Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Association Effect

The way the world views America is often seen through the prism of foreign policy. The assumption is often made that the main reason why America is hated in certain parts of the world, is the constant interference by the US government in a military context. Whilst this is certainly true, other factors play a crucial part in the American PR machine.

A good example is the behaviour of certain American corporations across the globe. McDonalds, Disney and Coca-Cola are as identifiable with America as the Stars and Stripes. They are ambassadors for their country whenever they go abroad. How they treat the people in the regions they operate, has serious consequences for the way the people view the US. The preferential treatment that US corporations face in the poorest parts of the world, breeds contempt and loathing. This contempt then turns to hatred of the US and everything they feel it represents.

Of course, the Middle East and Asia is the biggest breeding ground for this contempt at the present time. One country in particular, Pakistan, is on the verge of being consumed by a growing anger towards the West. This anger will not have been stemmed by Coca-Cola's activities in the region. The IUF have recently reported the following:

"While Coca-Cola Company (CCC) executives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA were preparing to celebrate the holidays and enjoy their buoyant third quarter results, management at Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan Limited (CCBPL, owned by CCC) were carrying out a vicious attack on employment and trade union rights at the company's Karachi operations in defiance of a local court order to desist.

"Union-busting is a traditional management reflex at Coke Pakistan. In Central Pakistan, unions were busted in Lahore and Gujranwala and union officers have been dismissed. At Rahim Yar Khan, the union president was dismissed in 2001 and only reinstated after a tough 3-year legal battle the company continues to contest.

"Where dismissals alone fail to break the union, massive casualization has become the main management tool for maximizing insecurity and limiting union bargaining power. At the Rahim Yar Khan plant, 6-700 casual workers are employed at peak season - including 250 "seasonal" workers employed year round and some 50 who have worked at the plant for 5 or more years. To further restrict the potential union membership base, 200 permanent workers are excluded from union membership after having been reclassified as "managers" or "supervisors" — despite the fact that they work as operators and have no management authority." [via Killer Coke]

It is the perception of the workers in situations like this, that leads to a growing resentment to the West. In conjunction with the utilisation of the military by the West, it is little wonder that so many people in this region feel that America is an enemy. As long as Western companies with such strong brand identities and cultural links, continue to attack the workers, so the countries that they represent will become tainted by the same brush. Certainly, foreign policy is key to the distrust of the West, but it is not the only factor that is taken into account by those who mistrust the West.