Thursday, 26 April 2007

A spectre is haunting Europe...

Over the past 10 years or so, the gap between rich and poor has been increasing in "the west" again. It's a great time to be rich, and thanks to the media's obsession with them, we can easily see what things this money brings.
So I might've thought there'd be a little jealousy, or even anger about it, but there is very little. Perhaps people like to think they might become rich one day, it's a free country after all... but, and I'm really sorry, with the chasm between rich and poor increasing, it seems social mobility is in decline too. Poor us.

I think a more likely reason for people not being angry is consumerism, and the increasing affordability of it.
We can, and do, buy loads of stuff.
Electronics and fashion are getting cheaper, meaning that we can still "keep up with the jones'".
The problem with this is how it's made possible. The fast and cheap fashion industry, surprise surprise, raises all the worries that arose ten years ago with the "big brands" like Nike.
It's not really surprising that these cheap goods are produced in poor countries, with all the associated terrible worker conditions. Even if there really isn't child labour, you wouldn't want an adult to have to work in a textiles factory for 14 hours a day on a subsistance wage; it's inhuman. Charles Dickens should be writing novels set in modern day China, Bangladesh and India. Why isn't he??!

And why is noone bothered? In England there were Primark riots. Not protesting developing world exploitation, but fighting over cheap jeans. That's fucking deep, Britain, well done, nice image you're sending out there.

It seems as long as people can afford to buy "nice things", they will be placated, and as the products we buy don't come with a picture of the brown person who produced it, we can pretend it doesn't happen. We can pretend that the worker who made the dress can afford Sky TV and a couple of Ryan-Air flights a year. Or just not think about it at all.

We should all be able to afford to buy clothes which have not exploited someone because it's cheaper to do that than pay them a decent wage. If it wasn't for Primark ect, if clothes cost what they should (exploitation free), would people become upset about inequality? Because then it would be OUR inequality; moving production to cheap countries has merely pushed the problem away. The poorly paid abroad are in effect paying to keep us happy.
They shouldn't have to.

I realise this is "capitalism" and "free trade", and in that way I think both are bad systems. There are certainly advantages to them, but they must be limited (by politics, I would hope). The free movement of goods and capital is not the highest ideal: Life is more important. Any system humans create should first be concerned with increasing good lives. A system which supports some good lives at the expense of others is a broken system.

Oh, fuck. I'm starting to sound like a Marxist.

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