Photo courtesy: for non-profit, educational use — The National.
World Cup: Thoughts on the Finals, and Some Final Thoughts.
Okay, wonderful. International Labor Organization (ILO) says Pakistan eliminated child labor in their football (soccer) manufacturing industry. If you didn’t know, small boys and girls used to make most of the $140 billion products — for very little money. I don’t know how much the adults are making now.
Now, Even if that ILO report is truthful assessment (which I do not believe will eliminate poverty for these families, unless there is supportive economy and government, and there isn’t any), then why can’t they use that model to end child labor in other sports and entertainment areas?
Why are they still allowing Disney to make toys and costumes in other poor countries, and in China, violating human rights? Here is a 2018 report.
Did you know that next to weapons and drugs, sex- and porn-related business is the third largest?
Before watching the World Cup final game on Sunday, can you think about the 2000+ migrant workers who already died building the football stadiums in Qatar, site of the next World Cup in 2022? Oh, you didn’t know? Okay, read this 2017 report.
Qatar’s human rights record is absolutely miserable, and they don’t care about activist pressures.
I’m telling you that unless you come up with an alternative, sustainable, humane economy, the so-called elimination of child labor and slavery — like the one in Pakistan’s football-manufacturing industry — would not work. I don’t care what ILO says.
Find out what is going on. As I tell my students every time I teach, “Don’t believe a single world I say. Do your own research.”
That is, of course, if you care. If not, have fun. Don’t even bother. Watch you finals.
I could deliver a long lecture on the global economy and the way ordinary people are being treated like dirt by multinational corporations. Some are better-paid dirt than the others: that’s the only difference.
In fact, recently in India, I gave two lectures on the various perspectives of globalization, IMF and their disastrous effects on the poor workers, families and how both in America and India, middle class is going downhill.
Here, I’ll tell you a simple, ordinary story that I just heard from a nephew who called me today to let me know that he and his family — wife and a small child — are going back to India in two days. He said he got about a week from his corporation — with branches both in India and USA — to prepare, pack up and wrap up their little lives that they had put together here in mighty America for the past six or seven years.
No, he didn’t complain. In fact, he’s never been a complaining type. To me, on the other hand, it seemed so unbelievable that I thought I should share the simple story with you — and leave the judgment for you to pass on.
Here’s his story, in brief. This simple, meek, unassuming nephew of mine came to America a few years ago to work for a multinational company in their IT department. Now, if you know how it all works these days for these transnational companies with transnational workers, the company hires good people who they think they could entice for some good money and a lure of living in the U.S. — however smaller the salary and benefits are and how non-luxurious the U.S. living may be. They choose people whom they know would never protest against the inhumanely long and cruel work hours. This nephew of mine worked from 9 A.M. to 6 or 7 P.M. in his U.S. office — including the one hour each-way daily commute time — only to return home to have a few hours of sleep before he’d start working again online, telecommuting, because as you know, 10.30 P.M. here in the U.S. is 9 A.M. India time when their offices over there just opened their shops. So, he’d work online, from home, for another few hours before perhaps at 3 or 4 A.M., he’d finally have some sleep, only to wake up at 7.30 A.M. to get ready to go to his American office.
This is not an extraordinary schedule for any such global worker in this global economy. In fact, this is commonplace.
These young people, most of them bright students, basically sacrifice their entire youth and family lives to work this way for these companies that are now exploiting these people and their family lives — for pittance. U.S. companies would hire Indian workers for one-third or one-fourth of the wages they’d otherwise have to give to U.S. workers; plus, the companies either give them no benefits or get by with the bare minimum. American workers would not accept those terms.
The irony is that anybody from India — like my nephew — hardly ever complains. Because the money they make is definitely more than what they would otherwise make in India alone (and in India, private companies almost never give health or such benefits the American way, and nobody questions). Further, these young workers always have at least three windows open on their office laptop: (1) work window; (2) dollar-rupee exchange rate window; and (3) online remittance window. They’re always calculating money and being happy about the 55 (now 60, as of May, 2014) rupee to one dollar exchange rate. They’re making some money, and sending it off to India asap.
So, the exploitation works beautifully.
However, in these six or seven years this nephew of mine, got married, had a child and settled down in the U.S. Or, at least, he thought he did. He never settled down. There was never any talk between him and his multinational company to make him permanent, or sponsor him for a permanent resident Green Card status. His wife, a bright student with a Ph.D. in psychology from India, after delivering the child, worked hard to get some training from a local university, and then worked even harder with a small child, to find a research fellow position at the university. But just like her husband, she also never got any assurance from her work place to have a sponsorship for a Green Card or path to citizenship.
All these years, they’ve both worked extremely hard to satisfy the work demands of their companies, with little no sense of a real permanency or a feeling of truly settling down. The little child started going to preschool and making friends from the American community. The child even started speaking in an American accent.
Suddenly, just a few days ago, the Indian branch of my nephew’s company called him and informed that they’d made a decision to downsize their U.S. branch. They said no worries: they’d hire him immediately at one of their India branches. They said he’d have about a week to pack up and leave. He’s supposed to join his India branch office in two weeks of time. (I could be wrong on the specifics: but this is the nutshell, believe me.)
They are packing up right now as I write this simple blog. My nephew’s wife resigned from her psychology research job at the local university. They’ve withdrawn their kid from the preschool.
For them, next destination: India. Bombay, Bangalore or Gurgaon, Delhi.
The world has become much smaller — thanks to globalization. I’m sure they’ll re-adjust quickly. At least, the man of the family has a job back there. About the woman: well, she’ll find something somewhere.
I’m only here to report one of the many such ordinary stories. You can comment with your likes or dislikes.
“Oh God,” some of you — my friends, sympathizers and global readers — might grunt. “This guy is again writing a depressing note.” Some of you might say, “Doesn’t he get it? Nobody wants to read his depressing notes anymore!”
Honestly, I can’t blame you if you felt that way. Because, feeling cheated all my life is definitely not a happy feeling. It does make me depressed. It would make you depressed too if you thought about it, and asked yourself the question, and challenged yourself to come up with the most honest, no-inhibition, straightforward answer. (Perhaps that’s why many of you do not want to talk about it.)
But I say: have courage and try it, my friends, sympathizers and global readers. Answer my question in the most mano-to-mano, womano-to-womano way (and in all other possible variations). Then come back to me and tell me if you still think I am the only person feeling cheated all my life and feeling depressed because of feeling cheated.
I would most sincerely — “cross my heart and so help me God” way — use all your honest feedback once you told me about the results of your soul searching.
But let me first tell you in a few minutes what the results of my soul searching have been.
Now, as soon as the word “cheated” gets in the mix of any conversation, the automatic knee-jerk reaction is “Cheated? So, are you talking about infidelity? Like, the husband cheating on the wife, wife cheating on the husband ( and all other possible variations)?” And then the automatic response would be, “Ah well, that’s too personal. I’m not gonna tell you about my personal life — for you to put out there for the rest of the world to see.” The response would be, “No Sir, I’m not gonna. It’s my personal life and it’s my privacy.” And who doesn’t know that America is too big on privacy? India, my other country, is also coming up fast and getting bigger on privacy. India’s elite and aspiring-elite upper middle class are getting bigger day by day on privacy — on an American mental Viagra.
But, please, rest easy. My question “How many ways have you been cheated in your life?” has nothing to do with your marital relationship or love life. So, don’t worry. I am never going to pry upon your private life. You can pump in more Viagra to get your privacy even bigger. I won’t bother you.
My question is about your non-private life: life’s other aspects that not only you, but all your immediate family members, friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, students, teachers, well-wishers, cursors, haters, bashers, blasters and such people can see. You might think they are not able to note and judge these elements of your life, but believe me, they can. They do. They are. So, don’t fool yourself believing that nobody knows. It’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s transparent. It’s vivid. It’s not private at all. It’s already out there for the entire world to see.
Embarrassed? Confused? Don’t be. Take my example. It’s going to be much easier for you to understand the question.
So, the first cheat is that the leaders of my two countries — USA and India — kept telling me that if I worked hard and lived my life honestly and had a lofty goal to be somewhere, I would be somewhere. Just because I was born poor would not make me die poor: the leaders said I would be somebody. To support their claim, they gave me some evidence where a very poor man through hard work and honest living with a lofty goal actually became rich and famous. No, I’m not talking about the lottery winners. I’m talking about their examples where in America, Roger Sherman, who helped to write the American Constitution, was a cobbler; in India, a very poor low-caste woman recently became the principal of a college, and so on. Then, you have Barack Obama, et al…
Problem is, it doesn’t happen that way. People who show you those examples never tell you that they are exceptions and statistically insignificant. What is statistically insignificant? Simply put, if in a population of any random sampling, more than 95 percent of the people have one kind of trend and less than 5 percent have another kind of trend, then the trend that only happens in less than 5 percent of the population is statistically insignificant. That means, that trend is an exception: an aberration. You can’t say that trend is something that is legit or valid for the general population.
In this aspect of life, which I’d call social mobility or upward social movement, those people whom the leaders of my two countries tout as valid examples of upward social movement are too few and far between. Their numbers are so small that statistically they are absolutely insignificant. But neither the leaders nor their mouthpiece media would tell you the real story. The real story is that in this social and economic system — one that America practiced especially since Ronald Reagan and is now devoutly picked up by India and its neoliberal, IMF-sold leaders — if you are born poor, it’s very likely that you’d die poor. Or, if you’re born unknown with no pedigree or uppity country-club-type connections, you’d die more or less the same way.
That is reality. I am a living example of that reality. And I worked very hard in my life, lived honestly, and that too, with a lofty goal. I’ll tell you — kind of hesitantly — what some of those things are I’ve done in my one hard-working, honest and lofty-goal life. I must. Otherwise, you would not believe me at all.
But before that, let me show you a graph on upward social mobility — country by country. It’s important to put it here because I know some of my readers from various parts of the world are quite erudite and are not going to accept my argument unless supported by serious research. So, here we go.
The graph from the now-world-renowned book The Spirit Level shows that among all the developed and prosperous, capitalist countries, USA has the worst upward social mobility especially when graphed against income inequality (i.e., rich-poor divide) of those countries. In other words, USA has the highest income inequality (which means, the rich-poor divide is the widest) and it’s upward social mobility for the poor and middle class is practically non-existent. In India, it’s even worse: the one or two percent rich are extreme, filthy rich, while at the same time, the poor are miserably, haplessly poor. Recent IMF policies imposed by India’s ruling class are making the economic and social misery even more desperate. I wrote about it before (you can look it up here).
But our leaders and media and their advertisements always create this impression that even if you’re born poor, in this system, you can definitely be somewhere in one life.
Problem is, they’re lying. In this system — one that I’ve lived half of my life in each of these two countries working very hard, with a honest lifestyle and lofty goal — I will never be able to be somewhere. In short, the so-called American Dream propagandized in America and now in India is a myth.
In his new book The Price of Inequality, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has also said the same thing. He said, the American dream is an illusion. He said, if you’re born poor in American, the “overwhelming possibility” is that you’ll stay poor. If you want to read more on it, visit this link. It has a video of the Stiglitz interview too.
Okay. Now, some other friends, sympathizers and global readers might now get restless and ask me not to get too bogged down with hard research and statistics. They might say, well, what is YOUR personal experience to support that you’ve been cheated all your life? What is the real-life hard evidence?
So, here we go. Off of books and papers and research data. On with personal life — of this no-name, no-pedigree, born-poor, die-poor’s experience.
When I quit my more or less lucrative, totally stable and highly respectable job of a biology professor in India (I wrote about that place also in this blog — click here if you’re interested to know), and later forced my wife to do the same — only to come to America, the U.S. university that responded positively to my application to be an M.Sc. student in biology, never told me about the short-term and long-term consequences to immigrate into America. They never told me about the social and economic shocks my wife and I were going to be in. Two highly respectable, young biology professors surrounded by friends, family, familiar society and a large number of admiring students and colleagues, suddenly became extremely impoverished, culture-shocked foreign students the American society (especially outside of the university campus) was unwilling to accept as one of their own. They never told us that we’d have to live with their initially-offered $380 per month to survive (in a few months, graciously, they raised my graduate student assistantship to $420 of which I would pay 10 percent as income tax — percent-wise not much different from what Romney and Ryan paid last year). Two immediate consequences (other than feeling like Neil Armstrong when he first landed on the moon — perhaps even more alienated and blue than he was): (1) we could not return to India in nine years — we had no money to pay for the airfare and other expenses; and (2) because of the shocking, sudden departure of my wife from her parents who were never ready to see their only child leave forever, her parents lost their health quickly and did not live long — and my wife the only child so close to her parents could not go to see them one last time before their death.
Okay, enough sentimental stuff. Some of you — my friends, sympathizers and esteemed global readers might say (and I’m sure authorities of that university that took me in as a foreign student would say the same, even more emphatically): well, nobody forced you to come to USA; you came on your own. Why didn’t you do your own research and find out about the consequences? Plus, aren’t you happy that you did migrate? Aren’t you grateful that because of that decision, in spite of the initial culture shocks and economic hardship for yourself and your family, you did well, got two masters degrees (one in journalism from the coveted, Ivy League Columbia University) and one Ph.D. from reputed American institutions, became so proficient in English that you now effortlessly teach your American students (and write reasonably well in two languages), brought up your children in a developed education system, and earned a lot of respect from your friends, relatives and colleagues — both in India and here in America?
I can’t deny the above. But the feeling that I was a victim of brain drain, lack of comprehensive information and shortchanging my talents, experiences and energy for slave labor (and they wouldn’t let my wife — a foreign student’s spouse — work at all), sacrificing a number of very important years of my life — is simply overwhelming. Sure, both my wife and I came a long way and perhaps improved a little bit on the economic front too (never to be rich — always stayed in the middle of the money graph). But the price we had to pay was unbelievably enormous. And to see my wife’s parents die so soon because of the departure (other than the many emotional distresses, extreme alienation and being forced to be away from our familiar world in India) was brutal.
And then, there were SO many deaths of people we knew so well and loved so much! Almost felt some of those deaths we could perhaps prevent if we didn’t leave India!