Sunday, February 26, 2012

Against the Wall

It’s really hot and sticky so I am sitting here in my beautifully stitched second-hand Japanese kimono and wondering if it too was made by slave labour. Did it help to pay for a child's education, help a daughter take care of a parent, or just enable someone to live for another day?

No, not a picture of my kimono. This is Watcher. a friend's fractal  design. See more at Schlaraffenland  They are even more spectacular with light and sound. Listen to one on You Tube

It makes me think that perhaps consumer boycotts are not always the way to go. Though they are one of the most effective tools in our armoury against abuses of various kinds, don’t  they always hurt the little people at the bottom of the food chain most? I am thinking of a small and beautiful French restaurant here which folded when all things French were condemned during the era of French nuclear testing in the Pacific. I also think of the millions labouring in sweatshops when we say let’s not buy goods and garments made with slave labour. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t desperate. Most of us have more in common with the people making them than with the people raking in the profits at the top. In those images of shark finning in the video mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Africans cutting off shark fins didn’t exactly look as if they had too many other job options.  If those sharks are not endangered, let’s make the people who buy shark fins responsible not only for their humane killing, but wise use of the meat. Perhaps it could provide alternative forms of work as the price of shark fins rises and the practice (one hopes) gradually declines. [Sharks are one of the most endangered species in Australia, so we should definitely sign that petition on yesterday's post or see the full report by Greenpeace: A Recipe for Disaster: The supermarkets insatiable appetite for seafood] .

That doesn’t mean that these things should not be stopped, rather that where possible, we should find other ways to bring about change.  Sometimes exposure of abuse, downright stupidity or corruption is enough. Sometimes we must continue to press for changes in the law and make sure that those laws are effectively prosecuted. Very few of the countries mentioned in the post about  journalists a few days ago, are not a signatory to the UN convention regarding the protection of journalists, yet in Russia for example, there has been only one  arrest so far, despite numerous disappearances and deaths.

My own shopping basket is hardly a model of political correctness. Yesterday I even had to buy a biodegradable plastic bag because the one I brought wasn’t big enough.  Quite often I don’t have the money to be too picky and at other times I’m in  too much of a hurry to read the labels. Am I supporting some evil dictator or slave labour?  Of course, it’s hard when things are not labelled accurately. In the USA, the issue is about whether products include Genetically Modified Crops. To find out why it’s important, READ THIS and sign the petition. In Australia a more immediate threat is the passage of the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), a Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated behind closed doors. This would not only weaken our own laws with respect to media, give corporations the right to sue governments and allow  Agribusiness companies to abolish GE Food Labelling, but would exist in perpetuity, irrespective of future changes of Government or changes of circumstances or the will of the people. STOP IT NOW. 
 
There are other  dodgy labelling practices in Australia, such as being able to use the Made in Australia label for goods produced overseas, but which have some part of their production such as packaging done here. This is bad if we want to keep some jobs in Australia. We also do not usually know who is currently the owner. With so many takeovers and mergers, even familiar brands are not necessarily Australian and the  profits flow out of the country instead of  circulating within the local and national economy.   

Would be nice if there were honest facebook pages showing you  exactly where things came from, who you were buying from and how it was made or maybe a little audiovisual as you walked along the supermarket  aisles. Too much to hope for and who would have the time. The nearest thing to it would be the phone app. from the Ethical Consumer Group which can tell you while you do your shopping. For the Luddites among us who don’t have the technology, there is always the pocket book edition or a free download

There are still boycotts on a number of companies including Nestles, Coa Cola and L'Oreal. Please also review the excellent submission regarding labelling.

PS Spaniards are by no means the only people who treat dogs badly, but please try to sign this petition before Dog Spinning takes place in Bulgaria on March 6.

No comments: