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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Placing Myself in the Shoes of a Chinese Factory Worker

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Image Taken By Robert Scoble [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 

To the people of the world, I am nothing more than a minute part of a much larger contraption.  I live a bland, repetitive life, where individuality and creativity are nowhere to be found.  I am subject to the labor of mankind because it is cheaper to employ me than it is to purchase a piece of simple machinery.  Day after day, I sit on my rickety stool, repeating the same consistent action until the feelings in my hands have disappeared.  I have heard that the products we are producing will be sent to a place called America.  Often I hear about this place: a place where the streets are lined with gold and where its citizens can be whatever they want to be.  It does not matter, however, because I was born a factory worker: a machine of mankind.
            I was awoken by the thunderous, ear-bursting alarm of the factory.  I rise from my tiny bunk, followed by my seven other roommates.  Today is Sunday.  Or is it Monday?  It does not matter because either way, my day will be spent in my place of misery.  I drag my exhausted body to the corner of the room where my only personal belongings lay: four bright yellow shirts.  It was not very hard to choose what I was going to wear today. 
            I exit my dormitory and descend down the concrete staircase.  As I exit the edifice of small apartments, I am greeted by my familiar world occupied by the one color that I have learned to despise: yellow.  As I look into the distance, the only thing in sight is this horrid color: yellow flags border a street with a yellow line, thousands of structures like the one I call home stand up to the sky like bricks of gold as if they did not house a crime upon humanity, and millions of workers wear a shirt that is identical to the one covering my abdomen.  There was only one thing that did not carry this yellow hue: the large, brown, swooping nets that flowed over the sides of each building.  Last month, several factory workers leaped from the top of one of these buildings in protest.  To prevent other workers from escaping from their lives, these nets were placed.
            I became part of the yellow parade of workers.  We began marching towards the massive plant that housed numerous smokestacks behind it.  Not one person in the crowd carried a smile.  As we got closer to the sweatshop, the dense smell of smog filled the air, and the dark pollution of the smokestacks replaced the blue sky.  In this dismal world of yellow structures and smoke, only one object stood out: a large silver sign, proudly mocking the factory workers with the words "TECHCONN: Where Innovation and Creativity Call Home."  If innovation and creativity consist of repeating the same exhausting action all day, then this place is the definition of both.
            The large industrial doors of steel open, and slowly, their mouth engulfs the sea of yellow workers.  The factory itself resembles an old warehouse but without an end.  As I tread through the factory, I see what appears to be an endless world of laborers, subject to the same pains and miseries as myself.  Here, everything that is cheaper to create with human labor than a machine is manufactured.  Irons, refrigerators, cell phones, and even soap bottles are created through the closest thing to slavery that is left on this planet.
            After marching for fifteen minutes through what seemed like an endless factory, I arrived at my section: Yellow 23655.  In this place, I have no name.  It is more convenient for the managers to dehumanize me and give me a name like Yellow 23655.  I sat at my familiar, flimsy stool, being careful not to get on too fast and break it.  Beside me, a pile of bottomless irons has already grown.  My job, one that any machine could do, was to snap the bottoms on these irons.  All day, I clawed at the metal bottoms, snapping twenty on every minute. 
            After hours of "creating," I was finally released for my short lunch break.  I walked towards the lunchroom.  With sterile white paint and nearly blinding lights, it can be best compared to an old high school cafeteria that can seat over 100,000 workers at one instance.  I walk to the serving area, where small rations of dried up rice and a few pieces of dark broccoli are handed to me on a cracked plate.  I then find an empty seat beside a man that is known as Yellow 54865.  He appears much older than many of the other workers.  A frown resides on his wrinkled face.  I began to speak with this sagacious man.  His face fell to the ground as he told me about his family.  Secretly, they gained a pass to the Free World.  They left him behind, while he worked and waited patiently for the American government to grant him a citizenship.  Despite the fact that his wait began thirty year ago, he continued to believe that his request could be fulfilled at any moment.  He could not take his mind off this place, describing to me how it stretched from sea to shining sea.
            After finishing my appetizing rice, I returned to my familiar stool.  It was now considerably hotter in the summer afternoon.  The only things regulating this hot temperature were large fans mounted on the roof that were designed for use with livestock.  As I continued my work through the afternoon, perspiration streamed down my face.  Before it plummeted to the ground, I shifted to dodge the circuit boards of the irons I was assembling.  I attempted to wipe my face off, but could not gain the physical strength to do so.  The feelings in my hands were gone.
            When the sun finally bid the factory goodnight, we were released from duty.  I returned to my crammed dormitory.  Tonight, I would dream of a far away place: a place that stretches from sea to shining sea.  As soon as I fell into a comfortable hallucination of freedom and creativity, the bells of the factory rang.  Quickly, the world of freedom and individuality crashed upon me.  It was once again time to be part of the machine.
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