The Real Cost of our Convenience Culture: MNCs, the Minimum Wage and Worker Exploitation

Ronald McDonald: Is this happy clown really the face of global exploitation?

Ronald McDonald: Is this happy clown really the face of global exploitation?

On a global scale, the exploitation of workers, especially in developing countries, is nothing new. The sweatshop culture from which we derive most of our everyday products is something we’re all aware of- we continue to buy and wear those $18 K-Mart jeans because they’re cheap, look relatively decent to wear and we’ve grown somewhat doubtful as to whether it would actually make a difference if we were to stop purchasing them anyway. In many cases, rather unsuspectingly, we turn a blind eye to the origins of the products we buy because it’s the most efficient option. And in a society driven by the ever-pressing need for efficiency and cost reduction, those K-Mart jeans are just the perfect fit.

While it is easy and convenient to distance ourselves from the exploitation of workers in the sweatshops of multinational corporations in ‘faraway lands’, a possible step forward could be to firstly begin acknowledging the unfair working conditions of low wage earners in the developed world.

In the US, the debates surrounding the minimum rage are ongoing, with thousands of McDonald’s workers staging large-scale protests against their highly exploitative pay conditions just yesterday. While the situation isn’t quite as dire here in the ‘lucky country’, the fast-food chain still retains some degree of infamy for its low wages. We’ve all joked about the paltry $11 an hour our Maccas friends earned as teenagers, but at the same time, fail to realise just how sad of a joke it is. In the process, we fail to acknowledge the culture of convenience, profit-making and blatant exploitation that this is based upon.

Call it a first-world problem if you will, but it is not until we realise the destructive nature of this culture in our own country that we will ever stand a chance of facing up to it on a broader, global level. For as long as it remains convenient for us to ignore the power these multinational corporations exert over the common worker, this behaviour will be deemed ‘acceptable’ and in a sense, encouraged. We’ll continue to buy the McDonald’s burger made by a grossly underpaid yet willing teen in a restaurant down the road and we’ll also continue to wear the jeans made by a poverty stricken worker in a sweatshop overseas. But while we justify these actions as harmless and convenient, we’ll only further justify our very own exploitation.

I don’t wish to sound high and mighty here, though, it’s just some food for thought.

Woolworths Controversy: Commercialisation Gone Too Far?

Even the ANZAC digger is not immune to modern commercialism

Even the ANZAC digger is not immune to modern commercialism

For anyone living in the 21st Century, commercialisation, branding and cross-promotion are part and parcel of our capitalist driven society.

All aspects of our existence, including our very selves, have become commodified. We are branded, sponsored, marketed. With the increasing intensification of this consumer culture, the growing commercialisation of national holidays has also been witnessed. Religious holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, have become prime marketing opportunities for commercial organisations. Increasingly, non-religious days of national observance, such as Australia Day and now ANZAC Day, have become the commercial targets of organisations wishing to cash in on the occasions.

Today, national supermarket chain Woolworths, was heavily criticised for its ANZAC Day themed promotion. The most disturbing element of the promotion, which featured a photograph of a WWI digger, has been denounced for its incorporation of the Woolworths ‘fresh’ slogan in the line “Fresh in our Memories.” Woolworths’ usage and exploitation of the ANZAC legend in this campaign, while not only being considered a grave act of irreverence, has caused additional controversy for Woolworths since the term was used in an unauthorised manner.

With the ANZAC legend held close to the hearts of many Australians, it is not hard to see why the campaign left behind a sour taste. The campaign showcases the ‘nothing is sacred’ mentality of modern business and capitalism. In this case, the long-deceased, but not forgotten, ANZAC digger is not even immune to 21st Century commercialism. The legend of the ANZAC becomes a brand story used by organisations to further their organisation’s image. While the use of brand stories, such as those especially evidenced in the marketing of Coca-Cola and Rio Tinto, is nothing new in the marketing world, perhaps this time, the use of the ANZAC Legend for commercial imperatives, strikes a little too close to the bone.

Regardless of your philosophical or political stance on war and Australia’s involvement in military campaigns, in this case, it is the sheer trivialisation of war and personal history that is most troubling. With the entire foundations of war established on the efforts of the working class ‘little-man’ doing the dirty work of the bourgeois leaders (OK, I do sound a little Marxist here, but it’s hard to disagree with this notion, hey?), the seemingly harmless commercial campaign serves to uphold capitalism’s stronghold on our contemporary society. In Woolworth’s attempt to consolidate their standing as an iconic brand within our national landscape they have sought to draw upon the similarly nationalistic orientation of the ANZAC legend, and produce a commercial brand story.

Although the public reaction to the campaign is encouraging in the wider scheme of things, it seems unlikely that this will form part of a wider movement against the commercialisation of our collective histories, values and even our very selves.

Madonna-on-Drake Action: Women, Ageing and Sexuality

Just when is the cut-off point for the expression of women's sexuality?

Just when is the cut-off point for the expression of women’s sexuality?

Over the past 24 hours, social media has been abuzz with interpretations of the infamous Madonna/ Drake kiss which took place at Coachella on Sunday evening. The on-stage lip-locking, which is not a first for Madonna (Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, anyone?) has resulted in a fair amount of public backlash, mainly due to the repulsed reaction of Canadian rapper, Drake. The 28-year-old, who was on the receiving end of the intimate moment, appears noticeably disgusted by the 56-year-old’s actions, and seemingly caught by much surprise.

In witnessing the various memes and responses that have circulated in the media following the incident, I can’t help but notice the sexism and ageism underpinning these reactions. Despite the age difference between Drake and Madonna, what has become perceptible in much of the public reaction to the kiss is the underlying disgust surrounding older women’s sexuality more generally. As a 56-year-old woman engaging in an overtly sexual act with a younger man, Madonna has received much criticism. In this case one must ask: at what point does the display of women’s sexuality become taboo, or, moreover, at what age do women become asexual beings? One only has to look at men such as Hugh Hefner, who is lauded for his accumulation of younger, beautiful women, to see the inconsistencies inherent in this attitude.

For decades, Madonna has built upon and exploited her image as a prominent sex symbol in popular culture, one for which she can attribute a degree of her success. So at what stage did Madonna become ‘too old’ for this sexualisation and worthy of condemnation for ‘not acting her age’? The interconnection of sexuality and age here is a curious thing, with older, self-sexualising women often labelled rather derogatorily as ‘cougars’ or ‘MILFs’. Are we able to draw a line in the sand, a universal ‘cut-off’ point for sexual behaviour in women’s lives? If so, what age is most suitable and how do we, as a society, determine such an age?

While there have been great gains for women regarding their sexuality since the second-wave feminist movement, this rather candid on-stage moment (and blatant publicity stunt) brings to the fore the remaining gaps in our society’s acceptance and understanding of female sexuality. Although I pray for Drake’s full recovery after such an onslaught of impromptu intimacy, I can’t help but applaud Madonna for challenging the lingering traces of sexism that continue to overshadow older women’s sexuality. After all, sex and ageing are natural facets of the human condition. If a 54-year-old Kim Kardashian decides to do a 20 year anniversary photo shoot of her renowned ‘champagne glass on ass balancing act’, I’ll be the first to support it, on principle alone.

“You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.”

Getting started is often the hardest part

Getting started is often the hardest part

A small step in the whole scheme of things, but a giant leap for Katekind; I have finally created a blog. As I now approach the end of what ‘should’ be the final semester of my Media degree, I feel it’s time that I get writing. Yeah, I’m a bit late to the party. So I’ve finally realised that if one day I wish to get paid to write, I better get used to not getting paid to write, which is exactly what I intend to use this blog for.

As with most things I have undertaken or desired to undertake in my life, the overarching fear of failure has been the ultimate source of my procrastination and unwillingness to give things a go. Singing, acting, swimming, writing…the list is as long as the time I’ve wasted procrastinating over it all. While I’ve been fortunate to live a healthy and a privileged life to date, one ailment I have struggled to overcome has been ‘procrastination.’ Call it a first world problem or a more pragmatic term for the old ‘writer’s block’, procrastination is the foremost roadblock in the perfectionist’s quest for success and obviously, perfection.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, the pressing need to achieve and be recognised by others in a positive light has merely served to prevent me from the attempt of something alone. As the past 22 years of my life have passed by and I have sat agitatedly on the sideline waiting to become immersed in the action unfolding before my eyes, I have also let scores of opportunities pass me by. As this unhealthy attitude has reached a critical tipping point, I have begun to realise the missed shots I’ve accumulated, simply by not commencing with an ‘attempt’.

So here is my pledge: from now until whenever, I promise to my writer-wannabe self that I will put pen to paper (or, more accurately, fingers to keys) and churn out at least 200 words every day. These sets of 200 words, which will form a series of posts on this blog, will understandably be of varying quality, depending on my motivation levels and time commitment.

If I wish to be a writer, I do actually have to write, and here is a safe place to do so. Let’s hope my ailment doesn’t get the better of me, and my attempt right here, to produce words, which will form sentences, posts, commentaries, will hold me in good stead. To paraphrase Jack Canfield, the attempt is less about achieving perfection than it is about the attempt itself.

So within this blog will reside, some ado about everything.