Bitching and Moaning
I am always bitching and moaning about the service economy we have become, but really offer little in terms of service, as the stupidity of people seems to increase exponentially each year, likely because of the impoverished educational skills we now teach, which require no thinking whatsoever, and reward rote learning and test skills over thinking and asking lots of questions, which seems to me is exactly the meaning of learning — not parroting facts and figures, but actually questioning where those facts and figures come from, instead of blindly accepting them on some elusive authority that hangs in the air.
So let’s just look at the first contact in service fields — the Retail Industry.
First I have to state that I have always been a compulsive label reader. I’ve always wanted to know what I’m eating, so I’ve been scouring labels on supermarket shelves forever, and the same with products that I purchase — I want to know where they are made, so I can decide if I want to support that economy or not. And let there be no mistake, the biggest manufacturer in the world today is China.
At first, I noticed the label Made in China on toy products, decades ago — the kind of things that didn’t cost much and broke easily, trinkets. Gradually, the list of items manufactured in China grew, and now it is difficult to find anything that is not made in China.
It’s depressing. Personally and economically.
But although China is the main manufacturer of most products made today, it is not the only one. Cheap labor is also had in the other Asian Countries, from East to West. However, the most pathetic item I ever came across that had been outsourced was a plastic laundry bag in a hotel room — Made in India!
Another depressing thought. Are we so stupid that we can no longer manufacturer cheap, plastic laundry bags?
While this shift was occurring, it seems we also developed a bigger and bigger appetite for objects that conveyed status, either from handbags or the name of a designer on clothing purchased, which afforded the designer free advertising, the name emblazoned there for all to see. Ironically, there was a period when designers, especially of handbags, waged a minor protest about knock-offs, clones of the real thing. But as designers also succumbed to the realization that if they manufactured their products in Asia, they would make shit-loads of money, as opposed to paying workers here to make those products, which, alas, would require they pay a decent salary and demonstrate humane tendencies, and help those struggling to survive in this abysmal economy, which is so not in the Bible of Corporate Philosophy, that protest dissipated. So, really, at this point what is the difference between a knock-off and the real thing?
Our market has become over-saturated with designer labels that for me, at least, has led to an aversion response whenever I see this stuff. I first noticed it while subbing in high schools in the affluent Montgomery Country School System, Maryland. I reached the point where I felt if I saw another — See? I have blocked the name, and can’t remember it! — I would gag. Everybody had these jackets, from Gang Bangers to the Preppy Population. The air become polluted, and my eyes, fatigued, from the constant monochrome message pasted on student bodies.
(Nor do I understand the appeal of those cheap-looking, plastic bags that sell for over a grand, with the YSL logo emblazoned on the them. What’s up with that?)
The Extrapolation of Education
Going back to that anemic learning environment we call Education today, I find that there are parallels between that and the intelligence of the work-force.
The lack of curiosity has turned people into working and shopping zombies. Go to any upscale shop today, and the sales associate is clueless about the product’s manufacturing history. My favorite is Coach. What a status symbol that is, huh? Now there was a time when Coach manufactured its bags in America — not so, anymore. How long have they been manufacturing in Asia? Not sure. But long enough. I think I bought my first Coach bag 3 decades ago. That bag was manufactured in the U.S. But the name has become so synonymous with prestige, that most women don’t even realize that these bags are all manufactured in China. So as Coach reaps substantial profits, while its headquarters building in NYC appears abandoned, even if you point out where the bag was made, after asking the sales associate where the bag was made, they give you a dumb look, a blank look, like nothing whatsoever is there, empty minds —aside from designer logos floating around.
Check any designer label, and you’ll find the same manufacturing label. You would be hard pressed to find something that is actually Made in America. Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, GAP, J.CREW, Madewell, Michael Kors, — I’m drawing a blank here, but go ahead and play Hide ‘n Seek with designer labels, especially now that they bury the origin of production deeper and deeper into the pockets of the items they sell. They’re catching on. Especially disappointing are those designers who exclusively produced their clothing in America then succumbed to allure of Asian manufacturing. Eileen Fischer, for example.
Now whether there is a correlation between our decline in critical thinking skills because of the frenzy to keep testing students for what they already know, which is not much, but surely makes testing companies happy, and the absence of producing anything of significance in this country, may be an unknown, especially since I have not seen any researchers tackle the monumental task of measuring Stupidity and the Decline of Manufacturing in America.