[OPE-L] _Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy_

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Mon Sep 17 2007 - 09:15:59 EDT

The following is a short review of John Bowe's book from _USA Today_.  In
bringing this review to the attention of another group, Loren Goldner
commented briefly that modern slavery is a form of primitive accumulation
and a violation of the law of value.  Do others agree?

In solidarity, Jerry

> Review: Slavery's shockingly alive and well today
> By Russ Juskalian, Special for USA TODAY
> A globalized world that could bring down the Berlin
> Wall, and deliver fresh fruit in the middle of the
> coldest winter months, wasn't supposed to foster one
> of the darkest of human practices - slavery.
> This version of the world was supposed to make life
> for everyone, everywhere, better. Better medicine,
> better prices, better democracies. Not so, says John
> Bowe in his incredible book, Nobodies: Modern
> American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New
> Global Economy.
> Not only is slavery a reality, but how we've
> executed this rush toward globalization may have
> created the very conditions necessary for slavery to
> gain a toehold in the modern world.
> Nobodies is investigative, immersion reporting at
> its best. The line between observer and participant
> blurs, and the reality of time, place and subject
> come crashing out in full detail. When Bowe goes to
> Florida to investigate a case involving labor
> contractor Ramiro Ramos ("el Diablo"), the death of
> a van driver, and the fate of dozens of involuntary
> servants, he lays out the scene without missing a
> detail.
> "On April 20, 1997, at around 10 p.m., the Highlands
> County, Florida, Sheriff's Office received a 911
> call; something strange had happened out in the
> migrant-worker ghetto near Highlands Boulevard.
> "The 'neighborhood,' a mishmash of rotting trailer
> homes and plywood shacks, was hidden outside the
> town of Lake Placid, a mile or two back from the
> main road. By day, the place was forbidding and
> cheerless, silent, its forlorn dwellings perched
> awry, in seeming danger of oozing into the swamp. By
> night, it was downright menacing, humid and thick
> with mosquitoes."
> Bowe is a master storyteller whose work is finely
> tuned and fearless. When the time is appropriate, he
> goes so far as to question his own assumptions,
> ideals and practices without holding back.
> What Bowe is able to uncover in the fruit orchards
> of Florida, the industrial setting of Tulsa and the
> bizarre island of Saipan (north of Guam) is
> alarming. By the book's end, his anger comes out in
> piercing daggers.
> "Go out into this newly globalized world you're
> profiting from," he writes, "go visit the people
> being 'lifted' out of poverty, the workers who are
> making your products. Go live in their huts, eat
> their rice and plantains, squat on their floors, and
> listen to their babies cry. Sniff some glue and pray
> with them. Try to get justice from their police if
> someone hurts you. And then come back and let's talk
> about freedom."
> He brings us into the lives of:
> .Skilled welders from India who paid $2,200 to a
> labor recruiter to get a highly paid overseas job.
> The workers were paid around $3 per hour while they
> "trained" indefinitely at an American company in
> Tulsa and were allegedly threatened with physical
> retaliation if they tried to leave the property.
> .Migrant fruit pickers who are murdered near
> America's orange orchards in Florida, as a warning
> to their peers about the risks of trying to escape
> servitude.
> .Women working double shifts at factories in Saipan,
> while selling sex on the side, in a place where the
> clothes they make are labeled "Made in America," but
> the rights, wages and living conditions fall below
> the American legal standard.
> Bowe spent about six years immersed in the
> individual stories that make up the book (some of
> which he covered for The New Yorker). He is candid
> about his methods, including an admission, during a
> segment about the sexual dynamics of Saipan, that he
> had his own "silly affairs" on the island.
> Nobodies is the kind of book from an earlier era in
> journalism - when writers were more experimental and
> less separated from the subjects they were covering.
> It's a heavily reported book that follows a
> stream-of-consciousness structure as Bowes moves
> from slavery to more grand concepts about power and
> corruption.
> Something must be said of Nobodies' final chapter, a
> masterwork and mixing pot of ideas, spiced by the
> anger of an intelligent man who has witnessed too
> many instances of the Latin proverb, homo homini
> lupus: man is a wolf to man.
> There's a chill in the air when he writes: "If you
> can read this page, you are on top of the world and
> billions of people are beneath you. Your ignorance
> and your lack of a program will likely equal the
> squalor of your grandchildren's existence."

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Sep 30 2007 - 00:00:05 EDT