Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gold body suits, Hamburgers Made from Poo, and an Announcement to Think About!

So, maybe I'm biased (actually, I'm very biased), but the documentary we partially viewed, The Yesmen, provides a great insight into how blind the corporate world is to the injustices they inflict on other people. After viewing the rest of the movie, I received a better understanding of what the Yesmen do and just how and how far they push the proverbial envelope. The Yesmen are an excellent example of how people can use creative ways to challenge social and institutional injustices.

The portion we viewed in class included the Yesmen attending a conference where they presented the "manager leisure suit" in which managers can be anywhere in the world and can still control their sweatshops. Obviously, the idea comes across as completely ridiculous in the film. I think that this is in large part because the Yesmen tell us to a large extent the hoax they are going to play on the unsuspecting conference attendees. I wonder if we had no idea what was going to happen and we just saw the clip where the Yesmen give their speech, how would we react? Would we find it completely ridiculous, understand the absurdity of the concept they propose, or just mindlessly accept what they are preeching (basically, that we can make sweatshops even more inhumane)? My guess is somewhere in the middle. I personally do not believe I would understand all the implications of the statement they tried to make. However, I do think I would have picked up on the absurdity of the proposal. If you didn't know what the Yesmen's aim was, how do you think you would react?

The other main portion of the film was concerned with preparing for a conference in Australia where they would propose a recycable hamburger. That's right, taking recycling to a new and completely disgusting level. In their proposal the "WTO" explains how a system would extract meat from "human waste products" to make a new hamburger. These new recycled burgers would be sent to a country financial less prosperous than the United States. Okay, completely absurd. And the Yesmen go further to say that this system would continue so that a burger could be eaten up to 10 times.

Unfortunately, the Yesmen's hopes were shot when the conference they were supposed to present was cancelled due to decreased interest. While disappointed in the cancellation of the conference, they found another venue - a college campus - to hold their presentation. They started out by giving McDonald's hamburgers to all in attendence. After launching into their presentation, it was clear that most (if not all) of the members of the audience were apalled by the proposal of recycled hamburgers. The students rose many concerns - from ethical, to health issues, to disgust at this capitalist-fueled idea. People walked out of the auditorium, engaged the Yesmen in heated discussion, and even resorted to foul language to express their outrage. The Yesmen were extremely pleased with how the speach went. They hoped that the students would catch on quickly and dispute the concept. It's hopeful for our generation then, that we can more easily spot the absurdities in organizations like the WTO than some of our elders who seem immune to the wrong-doings of these organizations and corporations.

The film ends with a makeshift conference in Australia, after all. Telling the organizers of the conference that they would already be in Australia, the Yesmen pressured the organizers to create a new conference. However, instead of the burger proposal, the Yesmen decide to represent the WTO in a different light. They apologize to the attendees for the change in the program and then reveal the WTO’s newest plans. These plans include dismantling the WTO so that they can review the way their actions negatively affect many regions of the world. Obviously, this announcement comes as surprise to all of the attendees. After the conference, the announcement was also sent to 25,000 journalists around the world.

In perhaps the most drastic action of the Yesmen that I have heard of, they completely challenge the very essence of the WTO. Even though soon after the announcement, it was clear that the WTO would not be dismantling, the announcements surely stirred much thought about the nature of the WTO. I believe that it was quite the wake-up call to even the most heartless of corporate and international “bigwigs.” Many questions rose for me after watching this segment in the movie. Why does the WTO take some of the drastic actions it does towards underdeveloped countries? How do the members of the WTO come to terms with the ethical questions they face? And most of all, I wish to learn more about the WTO and how it operates in the face of ethical questions.

The fact that such a humorous concept for social action can evoke some very serious questions, shows that it is an effective means for rising social issues. Just another example of how social action comes in almost every form possible!

visit to see the Yesmen's parody site of the WTO

visit the Yesmen's site at

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