Today marks the one year anniversary of Ai Weiwei’s release from imprisonment. The charge: free speech, he used social medial to raise awareness of China’s failed policies and human rights abuses. While this is something we all but take for granted in the West and particularly in the US, the Chinese people are afforded no such luxury. In fact there are many other “luxuries” they are not afforded. One is deciding how many children should be in their family. This week the Chinese government was in the news for a forced abortion of a 7 month old fetus. Yet another gross human rights violation. While we scream about Obamacare this week, China continues its abuse of the most basic human rights: Control of one’s family and the freedom of opinion in the public square. What will outrage Americans enough to take action against the Chinese government? I am not talking about military action, I am talking about grassroots action that is much more affective than any military campaign. Will Americans ever be so outraged by human rights violations that they state it through their purchasing power? It is a nice sentiment, but I suspect not. Gone are the days of a shared social ethic that considered the conditions under which things are made and what the profits from these items fund. There is a sense of empowerment given to the Chinese government by US dollars spent on products made in their country. U.S. Consumers are seldom convinced to pay higher prices for products originating from human rights sensitive countries in lieu of products made by human rights violators. This is because like our own current and past human rights issues, we have convinced ourselves of our own arguments. These arguments are varied but similar such as “What can my personal spending habits do to influence a huge government such as China?” or “We are giving them a better life by giving them more money” or “I have to take care of my family first, I can’t afford to make those choices.” First, our individual choices do affect how governments and businesses operate that is why they advertise to consumers. Pressure of U.S. companies that import such goods will make a difference, it has in the past and it will continue to make a difference in the future. Second, are we giving a better life or just more income with shortened lives because of the treacherous working conditions? Third, could we afford it if it were someone we were personally acquainted?
June 28, 2012 · 11:04 pm