although the over 2000 workers went back to their sewing machines, those who management believed caused the strike were instantly fired and many were left entirely unsatisfied, yet with no chance to voice their protest. There isn’t much need for sweaters and winter coats in the sweltering heat of countries bordering the equator, and more and more North Americans are getting through the cold winters not by products manufactured locally, but by young Asian women in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. A global coincidence that the products which were formerly manufactured in the authors building are now being made thousands of miles away in Third World sweatshops. It now becomes clear that everyone of the world is connected through a web of shoelaces, fabrics, and brand names. Brands once manufactures only in Europe and North America are now being globalized for the sake of profit, and created throughout the developing world. This does not mean globalization benefits those workers who produce the clothing however, nothing could be farther from the truth.
When a McDonalds opened near the garment factory in Jakarta, workers were frustrated because the
” discount ” food was entirely out of their price range. In most cases in today’s world, globalization is viewed as a force which is for the benefit of all people. Tribesmen in Borneo work away on laptop computers, while schoolchildren in Bangladesh anxiously await the release of the new Harry Potter film. Despite this, it is the large multinational corporations which are truly benefiting from the world becoming a global village. They are not introducing new technologies to benefit the poor, and they care little about creating job opportunities for them. Instead they are in the process of mining the planet’s poorest countries for unimaginable profits, and doing little to generate positive international development and improvement. Instead of helping to nurture the areas they are exploiting, they simply take what they can from it and give little back. If these corporations were more caring of the effects their actions are having on these countries people and economies, and if a percentage of all profits were used to make a real attempt at improving their situation, globalization would be a benefit for all. Many people in the west during the past four decades have been catching glimpses of the negative aspect of the ” global village “, a place where the economic divide is widening and cultural choices are becoming non – existent. It is a village where Bill Gates is king, and everyone is indeed connected by a serious of seemingly never-ending brand names yet its underside reveals slums such as the one mentioned earlier in Jakarta. Large corporations often say their technology spans the globe, and it often does, but usually in the form for cheap Third World labour used to produce the necessities needed to operate its basic machines.
Many workers in these areas often do not even know what the product they are manufacturing is used for. A girl who assembles computer CD ROM’s for IBM in Manilla said it perfectly when told it amazed the author that such a young child could do such technologically advanced work. She replied by saying that she made computers but had absolutely no idea how to operate one. This clearly shows that our planet is not as big as people would believe.
The Third World has been exploited for the comfort of the First since the earliest days of colonialism. European explorers ventured to the heart of Africa and South America in search of precious metals, while millions of people native to their lands were killed by diseases introduced when colonies were created. Today, although new lands are not being discovered, and virtually the entire planet is riddled with disease, many products used in the developed world can still be traced back to abusive sweatshops in Vietnam and Sumatra, or polluted and contaminated villages in Africa. The title of the book is not meant to be read as a literal slogan, instead the author hopes as more and more people become aware of the brand name web’s horrors and mistreatments, a political movement will be created which will squarely target transnational corporations. The actions of multinational corporations in the First World were also beginning to be scrutinized intensely.
After completing research across many university campuses, the author realized that many students were angered at how private corporations were attempting to capitalize off them during school hours. Ads were appearing on bulletin boards everywhere, the school was making large – scale distribution deals with soft drink companies and computer manufacturers, and they were worried that their education was suffering. Ethical concerns over the actions of some of the companies their schools were dealing with were also raised, not from home but in faraway countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. Instead of having the political focus revolve around such issues as race, gender, and sexuality, the new brand of politics which has captured the imagination of people today is an anti corporate attitude Like the hippy movements of the 1960’s, this new wave of protest could have a large transformative impact. It is not just within an university environment that people are lobbying to have aggressive corporate sponsors withheld from their daily lives. Numerous small towns across North America are realizing the damage they have on cultural life, and multinational corporations including Walmart and Shell, who have recently been put under pressure for shady processing practices, are beginning to be protested heavily. Anti – corporate slogans are appearing on more and more billboards across the developed world, which leads many people to wonder where these protests will lead too. Is this the first step in completely desensitizing the publics attitude towards such businesses? If it is, such a transformation could have a huge impact on daily life for the majority of the 6 billion people living in today’s world. Sure a nomadic herder in the Sahara desert who has never seen the Nike Swoosh symbol will not be greatly affected, yet for someone who buys into this company on a regular basis may be forced to rethink their decisions. In each case, a brand name corporate giant was being targeted and much of the book focuses on how this resistance could lead to a world-wide revolution. The protests against harmful corporate action are by no means focused in a single area, instead spread across much of the globe. Thousands of people protest the use of Nike due to their known sweatshop abuses, factory workers in the Philippines have made labour history by bringing the first labour organizations into the manufacturing zones that produce some of the most recognizable brand names on the planet. In today’s world, logos have become an outspoken form of international language recognized virtually everywhere. Activists have used this new ” language ” to trade such information as unjust labour practices, unethical marketing, and animal cruelty, making many people hope it is within this entangled web of brand names that sustainable solutions will be discovered. This book tracks the early stages of resistance, and what has caused more and more people, specifically those of a young age, to become suspicious and downright enraged, at the actions of multinational corporations spanning the globe. They stress their belief that corporations have grown so large that they know have overtaken governmental bodies in the power in which they wield. They are accountably only to their shareholders and no mechanism exists which forces them to focus more on serving the broader public. Culture and education in today’s world has largely surrendered itself to the forces of global marketing. Different forms of employment, including self employment, part – time, and temporary labour have created strained relationships to employment for many workers globally. Alongside the assault civil liberties and space, the collision of these forces has given rise to the anti corporate attitude which is slowly but surely taking a stronghold over international affairs.
The book No Logo’s by Naomi Kleine paints a vivid picture of a world issue which has dominated the agenda of many people over the past four decades. The majority of multinational corporations do whatever it takes to ensure a higher profit margin, and this often meant trampling over Third World counterparts to make this a reality. Since the early 1970’s, the common trend has shown many moving their already lucrative operations to such countries as Indonesia and Vietnam where they can capitalize off cheap labour and extended working hours. They pay employees a disgraceful percentage of what they would be forced to pay workers in developed nations due to pressure from labour and trade unions. There are few multinational corporations who have their roots in North America, that have chosen to focus their manufacturing in this area. Instead, the majority have pulled up their roots and relocated in sweltering, dangerous sweatshops where they exploit and endanger their workers on a daily basis. Little is done to help improve the situation of the peoples indigenous to the area, and their pitiful situations are rarely improved. This has caused many people around the world to cry out against such action, and hope their protest will have an effect on bringing about lasting change. Despite the fact that these abuses are taking place thousands of miles away, and most of the people protesting will never meet a single sweatshop worker, they still feel an obligation to speak their mind in the hopes others will do the same. This ties in greatly with the famine, affluence, and morality issue we studied earlier in the course. If we have the ability to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought morally, to do it. Therefore it is of no important that these abuses are taking place in far off lands, the fact that we have become aware of them is push enough to do everything in our power to improve the situation. This has become the creed of the wave of protesters and activists which have arisen to fight corporate abuses over the past years. They hope that by empowering the public and creating widespread awareness of the evils of corporate domination, positive change will occur. Our world has become a global village where the actions of someone in Indonesia could have lasting effects on a person living in the United States. We should consider ourselves neighbours no matter what country we live in, religion we follow, and language we speak. Therefore when injustices are being committed against fellow humans that others have become aware of, everything must be done to ensure they don’t continue, and that the public becomes aware of what is occurring. This relates to many of the issues studied thus far in class. The forced sterilization of Mexican Indians, a pinnacle of human rights abuse, cause an outcry across much of the world when it became widespread public knowledge. Many newspapers articles condemning the action were written, and thousands of protests took place. It is this aspect of human dignity which I feel will help ensure the survival of today’s world, and the ultimate ceasing of abuses against all people worldwide. If we did nothing to protest actions which violate human dignity, they would continue indefinitely and the world would be in a much more pitiful state. Because these anti corporate activists rise above the masses to profess their beliefs in the face of scrutiny, they push the planet and its people in the direction of a positive growth and existence.