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Author Topic: the morality of figure collecting.  (Read 5797 times)

Dav'sa Arman

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the morality of figure collecting.
« on: February 23, 2005, 07:45:58 PM »

 I know I might get flamed for posting this, but I want to generate some discussion about it. I know for a fact that most, if not all of us, started our passion wit star wars figure collecting at a relatively young age. For me, it was when I was in first grade and I got a POTF2 hoth Luke Skywalker from my dad. For the more seasoned collectors, it's most likely when they went to see Star wars when it originally came out on the big screen in 1977. You'd naturally want a piece of that movie, so you'd beg your mom or dad or big brother or sister to take you to a Toys R Us and buy you a figure of your favourite character. Good times, wasn't it? Especialy since back then, the action figures were made in factories in the US, where they had unions and well-paid workers.

 It's not shocking news to any of us that once the kenner name was dropped from the toy line we all love, production was moved to the east for cheaper labour in search of better profits. We all know the stories about sweatshops in asian countires and how horribly maintained they are and how horrendously low these workers are being paid. On one of the Q & A updates on Rebelscum.com, I read somewhere that the people working to assemble to toys are forced to work in poorly ventilated rooms with various toxins from paints and heated plastic circulating in the air. The pay is low and sometimes barely enough; while the companies charge us a considerable amount for the action figures. Look at how high the VOTC line got.

 I was just wondering how you feel about it. How do you justify buying something made from a sweatshop? If you can't justify it, how do you cope with it? How do you feel about the considerable amount of money the company makes off of these from cutting costs like getting cheap labour?

 Keep in mind that I'm not trying to antagonize anyone here. I love collecting, and to answer the first question: I can't even justify it. On one side, I LOVE collecting star wars action figures; on the other hand, I feel bad for those who make it. Not only do I feel bad for them, but I'm filipino-chinese; one of my relatives could be toiling day and night to make these. Whenever I look my collection, I wonder how many lives were harmed or had an injustice caused on them, or even died just to make the total sum of my action figures. It saddens me to an extent. I just want to find out more about the issue, however, becuase A: it may not be as bad as I think it is, and B: if it is as bad, perhaps there is something I could do to help remedy this.
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2005, 07:50:15 PM »

honestly, I try not to think about it.  

keep in mind how much energy is put into the cars & bubbles.

I try to collect loose toys.
that way you give the toy a "second chance/life"

I try to make up for it by recycling as much as I can, and try to purchase locally produced merchandise (ex: clothing, etc.)

Quote
B: if it is as bad, perhaps there is something I could do to help remedy this.

maybe donate x amount of $ to organizations trying to improve 3rd world working conditions?
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2005, 08:21:45 PM »

I would expect something being sold in our country by a company that does business in our country would go through the steps of making sure that human rights is something thought about when they were giving out the contract to make the toys they want to sell. If there arent company procedures stating these facts then there sure should be.. Dont you think? I do.

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Shane Turgeon

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2005, 08:22:19 PM »

Dave, i actually think that it's great that you are thinking about things on a larger scale and are conflicted by this. For the record, i don't collect modern toys, partly because of the reasons you mentioned (the other because i find them uninteresting) and in our household, we take a lot of other steps that many people might think are going too far but are steps that we feel morally responsible in doing. For example, we don't shop at wal-mart, eat at McDonalds, buy Kraft or Pepsi/Tricon products, support large pharmaceuticals, etc...we're also strict vegetarians.

I'm not going to go into a full-blown soap-box rant over this as it's probably not worth it suffice it to say, do what you feel is right and if your ethics won't let you feel comfortable in buying Hasbro's wares then stop. The vintage line hasn't been made for 20 years now and much of it is very affordable. You might find it more to your liking.

Oh, and if you think Hasbro is bad, you should try mattel/fisher price. Not only do they make their toys in sweat shops but their parent company Arco is a huge multi-national oil company that makes all the plastic parts for the US military's machine guns. ;)

« Last Edit: February 23, 2005, 08:23:18 PM by Shane Turgeon »
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Dav'sa Arman

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2005, 08:37:57 PM »

I would expect something being sold in our country by a company that does business in our country would go through the steps of making sure that human rights is something thought about when they were giving out the contract to make the toys they want to sell. If there arent company procedures stating these facts then there sure should be.. Dont you think? I do.

Peter

 Either they do what you mentioned, or they try to hush it down. Look at Old Navy: it was recently discovered that they use sweatshops. What bout the sean-john clothing line? They have sweatshops in south america. Both companies have products being sold in North America and doing business in North America. Cheap labour means more money, which in turn means more profits and more funding for the production of more product, which in turn generates more money. People keep secrets (and do even nastier things) for the green. Anything for the green.

 I agree, though. they should have company procedures stating these facts.
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2005, 08:48:32 PM »


Oh, and if you think Hasbro is bad, you should try mattel/fisher price. Not only do they make their toys in sweat shops but their parent company Arco is a huge multi-national oil company that makes all the plastic parts for the US military's machine guns. ;)

that's a tad bit creepy.

so when Daddy/Mommy are out fighting across the ocean, their son/daughter is playing with the "same" toys eh?
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2005, 10:01:28 PM »

I love playing Devil's advocate.

Question: what is the wage for the factory workers manufacturing these things?  Anyone know, or are we speculating?  If we do know, what are they relative to what workers salaries are in other industries where they are made?  Not all countries make an exhorbitant minimum wage like in Canada (just look south) - and yes, I'm aware it isn't much to get by on, it's not supposed to be a livable salary handed to you for just showing up.  

Quote
Especialy since back then, the action figures were made in factories in the US, where they had unions and well-paid workers.
I'll disagree with you here.  I don't see a whole lot of Kenner toys stamped with Made in USA and I'm old enough to know that Hong Kong and Macau weren't paying people Canadian rate wages back in the 70's and 80's.  Unions and well paid workers may have existed in the US at the time, but your figures didn't come from there.


Quote
For the record, i don't collect modern toys, partly because of the reasons you mentioned
While this might be the wrong time to ask someone verifying the validity of a figure/weapon I own, how do you resolve your views in collecting vintage figures, given the stance your family has taken?  I'm not trying to be mean or rude here, but isn't it somewhat hypocritical to shun modern toys, even in part, because of a moralistic standard?  Were vintage toys manufactured under dramatically better conditions with high financial compensation?  My strong inclination is to say no, so why then is vintage ok but modern not on that basis?  I understand the lack of appeal for you in modern, but that should be your basis then, not a wage issue.  As I said, I don't see a whole lot of Kenner toys stamped with Made in USA.  If I'm wrong about that, correct me please, but why would the bulk have that stamp if indeed they were made in the US?

Be careful what you ask for folks, it will cost you a whole lot more than what you are currently paying for.  If you feel that's worthwhile for the good of people in developing nations I applaud you genuinely for your stance.  But if you bump a factory workers wage to the equivalent of $8.00 an hour you're going to start paying about $35 for each and every peg warming Jar Jar figure you see.  Not to mention you're going to create an artificial wealth system in developing nations that isn't really sustainable.  

I don't doubt that the wages are not as high as they are here, but I see a lot of rumour and innuendo that all too often goes unsubstantiated to help make people feel guilty.  Perspective and relevance require more than just a look from a different culture at a situation, you need to understand it a little more than thinking - oh, they make less than us.  I'm not for a second suggesting sweat shops don't exist but you do need to look a little closer at things than just on the surface.  I will warn you, you'll be hard pressed to find an objective source on the issue.  Be wary of activists, they are at one end of a continuum.  If you don't trust a company because it's making profits and will lie to you, why would you trust someone that is the polar opposite?  As in all things in life, the truth is a mix and lies somewhere in the middle.

Now who's going to get flamed?
« Last Edit: February 23, 2005, 10:03:40 PM by Morgbug »
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Dav'sa Arman

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2005, 10:18:40 PM »

I love playing Devil's advocate.

Question: what is the wage for the factory workers manufacturing these things?  Anyone know, or are we speculating?  If we do know, what are they relative to what workers salaries are in other industries where they are made?  Not all countries make an exhorbitant minimum wage like in Canada (just look south) - and yes, I'm aware it isn't much to get by on, it's not supposed to be a livable salary handed to you for just showing up.  

Quote
Especialy since back then, the action figures were made in factories in the US, where they had unions and well-paid workers.
I'll disagree with you here.  I don't see a whole lot of Kenner toys stamped with Made in USA and I'm old enough to know that Hong Kong and Macau weren't paying people Canadian rate wages back in the 70's and 80's.  Unions and well paid workers may have existed in the US at the time, but your figures didn't come from there.

Ah, debate time (and morgbug wins by default)

To answer your first question: I was indeed generalising. I don't have any facts when it comes to the wages of the workers in the east, but considering that it's cheaper labour there, I'd say it's a considerable amount less, even if we are talking in ratio of how much living costs are there.


 To answer the second question: I was refering back to the old kenner days in the late 70's/early 80's. Weren't those one factory-made in the  US, or was I mistaken?


 Anyways, I love a good devil's advocate, Morgbug. You're what make discussions intriguing and fun at times. As I've said before, I'm still trying to look into the facts about everything; so the initiate post may not be accurate, although they don't exactly pamper the workers there (for any trade like clothing production), either. You are right, I do have to do my research. I'm still intersted in how people feel about the issue though; this includes you, Morgbug.
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Shane Turgeon

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2005, 10:25:51 PM »


While this might be the wrong time to ask someone verifying the validity of a figure/weapon I own, how do you resolve your views in collecting vintage figures, given the stance your family has taken?  I'm not trying to be mean or rude here, but isn't it somewhat hypocritical to shun modern toys, even in part, because of a moralistic standard?  Were vintage toys manufactured under dramatically better conditions with high financial compensation?  My strong inclination is to say no, so why then is vintage ok but modern not on that basis?  I understand the lack of appeal for you in modern, but that should be your basis then, not a wage issue.  As I said, I don't see a whole lot of Kenner toys stamped with Made in USA.  If I'm wrong about that, correct me please, but why would the bulk have that stamp if indeed they were made in the US?

You're right, Kenner's figures were most certainly not made in the US and the conditions they were made in were less than adequate as well. However, the differnce lies in the fact that the Kenner figures are not being currently made (heck, Kenner doesn't even exist anymore) and you're not supporting the current economy. By buying vintage figures you're supporting an entirely different market system. I see where you're coming from with the "what makes it OK now" mentality but on the other hand, these are now collectibles and don't fall under the same standards. It's like people who collect WWII Nazi memorabilia - there are a lot of people who collect that stuff who are the furthest thing from white supremisists but who buy it for it's historical significance. The same can be said for vintage toys regardless of where they came from.

I'll also agree with what you said about having to look at all the facts and making your own informed decisions. I've been doing that for over a decade now and this is where i stand. To reply to this one statement tho: "If you don't trust a company because it's making profits and will lie to you, why would you trust someone that is the polar opposite?"

I'll simply say this...the people who are on the polar opposite of the multi-nationals generally have a LOT less to gain than the multi-nationals who are hiding their practices to make more profit.
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Morgbug

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2005, 10:45:02 PM »

Ah Shane, you and I are going to have lots of fun ;)  You're aware that Greenpeace is a global company worth 5 billion dollars a year in donations right?  Only one example, but they might have something to gain by generating more donations.  The head of the World Wild Life fund in the US makes nearly half a million dollars a year.  Dr. David Suzuki charges $25, 000 appearance fees for one hour speaking engagements.  I'll grant you he redirects a goodly portion into his charities, but speaking as someone employed as a scientist I can assure you I do not own a home overlooking English Bay that has a net value in excess of several million dollars.  I'll agree the "foot soldiers" often have little to gain, but what about the generals?

BTW, I am, by nature, a contrarian.  Were you arguing the other side, I'd be just as much a knob the other way ;)

Quote
However, the differnce lies in the fact that the Kenner figures are not being currently made (heck, Kenner doesn't even exist anymore) and you're not supporting the current economy.
This is an excellent point, so long as one did not buy them during the time, it does not contribute directly to the creation of the situation.  I accept that.  Were I on a Monday morning I would contend it might still be contributing to it given I believe Hasbro still watches what happens in general and by way of example I would provide the recent VOTC figures.  But it's not Monday.

Quote
It's like people who collect WWII Nazi memorabilia - there are a lot of people who collect that stuff who are the furthest thing from white supremisists but who buy it for it's historical significance.
I'm not 100% convinced the argument is identical, but I'll take it as you intend.

Quote
Ah, debate time (and morgbug wins by default)
Not at all and you'll pardon me if I chide you for saying this.  While I presume you meant it as flattery (and if it was, thank you, if not, please excuse my embarassment), no debate is ever over before it has begun.  Following three degrees in science, I no longer have any respect for my previous scientific idol - the very same Dr. David Suzuki.  Not suggesting I am anyone's idol (perish the thought, they should have their head examined and slapped very, very hard) just that once you get into a subject and learn how things can be twisted, even for the most noble of reasons, you realize that names and personas are meaningless.  Fight back and fight hard, just have your facts straight.  

As to how I feel about the issue?  Well, it doesn't bother me too much.  I've known enough people that have been to China to know that with good comes bad and vice versa.  China will be a force to be reckoned with and not necessarily for all good reasons.  Bending rules is not exclusive to North American conglomerates or governments, China is willing and readily able to do so as well.  But that's a bit of an aside issue.  I think, relative to many other professions, handling toys is not such a horrible career to have in China.  I believe (and feel free to correct me on thsi as well) that relative to the average wage and working conditions in China, these employess are paid fairly and not working in utterly horrible conditions.  Now, those definitions are somewhat transient depending on whose viewpoint you use.  If those conditions existed in Canada, well, they wouldn't exist because they wouldn't be allowed.  Relative to Eritrea or Uganda or any other African nation currently under strife I'd say they're darn near utopic.  Can they be improved, sure, but I don't think we can do much about that.  

Let me put it to you this way: is it better to support the industry as it is and have people employed, even in suboptimal conditions or is it better to can the line entirely and end the factory work?  Not quite so easy to answer, or so I think.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2005, 10:48:26 PM by Morgbug »
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Shane Turgeon

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2005, 11:22:20 PM »

Morbug, i certainly can appreciate your ability to ably discuss both sides of an issue. As you said, and i agree with, there's only one way to make an informed decision on a subject and that's by learning as much as you can about both sides. I could argue for the other side as well however when it comes to this particular type of subject, it's something i feel pretty strong about so i'll continue to go on the side of my beliefs. ;)

Now...on to your newest comments.

re Greenpeace, David Suzuki, WWF etc...

These aren't institutions i support either. In a nutshell, i'm not a big fan of ANY large, mainstream organization trying to hammer home a certain point of view and making finincial gains out it, depsite where "some" of their earnings may go. The "administration" costs associated with these groups (ie paying their leaders, etc) are just as intolerable as the profits taken by multi-nationals. I guess i'm more of a supporter of doing what i can in my own personal life, explaining my life choices to others only when they ask about them and throwing the proverbial (or literal) brick through a window when it's needed on a grassroots level. ;) Either way, i tend to try to not get into these types of discussions on SW boards simply because it's "supposed" to be my break from the drudgeries of real life. ;)

However, i do have to say that Radiation74's comments: 'So that goes to all of you " holier than thou... I don't do this, don't do that, don't buy this, don't buy that people" that are basically doing this to be "in". Deep down you know that you really aren't making a difference, and you really don't care if you do. You do it so others will think you are a " wonderful human being ", when in fact you are nothing butl a Hutt" are some of the most assinine i've ever encountered. There's nothing like sitting behind a computer screen and casting aspersions on people you've never even met hey. I'll keep that in mind the next time i donate a series of framed, autographed 8x10 photos of Star Wars characters and action figures from my own collection for food bank donations at my toy show.

And believe you me, i've never even been close to being "in" in my life. ;)

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Morgbug

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2005, 12:37:53 AM »

Shane, trust me, I'm not questioning your values or beliefs.  I am more than a little pleased to see you not supporting those folks in particular.  I think at one point they were going the right way, but I think they lost their way to put it gently.  I'm glad you understand that, but the vast majority do not.  

WWF in particular irks me.  Their stance (and Greenpeace's) on DDT drives me around the bend.  Now, I don't know what you know or have read about DDT but there is a very valued place in this world for it.  It is/has been used as a space spray (i.e. sprayed on walls of buildings, huts, etc.) in the third world.  It is the single most effective way we currently have of controlling the mosquito vector that transmits malaria in the third world.  It does this by killing mosquitoes rather than just keeping them away from people like insecticide impregnated nets do.  Countries that ban the practice see an immediate and dramatic rise in both cases and deaths due to malaria.  Countries that re-adopt the use of DDT as a space spray see and immediate and dramatic reduction in the number of malaria cases.  It's a grand experiment with human lives as the data points.  But WWF, Greenpeace and others oppose the use of DDT for anything.  The cost?  Millions of lives annually, but since most of them are poor, black and thousands of miles away, that's ok. ::)  That's the political clout they have in the third world and I have no qualms about accusing them of genocide based on their principles.  Recently they have both recanted their position to some degree but what has the cost been since they officially took that stance back in the early 70s?  They may well do some good work, but I see it as largely negated.  But you don't often see those numbers in the media, because it wouldn't paint a nice, rosy picture.   I'll hop off the soapbox here.  

Anyway, way, way off on a tangent here, sorry Dave for distracting from the topic, Shane's better at staying off the soapbox than I am.  I stated my opinion above, hopefully others will give theirs so your topic can continue.  I promise to do my best to hold my mouth shut unless it's on topic ;)
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2005, 12:55:44 AM »

Contrary to Rad 74's comments I do believe that this is a valid thread on this boards.  As a consumer I am very conscious of the items I purchase, but avoid trying to preach, you can't make anyone do want they don't want to do whether they care or not.  I have also struggled with the fact that all the toys sitting around me as I type this were made by someone who most likely couldn't afford to have it.

This subject can be debated for weeks, months, years, but people's stance of the subject will very rarely change, you have to want too.

The planet we live on when you look at the big picture is truly a sad place, (I have always thought if aliens we searching the galaxy for intelligent life they would pass us over in an instance, hell we can't even figure out how to avoid gridlock in rush hour) but in order to stay afloat and have a positive outlook you almost need to be oblivious to everything going on around, whether you see it or not.  If there were a heaven and hell, most on this planet would be destined to spend eternity in the ladder due to the human races ability to turn a blind eye.

By the way, the company I work for has started a joint venture with a Chinese company and wages over there are as low as 10 cents an hour US in some facilities.  Office staff is lucky to get a $1.50 an hour.  The joke though will truly be on the rest of the world once China starts to value it's currency in line with the rest of the world, once that happens wages will skyrocket as will the price of consumer products.  Then where you gonna outsource to, maybe then people will "start to care about Africa".

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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2005, 04:48:47 AM »

Dave I wouldn't bang your head against the wall to hard. With 6.5 billion people on this planet there are more atrocities in this world than you would care to imagine.
You can only do your best on what you think is right. Its sad to say that you have to do what ever you need to, to sleep at night. If that means no more collecting I guess thats what you might need to do.

Its a matter of perspective. It doesn't matter if we collect vintage, modern or what ever. We are here living well while others are suffering. We can do what we can to help the less fortunate but we can't think less of ourselves for being fortunate.

Each of us has to make a decision where to draw the line and everybody's line is different. I was watching a documentary on sweat shops and the topic in question was asked to a worker out side the plant. He responded in saying that even though its very little its the only income available. Without that his family would have nothing. I can't remember where it was but an under developed country with no economic prospects.
I'm by no means saying that they're being done any favors but thats the reality of it.

The thing is we tend to get caught up in other countries problems and we can't even clean up our own back yard. We are a rich country and there are still homeless and starving people here and that bothers me.
To be honest I don't really think about it. I have too much on my plate at home but that doesn't mean I don't care. I have a ten year old son with autism that keeps me very busy. For those of you who seen Rain Man will get a good idea what I have to deal with. Unfortunately my mind does not focus on others on the other side of the world. I'm still aware of the problems though.

So in the end did I answer your question, propably not. For me its very complicated that has no really true answer IMHO.

This may sound corny but follow you heart. It usually won't lead you astray if you're listening to it properly. We all have to ask ourselves...the actions we take, are they sincere or are they some sort of false justification?

Anyway, thats my thoughts to scratch the surface take them for what you will. ;)
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Re:the morality of figure collecting.
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2005, 09:09:18 AM »

well, I have to admit that before posting this reply, I haven't actually read the last couple lengthy posts.  ::)

but when it comes to Lego, from what I understand, a large portion of it is manufactured in Denmark by people who are fairly paid.

this might explain why lego is far more expensive than most other toys.
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