Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 19th, 2012

Ori Avniri: “Israel is Another Jewish ghetto: This time around strong with an atomic bomb…”

Ori Avniri recalls what Yachaaya Libovitch wrote that the Jewish religion is dead and done with 200 years ago. Israel has replaced the Jewish religion with the Holocaust story as a reason for its existence.

Ori says: “Israel is currently the Holocaust State. Israel is Another Jewish Ghetto: This time around strong with an atomic bomb and a delivering system…”

Today, Israel is organizing the Holocaust memorial, bigger yet than ever, under the banner: “More Jewish support”.

The key sentence is: “Nuclear Iran is a repeat of Nazi extermination plan…”

Israel Netanyahu PM keeps repeating the same mantra everywhere he goes: “Iran is Nazi Germany…” and reminded Obama that the US Jews have demanded from Franklin Roosevelt to bomb Auschwitz, but he refrained from destroying the concentration camp in Poland…

Ori Avniri insists that the holocaust brought back the ancient Jewish mentality to where it started: “To the current Israeli government position, during the holocaust, the Germans were not the sole enemy of the Jews, but the entire world: The world didn’t act according to human dignity standards.  Today, the world community is against the Jews because it wouldn’t consider bombing Iran nuclear facilities…The Jews want to revert to the Jewish religion that was mocked for centuries, and particularly, revert to the ghetto mentality, a trapped cat with an atomic arsenal...”

Israel radical rights are forgetting that the young generation of Jews want nothing to do with this equation, they don’t want to go back to ghetto conditions, and they don’t give a damn with the 650 Biblical laws that govern their daily life…

As long as Israel persist of using the holocaust as its prime weapon for world support, Israel has to comprehend that this world has far too many cataclysmic problems to deal with, and it wants nothing to do with this spoiled State of Israel that wants everything for nothing in return, such as  applying the UN charters, desisting from racist and apartheid policies in Palestine, and seriously considering doing peace with its bordering States, and returning occupied lands…

Note: Post inspired from the weekly piece of Antoine Shalhat to the Lebanese daily Al Nahar

“Don’t work. Don’t tell the truth. Be hated…”: Commencement address by Adrian Tan. Part 1

Guest-of-honour at NTU convocation ceremony, Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), delivered this speech to the graduating class of 2008. I split the speech into two posts, the second part will expand on “Be hated” and “fall in love“.

“I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and is perfect in every way except one: She is the editor of a magazine, she corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong processand that you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers.

Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

Life is a mess.  What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it.

Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look.

This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

Resist the temptation to get a Job. Spend time to Play

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By it’s very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left.

A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”.

No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again.

You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions.

By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energize you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth.

I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth.

Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is a great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

Don’t work. Be hated. Love someone

Part 4. Fashion industry, Garment industry: Culprit of mass fainting

Note: If you care to read part one first https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/part-1-fashion-industry-clothing-industry-who-is-being-sacrificed-background-of-mass-fainting/

China garment manufacturing  is being displaced gradually by Cambodia, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and India where labor is becoming far cheaper, of about a single dollar per hour. A week ago, the young syndicate leader for garment industry in Bangladesh was assassinated. Aminul Islam, a leader who had fought against low wages in the country’s garment industry was found murdered outside Dhaka last week, www.nytimes.com

Anne Elizabeth Moore published an extensive report in Truthout on April 4 “The Fashion Industry’s Perfect Storm: Collapsing Workers and Hyperactive Buyers”. This is the last part.

The Culprit

BFC’s most damning statement is found in the introduction of its report: “The occurrence of the fainting incidents has coincided with a growth in the garment industry. According to the Phnom Penh Post, garment exports from Cambodia rose by 34% over 2010, to $3.47 billion in the first 10 months of 2011 – roughly the same period that saw a 7.5% increase in the number of active factories and only a 3.6 percent increase in the number of workers (using Ministry of Commerce numbers.

BFC is referring to the garment industry in Cambodia, but the entire consumer fashion industry has changed in recent years. Inditex, the largest clothing retailer in the world, owner of Zara and other stores, and H&M (the second largest) – both rely heavily on apparel made in Cambodia – have led the industry in abolishing first two new lines of fashion per year, then four. The embrace of fast fashion can mean an entire store’s stock turns over in as little as two weeks, one H&M retail employee told me.

Where are those goods going? Some, of course, are being sold. Of the 2300 currently operating H&M retail stores, 168 opened last year, a growth of 7.3%. Yet, in a January 2010 New York Times article, Jim Dwyer reported whole bags filled with unworn items, slashed to prevent use, discarded on a regular basis behind an H&M in Manhattan.

Inditex opened 483 new Zara stores in 2011, making 5,527 worldwide stores: 520 new stores are planned for this year.

Where are those goods coming from? Are the increasing demands from 8.3 percent more retail outlets over last year being adequately met by 3.6 percent more workers?

The real question is: how did Cambodian garment exports increase by 34 percent last year – with double-digit percentage increases the year before, and another double-digit jump expected this year, with only 3,000 workers, with inadequate food, health care or safety facilities, falling to the ground from exhaustion?

Reframing the Debate

Without a drastic change to the way we think and talk about and therefore create policy for the fashion industry, the Titanic that is the international garment trade will just keep sinking, bringing more and more of the women who labor in the industry down with it. Slowly and surely.

The fainting incidents that took place in Cambodia, keep in mind, are the product of a best-case scenario in the current global fashion trade. Still recovering from the destruction of resources caused by American bombings, the Pol Pot era and civil war, Cambodia first got into the garment sector in the mid-1990s to take advantage of quota systems that offered developing nations a shot at exporting apparel to major markets.

This quota system came after the term “sweatshop” had become an indicator of unfair labor conditions, made popular by media exposé and student activists, so Cambodia established its entire industry with the intention of remaining “sweatshop-free.” This meant workers’ rights to organize were protected, monitoring facilities were brought in from the start – created by the International Labour Organization itself – and strong labor laws were established to fairly compensate employees in the emerging field.

Yet, the term “sweatshop” is not a legal one – it’s a marketing one, or an anti-marketing one – so definitions remain hazy. (“No one knows what that is,” a BFC monitor told me once when I asked him, naïvely, how many sweatshops he’d visited.)

Most organizations and the US government, agree that a “sweatshop” is a factory in violation of one or more laws concerning: minimum wage and overtime, child labor, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, rights to assembly or industry regulation.

That some Cambodian factories are in violation of one or more such laws, however, doesn’t mean that the term “sweatshop” will change anything. A few factories are not in technical violation of any laws, for example those that support workers’ rights to organize, but that doesn’t mean unions effectively protect labor.

The same argument can be made about the minimum wage: Even factories that pay it, regularly and on time, with benefits etc., are still not paying enough to keep the workforce healthy.

I can’t count how many stories smart editors have rejected on the Cambodian garment industry, claiming people are tired of reading about sweatshops. The term seems to lose all meaning entirely when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof takes “sweatshop” as another word for “factory” and calls for more of them in places like Cambodia, as he did in a 2009 column.

In the US, we hold our privilege of consumer choice as dear as democracy. We may advocate for boycotts of the brands that produce clothes in Cambodia, but an anti-marketing campaign would be a tactical error that would spell bad luck for the workers in those factories.

Consider this statement from the GMAC’s Ken Loo in the Phnom Penh Post on February 7:

“Some buyers are reluctant to come to Cambodia due to the high level of media coverage.” The Post summarized his remarks thus: “The increase in media coverage of Cambodian garment factories since a spate of mass fainting incidents last year roused reporters’ interest and threatened to revive the ‘sweatshop’ label.”

How far the GMAC, the lobbying organization of the nation’s fast-growing garment sector, or the Cambodian government itself, might go to protect its “sweatshop-free” status is an open question.

Continued Unrest

Protests around issues raised in the aftermath of the mass faintings continue. Workers at M&V tried to organize in October, the Phnom Penh Post reported, and some were fired, illegally, for trying to join a union. The $5 health bonus that went into effect in the beginning of the year, intended to incentivize regular meals, also inspired strikes. Workers, confused about the distribution of the bonus and concerned about other pay withholding, went on strike January 3. Thousands have joined rallies in response to issues raised by recent inspections and reported. Police response is becoming increasingly violent.

Last month, a protest at Kaoway Sports, Ltd., another supplier for Puma in Bavet City, in the southeast Svay Rieng district, ended in gunfire. The rally – human rights groups list as many as 6,000 in attendance, although officials claimed a more modest 1,000 – called for a $10 raise to the monthly minimum wage and aimed to highlight unfair workplace conditions.

On February 20, a man in a guard uniform opened fire, but despite heavy police presence, escaped from the scene undetected. Three workers were injured. One was reportedly shot in the chest and coughing up blood, according to the Deutsche-Press Agentur.

The only suspect in the shootings was Bavet City Gov. Chhuk Bundith. He was publicly removed from his post by Prime Minister Hun Sen, then went into hiding, according to RFA. On March 9, the station reported, in a document co-signed by Gap, H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, and other big-name brands, Puma sent a letter urging the government to investigate the matter.

Chhuk Bundith was summoned to court a few days later, although not arrested. “He confessed to the shooting, but he gave me many reasons for that,” Hing Bun Chea, the Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor, told the Post on March 16.

The injured women are bringing a suit against Chhuk Bundith and Hing Bun Chea has agreed to meet with them to hear details of their case. The women say Chhuk Bundith attempted to buy off their silence and others have argued that the government continues to shield him from the law. The original meeting, set for March 28, was canceled because the prosecutor was “busy,” the Post reported on March 29.

It’s enough to make you give up and fall, seemingly lifeless, to the floor.

Solutions

In February, the advocacy group Asian Floor Wage Campaign put on the first-ever People’s Tribunal on the Asia Minimum Floor Wage. The organization describes its mission as to lay “a floor under the race to the bottom and end wage competition in Asia and the extreme exploitation of women workers.”

The organization’s pan-Asian approach overlooks that the rivalry among Asian – or even Southeast Asian – nations is what brings the industry there in the first place, and it’s easy to see where countries with more labor law violations or lower wages than Cambodia would take precedence. Yet, the organization is calling for the addition of a labor cost to the price buyers pay for goods to meet living-wage levels – an excellent place to begin stopping leaks on this Titanic.

In country, the BFC will continue worker education and media campaigns, based on the success of its 2011 Garment Worker Open University, a similar daylong labor law workshop for managers, and 2010’s “At the Factory Gates,” a televised soap opera about garment workers’ legal rights.

Communications officer Ying Bun told me over email: “BFC will run many activities to raise awareness of workers’ health and safety. we installed a mobile phone project in which workers can call in to seek for information about safety and health conditions” – a concession to the cell phones most own, made cheap by intense competition in the emerging Cambodian telecommunications market.

Ying Bun also told me about other “activities to prevent faintings,” including the intriguingly named “TV Comedy Show,” and a “radio competition for garment workers on the knowledge of Cambodian Labor.”

Such solutions may sound like rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship to US consumers, but until you’re willing to demand your favorite brands pay more for your clothes – and are willing yourself to double what you pay for cheap fashion to back it up – rearranging deck chairs is going to have to do for now.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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