The Dennis Miller Show: John Bowe: Author, October 11, 2007
Dennis Miller: We are joined now by our guest, he is the author of a heartbreakingly-titled book, at least before the colon, after the colon, I think it's a tad too explanatory, I'll ask him about that, it's called Nobodies, which would immediately grab my attention if I saw it in a bookstore and I'd wanna read a book called that just to see what it was about. And then after the colon, "American Slave Labor And the Dark Side of the New Global Economy," John Bowe. John! Did you come up with the title?
John Bowe: Dennis, I have to admit that I played a role in coming up with the title but I'll also tell you: I hate it.
Dennis Miller: You hate the Nobodies part?
John Bowe: No, I love the Nobodies part, I do.
Dennis Miller: Yeah, that's the part I love, but afterwards, it gets too--there's too much exposition there, Nobodies resonates on such an emotional level, it should have been more succinct after the colon in my feeling.
John Bowe: It's a mouthful. It's a huge mouthful.
Dennis Miller: [Laughs]
John Bowe: But you know, we talked about it a whole lot and it really is what the book is all about.
Dennis Miller:Yes, it is and that's what's fascinating. First, I have to ask you, are we talking about off-shore? You know when I read this, I'm thinking, does this exist--you're talking about the existence of slave labor in our country or--
John Bowe: We are talking about slavery in America. Today. Currently.
Dennis Miller: All right, delineate the worst case example you found.
John Bowe: Uh, there's one I didn't write about too much, but the worst is a case I found in South Carolina workers were telling me about being, you know, the boss and his goons would get drunk and blow up guns in the middle of the daytime to get everybody working harder, they would rape the female workers, this is all in a cucumber field somewhere in South Carolina.
Dennis Miller: What circa are you talking? You're talking... now?
John Bowe: Yes, we're talking now. Another case in Tulsa, that I do write about a lot where the boss hires a guy with a gun to sit outside the worker's barracks that he forced them to sleep inside the factory. You know, and the surprise of this book is that this is going on all around, I mean, there's slavery in New York State--
Dennis Miller: For God's sakes, this makes it sound like Tom Joad had the keys to the executive washroom. How does this go on in contemporary America? I mean, isn't it as simple as you researching, finding it, going down to the local authorities saying, "this is what happens" and it gets broken up immediately?
John Bowe: No, I think the problem, I mean, everybody knows that migrant workers, the guys who work in agriculture are out there in the middle of the fields, they're very isolated, it's not a good job. On a good day, these guys make $7,500 a year, average, and they die at the age of 47 from pesticides and stuff like that. That is totally legal, that's what we've agreed is the minimum wage, that's what happens. So imagine the worst-case scenarios with that, a really bad version of that, you get paid, what, so what we're talking about are people who come and they don't speak the language, they don't have papers, they owe a debt, they're so vulnerable that I don't think the average American can imagine what they're like. But they come--
Dennis Miller: OK, well, here's--
John Bowe: They come from countries where they can't go to the cops and ask for help.
Dennis Miller: Yes.
John Bowe: So they're not going to come to our cops and ask for help, they wouldn't even know how to find the police station.
Dennis Miller: OK, well let me ask you this. In some sort of back channel way, is untethered illegal immigration, I don't know, we always act like we're doing these people a favor--my feeling is, it doesn't work for me on both ends. I don't like people doing things illegally and, that being said, once they have done it illegally, I don't think they should be used as human chattel, if we go to a much stricter immigration policy, aren't they then to be afforded more rights and dignities as human beings?
John Bowe: I agree and I disagree and it's a really complicated thing. Basically, I agree with you. I think there is a reason why we have democracy, we have the rule of law, and we should follow the laws. That's how you have control over your society and make sure these kinds of things don't happen. On the other hand, with agriculture, these are the guys that brought us slavery 1.0, and they've been trying to bring us slavery 2.0 ever since with tenant farming, chain gangs, they use POWs from WWII, they're always looking for a cheap source of labor and that one industry has never been reformed. You don't see slavery cases, for example, in the automobile industry, or anything with unions or more regulation. You have these slavery cases, it only happens in bad labor environments. So it's not just a new thing because of illegal immigration, but that certainly doesn't help.
Dennis Miller: Well, I can remember the first poster I ever had on my wall as a kid was the Chavez don't eat grapes thing
John Bowe: Mmm!
Dennis Miller: And I thought we'd come a long way from that but let me ask you this: if the point of departure is illegal entry into the country, I see no end to this. If it begins to be, OK, people are coming here legally and then get these bad jobs, isn't it the American labor movement then kick in as it did back when laborers were abused in the early part of the centuries, I must be honest, I think there's some unions right now that abuse the good offices of the union name, but I do believe at one point it was the salvation of our country, I think our country wouldn't have been a great country without people, you know, facing down strike breakers and stuff like that, and getting clubbed by Pinkertons. It's an ugly situation, but at least if they come here legally, that can all start that, you know, march to justice. I don't think anybody's behind that happening because they've come here illegally. It eats into the advocacy of their argument, do you see that part?
John Bowe: Yeah, well it's funny because you see different unions on both sides of every issue of this, so there's not any kind of solidarity but I think, the point of the book makes is whatever is happening that undermines the labor market that is destroying the middle class and making life harder for working people it's not just like that's a bummer, or it's just a monetary thing, the point of this book to show you these slavery cases to show you this is how bad it gets, you know, if you're worried about globalization, you're worried about the rising gulf between rich and poor, rising income inequality. This is where it goes. And people have fought for hundreds of years, you know, to fight against tyranny, fight against the church, fight against the king, fight against whoever is the local oppressor because, you know, we forget, this is how bad life can get.
Dennis Miller: Mmm-hmm.
John Bowe: These things get really bad.
Dennis Miller: What's the dark side of socialism, tell me that my friend.
John Bowe: The dark side of socialism?
Dennis Miller: I'm just wondering, I look at the inequities that existed and there's always been The Man and the people who depend on The Man and often its so iniquitous that it breaks your heart but then you look at the other side of things and I see what happens when there some an effort to make everybody all equal and there is a downside to that, too, isn't it, there always seems to be some--
John Bowe: I think there's a middle ground and we've lost our way--
Dennis Miller: Well, tell me your middle ground. I'd love to hear it, what would be your dream date?
John Bowe: Well, I think the dog-eat-dog capitalism thing were I think people are sort of skewing the rules, they want to hire illegal aliens, they wanna hire people in China, but they sort of forget that these workers in China can't vote freely, they don't have a free media, they can't organize freely, so we traded a system where we bought stuff from American people who were pretty free and now we buy stuff from people who aren't very free and we call it "free trade" and I think that's kind of bogus, I think it's gonna bite us in the butt, you know, to say China's pollution problem is becoming our pollution problem.
Dennis Miller: Mmm-hmm.
John Bowe: That's what globalization means. It means: what goes around comes around. So if we're buying stuff from people who aren't free, we really need to ask ourselves, is this going to make us more free or less free? 'Cause I think most people, even most corporations, we're getting all excited about saving a few cents at check-out but I don't think it's going to make the world a freer place. And you look at a slavery case like I do in this book and you realize, oh, wow, this is how bad it can get. Let's not go there.
Dennis Miller: Well, I tell you what John, I get these books flying across the transom in such a rate, I've gotten yours in the last two days. I have read it preliminarily, pre-li-mi-na-ri-ly, I don't want to lie to you in this chat, I certainly am going to finish this book, and I hope somewhere in the next two or three weeks when I have it digested, we can revisit and talk a little more in-depth because I think you posit some interesting questions there. This is John Bowe, the book is Nobodies, the host is Dennis Miller.
Dennis Miller: That last interview, by the way, I have to read this Nobodies book now, sometimes when I get an author who sounds a little daft to me I think, I don't have to read that book but this guy so salient, I believe I have to digest Nobodies now, it made a lot of sense.
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