Orange, the multinational telecommunications company which has bought out and re-branded Egypt’s Mobinil earlier this year, came out with an ‘attractive’ advertisement scheme to lure the contemporary social media/networking
consumerists users; the challenge the company issued was to watch this new ad and choose a song which would go along with it. Many have partook in the challenge, while others lauded their efforts in producing some hilarious results (myself included, guilty as charged). Yet, I couldn’t believe it took me a few times of viewing to avert my gaze from the dancers performing – frankly – botched up, ridiculous moves to notice the backdrop of the scenes used in filming the ad. Call me a crazy communist conspiracy theorist, but if these backgrounds don’t show labor exploitation, concealment, and/or mass consumption then I don’t know how more obvious could it get.
Laundromats represent a bleak reality of capitalist exploitation; yes, this service is not very common in Egypt (where many households may have their own washing machine or opt for manually washing the household’s clothes at one’s own home) but in the US, the service is often associated with disadvantaged communities. To insure your clothes are washed and dried, you have to wait next to the machines at the laundromat so nobody would steal your clothes or take them out, tossing them away so they would load their own clothes first.
Laundromats take away from individuals time, forcing them to pay in return for taking away their time! Maybe it is worth it for the sake of having clean clothes, one may argue; however, we have to consider the conditions which led to the rise of laundromats in the first place and how they become integrated in the fabric of capitalist exploitation.
2-Farm (Industrial Livestock Production):
In the background, there’s a plethora of ducks (as far as I can see) in a run-down room. Of course, this seems like a farm involved in mass-producing ducks; I’m assuming chickens weren’t sexy enough for this ad, and in Egypt we eat ducks too so it’s “no big deal”. There are many resources to check out for horror stories – both on animal cruelty as well as the monopoly on these kinds of industries which have alienated and exploited farmers – such as movies like Food, Inc., Super Size Me, and Fast Food Nation. Mass-producing livestock is preferable for promoting fast food consumption and providing the market with supply in the shortest amount of time possible.
Do not even get me started on how factories reflect a form of capitalist exploitation! It all started with the Industrial Revolution (okay, probably before that)…when factory owners decided to think of people as hired labor who should produce as much output and make as much money as they can for the owners, what do they get in return? Well, a wage (not even a stable salary) which does not match the hours, effort, nor skill they have put in for their work. Oh, also if they tried to unionize in order to claim their rights, they would be put through hell. Apparently in Egypt, they would get arrested too, but I digress…
The irony of the image from the Orange ad is spot on, really: just look at the flamboyantly dressed bourgeois kids dancing around the proletariat masses who are probably producing the very same clothes the former are wearing. I think I just made myself cringe.
Finally, I am left looking at a symbol for neo-liberalism and global market: the warehouse. Warehouses represent trade, judging by these containers in the background I’m assuming global trade since these products will be, most likely, trans-nationally shipped. Global markets conceal tragic realities, such as the horrors of outsourcing, child/slave labor, and migrant workers’ exploitation.
While these H&M jeans may be making your butt look cute as hell, don’t forget that a young child missed out on a chance for education and severed his/her fingers in a Myanmar sweatshop for the sake of your Highness’s butt (yeah, I went there)!
“So what the heck do you want?!”
What do I want? Okay, I’ll go ahead and say it: yes, capitalist reality is too pervasive and we cannot easily escape it, but opening up our minds, being more perceptive, and not giving in too mindless consumerism every time we see a ‘viral’ social media campaign can count as a first step.
In early 2016, BDS’s boycott campaign against Orange in Israel may have played a role in the company’s end of business in Israel; despite the CEO’s claims that the decision had nothing to do with the boycott, it still leaves us lingering thoughts on BDS’s stance against the exploitative multinational, and it pushes me to look more critically at their ad in Egypt.
I had to stop and asking myself “why” after seeing bourgeois youth dancing with a laundromat, a farm, a factory, and a warehouse in the backdrop. It should make more people wonder as well…