Posted by: mydarkestplaces | April 7, 2013

End It Movement (and more)

A person I follow on Twitter sent out this riveting and incredibly well put together survey/quiz thing about a person’s slavery footprint.

Natch, I took it.

And it was incredible. The facts about this world, this 21st century world, this world that still relies so heavily and strongly on indentured, conscripted, or flat out enslaved people. It’s nauseating to think about.

The cotton in our clothes, the components in our electronics, the flair in our makeup. Chances are better than even that something that you have consumed and/or will consume and/or something you use on a regular basis has been helped along in its life cycle by a slave.

I am typing this on an iPad, looking up facts on an iPhone, and have a DVD playing in the background while lounging in cotton clothes.

And I can’t be 100% certain that even half the items I’m interacting with have been ethically sourced.

And holy COD that breaks my heart. And I find myself thinking about what I can do to make sure my slavery footprint isn’t increasing. Heck, what can I do to SHRINK it?

Then I’m struck by this whole new train of thought. To be able to even have this thought…I could obviously be more privileged but holy HANNAH I’m already so privileged. To have the OPTION to buy my food from local sources. To entertain the idea of buying clothes, at least as many as possible, from manufacturers that are based in the US.

A sad, sad, sad fact is that buying domestic tends to be much more expensive. To even pretend to be paying enough for their employees to meet the lowest cost of living, companies have to pay exponentially more than they would in a southeast Asian country. Which isn’t too say that globalization is right, it’s obviously not. It has enabled far too many wrongs in far too many places and lives. But when a company’s goal is to make money they want to do that at the highest margin possible. I know for a fact that I have many friends who will disagree with me, and likely quite vehemently, but no, I don’t fault companies for wanting to make a buck. I do fault companies for wanting to make a buck at the expense of humanity.

An anecdote. My sophomore year of college, at close to the apex of my “rawr rawr liberal activism,” I ended up getting involved with a movement to block Wal-Mart from moving into the neighboring town. At this point, 2013, we all understand what the pitfalls of a corporation like Wal-Mart are. They treat their employees – both domestically and abroad – like crap. The offer few benefits, paltry pay, and little to no flexibility in scheduling. And that’s just domestically. Where we have agencies like OSHA making sure things like the Triangle Shirtwaist fire don’t happen again. At least within the United States. In other countries, our government takes the stance, “well, if they don’t care we won’t either.”*

The few who read this blog are varying degrees of brilliant. There isn’t a single person who is stupid, who doesn’t understand the trickiness and stickiness and overall wretchedness of globalization and its affect on the people of this world.

The truth is, though, that so many people domestically don’t have the option of buying goods that cost a little (lot) more. I’m lucky enough to live in a community that cares deeply not just about the international supply chain, but our local producers (of goods, food, etc.). We in Maine end up having a greater ability to procure what we need from local sources. In places like St. Lawrence County, that is not the case. While it’s somewhat possible to buy food from known sources, there isn’t a place to get underwear, socks, shoes for kids that seem to outgrow them as soon as you buy them. At least not for a price that won’t break the bank in families already living close to, if not in, poverty.

The fact is, those of us with the latitude, the privilege, the means to do so have to put our money where our mouths and our morals are. It’s not enough to say that something is wrong, we need to show companies that we mean it when we decry their business practices. We need to reward those who control (and supervise and maintain) their supply chain start to finish. We need to not spend our money those places that don’t. That I haven’t spent money at Wal-Mart in almost ten years isn’t affecting their bottom line. But if suddenly there are 10, 50, 100 million people nationwide who aren’t the story changes. To find out more about what businesses to shop at (or not) check out Made in a Free World.

It’s not going to take just me, just you, or even the city of Portland or state of Maine to make the changes that need to happen. It’s going to take all of us.

It’s time to put our dollars where our mouths are.

Let’s #enditnow

*I know and understand that it’s far more complex than this way oversimplified view – and that many within our government do care. Doesn’t change the fact that fires like the one in Mumbai continue to happen.

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