I just saw something about “things we didn’t know were made with sweat shop labor”. It’s sardonically funny because it’s utterly obvious to anyone who knows how humanity has worked for all of our history. Realistically, the only way to have everything we want without doing this kind of labor, ourselves, and without having other people do it, is to have robots do it all–which would mean mass unemployment, especially for those who are already poor. (No, “fair trade” with foreign entities isn’t feasible in most cases, because it’s ultimately impossible to enforce where those collecting your money spend it–whether on their workers or on themselves. Or, we could enforce it, but that would require sending soldiers into a sovereign nation and killing people who resist. Embargoes against countries who refuse to participate in fair trade tend to result in economic collapse and death by crime, warfare, and poverty for people in those countries.) The short explanation of why things are done this way is because, like everything else our society does, it’s the method we’ve found that “works” with minimal problems. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s better than everything else we’ve tried, so far; therefore, any truly helpful suggestion for change is going to have to involve a more complete solution than, “let’s just pay more for stuff, and shame those who don’t or can’t do that!”
These items include:
-Food (Cheap labor is required to grow it plentifully. In almost all countries, farmers are the poorest of the poor. Here, farmers aren’t poor, but farm workers still are–which is an improvement from the global norm, if we’re being honest about it.)
-Clothing (Textile workers have pretty much always had it rough. Working with fibers can mess up your body if you do it enough. A lot of people I know struggle to buy clothes at the current price. Multiply that price that by 500-1000%, and a lot more folks will start freezing to death in the winter.)
-Drugs of all kinds (Which come from crops…therefore use cheap farm labor.)
-Plastic objects of all kinds (If we want them to be plentiful, and therefore affordable, that requires cheap labor, and a huge supply of petroleum.)
This article sucks:
Yes this is messed-up…but I don’t think anyone reading this has ever gone a day in their lives without benefiting from these abuses. In fact, the computer or mobile device you’re using right now–regardless of brand–was made using these practices, unless you paid about 10x what every other comparable model costs. (I know this because I’ve been building computers since I was a little kid and have a pretty good idea of where the parts come from, and what they would cost if we made them using better practices. All the local computer stores pay minimum wage to build computers, and would pay less if they could get away with it. The reason you can get a computer or smart phone for under $1,000 is because the parts were made in sweat shops and assembled by underpaid techies.) Worse, the people who like to share such statistics about “sweat shop labor” are usually the same people who support organic farming, which pits food shortages against human rights abuses and outright lies (for marketing to sensitive shoppers), when you get right down to how it works.
The local political party/advocacy group/guilt factory where I live, the Chico Peace and Justice Center, is all about making people feel bad about <insert verb here>, while providing only the most superficial and infeasible alternatives. I’m sorry, but I wish that people would pay more attention to figuring out why people do what they do, under the assumption that nobody is “born evil”, rather than going around condemning people for doing whatever they can to deal with life as well as they can manage. All the injustices in the world exist because they help meet somebody’s needs, or have done so in the past (and no better solution has become readily available); therefore, any meaningful solution requires us to put ourselves in the “perpetrator’s” shoes and figure out why they need to do what they do in order to be OK with life. Yes, this includes actual villains like S. Hussein and A. Hitler, even though what they did was obviously unacceptable. They both had very human reasons, though, and if you really dig around in their history, you’ll see that they were just trying to meet their personal needs, and sometimes those of the people around them. Did they both deserve what they got, in the end? Yeah, I think so. Would you have acted in a similar fashion, given the same upbringing and life experiences? That’s a harder question to answer, and I hope that one would hesitate to do so blithely. I think that if our local (or not-so-local) activists were to seriously consider why these unfair practices exist, they would have a lot less anger, and not feel as much like they need to look down their noses at us “plebeians”, for one silly reason or another, no matter how <insert political leaning here> either person or party might be.