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Golf War and Sneakers (Online Discussions)

March 2, 2012

Lets have a discussion about film and passed out reading.  Here are a few questions to get the conversation started (conversation ends March 15)


  1. Thinking about the experiences of South Korean women and peasants in Philippines, what impact does the power and presence of military have on labor conditions?  Why do governments work so hard to bring in corporations to set up shop?
  2. How do companies rationalize low wages within its global operation
  3. How does Golf War challenge argument that sweatshops or economic development through manufacturing provides jobs that are necessary for economic progress?  Why are these jobs necessary in the first place?
  4. How does the film challenge narrative of the Third World?
  1. Justin Ramos permalink

    The presence of military personal in such a small village would worsen the labor conditions. People become weary when they have armed personal watching them as they try to work and live their lives, it doesn’t seem like a good environment to be in. The video gave examples of people talking about being harassed by the officials guarding the area. One of the men even had his home broken into. The military that occupies the village are basically bullying the people living in Hacienda looc as they work and try to live their lives. In an economic sense the labor per capita would decrease as workers have to worry about being pressured and harassed by the military. The government wants to increase tourism, because they feel that it would bring in more overall capital. governments want to increase GDP and tourism helps to boost the economy bringing in more money from foreign sources. Governments have incentive to bring in corporations in an attempt to build national revenue. These corporations provide a way to make money, and the taxes will benefit the economy. The Golf War shows that bringing this corporation, however, would displace families from their land that has been theirs for generations. It moves them to live in the city with low economic and low job security. The jobs created from the corporation also are not always what people may deem as moral, as prostitution is also a position that is being looked to fill, which degrades the image of the women there.

  2. One of the issues that research has also pointed is the impact of domestic violence on female sweatshop workers who not only face violence in the workplace but also in some homes. How does this impact the ability to resist and create change?

  3. Danica permalink

    First of all, I am appalled that corporate giants such as the big shoe manufacturers are country-hopping into places that have the specific political and military components that create and support a cheap, docile work force. It is also crazy to me that the best enforcers of foreign investment and sweat shop treatment are the country’s own government and military powers working against the people. There must be great economic incentives for allowing foreign investment, which entice these governments where they are the weakest. I think the US corporations are making promises of progress, which foreign officials pick up probably out of personal greed but also thinking that they are acting on behalf of the good of the whole.

    When corporate giants sub-contract overseas, they relegate the responsibility for ethical treatment of workers to those sub-contractors. This clever finger-pointing removes direct responsibility from the US corporation and blames greater powers, like the overall government and its regulations and enforcement where the factory is located.

    Golf War first of all emphasized the loss of traditional culture where the tourist town would be located, which is a classic challenge against globalization. What greatly impacted me was when the investor’s claims of progress for the town where compared with what their fulfillment would likely be. For example, the investor claimed that the tourist town would provide numerous and better jobs for the people. However, the jobs available to them would be low service-sector jobs like golf caddies and hotel maids, not to mention prostitutes for the tourists. Another claim was from the Tiger Day gold event, when the president and other rich visitors claimed that the event would allow the youth to learn a new game, which would enrich and further develop and empower the next generation. It sounded so good until a reporter asked if a young boy would play golf, “no, I just work here,” he said, “I don’t have the money to play.” Instead of empowering youth, the event was using and exploiting them right in front of the cameras.

    The narrative of the Third World is the story of impoverished people who look up to people like us (the First World), aspiring to be capitalist, democratic, and “civilized” in our sense of the word. The Third World narrative says that we are more highly evolved than they are. Calling it “Third World” removes us enough to sympathize but not share in their humanity, much like speaking of someone in “third person.”

    How did the US culture become analogous with progress and success? We entice other nations with the American dream but instead give them a cheap foreign knock-off.

    • Hilary Spink permalink

      Hi Danica!

      I agree about the oversees finger pointing that most companies and sub-contractors do. Such as the codes of conduct that are rarely held up and the unions that are squashed before they can fully form.

      I also agree on the “the jobs available to them would be low service-sector jobs” because the people in the village have no formal education or training. They were raised to be farmers and planned on being farmers from birth to death and happily so. The new workers would be under terrible conditions and oppressed for years until they could organize to rise up. But isn’t that how the cycle goes?

      In America, industrial revolution days, terrible working conditions, long hours, child labor, little education, low wages. Then they organized went on strike and overcame it eventually. Globalization hit and companies moved to cheeper locations.

      In Korea, women were exploited for their cultural weakness by Korean men who could turn a sharp profit by employing them to make shoes. Eventually they created the ‘Korean Women Workers Association’ and raised their working conditions and minimum wage. Korea eventually became to expensive to produce in so shoe companies moved elsewhere.

      In Indonesia, again oppressed for years then started to organize to raise conditions and again, companies moved elsewhere.

      This may be a steep idea but the cycle may continue until all countries have been exploited and conditions are changed around the world. We can’t make a company grow a conscience any easier than we can force another country to prioritize its people over economic growth. I think change needs to come from inside, we can only pressure companies and politicians to a certain point.

      In answer to your question, I think we Americans sometimes have trouble accepting that some people don’t want what we have. The villagers in the Philippines don’t want our life. But some people do want what we have and they chose to use their resources to their advantage even if their resources are people living in poverty.

  4. Hollyann Jackson permalink

    The entire situation with overseas factories and bad working conditions rather reminds me of how this country in general treats the garbage we produce: out of sight, out of mind. In the same way that many people are unaware that the clothes they wear were produced by people in terrible conditions, many people don’t know that the garbage they produce is dumped in landfills-both in and out of the country-and in some cases, the ocean. It seems to be a popular theme throughout our culture; as long as we personally do not have to see or deal with it, it does not matter.

    That being said, the presence of the military undoubtedly worsens conditions for the workers. The military is there to see things get done, most of the time at the expense of the workers. The governments of countries like South Korea and the Philippines get so concerned with “being like America” that they attempt to force their country towards success, many times at the expense of the general populace. Greed also seems to play a large part. The officials of these governments and CEOs of these corporations become some consumed with revenue that they forget the people they are sacrificing are just that: people. Instead of human beings with rights, they become obstacles to be conquered on the path toward economic success.

  5. Hilary Spink permalink

    The American mental picture of a third world country is Haiti post hurricane. We think of hungry children, disease run rampant, and war torn countries when reality a ‘Third World’ country is an underdeveloped (meaning it doesn’t have a local McD’s) area. In “Golf Wars” we see that a ‘Third World’ area can have citizens that are perfectly happy in their static lives. They farm, trade, make enough money to get by in this world and wake up the next day to do it over again. They can be perfectly satisfied and resist change that is sometimes forced upon them.

    I think the struggle that those 7000 villagers face is that the politicians believe that for the good of the country as a whole, the villagers need to move to make way for the golf course. There is no doubt that the golf course will raise tourist and jobs which as a result will raise the wealth of the entire nation but it worth displacing 7000 villagers to achieve that? What is the worth of those people’s lives? They certainly do not contribute much at all to the welfare of the country. The villagers probably pay minuscule taxes if any, don’t mass-produce their crops to sell, don’t provide jobs for others, and don’t build wealth like any other self respecting globalized city wants to. I believe the villagers are in a jam because they resist change being forced upon them and have no one to come to their rescue. Politicians have no reason at all to defend the villagers because the village will not financially support the politician; the real estate investors have everything to gain by the villagers leaving and have the authorities behind them.

    So is it worth it to displace and radically alter the lives of 7000 people for the opportunity for economic growth? It depends what side of the fence you live on I guess.

    The “Golf Wars” shows that economic growth has a price tag. That price tag is oppression of the already impoverished and a growing class disparity, in this case between the real estate agent and the villagers that would become below minimum wage workers.

  6. Aaron Verhei permalink

    After watching the movie it showed many perspectives and different point of views over the issue that is going on with the golf war. On one side you have the president of the Philippines trying to boost their global economy and make their country as a whole a better off place that can produce the most revenue possible. On the other hand you have the peasants and farmers in the area whos land would get taken away for the golf course and resort while they are already doing perfectly fine without the golf course. The farmers and peasants that live there do a great job producing there own food and living on there own without any help or any money form anyone, and to make it better they are happy and love doing it. They think life is perfect and they don’t need money. The government is pushing so hard to bring in big corporations and produce more revenue for their country. They want to be able to have a large economy and make the most money which is why i believe they are forcing so much to get the land. The companies are always seeking the lowest wage because that is how you produce the most profit out of an item. also in the law of demand for labor you can see as wages decrease you can hire more employees. With more employees you can produce more product, and with more product you produce more profit and that is why large companies are always searching for the lowest wages possible to produce their goods. In the video the Golf War they are trying to build golf courses and resorts and give the people in the area jobs working there. This they are doing because they say it will help the economy of their country and help everyone get a job and get money. But as we saw in the film jobs are not really necessary there. People are doing just fine living off the land and maintaining a perfect life style without a dollar in sight. This film had a good look into third world countries i think from two different views. the government that is trying to make the country a better place, and the people who are perfect at peace and happy doing what they are doing and don’t care about the economy or the fact that they are a third world country because to them i bet they think they are the greatest country ever and there is nothing wrong with that.

  7. Andrea Grade permalink

    I think it is interesting how these companies take it upon themselves to “help out” these countries and areas that are providing for themselves just fine off of their own resources. It is almost like the “White man’s burden” how we say see that this country is ‘underdeveloped’ and “swoop in” to help set out corporations that eventually throw off the way of life there. Once this whole process happens the argument of “their cost of life is cheaper” is invalid. Maybe before when these areas lived off of food from the local fisherman and the trees that grow in their backyards but not now, these corporations came in and set up golf courses and resorts. This film definitely challenges the idea of third world because it is inevitably stating that “third world” is nonexistent until a more wealthy cultures comes in and stakes the area out. As far as economic progress goes, who is to say that our culture is more progressive than that of the peasants in the Philippines. Watching the film it seemed that they were perfectly content with their way of life. Just because their culture is not benefiting capitalism does not mean it isn’t progressive. This idea of consumer culture is obviously not the best thing for everyone. It has created global trade which has increased cheap labor and inequality all at once. It is inappropriate to say that their culture is not progressive in comparison to ours because it is comparing apples and oranges. To very different ways of life.

  8. Laura Zaro permalink

    Just the word “military” brings up the mental image of an intimidating group of people that no one would want to mess with. For South Korean women and peasants in the Philippines, I’m sure there’s a similar mental picture that comes up in response to the thought of the military. Just the presence of the military can cause a majority if not all of the women to feel like they have no power themselves. An example of the powerlessness women feel is in the article “The Curious Feminist”, which stated at the first sign of trouble, troops were called in by factory managers who sexually assaulted the women workers. The sexual assaults were simply considered a “control mechanism for suppressing women’s engagement in the labor movement”. Who would want to oppose authority and chance going through such an assault? Why are these corporations setting up shop in these countries anyway? As we saw in “Golf War”, governments are bringing in these corporations to set up shop in hopes to improve their countries economy and make “good use of the land”. Corporations of course are going to jump on the chance to have factories in countries where they can get away with paying workers just cents an hour. Paying workers low wages means a larger profit for these companies. The way they rationalize these low wages is more almost more appalling than the low wages themselves. Companies see themselves as doing these workers a favor by providing them jobs in the first place, and that low wages are better than no wages. As also mentioned in “Golf War”, companies claim that they’re helping people stay off the street by employing them, even if wages are exceptionally low. They claim that if it weren’t for them, these workers would be out on the street begging for money instead of “earning it”. The movie challenges the argument that sweatshops are necessary for economic progress by showing how negatively affected people would be whose lives are sustained through farming. This film also challenges the narrative of the Third World because it shows how successful some families are living off their land and how the development of a golf course on their land would negatively affect them.

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