looking for a bike for my son, we found ourselves at a prominent
bicycle store in our town. The young man who waited on us was
courteous, patient, and seemed to know everything about every
bicycle in the store -- except for one aspect -- where the bicycles
was uncharacteristically tentative when I asked him a question
I have begun to ask when buying anything, "Is it made in the
USA?" The response is rarely in the affirmative, and this no
longer surprises me. But I am still shocked every time by the
evident lack of disquiet over the fact. Shop assistants and
customer service personnel simply shrug their shoulders as though
it had nothing to do with them; worse, when they do venture
a view, it frequently reflects a hapless fatalism.
the way everything is these days", said our bicycle expert matter-of-factly,
sounding more like a wizened old-timer than the lad of 25 he
was, as I read out from the phalanx of Schwinn's and Trek's,
American icons of old, in what sounded to me like a requiem
for the US bicycle industry: "Made in China"..."Made in China"..."Made
in China"... As he continued to indulge my curiosity in the
best traditions of American salesmanship, we discovered shortly
that there was not one American-made bicycle in the whole store!
(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should add that we did
finally buy a Trek from him -- made in China.)
go on saving labor", wrote Mahatma Gandhi long ago, "until millions
are out of work". Change "saving labor" in Gandhi's statement
to "cutting costs", and you have a fairly good picture of today.
I watch the pageant of jobs board a remorseless flotilla bound
eastward, nothing surprises me more than the good humored sense
of inevitability with which this is accepted. Fatalism is usually
regarded as a facet of the Orient. The word "Kismet", of Kipling
fame, captures the supposed mindset. In a seeming reversal of
roles, it is the east today which disdains notions of predestination
(witness the surprise rout of the favored globalists in India's
recent elections) while the unlikely denizens of Main Street,
USA appear mired in an uncomprehending funk.
If you think that is an exaggeration, consider the following:
with all the ongoing discussion of unscrupulous business leaders
shipping jobs abroad, the United States Congress just passed
a bill giving businesses further incentives for doing more of
the same! The passage of the bill made a little splash on that
day, mainly on Lou Dobbs' program, but disappeared quietly into
the night thereafter. The phrase 'taking the people for granted'
could not have found a more fitting explication.
in the Guardian some months ago, columnist George Monbiot predicted
that if you live in the Western Hemisphere and if your job depends
on a phone or a computer, it will, within the next decade, to
have fled abroad. What a shining example of abjectness! Nor
is Monbiot alone -- every major politician in America tiptoes
around the issue of job loss with the mandatory incantation,
"of course some jobs will go abroad, that's inevitable". No
one seems to ask, Why? What is so 'inevitable' about the loss
of millions of jobs?
his time, Gandhi did. He looked the biggest engine of economic
pilferage the world had seen, the British Empire, in the eye,
and raised the call of Swadeshi. Swadeshi, which means "of the
nation", was a campaign to push for the boycott of British cloth
and other foreign made artifacts, promoting the use of Indian-made
(village made) goods. It served not only to resuscitate India's
cottage industries and reduce unemployment in the villages,
but also gave Indians a renewed spirit of nationalism. Hand-woven
cloth (khadi), in Nehru's picturesque language, was the livery
of India's freedom.
time is now ripe for an American Swadeshi movement.
Gandhi's movement in India, huge bonfires were made of British
cloth and fineries, and people felt honored to use homespun
cloth. Imagine the glory of an American politician who started
a movement to "Buy American". Such a politician would first
of all perform a great public service, by establishing the connection
between our economic behavior and its consequences -- a social
lesson whose very loss is one cause of such abject defeatism.
This would be people's power at its finest, wielded in their
own interest and for the country as a whole. Let no one doubt,
the same profiteers who suddenly discovered the virtues in "helping
the third world" by sending American jobs abroad, would switch
just as quickly to the slogan of "standing by your country"
as soon as they discovered that "Made in America" was the surest
way to profit.
giant mantle awaits the leader who takes up such a campaign.
The issue touches every nook and cranny of America, and in the
end, involves nothing less than the country's sovereignty. Cast
and led properly, it has the potential to sweep everything before
it -- Presidency, Congress, Senate -- all.
Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.
His writings can be found on http://www.indogram.com.
The above article is also available here.
He can be reached at [email protected]