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China Blue

9 Feb

Today, in my  “Managing Global Production and Technology” class with Prof. Ellis, we watched parts of a PBS documentary named “China Blue“. This 80min film followed a second-born farmer’s girl that packed her things (duffel bag, green bucket, and 100 yuan) to go to the city and work as a thread cutter in a jeans factory.

The movie is very disturbing on different levels. The girl (Jasmine) and her co-workers, earn ridiculously low wages. At times the factory owner (a ex-policemen that loves to do calligraphy) defers salary payments for weeks and when asked how his management style works, he replies: “I like the relaxed management style, but you don’t want your workers to get out of hand.” Apart from the questionable living conditions, the young workers are forced to work long days (20hrs shifts) with no overtime pay, they get their eyes clipped open with clothes-pins, get their first months pay withheld as a “deposit”, and  get fired when they get pregnant (among other things).

I understand that the socioeconomic and cultural differences should force us to look at this problem through a different, open lens. Also, as a supporter of the free-market, I understand that the trend of Chinese low-wage labor is not reversible, and that it is in our and Chinas interest to have our stuff produced in the “third world”.

However, I did feel a little uneasy when some of my class mates referred to the girl as “happy”, and “fulfilling a live-long dream”. Some classmates scrambled to come up with comparisons to our world and were quick to find explanations for Jasmin’s situation.

“We have to work all day, too.” – “She chose to take on that job.” – “There is nothing we can do about that [problem].”

I believe that we have the choice, and privilege to make choices. Choices that Jasmin does not have. As a second-born child, she is unwanted by the government (One Child Policy), and the fact that she is a girl does not help the situation. Therefore, when we are made aware of obvious labor law violations, we should not hesitate to send a signal. We can do that by thinking twice when buying “Made in China”.

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What’s your favorite superpower?

8 Mar

If you could choose to have a superpower what would it be? I asked myself this exact question various times and after giving it some thought I have to say that it would come down to two choices:

  1. Stopping Time. Being able to halt time in any situation is absolutely powerful. Imagine somebody fires a shoot at you. -Stop-. Step aside. -Go- And the bullet flies past you without any danger. This power would also be helpful to gain some extra hours to finish a school paper in time, or to rethink urgent matters that need a quick decision.
  2. Teleport. How cool would that be? Imagine you’re in danger, but this time your enemy shows up with an atomic bomb strapped around his waist and is about to push the trigger that will turn your near surrounding into ashes and radioactive waste. -Zap-. Teleport to a beautiful island (like Hawaii) or a nearby planet. -Zip-. Somewhere out there somebody just wasted an atomic bomb. You could also use this power as means of transportation. Undoubtedly the most environmental means of travel.

I am still debating which one to choose… -Stop-

Angry Marco

10 Jan

I remember one instance when I got “really angry.” I was in Berlin on a trip that I spent 3 months working to pay for. Berlin appealed to me from the first time I stepped out on its burdened streets, laden with rich history and stories of centuries. Berlin is like no other city I have been to. On my first sight seeing day through the city, I was stopped by a crowd of people cheering for a group of men playing a simple gambling game. The game consisted of a man hiding one white ball under one of three cups. He then quickly moved the cups in different positions. It seemed very easy to me to follow the ball and I got it right 5 out of 5 times. Continue reading

I want a fuel-efficient car.

17 Oct

I want a family.
I want a career.
I want to live near a big city where a lot is going on.
I want to live where it’s warm.
I don’t want to be cold.
I want to have kids.
I want to be done with university.
I want to live in a house where I feel homey in.
I want to live with the people i love.
I want to be close to my family. Continue reading

thinking out loud [en]

28 Apr

USA I got invited to the Athletic Honors Banquet a few days ago. I was very flattered and proud. I think every person needs some kind of recognition, be it verbal or in the form of a gift, in front of a crowd or personal. Being honored in front of a number of people makes it an even bigger deal to me. Somebody telling everybody that what I am doing is not easy gives me a big confidence boost.

They honored not only the individual athletes, but also the best Team GPA and gave special honors to people with a perfect 4.0 GPA (not me). This also fosters the competition between the athletes and the teams. Even though the prizes that were given to the special honored were nothing special (worth wise) they had a great symbolic value and ultimately gave bragging rights to the people that got the honor over the ones that didn’t get anything.

It’s funny to me how big of an impact a little award can have on someone. On the one hand they recognize you for your hard work which is good, but it also separates you from those that did not get awarded. I don’t think that an award makes somebody better than somebody else. Banquets like that, however suggest that very thing. Our society supports outstanding athletic and academic efforts, but isn’t there an other yardstick we can use to measure somebody? Do we really have to compare ourselves to others? A renowned communication scholar (Julia T. Wood) suggests that comparing is a natural occurrence, but do we really have to distinguish between good and bad, can’t there only be an “A is different from B”?

Tell me what YOU think.