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stark image poster of america and a giant made in china stamp across it.Made in China: Because we needed cheap shit more than good jobsI wasn't really enthralled by the Chinese showboating these last few weeks. It all seemed like a distraction from the world-as-know-it-is. All this talk about the games being "about the athletes" is bullshit too, because there is clearly a lot of national ego on the line in any of these games, else we could scrap the ridiculous opening and closing ceremonies and just show contests of physical ability.

So Phelps cleaned up. I don't mean to rain on his parade—I certainly can't do what he does. (Hell, I can't even swim.) But think on this for a moment. You know he will be the darling of a lot of companies who want to put his name and image on their goods. And you can bet that some of that will be made in China at the sorts of factories and sweatshops that China would like you to not see in full disclosure. You know, the ones where people work seven days a week and 12 or 14 hours a day, and where people live in factory dorms and are escorted to work each day by security goons, and back again to their cramped rooms where they are responsible for paying for their own utilities back to the factory.

How much of what we buy in our fervor for the games will only make the situation worse? Isn't that the contradiction of our age? I can't help but think of how China is getting rich off our inability to shut off the endless flow from our wallets. Well, someone is getting rich, while the workers who prop up that whole system are experiencing their version of what our nation experienced a century ago when we struggled to figure out how to industrialize, and the industrial world had to in fact figure out how to make citizens into consumers in order to actually consume and use the things which the industrial process was now capable of making. Our growing pains included fights for union representation and social justice concomitant with that. It included the fight for an eight hour work day and weekends. Basically, it fought for human dignity in the face of the growing power of the Machine.

But China itself seems to be a machine. And the Olympic games were the user-friendly front end of it, but what lurks beneath?

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