The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Oppression in Our Industry

For the past 6 months, I’ve been studying and prepping a Sunday school class on oppression. One thing that jumps out right away on this subject is that very few of us in North America participate in what we would call direct oppression. In fact, we abhor forms of direct oppression and, in most cases, oppose them.

I wish I could say the same for indirect forms of oppression!

Sadly, most of us hurt others by some of the choices we make. Sometimes unknowingly. Other times we’re aware of it, but do not care enough. There are plenty of examples (non-fair trade chocolate or coffee, most clothing), many of which come from our purchasing power. We live in the most affluent society to have ever lived on earth and how we use those resources can result in indirect oppression.

Of late, some examples of this in our own industry have come to light. I think of Talia Jane, who wrote a letter to the CEO of the company where she was employed. Whether or not you believe her own decisions led to her situation, the culture and environment of the company is in no way healthy. The same can be said of Amélie.

We get a similar picture as Lauren Smiley outlines the Shut-In Economy. It’s not all bad; there is some good that comes from changes to how we do things. But the movement eschews human contact, even to the point where those giving the service are invisible. Purposefully.

Shutting people out is an important part of being a shut-in: When signing up, customers can choose the option of not seeing their Alfred, who will come in when they’re at work. Alfred’s messaging is aimed at sweeping aside any middle-class shame.

It’s these kinds of decisions, purposeful designs, that lead to oppression. If we are not even aware of the humans around us and how our decisions affect them, we’re prone to do nothing about a problem we don’t know exists. And the industry (the valley, the investors, and we, the consumers) seem to want to head down this road with one ultimate goal in mind: convenience.

Amazon is our chief example here. Why leave the house to get things you need when you can find and purchase them with a click of a button? That sounds great. And for many situations, it is great! But getting out and doing these things gets you into your community.

Convenience always comes with a cost. The sad thing is we usually do not have to pay it. We’re horrified at the actions of our colonial ancestors (those of us who have them) and how they treated people of different lands. Yet, our actions can lead to similar results. If you can buy a cheap electronic gadget for under $20, somewhere there’s a human putting it together for inhumane wages.

Sometimes the affects are closer to home as well. Back to Amazon, Mother Jones shed some light as to the costs that come in order to get us anything we want whenever we want it. The piece outlines the horrid conditions that workers face every day in these gigantic warehouses. Even if the situation is not true in all cases, human beings are being treated poorly and we have a part to play in it. But this was back in 2012 and now it’s 2016 and the shift to using these services continues to skyrocket.

Our industry plays a part. What are we going to do about it?

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