Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Unintended Symbolism

I received something else recently in the mail that caused me to blog my thoughts. More like riffs of a bass line. When using symbols, sometimes unexpected meaning comes through due to circumstance. Or in this case, just poor choice.

The History Book Club always is wanting me to rejoin. This time they sent a catalog along with a metal eagle, pictured here, as a token gift. The History Book Club in their literature attempts to woo me through my American patriotism. Stars & Stripes, Eagles, all sorts of American symbols.

But right there on the plastic case containing the metal eagle, Made In China.

I saw this in two ways. One, that it is sad that the USA farms out national symbol manufacturing to the cheapest contractor possible. American flags say Made In China. So how can a symbol of the country carry any weight if it isn’t made within the borders it represents?

But I also saw a deeper symbolism. That the USA is Made In China. That China is in control of our destiny, of our way of life. Through their deep reserves of US Treasury notes & export economy, the metal eagle can be made no where else on Earth. I’m not saying that this is entirely true, but the symbolic pairing brought that out for me.

For me, I’m a World is Flat kind of guy. The Net levels playing fields, forcing those connected to it to compete without thought to borders. I am a part of that, working with teams in Bangalore, exporting my expertise to mentor engineers in the art of testing. I hope that our way of thinking becomes one of “Made In China” makes sense, for it is the most efficient place to make the thing that I designed, which will then be sold around the world.

But it still begs the question of how symbols are defined, shaped, and given meaning for future generations.

-Mike M.

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