Profits and their discontents

When the NYTimes, whose editorial page often reads more like mash notes for the 1%, publishes a story like this one about workers’ rights one tends to perk one’s ears up. Of course, in reading the article I see similar patterns as those expressed by those protesting the rise of Wal-Mart (all the way back in 04-05) as it shattered many local stores through the might of squeezing everything it possibly could from its suppliers and optimizing the logistics thereof. Similar refrains were also heard about the practices of Amazon.

Well, let me break your heart and tell you right away that there’s going to be no end to this, since it is the bedrock upon which large-scale capital accumulation rests. As long as we a) accept passively and without protest the principle that profits matter, and b) celebrate those who accumulate more (whether material goods or cash profits) and also c) empower them to mould public opinion in a manner that reinforces the above – then we are going to see humans exploited, we are going to see forests cut down, we are going to see the oceans filled with oil and we are going to see species go extinct en masse until we join them in the drop off the face of the earth. Short of joining the people at occupy or others in your area who reject this culture, or figuring out for yourself alternate means of co-existence beyond the dominant system* – an act which could mean alienating yourself from your current kith and kin and finding new ones, there is nothing you can do and there is no way to salvage this system from within.

[* = as David Graeber noted in an Amazon review and probably in a book somewhere as well, Capital dominates, but does not pervade]


If you read the comments to that NYTimes article, as i did thanks to a total brain fart, it turns out that
it’s not entirely Apple’s fault and that everyone does the same thing. Which is a rehash of the same things people talked about Wal-Mart and Amazon. Which itself is a rehash of what you and I told mom when we were caught doing something naughty. And in any case if, as the not-detractors of the respective companies claim, these are the best possible working conditions for the poor guys n gals of China, it strains my imagination to think up what would be the worst in their minds…


The day before Jobs died, Apple launched the fifth iteration of the iPhone, the 4S, and four million were sold in the first few days. Next year will bring the iPhone 5, and a new MacBook, and more iPods and iMacs. What this means is that somewhere in the third world, poor people are picking through heaps of electronic waste in an effort to recover bits of gold and other metals and maybe make a dollar or two. Piled high and toxic, it is leaking poisons and carcinogens like lead, cadmium, and mercury that leach into their skin, the ground, the air, the water. Such may be the longest-lasting legacy of Steve Jobs’s art.

Now, Considering that Apple has announced record-breaking sales and profits one can understand what the major source of those profits is.

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