The Hidden Abode
...these cheerful informalities took little account of the geographic and economic realities of the business. For instance, all the actual products were manufactured in a factory in China and shipped across the world in containers before being driven here for eventual unloading and distribution. I had no idea how many people were employed in the Chinese factory, under what conditions, or what sort of hours they worked. Their wages would certainly be a tiny proportion of ours, a cold hard economic fact which formed the foundation for the entire structure of the company, and which was as taken for granted as the warehouse floor under our feet. How did my Chinese co-workers feel about their jobs? Did they resent our apparent freedoms? Did they have their own compulsory fun days? Every day we passed the same products between us, climbed in and out of the same containers, but there was no way of communicating. This only occurred at an executive level. I once overheard the managing director talking to the warehouse supervisor about a recent trip to China. Must be an interesting place, the supervisor had said. Not where the factory is, the MD replied, just acres and acres of industrial complexes. (No, I thought, that does sound interesting).
Another time I found a piece of paper lying around which appeared to be a photocopy of a close-up photograph of a product on a conveyor belt with figures partly visible behind it. The picture was meant to illustrate the right way to fix a label onto a box, I was told when I asked a colleague about it. But the photo wasn't taken here, I said, it must have been taken inside the factory in China! Look, I can see someone’s elbow! He agreed, but seemed unimpressed. And that’s as close as I came to getting to know my Chinese comrades.
Ivor Southwood's Non-Stop Inertia is an excellent, excellent book on work and non-work, and you should all read it forthwith.