Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reversion to the Mean

I came across this picture a few days back. It's a bunch of workers on a Chinese assembly line making headphones or mice for Microsoft. They work 15 hour shifts 6 or 7 days a week, and try to take naps during their 10 minute breaks.

I guess what struck me as particularly ironic about this image is that China is ostensibly a Communist country, yet this sort of abuse of fundamental human rights of workers hearkens back to the Age of Industrialization. The outrageous abuse of the working classes was really the impetus for the revolution in Russia as well as the worker's movements in Europe and the US that ultimately reigned in the capitalists. How bitterly ironic that the only major Communist superpower is abusing their own constituents in its climb to become a capitalist nation.

As I've mentioned before, reading Doug Rushkoff's "Life, Inc" really affected me in a way that few books have. However, his main argument is that corporations have taken over our world and if we only recognize this and disengage from the corporate model, we would all be better off. And this is where I think he is missing the boat.

The corporations are just ONE way that human nature expresses its need to further one's interests at the expense of others. Rushkoff's argument is the tail wagging the dog. People will find ways of taking advantage of others - if not through the corporate mechanism than through other means. It is the most bitter form of betrayal of humanity - and it happens in all spheres, politics, business, religion. I know it is an old argument - is human nature in its essence good or evil - but I really have trouble seeing how you could argue that it is not evil. Sure there are outliers, but statistically, whenever large numbers of people are involved, human nature seems to revert to the mean, and I mean we are "mean".


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