Thursday, March 5, 2009

Made In Japan

A few weeks ago I received an interesting email from my son with links to a YouTube video by a woman named Arundhati Roy, an Indian writer and activist whose book The God Of Small Things obtained for her international attention and awards. I'd never heard of Ms. Roy, so I was interested in hearing some of what she had to say.
I watched the video, and another, and was so impressed I bought the book. Well, impressed enough to want a copy of something she'd written so I could see more vividly where she was coming from. Her thought provoking ideas were resonating with a part of me, and evidently with others as well.

The world has changed, is changing and will continue to do so. Boomers experienced this first hand as we were growing up. There was a time when goods that had the words MADE IN JAPAN printed on them were of a pretty inferior quality. Yet when you watch a film like Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation starring Bill Murray, you can be sure that all that Tokyo wealth was not created on the backs of laborers who manufactured junk.

International trade has created wealth abroad, and made U.S. dependence on foreign sources of goods an imperative. We say we dislike what the big box retailers are doing in terms of importing foreign goods, yet we also dislike high prices. Hence on his Infidels album Dylan sings:

Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore
My flashlight's from Taiwan
My tablecloth's from Malaysia
My belt buckle's from the Amazon
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy making thirty cents a day.
~Union Sundown, Bob Dylan

This international trade of goods has been moving wealth around the world for a very long time. How did England gain its great wealth in the days when the sun never set on the British Empire?

But today, the changes coming may even be more significant as we see the Internet transferring ideas around the world, with unheard of speed. American citizens have been isolated by geography from most of the world's distress. But today, with the Internet, it's all out there, within view, if you wish to look and listen. These are, therefore, amazing times. Sensitive, thoughtful people have finally found a mechanism for being heard. Sensitive, thoughtful Americans are beginning to hear voices they had been shielded from by those who edit the evening news and those who feed us the pictures on our glass onions and flat panel screens.

On this topic there is much more to say.... but we'll get to that another day.

No comments: