It's Man's World! (Not Anymore)

By Audio Pervert - 8/28/2022


Remember that mid 60s superhit song 'It's a man's world' by James Brown (godfather of soul)? The ballad acquired a new life and a whole new devious meaning in 2022. Amazon, the world's biggest retailer and "customer-centric company" commissioned the tune for it's global campaign starring Indian working class women. Indian ladies (not skinny models) riding scooties across the urban landscape, whizzing past idle gawking men, making Amazon deliveries with pride and confidence. The montage is replete with the typical 'Indian male gaze' brushed aside by the delivery ladies, beaming with a sense of achievement and empowerment. The advert ends with the Amazon logo and the chorus "This is a man's world... But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl..." The round up message ‘SheIsAmazon’. Yea Right! What is actually amazing, is the merger of gangster capitalism, a deceitful ballad composed long back by a wife bashing pop-icon and labor exploitation at a global scale. Bravo corporate fairy tales!  

"You’re being tracked by a computer the entire time you’re there... You don’t get reported or written up by managers. You get written up by an algorithm. Happens many times a month with various workers” said Geller (ex employee at Amazon warehouse UK). She goes on to add,“You’re aware there is an algorithm keeping track of you, making sure you keep going as fast as you can, because if there is too much time lapsed between items, the computer will register that, and most probably will write you up, and you will get fired. The firing process can take less than 1 hour sometimes...” 'SheIsAmazon', the riding Indian ladies, James Brown's song are all part of a cleverly crafted mantra, far from the emerging reality, which tells us that it's not a man's world nor by any means a woman's. So who's is it? Lets join the dots.


The Final Panopticon!

It's no secret that Amazon's colossal growth and domination corresponds to abuse of workers, preposterous tax evasion and rampant unfair market practices. The rapid and near complete buy out of markets in countries like USA, UK, Germany, Japan closely followed by India, Israel, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil makes Amazon #1 online retailer. Amazon Prime Day is upon us, a 48-hour period in which to scoop great deals. Be it the latest Samsung Galaxy or Unisex Crocs or Sex Dolls (with basic AI) or what-desired-product-have-you. But all us 'best deal hunters' seldom comprehend, less care about what goes on inside Amazon warehouses dotted around the world. A recent international petition by more than 40 social justice organizations begins to unravel the extent of labor abuses orchestrated by Amazon's management, 24/7. Amazon’s panopticon-style surveillance is a "nightmare of labor rights as well as civil liberties" states the ACLU in a recent article

The Panopticon is a surveillance system, initially installed inside jails across England (during the 18th century). Rapidly adopted the world over, the design and infrastructure allowed all prisoners of an institution to be observed by a single security guard, without the inmates being able to tell whether they are being watched. Panopticon would eventually be applied across public spaces, factories, banks, even hospitals, mental asylums, sports arenas etc etc. Today, at an Amazon warehouse there are few security guards and the Panopticon is governed by Artificial Intelligence. Big brother is indeed watching! By virtue Amazon warehouses are like jails or military garrisons where any deviation or failure to complete tasks (per minute), merits punishment, demotion and even expulsion. "Lead by example" they tell us. Yet we read about people behaving like robots and not the other way around.

Here is a list of some of the abuses faced by Amazon workers, in different parts of the world - compiled by For The People, as part of a lawsuit. Warehouse employees based in the US, UK, Germany, Spain and France described a mandatory 60-hour work week during the holiday season (Christmas), which led to frequent ambulance calls for injured or exhausted coworkers. Several warehouse workers were forced to do their jobs in sub-zero temperatures. Workers faced repercussions for taking bathroom breaks and falling short on quotas. A few hundred workers also pee in plastic pouches (offered by Amazon's management) which they dispose off at the end of their schedule. Still not pissed off?! Employees were expected to scan a new item every 11 seconds or risk getting fired. A majority of workers who complain of headache, nausea or fatigue during work hours are most often prescribed Aspirin. Women who have sued Amazon for pregnancy discrimination. The firing of a warehouse worker as retaliation when he ranted online, exposing the company’s “robot” like treatment of its workers. A recent Guardian article reveals that schoolchildren in China work nights to produce Amazon Alexa Devices. These schoolchildren aged 18-14, based in mainland China are listed as "interns" and not as contract based workers. Amazon's P.R. guarantees "a zero tolerance policy" towards child labor practices and products.

Amazon's management has placed 26 concurrent algorithms to monitor, record and evaluate the performance and movement of all it's workers, be it via direct surveillance or mapping every working hour. Sarah Schnierer (ex white collar employee) pointed out in her post, "an unrelenting pace and cutthroat environment that doesn’t take into account personal obligations of employees, especially all through the pandemic". Less we forget to mention, that the mega-corporation also offers free (capsule sized) courses on mindfulness, breathing, physical training and general ways of reducing stress. "Lead by example" they tell us? Yes, but lets see if Jeffrey Preston Bezos can pee in a plastic pouch under harsh lights and the ever watchful eye of corporate surveillance! A short trip to space with select groupies is more likely.

The godfather, wife beater and super bad!
This is a man's world (repeat)... man's world
... But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl..." Every time we hear those lyrics and the wailing voice of James Brown, the irony begins to rear it's ugly head. It’s no secret that James Brown eventually collapsed into his dark violent side. Last Summer's biopic 'Get On Up' left out many of the darker, uncomfortable and violent incidents that Brown instituted or participated in. Call it sanitized entertainment which enables cult worship (it's an industry). However Brown's tryst with violence, alcohol and guns would start early in the 1960s. In 1963, at a local concert in Georgia, Brown tried to shoot his musical rival Joe Tex. The incident led to seven people being shot. Luckily no one died. The trail of violence would turn domestic, along with his dwindling fame in the early 1980s. His daughter Yamma Brown recalls the surge of violence in her biography titled Cold Sweat. "I swear that during those fights, I could feel the whole house shake with my father’s crazy rage. He would be very drunk. Whenever he’d start, my sister Deanna and I would run for cover, wherever we could..." recalls Yamma Brown in an interview with The Vulture

Brown's substance addiction, love for guns and capacity for alcohol reached an apex of sorts in 1988. Run-ins with the law during the summer of 88 landed him on probation. Further acts of unabated violence lead to criminal charges, including assault and battery with intent to kill. Between mid 80s to early 90s James Brown was apprehended by the police and let out on bail at least 6 times. The number of assaults by James Brown on Deidre Jenkins (2nd wife) and Adrienne Rodriguez (3rd wife) remains unclear. In her book Yamma recalls witnessing her father beating her mother Deidre, out in front of the house, when she was 5 years old. Yamma went on to experience such violent episodes, all the way till her early teens. "I'd been programmed to accept abuse as part of life..." Yamma recounts in 2018, almost 12 years after the death of the godfather of soul. "I got soul and I'm super bad!"

Yamma and Diedre are prosperous celebrity but the women working inside the amazon fortresses are not. Are Indian women also "programmed to accept abuse as part of life". Very sadly, to a certain extent yes. That legacy of servitude and sacrifice stretches generations. Be it for family or husband or society or religion or even Amazon. Here join the dots please! The spectacle of empowerment (SheIsAmazon) and the misappropriated ballad of a violent angry alcoholic godfather, simply stinks. The advertising gurus, who approved of James Brown's music to evelate the narrative of women's empowerment could have paused and contemplated. Yet clearly irresponsible or perhaps ethically challenged, anything and anyone can be appropriated as long as it equates to greater profits and expansion, yet wrapped in a very clean positive image. Graceful is Amazon's projection and disgraceful are it's ethics and warehouse reality.
 

Shut The F**K Up & Sell!
The US federal safety test found more than 4000 products on Amazon deemed unsafe, banned or containing harmful elements. The list includes expired baby food, toxic dog chewers and fake Karaoke microphones. The list also included products mislabeled, fake pain relievers, fake pregnancy tests, dangerous children's toys, defective diving gear, helmets, oxygen cylinders, welding equipment etc etc. A recent article by NPR speaks of more than 10 varieties of Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Morphine (produced in China) shipped allover the world and especially to the US via Amazon networks. In recent years, with increasing frequency Amazon has banned thousands of harmful products and fake brands from their listings. However that is cosmetic at best. One can sell and ship thousands of products
(including gun parts and hazardous chemicals) on Amazon. Such products have been on sold on Amazon for years. Some of them even designated “Amazon’s Choice” (which means that the product was indeed an Amazon delivery)

While championing women's rights, empowerment, pride march, inclusivity and mindfulness, Amazon also shipped more than 1.3 million sex dolls between 2020-2022. On Amazon, millions of cheap trashy plastic toys are marked as "Educational (Creative Thinking)". Despite many ongoing lawsuits, Amazon continues to host more than 12000 types of skincare and beauty products which contain hazardous elements such as mercury, lead acetate, zinc oxide etc. Amazon doesn’t take legal responsibility for unsafe or fake products because "it’s technically not the one selling it. Any disputes have to be taken up with the third-party seller". Good luck dealing with Jelly Wong & Co. from Guangdong! When shopping online it’s common to find amazon.co.uk dominating your search results. A different domain might show up if your searching from Chile or India or Fiji. Amazon offers a plethora of services to other businesses. Hence chances are, that you will end up using a service that is ultimately provided or owned by Amazon.

The smallest retailers suffer the most in terms of failure to deliver on time. Even as this figure is just 10% of all Amazon based deliveries, the loss is born by the individual (in some country) and not by Amazon (in almost every country). While Amazon's algorithms and extended web services promise higher visibility and point of purchase, there is little doubt about who the real winner is every time. The last ten years, Amazon has gained most of its ability to bully and exploit independent companies from its cross-business integration. As a result, in the online market, where producers and consumers could expect fair competition and dynamics, now have to abide by Amazon's business ethics (or the complete lack of it). Amazon then becomes the single arbitrator of prices. Doesn't matter if it's a Dual Pencil Sharpener (0.85$) or a Russian Sable Fur Coat ($44,350) or a 'Silver Morgan' Dollar ($995,000).

The cost for next-day (or next-hour) shipping, equates to massive emissions of CO2 per day, per week, per month and so on. Amazon like many of the biggest polluters, has duly pledged, the transition towards 'clean energy' as expected. Well 50% by 2030. We know well that all such "renewal green and clean energy" is dependent on fossil fuels, mining, devastation of big habitable zones. Shipping trash across the world is killing the living planet. Most of the times, we are clueless about the mind-numbing game of "toss, catch and deliver" that is being orchestrated by the algorithms, enacted by thousands of workers, involving an armada of ships, planes, trucks, vans, cars and motorcycles, till that brown parcel reaches our doorstep and we smile! Ever think of your Amazon purchase as a 'carbon bomb' if you prefer?

For Amazon, in essence labor is disposable and growth endless. We are still a good decade away from functional robots replacing the downtrodden terminal workers. However that is not just the case with Amazon. Such as been the trajectory of our industrial civilization for almost 200 years now. Hear the Indian lady Swati Rustagi, Director of International Markets at Amazon, shows tacit obedience to the mantra as she declares "have a mindset of shooting for the moon... Setting audacious goals is crucial at Amazon and core to who we are." This is what makes Amazon a brilliant and grotesque mega brand at the same time. It's sheer outreach and propensity to eat up everything that still exists outside it's global dragnet. Meanwhile, the 'SheIsAmazon' campaign featuring Indian working class women is not being aired on Indian mass media, instead we are viewing it on mainstream channels in Germany, Spain, Denmark, Holland, UK and France. It's easy to guess why? Because such heartwarming, exotic yet false narratives work wonders in countries far from India, in societies way more affluent and equally gullible.

At the end of 2020, Jeff Bezos (richest man on earth) made a hasty visit to India, promising $1 billion as future investment but was booed by thousands of angry traders, craftsmen and suppliers and even the Prime Minister refused to give him audience. To understand this ugly specter, earlier Jeff Bezos had donated $100million to the Obama Foundation. The vicious giants of late capitalism, love to throw money around while ruining lives, economies and yes the planet too!

As for facts, to validate the extent of Amazon's labor abuse, unfair trade practices and tax evasions, there's endless evidence. Add thousands of lawsuits aimed at the company from around the world. Yet from a moral standpoint it seems nearly impossible to convince well meaning people, like you, that Amazon is a deplorable and vicious monopoly, based on abuse and power, eventually sustained by our collective greed. What makes us shop on Amazon is not even important here. What would it take to change that? Contemplate for a minute even, before you shop on Amazon next time. Someone somewhere out there is actually working (like a slave or robot) to fulfill your irresponsible wanton desires. Sleep well and shop less. 

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