Voice From the Back
Even The Smiles Are Fakes
Not only do the capitalist class demand that workers produce surplus value for them they want them to smile while they do it. ‘Smiling all the time can be hard work, which is why airline crew and shop workers are turning to the latest plastic surgery fad, the ‘perma-smile’. South Korean surgeons are removing nerves and muscle at the corners of the mouth to mimic the ancient expression of welcome’ (Sunday Times, 1 September). Guest speakers from South Korea will inform the American Association of Plastic Surgeons how it is done this month. One female who works in a jewellery shop in California has already had the $3,500 operation. A phoney smile for a phoney society.
A Lifetime Of Exploitation
Britain’s pensions crisis was laid bare as official figures showed almost a million over-65s are working or looking for a job. They include 158,000 people over the age of 75. According to the most recent census, the number of residents of England and Wales aged 65 and over rose by nearly a million to 9.2 million between 2001 and 2011. One in 10 of those was employed or job-hunting. The number of those aged between 65 and 74 who were still economically active rose by 413,000 from 8.7 per cent to 16 per cent. ‘Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said: ‘People are living longer and are generally in better health, so many are likely to want to carry on working. However, rock-bottom annuity rates combined with low interest rates on savings mean others have no choice but to carry on working because they cannot afford to retire’’ (Daily Express, 7 September). Even after working for almost fifty years many workers still cannot afford to retire.
Politics And Health
Overwhelmed accident and emergency departments have suffered the worst summer in a decade, new figures show. They reveal almost a million patients are waiting more than four hours for treatment, nearly treble from four years ago. ‘Over the same period, key A&E departments missed Government targets for about 80 per cent of the time. …..Since last September, Jeremy Hunt’s first year as Health Secretary has seen 980,068 patients waiting longer than four hours to be seen in A&E units. Between 2009 and 2010 the figure was 353,617’ (Sun, 8 September). The figures also reveal 172,266 A&E patients were kept on trolleys last year for between four and 12 hours, 47 per cent higher than the previous year, and 219 patients waited more than 12 hours on a trolley, more than double the previous figure. We wonder how our caring MPs would relish 12 hours on a trolley awaiting treatment.
Not So Cool
When workers use new up-to-date technology they imagine they are being ultra cool and extremely modern, but they are inadvertently supporting work practices that would put Victorian sweatshops to shame. The new cheaper iPhone that Apple will unveil to a global audience is being produced under illegal and abusive conditions in Chinese factories owned by one of America’s largest manufacturing businesses, investigators have claimed. ‘Workers are asked to stand for 12-hour shifts with just two 30-minute breaks, six days a week, the non-profit organisation China Labor Watch has claimed. Staff are allegedly working without adequate protective equipment, at risk from chemicals, noise and lasers, for an average of 69 hours a week’ (Guardian, 5 September).
A Strange Kind Of Communism
Wang Jianlin is a property magnate who can count the world’s largest cinema chain amongst his business interests, in addition to dozens of shopping centres and five-star hotels. ‘ Now Wang Jianlin can add another accolade befitting his billionaire status –he has been named China’s richest man by Forbes. The 58-year-old Sichuan native, whose Dalian Wanda Group conglomerate this summer acquired a 92 per cent stake in the luxury British yacht manufacturer Sunseeker, whose boats have appeared in a number of James Bond films, is worth £8.9bn, the influential publication said’ (Independent, 10 September). How can the Chinese government claim to be a communist country when they have a member of the capitalist class ‘worth’ £8.9 billion?
In an item in Voice from the Back last month we quoted the Times as writing that Britain’s most expensive parking place had gone on sale for ‘£3,000,000’. This was a misprint for ‘£300,000’.