Our lives and all lives under the silicon heel

QiuExcerpted from the new UIP book Goodbye iSlave, by Jack Linchuan Qiu. Hans Rollman at PopMatters reviewed the book here.

Welcome to a brave New World of profit making, propelled by high technology, guarded by enterprising authority, carried forward by millions of unfortunate fellows being deprived of their souls. These millions of bodies—with massive labor power—gather in factories to produce coveted commodities. They face punishment if they disobey. If they cannot take it anymore and attempt “to go away”—a euphemism for suicide—they have to penetrate the physical barrier of a tall fence or “anti-jumping net” in order to free themselves from this hopeless world.

The factories need these workers because their products are not ordinary goods. Rather, they are addictive substances—be they sugar or gadgetry or ephemeral content—which the Old World craves in huge supply, to be shipped to the other side of the planet for consumption by people with lighter skin, many of whom also lead shattered lives. These consumers depend on the importation of addictive commodities in order to be “productive,” measured by productivity standards set by the new capitalist system. They keep feeding on it without ever needing to know about the harsh reality of the factories, oceans away.

The world turns and turns. So does the vicious cycle of coercion and exploitation, trade and addiction, culminating in unprecedented levels of profit maximization. The system seems to be “natural” and “perfect” despite, or precisely due to, its cruelty and animosity. It expands and expands, until rebel forces of activism one day emerge from the laborers, sneak into the factories, embed themselves in the new frontiers of accumulation, report to the world what they hear and see, and begin to agitate.

An abolition movement takes shape under new conditions of global geopolitics. Also empowered by new tools of communication, it starts to convince consumers that this New World is not heaven but hell, that a better world is desirable and possible, and that everyone can and should be part of this struggle for progressive change. The system is disrupted. Although it keeps working for some time, the endgame has already begun because, in addition to abolitionist mobilization and consumer awareness, the workers themselves have started to wield new and old weapons of grassroots networking, to express themselves and form solidarity, to initiate their own campaigns and redefine what it means to be a human being.