But important work gets done every day by flawed people, sometimes even by assholes. No one should be more aware of that than people who work in the tech industry, where many of the vaunted innovators and revolutionaries were not warm, fuzzy people. Ultimately, they’re judged by their work.
If you’re in tech—or interested in tech or diversity issues in tech—Model View Culture is a superb magazine that has no analog.
- It talks about how perks can divide people. Been there, done that. Especially when you’re at some doughnut event and they’ve forgotten to cater to the vegan and the celiac. Again.
Going Beyond Assholes
When I made the Traitor to the Mens t-shirts, I got a note about American Apparel. I’d known about the sexist advertising, but not about how awful the CEO was (he’s still awful, he’s just gotten resigned). Their shirts being produced in the US was important to me for various reasons, including knowing that labor standards and business practices were, at least in theory, up to US standards.
This human slavery story comes out of Thailand’s shrimp industry.
And this story about Scientology’s drydock bill also has, at its heart, human slavery. In short, Curaçao’s drydock was using slave labor from Cuba, people Cuba sent over to do work to pay down Cuba’s drydock bill. They worked under horrific conditions. (The electrocution story reminds me of the tale of Kendrick Moxon, one of Scientology’s attorneys, and his Sea Org daughter who died of electrocution.)
One of my concerns is knowing that I’m doing less harm, and that means knowing more about where things come from and how they’re produced/delivered. And sometimes, there’s a bunch of crappy choices.
You might think that t-shirt made in Nicaragua or Honduras is better because it’s not made by American Apparel.
You know what? Nicaragua has an appalling lack of infrastructure. Many Nicaraguans work part of the year in Costa Rica due to lack of opportunity. As our tour guide said:
We cannot even bag plantains.
So imagine, if you will, given that they don’t have the factory capability to bag plantains, how it is that they’re able to make t-shirts for shirt.woot (among others) but can’t even bag plantains, one of their major crops.
Nicaragua’s the only country I’ve been to where the TV’s world weather pointedly excludes the US and Canada from its list of world cities. They are angry with us and, frankly, they have good reason to be.
It’s not that I don’t want to do business with Nicaragua. To the contrary. I’ve been there twice (short trips, granted). It’s just that, given what I know, I don’t inherently trust that any business has manufacturing in Nicaragua has Nicaraguan infrastructure interests as a design goal.
As Rick has pointed out more than once, “How do you know the company you’re not boycotting isn’t worse?”
Like, you know, Nestlé, and its chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who doesn’t believe human beings have a right to water. Corporations buying up water rights in poor countries is an enormous global human rights issue.
Here, have a list of Nestlé brands for your boycott needs. I’m happy to say that none of my regular brands are on that list. \o/
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the bigger picture because some bad things in front of us seem like the “worst thing ever.” They’re bad, but there are worse things, and I think we need to keep perspective on that.
The Response on the Delany/NAMBLA Stuff Wasn’t What I Expected
@deirdresm i wish you wouldn't promote WS. he's a doxxer, racist sexist abuser, and has hurt a lot of victims of abuse.
— Ann Somerville (@ann_somerville) July 11, 2014
…which leads to a long conversation ending in…
— Ann Somerville (@ann_somerville) July 12, 2014
Let me pull a quote out from Samuel Delany’s writing about sex with children:
Finally a composite score is reached, and the “seriousness” of the infraction judged accordingly. The consent of a seven-, eight-, or nine-year old is not the same thing as the consent of a seventeen- or eighteen-year old. And the “consent” of a three, four, and five year old means much less—especially if it’s negative. But it must count for something, otherwise you are just saying the child is not human and has no feelings or agency whatsoever—which, in itself, is abusive and counter-intuitive. And, I would maintain, immoral when another possibility presents itself.
Delany’s commented on Will’s post. He stands by what he wrote.
Is that really okay with everyone?