Tag Archives: child labor

Another International Day against Child Labor passes without much action

Cambodia child labor day June 13 2014

Yesterday was the ceremonial commemoration of International Day against Child Labor initiated in 2002 by the ILO, a UN agency. In the promotional material, it’s to “highlight the plight of millions of children worldwide.” Golly that’s touching.

A lot of NGOs use the day for raking in funds; a few pull grandstanding stunts like “raiding” a sweatshop to free child workers. All of them address it solely as a human rights problem. That it is! But it is also a labor rights issue because under neoliberal barbarism, child labor is used primarily to weaken & undercut adult labor. But it has many other advantages, primarily that it is so damn easy to bully children into working fast, furiously, & without rebellion.

Nothing exposes neoliberalism more powerfully than the growing millions of tiny children working in mines, factories, brick yards, sweatshops. Neoliberalism shows itself as a system with no shame, with no respect for anyone or anything except profiteering. Child workers stand as the indictment beyond dispute.

This little guy is scavenging recycleables from a rubbish heap in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Keep in mind the rubbish heap has decayed food with bacterial growths, animal & human poop, used unmentionables like dirty diapers & sanitary napkins, tons of chemical waste. It’s a stinking mound of diseases waiting to happen. When children become both the chattel & the offal of the system, it’s long-since time to trash the system.

(Getty Images)

Emancipation US-style in Afghanistan

Afghanistan brick worker June 1 2014

Emancipation US-style: this little guy is a brick worker in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since it’s likely he’s malnourished, it’s hard to judge his age but he is surely no older than two. Let his image stand as a scathing indictment of the US-NATO war; no more need be said to rebut all the lies & treacheries we’ve been fed to justify this criminal & barbaric occupation.

The photo was taken last June to commemorate the UN’s World Day Against Child Labor. UN agencies take time & resources to chronicle child labor in Afghanistan but they can’t find it in themselves to condemn the war.

US-NATO out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq! Bring all the troops home now!

(Photo by Ahmad Massoud/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

Love in the time of neoliberal impoverishment


Cover- Living on a Dollar a Day

This photo is from the new book “Living on a Dollar a Day” by Thomas A. Nazario, Renée C. Byer, & the Dalai Lama. Nazario, who is a law professor in San Francisco, operates a foundation addressing poverty through charity & volunteerism on the model of Nicholas Kristof. The politics are decidedly conformist & do-gooder with the distinct malodor of “white man’s burden.” The foundation frequently & favorably profiles detestable figureheads of neoliberal impoverishment like Christine Lagarde of the IMF, Bill Gates, & Obama. Nazario may be a swell guy but his politics & associations stink. Social transformation is required, not missionary work & do-gooding.

Regardless of Nazario’s political creepiness, Renée C. Byer, the photographer of this photo book has captured some remarkable faces. None more so than this small boy carrying his baby sibling. Children in poverty are not only employed in brickyards, fields, & mines, but take on childcare while their parents work. In the midst of all that squalor & the indignities of poverty, love remains transformational. And it’s written all over this young boy’s face.

May this little guy grow up to join the movements making our world suitable for human beings to live & love in.

Child labor in Bangladesh sweatshops

This iconic photo is from a sweatshop worker’s strike in Dhaka, Bangladesh in June 2010. Police used tear gas, truncheons, & water cannons against mostly women & child workers demanding back pay & an immediate increase in monthly wages. At that time, garment workers had no minimum wage standard & were paid below the World Bank poverty standard of $1.25 a day–when they were paid. In US dollars they received $21.45 a month; in Bangladesh taka that is 1662.50 & in Euros about €17. No matter which currency you use it all comes out to chump change.

There had been labor conflict for several weeks prior to this strike but on this day workers erected barricades, pelted cops with rocks, & attacked cars. Police described the fighting as the worst yet seen & may explain why riot cops now show up at labor protests with rubber bullets. They might want to brace themselves for the labor tsunami erupting among sweatshop workers in Bangladesh & elsewhere.

This photo is posted for those apologists who want to let the Bangladesh government off the hook for it’s culpability protecting sweatshop manufacturing. May the struggles of sweatshop workers around the world inspire us in the historic task of socially transforming labor & ridding this beautiful planet of all exploitation. May these child workers of Dhaka lead the way in ending the abomination of child labor.

(Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

Afghan president Karzai refuses to buckle to US Pentagon

Media & diplomats are calling Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to maintain US military occupation in Afghanistan “The last stand of Hamid Karzai;” they liken it to a poker game, deplore he is “thumbing his nose” at the US & demonizing US troops & diplomats, accuse Karzai of mental health problems & ask if he is off his meds–all because he demands a minimal semblance of Afghan sovereignty, including accountability in Afghan courts for US soldiers who commit crimes & cessation of barbaric attacks on civilians.

Karzai is no prize package politically; he is a long-time collaborator with the US-NATO occupation & came to prominence only as a result of his corruption & collusion with the US. He will be leaving office after the April elections so his new independence may reflect some opposition within the Afghan elite to continued US occupation. It takes a certain amount of courage for Karzai to defy the US because if they thought they could get away with it the Pentagon would not hesitate to take him out.

By far, the most pernicious attacks on Karzai came from the Washington Post under the headline ”Karzai suspects US is behind insurgent-style attacks.” Citing unidentified officials in the Karzai regime & describing them as “palace officials,” the Post claims Karzai suspects many “shadowy insurgent-style attacks” in Afghanistan involved operatives of the US government. On hearing the claims, US officials swooned like actors in a Victorian melodrama; according to the Post, they “reacted with incredulity & anger to the idea that they are trying to debilitate Afghanistan’s government, which they have supported with hundreds of billions of dollars.”

The appropriately named US ambassador Cunningham (since he is both sneaky & a ham actor) said “It flies in the face of logic & morality to think that we would aid the enemy we’re trying to defeat,” & he accused Karzai of “deeply conspiratorial” thinking. Not really ambassador CunningHam. Karzai doesn’t have to go all libertarian; he only has to look at Iraq & Pakistan to see the future of Afghanistan.

As for those “hundreds of billions of dollars,” they were either bucks for bribery or for war & not reconstruction. There are some new showpiece high-rises in Kabul but the rest of the country is a shambles from bombing raids & house demolitions. Several agencies of the UN have issued reports on poverty, homelessness, & the increase in civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The UN reports blame it all on the corrupt Karzai regime, on the Taliban, on bad karma & not the US-NATO war because they support the war. One UN official in Afghanistan told reporters, “Poverty actually kills more Afghans than those who die as a direct result of the armed conflict.”

Poverty statistics in Afghanistan are quite staggering: according to one of the endless UN reports, nine million Afghans or 36% of the population live in “absolute poverty” while another 37% live barely above the poverty line. The streets are lined with homeless widows & their children begging. The poverty line established as $1.25 a day by the World Bank wouldn’t feed a mouse, let alone a child, so the distinction between absolute poverty & those barely above the poverty line is only one a sociopathic bureaucrat would make. But most importantly, can the UN tell us how those women were made widows & their children homeless? Has the bubonic plague hit Afghanistan & carted off all the men? Or might the US-NATO war be implicated in the massive poverty?

All out for the spring protests demanding “US out of Afghanistan!” “US out of Iraq!”

{Photo of Afghanistan from Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)}