Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

China, IOC feeding consumers



Amnesty International — those pesky do-gooders — are raining on the Olympic parade. Monday they released a report confirming, as so many of us expected, the sun continues to rise in the east, Santa Claus is not a real person and, oh yeah, “The Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics.”

Well, duh.

As a card-carrying, left-leaning, protest-marching, social liberal, I ought to be outraged by the abuses, lies, prevarications and generally paranoid, xenophobic examples of human rights violations outlined in AI’s report. But reality check time: This is China we’re talking about.

It’s also the Olympics we’re talking about. I mean, let’s get real here. The IOC pretty much abandoned and betrayed the core values of the Olympics decades ago when they sold ’em out to the highest bidder, repudiated the quaint, old-fashioned notion of “amateur” athletics, and enshrined the very democratic practice of accepting large cash gifts in plain brown envelopes.

Who cares?

The sad — or happy, depending on how you look at it — fact is that getting upset with China for human rights abuses is a bit like getting upset with your dealer over the high price of smack. China is simply too big, too powerful and too rich for any western government to take action more damning and decisive than saying, “Tsk, tsk, guys, you really ought to be nicer to your slaves and undesirables.” Face it, we’re hooked on China and there’s no getting this monkey off our backs. In fact, we wouldn’t know what to do without the cute little fella.

“Advanced” western nations have more or less encouraged manufacturers to abandon the core values of self-sufficiency and move production to China. It has nothing whatsoever to do with boosting profits due to the fact that the Chinese workforce amounts to industrialized slave labour and the environmental protections in the country are so advanced they have to shut things down to give the illusion of having air clean enough for athletes and dignitaries to breathe. The real reason western governments aided and abetted this transfer of labour was so enlightened, freedom-loving, highly-educated western workers could stop getting their hands dirty and jump wholly into higher value-added service type jobs. It was such a selfless, considerate thing to do that legions of grateful former factory workers got down on their knees and thanked them for creating the opportunity they always secretly yearned for to give up high-paying union jobs so they could pursue their dream of becoming greeters at Wal-Mart where anxious consumers line up to buy cheap Chinese goods with familiar, if sometimes butchered, Englese labels.