Our capitalist habits of consumption are pushing multinationals to take advantage over the poorest, showing a much darker side of globalization.
Consumption is becoming a new way of communicating with others, through what we buy and the choices we make to represent ourselves. The development of new types of transport and new technologies such as the internet have facilitated connections between goods and consumers, further pushes the limits of consumption ; we have reached a point where we can buy products without leaving our houses. Advertisement is also a major tool to promote overconsumption by inundating us through TV or online to convince us that we cannot live without acquiring these new trendy objects ; but what is the limit of this system ? When we see the Black Friday sales in the US creating such hysteria every year and the fact that nearly 74.2 million American rushed to stores in 2015 to stand in queues for hours in the quest products at lower price (Black Friday website), I start realizing that one of the major problems facing us today is that most of our common consumption is based on our desires rather than on our needs. What is the human cost behind a product while being part of a globalized world ?
Forced labor and indecent work are real issues that still persist today and it is something that everyone is aware of. Today more than 21 million people are victims of forced labour (International Labor Organization). What are the future prospects for those who are constantly deprived of basic needs such as food, clothing, education and health? Sometimes, for the youngest we steal their childhood and their innocence. Theses victims are exploited by private individuals or multinational companies which know the tricks of low-cost trade and are seeking profit at any cost. When we know that “forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.” (International labor organization) they probably don’t want to stop a system that is so economically profitable.
One of the most striking example come from Shenzhen, in southern China, in the factories of Foxconn where the giant of the electronics Apple makes manufacture some of its products. Thousands of employees live there in deplorable conditions; a video published by BBC News shows workers falling asleep during their production after more than 12 hours of standing . Between exhaustion, bullying and loneliness, 10 of them decided to commit suicide of the buildings. The response of the factory is shocking: the installation of nets prevents them from jumping of the buildings belonging to the company. A photographer decide to speak up about what is happening around us: the other side of globalization.With his project The Real Toy Story, the photographer Michael Wolf documented the daily work of Chinese workers working in toy factories.
Multinational companies are mostly at the heart of the problem but what about us ? As consumers, we are also responsible as we contribute everyday in making the world more unequal. Due to our unnecessary desire, we motivate theses companies to take further advantage from people. And this is a major issue, we don’t think while buying, this has become normal gestures that make us look more like robots devoid of any senses than human being with feeling and empathy. We need to see our impact; numbers and facts are sometimes too abstract to really reach consciousness about the situation. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, watching this stunning documentary called The true cost will make you change the vision you have on the world of the clothing industry.
I’m not here to give a lesson because I’m probably one of the worse consumers ever. I love fashion, following trends and I’m not going to lie, buying makes me happy.However in these past few month I have changed my shopping habits. Consumerism is a lesson we learn from our parents and habits taken from our childhood. But we need to learn how to consume and to change our mindset about materialism. The book « the life changing magic of tidying up the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing » by Marie Kondo helped me to make a first step towards a better lifestyle. The Japanese traditions state that joy doesn’t come from objects. Material possessions are not what makes you reach proper fulfillment as family, friends and faith does.This doesn’t mean that we need to stop buying products altogether, but just that we need to think about the implications of our actions on others and possible alternatives. We can’t remake the world at once but we can all participate at our level. We will teach other generations to learn how to consume more wisely. This post is not a marxist anticapitalist and moralistic lesson, just a message of hope. It’s never too late to learn and try to be a better human being. As one of the reporter of the documentary in the True cost said :
We can do better than this.
Lola iris kadri/ Dubai campus
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- BBC News. (2015). Apple ‘failing to protect Chinese factory workers’ – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30532463
- Håkansson, A. (2014). “What is overconsumption? – A step towards a common understanding”. International journal of consumer studies.
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- Kondō, M. and Hirano, C. (n.d.). The life-changing magic of tidying up.
- Laborrights.org. (2016). World Bank Potentially Liable for Supporting Forced Labor in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Sector | International Labor Rights Forum. [online] Available at: http://www.laborrights.org/releases/world-bank-potentially-liable-supporting-forced-labor-uzbekistan’s-cotton-sector [Accessed 21 Oct. 2016].
- The True cost, Andrew Morgan, 2015. (2015). [DVD].
- Wolf, M. (2016). Chinese Factory Workers Reveal the REAL Toy Story – My Modern Met. [online] My Modern Met. Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/michael-wolf-the-real-toy-story [Accessed 17 Dec. 2016].