Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tyranny Through Commercialized Technology

This is the 1st graded blog entry

As a child I grew up conservative, I believed in weapons over education, trickle-down economics, and the like. However, it is after coming to college, when my mind's castle and moat of conservative ideals passed down by grandparents, aunts, and a parent is assaulted and ultimately conquered by the breadth of new information, but more importantly, new experiences, that has swung my beliefs (some would call them political) in the other direction. Clearly we have a need for welfare, workman's compensation, and federal laws that regulate how employers treat their employees.

The reason I bring up my past is because though I may be at risk of an ad hominem fallacy, I find it juvenile that any person could call America a "free country" if they are utterly opposed to the idea of lending those who wish to make their dreams come true, and can't, assistance. And when I say "assistance," I mean money. "Life in the Iron Mills" is only outdated in the sense that it captures older technology, but the reason the story is important is because its sentiment still resounds into the 21st era. A moderm equivalent may be a single father working at the assembly line in a General Motors factory who suddenly has his wages cut because the company is outsourcing or feels they can make more competitive prices if production is amped up at another factory. This father, who because his family was poor and could not afford to send him to a private school, or even a decent public school, can do nothing else but his job. He finds that he now must devote all of his time to his grueling job, assembling and disassembling car engines in a smoking factory, inhaling fumes that aren't supposed to kill him-- unless he's inhaling them 16 hours a day. Oh yes did I forget to mention that he needs to work double shifts so that his two daughters can eat, go to school, and have a roof over their head? Don't even get me started on their college education. It would all be O.K. except the US government's definition of "poverty," in pure number terms, is a hundred dollars less than what he makes... but this worker needs that hundred dollars to pay for his house utilities and therefore finds himself stuck, enslaved to his monotonous job and the CEOs who decided that it'd just be easier to give themselves larger Christmas bonuses and give their employees nothing, saying that the company is losing too much money. This father might sue, but attorneys need money to eat, too, and if he had the access to perhaps the ACLU they might be able to help him, in 10 years, when he has lung cancer and an amputated arm from a factory accident. In fact, a factory accident would almost be welcome, because then at least Workman's Comp. might come through.

The enslaved working man is not a myth, or an extinct species, but a common sight today. If it weren't the case, why would popular movies like "John Q." win 2 awards and be nominated for 7 others? I checked, it's not just because Denzel Washington is a fantastic actor. I find Mike's summarization and coincidental shrugging off of the idea that the "system" (which I am unsure of which system he means here) is "set up to ensare the poor to benefit the rich" outright obtuse. I would ask Mike to recall that Ronald Reagan's idea of "trickle-down economics,"-- an issue still widely considered viable by the Conservatives-- is just a financial approach that says, if the government gives money to the rich (in the form of superior tax breaks and financial support to already monstrous companies) that the rich will spend more money and somehow the cash will "trickle" it's way down to the average blue-collar working man. Obviously Ronald Reagan forgot what "avarice" means.

We can't forget that big business and big money is tied almost exclusively to the development of new technology. Ever wonder why Paris Hilton has a better Blackberry than you? You can't afford it, but she can. Until machines can self-replicate, but then you find one of the largest dangers outlined in the beginning of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us." Sure, we may find ourselves experiencing extra longevity in entirely silicon bodies, but if a wo/man isn't made of flesh and tissue anymore, is he really a man?

Marcuse is absolutely right; our freedom is not given to us au gratis. The people who master technology convince the masses that they need it and then have them work endlessly producing it, hoping they may too one day have that one thing that somehow makes their lives easier without realizing that it could be detrimental to their physical and mental health and their social life. Am I going to work double shifts to buy some crappy car that spews atmosphere-annihilating chemicals and can only manage 14 miles per gallon when I have free mass transit or could even, G-d forbid, partake in some physical activity and just walk? No!

I hate to pick on Mike's post, but there's a reason my grandmother's addages and aphorisms aren't law-- they have too many fallacies to them. Anecdotal evidence like "my grandmother said so," is not valid and it's use is wrong. That little saying is meant in the sense of farming, where the individual was his own man and would only produce as much as he was willing to work. I am not a botanist, but if I planted a carborater I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a Mustang. Marcuse talks about "free competition at administered prices" and "free choice between brands and gadgets," showing us the paradoxical nature of "fixed retail price." It's not because the employer has to pay his employees minimum wage that we have these prices, or even because of the ingredients used to make whatever the next little toy to come along, it's because the CEOs decide that a million and a half dollars a year is just not enough to afford two yachts instead of just one. This idea may sound jaded, but to quote the late Don Marquis "When a man tell you he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'" and I believe that sentiment traverses into today.

I do believe that Marcuse is trying to dissuade us from the idea that technology is what makes us "free." Really it is how we choose to use that technology that ultimately is the freedom.


Mike K said...

I had to pick out the statements I disagreed with. Here's some:

"The people who master technology convince the masses that they need it."
I'm not really sure why liberals like to think of people as stupid creatures susceptible to hypnotism at every turn. I don't NEED technology, I WANT technology. I like my life easy. I have chosen to buy cars and houses out of free will, not because I was coerced into it.

"company is outsourcing or feels they can make more competitive prices" -- "showing us the paradoxical nature of "fixed retail price."

Which is it? Are prices determined via cartel (illegal), monopoly (illegal), or does competition? If you don't like the price of certain things, why do you buy it? If the CEOs get to name their own price, why stop at 2 yachts and a mansion? Hell, they should just sell a stick of gum for a gajillion dollars! MUAHAHAH!! Oh wait. There's that whole Supply/Demand concept.

"Why would popular movies like "John Q." win 2 awards and be nominated for 7 others?" I don't know, why would Lord of the Rings? That's a myth too. I laughed hysterically through that whole movie. It was odd the juxtaposition of the scene where he's shouting "Free health care for everybody!" and the scene where he's forcing the doctor to waive his fee. Well that's a good plan, John Q, we'll just make everything free. I'm sure the doctors won't mind going through 8 years of additional school to do a stressful job for free. Or the nurses. Or the orderlies. Or the janitor. Or the utility companies. Or admin clerks. Hell, we'll just make them all work for free. After all, John's the one w/ the gun.

"The CEOs who decided that it'd just be easier to give themselves larger Christmas bonuses and give their employees nothing, saying that the company is losing too much money." Except that they have to get that cleared by the boards, and pay their employees according to their contracts, and then there's those pesky stock holder's votes. You realize you can look up EXACTLY how a company is fairing financially on Yahoo Finance in minutes, right? There's no lying involved unless their breaking the law.

In the interest of brevity, last one: Your whole "poor father" example. I didn't see a mention anywhere of why exactly the father's life is unfair. There's no moral obligation on anyone's part to help this guy. It's as if you're suggesting the corporation owes this man it has a duty to give him cash he has no rightful claim to. He CAN quit anytime, you know. We left slavery behind in the Civil War. The car factory said "I'll pay you $x an hour to do this job for me." and he said "OK." That's a free country. Now you're saying the company owes him MORE?

Ultimately, if you don't like the way they treat their employees, don't buy their cars. I'm sure that father will thank you for putting him out of a job. If corporations hold the power, why is it that %80 of businesses fail in the first year? Why is Donald Trump's empire in bankruptcy? Why did US Airlines have to cut their pilots pay?

LSack said...

I'm not going to get into an argument here, so I'm just going to show you where your reasoning is flawed because you almost exclusively use fallacies:

1. Check your statistics and look at why companies have stopped advertising to children. It's brain-washingly convincing. Also, I'm a Moderate, not a Liberal, and that really has nothing to do with the case anyway... so you're using Genetic Fallacy to argue with me.

2. Straw Man Argument. You're overly exaggerating what I said in order to try and weaken the strength of my argument. That's a fallacy and wouldn't merit a response anyway.

3. Red Herring, you need to fully read and comprehend what I'm writing to disagree with it intelligently. I was writing about how "Life at the Iron Mills" resounds across time, my proof being the portrayal of something very similar in popular culture. That was what I was trying to prove, not that we should take literally the words of a character in a movie.

4. So I guess past snafus like Enron and Bethlehem Steel Works just mean no, nothing, nevermind to you? Do some research, I did before I posted.

5. Yes, I suppose he could quit anytime. Quit the job he's been at for years, quit the job that allows him to supply at least some sort of living for his daughters and perhaps even himself. Quit and with no education, because poverty has kept it from him, be unable to get hired anywhere else. If you're going to argue a story I translated in modern times if only to give my readers a modernized and less tedious version of "Life at the Iron Mills," might be best to actually talk to some impoverished people... because frankly at this point I know you have no idea what you're talking about.

If Donald Trump's Empire is in bankruptcy, it's because he sucked at owning a company. And I just saw one of the chairmen for US Airlines on the Today Show this very morning and they were interviewing him about his company's financial success. If that happened you really need to get some more recent research.

I respect that you have your own opinions... but you really need to stop with the Argumentum ad Populum fallacies and draping yourself in a flag and making an argument just so you can call me unpatriotic or a senile Liberal or whatever. Did you know that John Adams defended British soldiers who slaughtered several civilians at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War? His response to questions on why he would do such a thing was to the affect that it isn't a free country unless we give equal rights for everyone to do well. If equal rights can only be supplied through money, then yes, I believe the impoverish have some right to help from our government or the corporation they work for to help them live better, and if you knew anything about business (which you clearly don't) people who live better are happier and happier employees mean more productive ones.

While that may sound harsh, I expect some respect in at least equal research with mine and that you construct arguments that are not logical fallacies. Otherwise, you're just wasting my time and not producing any intellectucally productive writing.

Adam Johns said...

From the beginning, clearly your intention is to do the assignment which calls for you to analyze some aspect of your own life by way of Marcuse. This takes a rather common form: "Once I was blind, but now I see." You were a conservative, but you have learned the error of your ways, and Marcuse confirms the correctness of your new ways. I have no problem with that, I just wanted to point it out as an introduction.

What I find curious, I guess, is that you (just like Mike, incidentally -- there are other similarities between the two pieces) assume that what Hugh and people like him need is money. Again, that's fine - but it's one-dimensional (keep in mind that Marcuse's title is _The One-Dimensional Man_). The story isn't about just any poor guy (your GM example), but about a gifted _artist_ who lacks education and an audience at least as much as he lacks money.

I guess it comes down to this: you do a nice job relating your own views to Marcuse's -- but you only seem to use Marcuse to confirm your beliefs; _analyzing_ your life (which is the assignment) implies a degree of challenge or questioning of _your_ life. You might ask, for instance, in what way you personally suffer from "liberty as a form of domination." Question, don't just confirm.