Thursday, September 27, 2007

I can't think, the TV is on

Lately I've been feeling way too wired into television and the internet. For me, it's akin to feeling full or even like a glutton after a huge (unhealthy) meal. I have several websites that I check multiple times a day throughout the day everyday. And now, with the fall television season starting up again, I've been spending a lot of time letting my eyes glaze over as I practically slump over on the couch in front of the t.v. I am one of those people who cannot watch tv and carrying on a conversation at the same time; I get completely engrossed in whatever is on. I guess it's all those bright and shiny colors flying by me at a fast rate.

I watched Heroes last season and I'm going to continue to watch it again.

Spoiler alert **if you haven't watched the first season of Heroes and want to stop reading now, even though I'm only going to talk about it in a general way**

Last season focused good battling the evil of "progress at any cost." The Company was willing to sacrifice the lives of most of the people in New York City in order to unite the country under Nathan, ushering in a new era of progress and prosperity. Because the cost of the Company's idea of progress was millions (thousands?) of deaths through a nuclear explosion (in New York City), I initially thought that the show was trying to say something about terrorism. But I think that there is something else there, namely I think the Company represented the ideas of Social Darwinism*, (the concept that the rule "survival of the fittest" applies in economic and social situations).

On an individual level it's easy to see that, Social Darwinism is ridiculous; it requires us to consider a man who had the happy accident to be born into a wealthy family morally superior or more deserving of his wealth than a man who was born into poverty (it also requires us to think that the man born into poverty deserves to be poor). But I think that Social Darwinism lives on in some of our business practices. More and more companies are turning to global outsourcing as a means of cutting expenses. It is cheaper to make products in foreign countries that have less strict (or no) environmental or labor regulations. Those cheap costs of production are then (somewhat) reflected in lower costs to the United States consumer.

How can it be fair to pay someone with the same skill sets as an American worker less money just because they are born in a foreign country? I know there are complicated reasons why less money is seen as acceptable in these cases, but is one of those reasons based on a Social Darwinian idea? That those who work hard enough, no matter where they start, can and will achieve wealth and therefore, people who are poor are poor because they did not work hard enough (and do not deserve equal treatment)?

If progress in this case is cheaper goods for American consumers then the cost might be companies must engage in unethical business practices. Are we asking ourselves if progress is worth the cost? I know they are in academia, but is this question being asked by business leaders? Is it being asked by consumers? How can consumers even ask if progress is worth the cost if they don't even know what the ethical costs are? Is it the consumers job to stay informed about global business practices of the companies they use? Or is it the government's job to prevent unethical global business practices to begin with?

I honestly do not know if global outsourcing has a net positive or negative effect on foreign countries. I have heard arguments from Americans on both sides. I would like to hear from the foreign workers as well, because I don't want to be Whitey McPriviledged spouting my opinion about what's best for other countries. I do think, however, there are clearly some costs to global outsourcing.

I'm leaving this entry the scattered mess it is. I don't really know enough about this stuff to be writing about it, and clearly I have more questions then answer. If anyone has any good books/links in regards to globalization that they'd like to share, please do.

*A note about Social Darwinism: the theory of evolution defines success by a species ability to adapt to a given situation; the ability to adapt is measured first by the number of offspring a species successfully raises to reproduce and secondly, the number of new species that spring from the original species. Social Darwinism, on the other hand, measures success in terms of wealth acquired and the idea of "progress and civilization." One of the reasons that Darwin's theory of evolution was so threatening at the time he wrote his books is because there is no "progress" in Darwin's evolution; there is no end goal, there is only randomness. In college I took a class called Origins of Contemporary Thought where Allan Megill argued that this was Darwin's real challenge to religion; a world that works without an end goal, without progressing, implies that there is no God.

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