Modern Slavery

My mind meanders around this topic a lot. Essentially, consumerism appears to have evolved to wanting really cheap stuff whatever the consequences. Perhaps the recent example of Boohoo group’s near-collapse from being prodigal UK retailer solidified your point of view, it certainly has mine.

I must admit to some trepidation writing this blog, I don’t try to be contrary for the sake of it but I find myself at the polar opposite extremes of the median public view on this one. So, dear readers, try my views on for size and see if you can get comfy in these (cheap) pyjamas.  

So let’s remind ourselves of the issue at hand. My kids are at an age where they like visiting stores that sell fast fashion – a pair of sliders for less than £/$6 or a T-shirt for £/$3…you get the idea. In fact, I don’t think there’s a product above £/$50 in any of the stores I’m referring to.

Affordable: Tick, Easy Access: Tick, Fast check-out lines Tick: Fast Fashion: Tick.

As consumers, we hide from the dirty manufacturing truths that enable us to buy so much for so little. In fact, even worse, we blame others for our own indifference, getting irate on radio & tv shows at the irresponsible behaviour by clothes retailers to do business with modern-day Fagins.

From time to time these purveyors of paucity get a dressing down from some politician or newspaper, or worse, public humiliation and a collapsed share price because, would you believe it, it turned out that the only way to make clothes for a few pennies was to manufacture in sweatshops, paying workers far less than the minimum wage of that country.

Our consciences are clear, those robber baron rag trade entrepreneurs have had their wings clipped & we can go back to our shopping. The problem here is we’ve got the wrong guy, we’re blaming our hero, not our villain. We’re mistaking cause and effect every day. True to the tone of this blog, modern slavery sadly exists directly because of a desperate unintended consequence.

You see folks, I’m the cause of modern slavery, you are too. I should be fined, arrested and all the rest but no, I get away with consigning vast numbers of fellow humans to a 3rd rate life. My crime? I buy this cheap stuff, for myself, for my family & I even recommend my friends check out items that simply shouldn’t exist at the price being charged.

It’s not the retailer or manufacturer who did anything wrong, he simply realised that to satisfy my demand he must create products at prices that facilitate modern slavery. But lest we forget, the root cause of the problem is me, the consumer not the retailer. If I stop buying this stuff then there’s no point making it. I never intended to cause harm, I never wanted 11-year old’s to be working 15 hour days at $1 an hour or immigrants to be duped into jobs that turn into nightmares.

So, I must stop, you must stop, we all must stop. If this pandemic era has taught us anything it’s that we need each other, not stuff. Ah, but I know what’s coming next… if demand drops then the ‘slaves’ go from low wage to unemployment and so the problem gets even worse.

In the short term this, sadly, must be true. But, and it’s a big but, in the medium term if we can change habits and be prepared to pay 50% more for fast fashion (it will still be crazy cheap by any historic measure) then we’ve opened a door for retailers to manufacture at higher costs which mean higher wages. #paymoreforfastfashion      

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