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Stevedores Mount the Moral Barricade May 3, 2008

Posted by davidzweig in Africa, china, ethics, Uncategorized.

Last week in Durban, South Africa, dockworkers refused to unload a ship filled with Chinese weapons destined for Zimbabwe. Trivialized to obscurity by rampant neo-liberalism, unions and altruistic political gestures seem like something from another age, perhaps a fulmination by John L. Lewis, or like any day in France.

The Chinese communists who stuffed the ship of death have embraced capitalism with the vehemence and amorality typical of that government whenever it elects to pursue a goal. The notion of sending guns to Zimbabwe is utterly repugnant, but there’s a yuan to be made. Unseen hand, and all that. In contrast, one cannot help but admire the humanity of the South African dockworkers, who saw a rand not to be made.

Earlier this week, stevedores on the Oakland, California docks shut down the entire facility as a one-day protest against the Iraqi occupation. (It’s not a war; the war ended six years ago on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. The Iraqis, however, did not appear in their dress uniforms to sign a formal surrender document.)

Globalization, for all its benefits, also encourages, and even dignifies the race to the bottom. If you’re out to win this race, best to knife the cords of humanity from your saddlebag; ethics weigh a man down. Speaking of ethics, most politicians aid and abet the race. In such a system, human beings can become widgets stripped of moral prerogatives; in a down economy, many people will do bad things to save a bad job. A man falls the furthest from the bottom rung of Maslow’s ladder.

Do these two actions signify a trend? No. But there is something noble whenever people take a stand, and it will be well worth watching to see if workers elsewhere in the world follow suit.



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