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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Bangladesh Bomb

Collapsed commercial building in  Bangladesh.
How guilty should I feel?

Thursday is market day in Lliria. This is quite a large market in which sellers lay out tables with a wide variety of goods. Here, a table selling shoes for children at 1.99 euros a pair. There, a table selling underwear, three pairs for 5.00 euros. Another table sells change purses, four for 1.00 euro. I like these prices, and I also like the prices at Primark and a great many other leading name stores, but to get these prices there are people who are labouring under extremely horrendous conditions.

How guilty should I feel? Should I simply boycott these products in these times of severe economic depression?

We only have to cast our minds back to April 24th, 2013. That was the day after serious cracks appeared in the eight-storey commercial building that housed a bank, several shops on the ground floor; apartments, and a number of sweatshop clothing factories. The bank and the shops sensibily closed, and residents of the apartments left the building, but the owner demanded that the factory workers went to work. The building then simply fell down, killing 1,127 and wounding 2,500. It could have been much worse as the building held as many as five thousand.

We, as consumers can only focus on the things that are right in front of us. Normally, we would not consider the price of an article and try and include all the many factors that brought it to market at that price. That is not something that is do-able. Yet, by paying the least money possible for the article that we want we create the demand that sends people into harm's way.

We have no reason to place our faith in the seller in the weekly market, but shopping at Carrefour, Primark, The GAP, Walmart, Sears, H&M, C&A, Zara, Inditex, etc is quite another matter. Such super stores have clout and obviously need to use it in dealing with their service providers. Should they even have to concern themselves with the safety and security of the physical location. That sounds a bit extreme to me, yet from one incident alone almost four thousand people have been negatively impacted, all in the cause of bringing low cost goods to market and the creation of profit to shareholders.

Should all workers in third world countries have safe and secure working environments? Yes!
Should they all have a reasonable working wage plus social benefits to equal their Western and European world counterparts? Yes!
Would I be prepared to pay realistic prices to support such changes? Well, this is where it gets to be complicated, and I have to dig deep in my search for a truthful and sustainable answer.

I am  embarrassed to make that admission, but I think that's the way it is with the general public. I need to be made to step up to do my share in elevating the quality of life of such sad people who work so hard for me. In the meantime I am struggling with my conscience. That is obvious by the fact that I am still thinking about Bangladesh when most people have moved on to other things.

Copyright (c) 2013   Eugene Carmichael