Monday, July 05, 2010

I declare July 5th to be Dependence Day.

I spent July 4th in Mountain View, California (I'm visiting head office for two weeks). Apart from a very cool doodle on the Google homepage and hearing some fireworks as I sat in my apartment, it was just like any other weekend day I've spent in sleepy Mountain View. The official day off is tomorrow, so nothing was closed or out of the ordinary.

The name of the day got me thinking though. These days, the USA is no more independent than most countries, in fact it (and most other countries) are far more dependent now than ever before. So I am declaring July 5th to be Dependence day.

On this day we can celebrate (well maybe just acknowledge) our dependencies. First off, our dependence on brutal governments around the world to keep their people living in poverty and unimaginable pollution while selling us oil and raw materials at knock-down prices (hello Nigeria). And on countries that are exporting minerals stolen from their neighbour, mined by children and slaves, with all the care and humanity you would expect from such operations (Congolese coltan in your mobile phone).

We should also acknowledge the governments that make sure their workers cannot meaningfully organise for better pay and conditions. Like China, where any unions are run by the company and the state and not the workers. This article about a recent strike indicates that things may be changing but it includes this gem near the bottom

Many workers are asking for independent collective representation. Unions in China are usually funded by companies, staffed by management and answerable to the Communist party. During an earlier strike at the Honda plant in Zhongshan, union representatives fought workers, injuring two of them.
That sure is a militant union.

Without this setup we couldn't possibly have DVD players for €20 and other electronic devices that are cheaper to replace than to repair (e-waste is itself a massive problem, I'm not sure if ifixit.com is really the answer but fair play to them for trying). And of course all the cheap plasticky crap that we don't really need or want but end up with anyway. Stuff that may eventually make its way to the North Pacific Gyre and from there perhaps into the stomach of a soon-to-die albatross chick

As well as material dependence there is psychological dependence. Living in Ireland, I get to be relatively happy with my government's record on human rights and such-like. I'm not too happy with the US military planes landing at Shannon on their way to Iraq but we have a foreign minister that has attempted to visit Gaza and many TDs (in and out of government) who speak out against Israel's occupation and other issues. I get to rail against the US, UK, French etc. governments for their part in the exploitation of various people and places. If I don't think too hard about the origin of the things I buy, the power I use and the forces that keep the whole modern world ticking over, I can keep my conscience clean most of the time and I really couldn't do that without those foreign governments or for that matter the Irish government. Although it isn't directly involved, my government happily lies down with those who are, while only making a fuss about the more obvious bad-actors.

Happy Dependence day everyone.

Post Script

After writing all this I did a Google search for "dependence day", figuring someone had probably beaten me to all of this. I was half right. On the first page at least, all I could find was various right-wingers decrying the lack of independence within the US, the "over-reaching", "over-regulating" "nanny state", the dependence on health care and how the founders would be sick if they could see us now, blah blah. The usual libertarian guff. It makes me think of this video. So while I doubt this is really an original thought, it doesn't seem to be a common one.

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