Longform Links – Entrepreneurship in Cambodia, Satire, Water Denied

Cambodia Calling – Business Competition in Cambodia

I had explained to Sipha that people who pay piece rate can sell the bags cheaper and make a profit, because they do not have fixed overhead costs, such as salaries, the rent for the workshop, sewing machines, electricity etc etc. Bloom is a social enterprise and I want to pay staff a living wage, regardless of whether the bags sell or not. This contrasts with the majority of businesses in Cambodia, which pay workers piece rate. If the bags sell, they hire workers to sew. If they don’t, the business doesn’t have to worry about fixed costs such as salaries etc. In this way, the business owner reduces his/her risk. Almost all the businesses here operate this way, including a big one near Phnom Penh’s Russian Market which supplies to the US, and which claims to be a Fair Trade shop.

It is one of the most frustrating things working in Cambodia. Not the competition, but the lies. I have written about this previously, in the context of NGOs, about how stupid, lazy people just take things at face value, not doing due diligence, not bothering to find out the truth. Are the organisations that claim to be Fair Trade really Fair Trade? How can a company that pays piece rate say they are fair to workers? Piece rate work means no sick leave, no holidays–you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Which developed country would accept this as fair to its workers? At Bloom, workers get 14 days annual leave (same as Singapore law) plus 16 days public holidays (Chhorvy, the Hagar NGO re-integration manager told the Bloom women that is more than what *she* gets, at an international NGO, which is the 16 days public holiday. I’m sure Chhorvy was just being nice though!).

So what of Sipha? I had allowed her to sew the silk bags, because I was sympathetic to her arguments. This time however, I put my foot down. It is unfair to her co-workers at Bloom if she trains at Bloom and she knows which bags sell well and she liaises with another shop on the outside to copy our bags. If we cannot make Bloom work, I explained to Sipha, everyone will be affected. To be fair to Sipha, she understands everything I say, it is just that she wants to make extra money for herself and her four children. It is not easy on her as well. Now that she has a skill it is only right that she makes more.

Zuky – Satire of the Stupid

[I]n my world, the purpose of satire is iconoclasm; by which I mean, the breaking of icons, the exploding of false power centers and false narratives which hold destructive sway over society. The New Yorker cover, despite its intention and despite being sarcastic, is not satire; rather, it is a visualization and manifestation of racist cliches and stereotypes, and thus a propagation and perpetuation of racism. It does not interrogate the validity of those racist stereotypes, but rather accepts and gleefully embraces their marginalizing and dehumanizing power, then implies that it’s ludicrous for conservative yahoos to think that the Obamas are those kinds of blacks; the Obamas are good blacks, not scary militant blacks or Muslims; the Obamas do not sport Afros or turbans, they are not reminiscent of dangerous Sixties radicals, no sir, they are down with the program, they are safe for whites.

Aside from the racial insularity from which it emerges, this art fails on purely discursive grounds. You can’t fight demeaning portrayals by actualizing them. If a woman is accused in sexist society of being ugly, the appropriate response is not to draw a picture of her looking extremely ugly according to certain patriarchal standards in order to chuckle about it. That doesn’t work. The appropriate response is to undermine the entire set of underlying assumptions and beliefs which give potency to sexist slurs.

Alternet – Black Ohio Neighborhood Denied Water for Decades

A federal jury awarded residents of a mostly black neighborhood in rural Ohio nearly $11 million Thursday, finding that local authorities denied them public water service for half a century because of their race.

The plaintiffs, 67 residents of an unincorporated community in near Zanesville, Ohio, known as Coal Run, were awarded damages ranging from $15,000 to $300,000, depending on how long they have lived in the neighborhood. The money covers pain and suffering inflicted on the residents from 1956, when water lines were first laid in the region, to 2003, when the neighborhood finally got public water. During that time, some Coal Run residents trucked in water from elsewhere, as local wells were contaminated with sulfur from abandoned coal mine shafts. Others dug wells anyway. Some collected rain.

The US District Court jury found that the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County, and the East Muskingum Water Authority violated state and federal civil rights laws by failing to provide Coal Run residents with access to public water, a service that was provided to white residents in surrounding areas.